Tamils safe to return home, says Sri Lanka
From: The Australian
January 15, 2010 12:00AM
SRI Lanka has pledged that the five Tamil refugees on Christmas Island who have been deemed threats to national security can return to their homeland without fear of death or persecution.
The promise came as the Rudd government, which says the Tamils will never be granted visas in Australia, searched for a country willing to resettle them, and an expert on the Tamil Tigers said it was not surprising one of the five rated a security risk by ASIO was a woman.
Romesh Jayasingha, the permanent secretary to Sri Lanka's Foreign Affairs Minister, told The Australian that fears the five would be at risk if they returned home were misplaced.
“Sri Lanka is a democracy – it is governed by the rule of law,” Mr Jayasingha said yesterday.
“If they have committed any offences, there will be a due and equitable process.”
Mr Jayasingha rejected claims by refugee advocates that the Sri Lankan government's mistreatment of the Tamil minority was the reason the five, along with hundreds of their countrymen, had fled to Australia over the past year. “There is no persecution in Sri Lanka,” he said. “All citizens are equal before the law.”
The Australian revealed on Tuesday that four of the 78 Tamils rescued by the Oceanic Viking last October, including a woman with two children, had been deemed security risks by ASIO.
The four flew to Christmas Island after the 78 Tamils negotiated a deal with the Rudd government to end the four-week stand-off. There they joined a fifth man, the woman's husband, who was also barred by ASIO.
Shanaka Jayasekara, a lecturer at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, said the Tigers did not distinguish between male and female fighters.
“They had special regiments of women in their combat operations,” Mr Jayasekara said. “Women were specifically used for suicide missions. The Rajiv Gandhi assassination was conducted by an LTTE woman.”
Immigration Minister Chris Evans said on Wednesday there was no suggestion the five Tamils were hardened terrorists.
Refugee Council president John Gibson called on ASIO to give reasons for its rulings.