CHOGM must address human rights – Greens

New Zealand must use the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to put pressure on Sri Lanka over its shameful human rights record, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has told media that the situation in Sri Lanka will be discussed at CHOGM with an emphasis on how the international community can assist, those caught up in the humanitarian disaster in the North of Sri Lanka.

“New Zealand must support Stephen Smith who has said he will be raising the human rights issues and the need for political reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” said Mr Locke.

“The Sri Lankan Government must be taken to task for violating the Commonwealth’s declaration on human rights. Around 200,000 Tamils are still in detention camps and prevented from returning to their homes – in gross violation of international humanitarian law.

“The Commonwealth’s credibility is at stake if it doesn’t address the current plight of Tamil people in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the civil war.

“In good conscience, we can’t push for strong Commonwealth pressure on Fiji’s military Government, yet do nothing about the situation facing Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

Mr Locke also considers Commonwealth action is necessary to address the epidemic of Sri Lankan boat people fleeing repression in Sri Lanka.

“The Green Party believes New Zealand should respond positively to Australia’s call for New Zealand to take some of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers now being processed by United Nations refugee teams.

“Our Government should reassure Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans over his comment that New Zealand

‘should share some of the burden of resettling the Sri Lankan refugees.’

“We should tell Senator Evans that New Zealand will live up to its ANZAC responsibilities and take some of the refugees,” said Mr Locke.