A lost opportunity for leadership on Sri Lanka

THE Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka has proved to be a lost opportunity for Australia to show some decent principled leadership on human rights abuses in the host country.

It could be argued that Australia should have followed the lead of Canada and India in boycotting CHOGM because of the manifest injustices still being perpetrated in Sri Lanka.

But once part of the meeting, it is shameful to see Prime Minister Tony Abbott pretending that everything in the garden is rosy.

It is reported that Mr Abbott wants to use CHOGM as an opportunity to join with his Sri Lankan counterpart in planning joint strategies to stem the tide of Sri Lankan refugees fleeing to Australia.

Surely, the most effective way of doing that is to use every possible means to see that the minority Tamil population is guaranteed its basic human rights in Sri Lanka.

All my sources tell me that countless innocent citizens are still being subjected to a reign of terror, with every effort being made by the government to prevent the media reporting the atrocities.

There is no doubt the Tamil Tigers were at times guilty of criminal behaviour during the civil war, but to brand the whole Tamil population with that broad brush is similar to the tactic employed by the Israeli authorities in blackening the name of innocent Palestinians while practising all kinds of injustices against that minority people.

The Catholic Church is having to face up to the consequences of having turned a blind eye for 40 years or more to all kinds of abuse within its ranks. As a result, the suffering of the innocents continued far longer than it should have.

I hope that this shameful episode in my church's history will have powerful lessons in relation to the politics of denial.