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Sri Lanka: Australian, Kiwi MPs Detained and Released

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senator November 10, 2013
Two opposition parliamentarians from Australian and New Zealand were detained by immigration officers this morning for allegedly violating immigration laws.
Immigration officers seized the passports of the two parliamentarians as they prepared to hold a press conference at the office of the Tamil National Alliance in Colombo.
Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon and New Zealand Greens MP Jan Logie had visited Jaffna on a fact finding mission and were about to brief the media on their findings when they were detained.

Senator Lee was to report back to the Australian Parliament on her findings in Sri Lanka. She traveled to the North as part of her Sri Lanka visit ahead of the Commonwealth summit (CHOGM).

Immigration officers who attempted to record statements from the two MPs told the Colombo Gazette that the MPs had refused to give statements.

After several hours they were released as they had promised to return to their native countries as scheduled today.

In a press release issued early today Senator Rhiannon and New Zealand Greens MP Jan Logie said they had found that the ongoing abuses of human and legal rights are so serious that the Commonwealth meeting scheduled for Colombo should not proceed and that the Sri Lanka government should not be given the chair of CHOGM for the next two years.
 
“If CHOGM goes ahead and if Sri Lanka is given the Chair of this organisation the Commonwealth will have failed the people of Sri Lanka and damaged its own high standing with the international community.Elected officials and members of civil society in Sri Lanka have provided us with examples of massive illegal land confiscation by the armed forces; people being gaoled and detained with regular disregard for legal rights; violence, often involving rape, of women and children with no police investigation of these crimes; and ongoing intimidation of media workers. We visited areas where the army is occupying people’s land. The homes of the displaced people are now tin shacks serviced by dirt pot holed roads. Many people have been living like this for more than two decades.“Large numbers of women regularly suffer sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces,” the joint statement said.
 
The statement also said that the harassment of media workers and media owners continues. In Jaffna they said they saw the bullet holes in the printing presses, the computers and walls of one media outlet.
“Clearly this is an unsafe country for journalists to work as those who commit these crimes have not been investigated or charged. We were left with the impression that the government is becoming increasingly repressive towards those committed to a critical independent examination of events in Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth played a key role in challenging apartheid in South Africa and oppression in Fiji. CHOGM should continue to stand by its own values and principles by working for improved human rights protection and justice in Sri Lanka. The Australian Greens and Green party of New Zealand will continue to work for an independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides in the conflicts in Sri Lanka, and for CHOGM to stand with all the people of Sri Lanka not with a regime accused of war crimes. We look forward to reporting fully to the Australian and New Zealand parliament when we return”.  
(Colombo Gazette) Report by Easwaran Rutnam

EAM backs action on 2 MPs
   
The External Affairs Ministry (EAM) says the authorities had taken appropriate action when dealing with two parliamentarians from Australia and New Zealand.

A statement by the External Affairs Ministry said that Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon and New Zealand MP Jan Logie who were in Sri Lanka on tourist visas, were questioned by the authorities today for breaching the conditions of their visas which are issued to bona-fide tourists for the sole purpose of engaging in tourism.

Senator Rhiannon and MP Logie However, the Senator and MP were found attempting to hold a press conference which is in violation of their tourist visas, the Ministry statement said.

Immigration officers seized the passports of the two parliamentarians as they prepared to hold a press conference at the office of the Tamil National Alliance in Colombo.

Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon and New Zealand Greens MP Jan Logie had visited Jaffna on a fact finding mission and were about to brief the media on their findings when they were detained.

Senator Lee was to report back to the Australian Parliament on her findings in Sri Lanka. She traveled to the North as part of her Sri Lanka visit ahead of the Commonwealth summit (CHOGM).

Immigration officers who attempted to record statements from the two MPs told the Colombo Gazette that the MPs had refused to give statements.

After several hours they were released as they had promised to return to their native countries as scheduled today. (Colombo Gazette) 

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