A federal Labor backbencher has broken ranks and called for Australia to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka later this year.
Canada’s government has already threatened to boycott the November meeting in protest against alleged human rights violations.
A newly released Amnesty International report has accused the Sri Lankan government of intensifying a crackdown on critics through violence and intimidation.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has said Canada’s boycott would be counter-productive and it would be better to stay engaged with Sri Lanka to directly raise concerns.
But backbencher John Murphy says he thinks it is too late for that.
“All the empirical and other evidence today indicates an arrogant reluctance by the Sri Lankan government to deal properly with these very, very serious allegations and so I’ve reached the conclusion that the best step would be for our country to boycott CHOGM,” he said.
“The Sri Lankan government is not listening to the international community in relation to conducting an independent and credible investigation into the allegations and violations of international human rights.
“I think the time has come to send a powerful message to the Government that international leaders should boycott CHOGM.”
Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has also backed the need for a boycott.
The Federal Opposition supports the Government’s position, with border protection spokesman Michael Keenan saying it is important to continue to engage with Sri Lanka.
Human rights violations
An Amnesty International report says the Sri Lankan government, headed by president Mahinda Rajapaksa, equates criticism with treason.
Critics of the government have been targeted in violent attacks and in some cases murdered.
Amnesty International says judges have been one of the main targets.
It says the government has undermined the judiciary’s independence by making threats against judges who rule in favour of victims of human rights violations.
The report says the government’s consolidation of its power began almost immediately after the end of the country’s civil war in May 2009. ABC