the Australian government because our Prime Minister appeared to support the Sri Lankan government despite concerns about human rights and because it is also giving two reconditioned naval vessels to Sri Lanka to help combat people smuggling.
Now, may I make it quite clear I do not support human rights abuses or torture, rape and murder. I don't believe our Prime Minister does either. He could certainly have put what he had to say better than he did.
There were people who did not want him to go to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at all. I think they were wrong. You cannot change things by ignoring them or the people who perpetrate the atrocities you want to change. You don't praise them by going but you can challenge them. The protesters have of course made the most of what our Prime Minister is alleged to have said. (If you listen carefully it is not what he is reported to have said but of course that means nothing to the media or the activists.) It is partly his own fault for not making matters clear.
But the question of whether we should be giving reconditioned naval vessels to Sri Lanka is also not being properly debated. I admit the timing is poor, probably about as bad as it can get but there is a serious question here. If we should not be giving reconditioned naval vessels to Sri Lanka because of human rights issues should we be giving them any aid at all?
Should we give any country which commits human rights abuses any form of aid? Should we do any sort of business with them? Should we even have contact with them?
Some activists would have us believe not. They would have us believe we should not do business with them and that we should not have contact with them. Is that right?
Is giving someone support they need wrong? Do you hold out a life jacket to a mass murderer or do you let him or her drown? I say you hold out the life jacket and find ways to restrain them once they are out of the water - and I acknowledge that it might not be easy to restrain the individual and that they might try to take advantage of you once they believe they are safe.
It seems to me though that the demands from activists are more about domestic politics than international politics. There were thirty years of civil war in Sri Lanka but it took CHOGM for the activists to really make demands - not of the Sri Lankans involved but of our own government. There are people who have seen the opportunity to score a point for their side of politics. I find that offensive.
Human rights abuses should not be used for domestic political purposes.