Call for Sri Lankan envoy's expulsion

Call for Sri Lankan envoy's expulsion

Outspoken Greens senator Lee Rhiannon has demanded Sri Lanka's top envoy be expelled from Australia, branding the former admiral a war crimes suspect.

Senator Rhiannon has accused Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, of boasting about stopping asylum seekers in 2009 as they fled the country's brutal civil war.

But Australian Federal Police confirmed they had dismissed war crimes allegations against Admiral Samarasinghe more than four months ago.

The mistake comes amid a simmering feud between Labor and its minority government partner, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr claiming the Greens cannot be trusted to manage Australia's international relations.

Greens leader Christine Milne fended off Senator Carr's remarks yesterday, declaring her party's stances on foreign policy issues aligned ''totally with the majority of the Australian community''.

She said the Coalition was the party creating problems for Australia in the region with its pledge to tow back asylum seeker boats expected to cause a serious rift in relations with Indonesia.


''The Greens have a huge commitment to multilateralism, a huge commitment to regional frameworks to work things out,'' Senator Milne said.

A former chief of Sri Lanka's navy, Admiral Samarasinghe was seen as ''problematic'' by the Foreign Affairs Department last year after being nominated for the post. He had served as Sri Lanka's navy chief during the final years of the civil war.

But his appointment was allowed, only for the International Commission of Jurists in Australia to lodge a complaint in October with the federal police, alleging he was involved in war crimes.

Senator Rhiannon said she was raising questions over Admiral Samarasinghe's position ''while allegations of war crimes hang over his head''.

A Federal Police spokeswoman said yesterday it had evaluated the information in the submission and would not investigate allegations against Admiral Samarasinghe. ''The ICJA was advised of this decision on March 3, 2012,'' she said.

Daniel Flitton

Daniel Flitton is senior correspondent for The Age covering foreign affairs and politics. He is a former intelligence analyst for the Australian government and was at one-time a university lecturer specialising in international relations.

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