The Tigers are brutal Marxist terrorists — the last group Australia needs
SRI Lankan officials have warned that a vessel carrying up to 200 asylum-seekers could be headed for Australia.
As Kevin Rudd faces rising internal concern that the issue is hurting Labor, the Prime Minister will today hold a meeting of the full ministry to mark what could be the last parliamentary sitting week before the election, amid rising leadership speculation. Labor backbenchers said yesterday they had “sent a message” to Mr Rudd’s office on asylum-seekers in the past fortnight, and several frontbenchers confirmed it was a live issue in the electorate.
As the Rudd government faces a looming deadline on whether to lift a three-month suspension of Sri Lankan asylum claims, the country’s high commissioner to Australia, Senaka Walgampaya, has urged the Prime Minister to extend the freeze.
Australia has previously sought assistance from Indonesia to turn back a boatload of 260 illegal migrants heading for Australia, and successfully repelled the largest boatload attempting to enter Australian waters since the election of the Rudd government in 2007.
The high commissioner said yesterday he had credible information that a boat, believed to be connected to remnants of the Tamil Tigers, had upwards of 200 people on it. “My information is that there is such a boat,” Mr Walgampaya said yesterday. “Earlier on, the boat was going to Canada; now it is confirmed that they are trying to come to Australia.”
Mr Walgampaya also called on the government to extend the freeze on Sri Lankan asylum claims, saying there was evidence it had been effective. “I would certainly like to continue as it is,” he said. “I think boat arrivals have reduced as a result. If they continued it, that would be good.”
On June 10, The Australian reported that the Philippines Coast Guard had in May issued an alert for the MV Sun Sea, formerly known as the Harin Panich 19.
Mr Walgampaya said the venture was being organised by remnants of the Liberation of Tamil Tiger Eelam (Tamil Tigers). “We are told that the boat itself does not belong to the LTTE but they are people who have links to the LTTE,” Mr Walgampaya said.
Ahead of today’s ministry meeting in Canberra, three Labor frontbenchers conceded asylum-seekers were an issue in the electorate, and one pointed to the Prime Minister himself telling the ALP caucus the government needed to sell its message better. “There’s a a strongly entrenched debate around asylum-seekers,” one frontbencher said. “People are asking: what is Labor going to do about boatpeople,” another Labor MP told The Australian. “Efforts are being made to get that through to the Prime Minister’s office.”
Another Labor frontbencher said: “We’ve all recognised that it’s certainly an issue and we certainly need to communicate what we are doing. “At the moment, there’s a misunderstanding that’s being whipped up by talkback radio. “The Prime Minister said that we need to better communicate what we’re doing in this area.”
The remarks came as outspoken Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry told a World Refugee Day rally in Melbourne that there had been a “failure of leadership” on the issue of asylum-seekers. “If you ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answers from the Australian public and I think they’ve been led down the wrong track by a failure of leadership,” Professor McGorry said.