Former Sri Lankan military commander should not run Manus Island facility

It has been discovered that the acting head of the Manus Island detention centre on PNG is a former Sri Lankan military commander. Among the detainees at Manus Island are 30 Tamil asylum seekers – people who may well have experienced significant suffering at the hands of the Sri Lankan military.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie said it is completely inappropriate to have a former military officer from Sri Lanka in charge of the welfare and well-being of vulnerable asylum seekers being held on Manus Island.

“There's serious risks that the suffering of detainees will be compounded by living under the care and control of a former member of the military of the very regime that they have fled,” said Ms Howie.

Ms Howie said the appointment raises yet further questions about Australia’s attempt to out-source its international obligations.

“Hiring a former military commander from one of the refugee source countries shows either a failure to conduct due diligence in the hiring process, or a callous disregard for the brutal experiences many detainees would have had at the hands of militaries in their home countries. Either way, the mistake must be rectified,” said Ms Howie.

Sri Lanka has recently emerged from a 30 year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A United Nations Panel of Experts found that there are credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides at the end of the war, including the deaths of over 40,000 civilians. To this day, no investigation of those crimes has occurred.

Reports by Fairfax media suggest that American and British diplomats are concerned that Australia may be working to actively undermine a push at the United Nations for an international inquiry into the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.