Sri Lanka's external affairs minister Prof. G.L. Peiris has pleaded with Tamil refugees in Australia who fled the nation's bloody civil war to come home – having quietly slipped into Canberra for talks on combating people smugglers.
Prof. Peiris told Fairfax Media in an exclusive interview Sri Lanka is now perfectly stable, with an economic boom in the once devastated northern Tamil regions running at three-times the national average.
But he warned smugglers sending record numbers of Sri Lankans by boat to Australia were making "unconscionable profits" and cared nothing for the people they put on unseaworthy vessels.
"Sri Lanka is today a land at peace, it is a perfectly stable society. The northern province is developing at about 22 per cent, when the average population of the country is between 6 or 7 per cent," Professor Peiris said.
"There has been a total transformation of life in the north. There is absolutely nothing to run away from."
Professor Peiris' visit was not foreshadowed by the usual official announcement but Foreign Minister Bob Carr said this had nothing to do with sensitivity about Sri Lanka ties, only that he had not thought it newsworthy.
Professor Peiris met with Senator Carr, Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop this week and will open a new Sri Lankan consulate in Melbourne on Friday.
Senator Carr said Australia had called for more urgency in reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka and a full accounting of people missing and disappeared during the Tamil Tiger insurgency.
He also said Australia had welcomed news that an election for a provincial council in Sri Lanka's north would be held in September.
Record number of Sri Lankans have arrived in Australian waters by boat this year.
But Professor Peiris said these people were not economic refugees but economic migrants, and claims of abuse had no relationship to the reality on the ground in Sri Lanka.
He also said of the thousands of people who fled during the last months of fighting in 2009, the country was ready to welcome them home.
"My message to them is they ought to come and return to Sri Lanka. We are today in a situation where a lot of people who left the country in search of greener pastures abroad but now increasing numbers are coming back to teach in our universities, to engage in their professions."
To work in their own country, to be surrounded by their own people, that is a natural human instinct," he said.
Comments - 12
Yuri Wednesday, 19 June 2013 03:21 PM
We do not think it will happen this century !
Merry Thursday, 20 June 2013 03:51 AM
Yes, Yes we all know how stable the society is, the war maybe over but there is no real peace.
Gobi Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:46 PM
Why? Do you have enough space in prison to put them under prevention of terrisom.
tarzan Thursday, 20 June 2013 04:01 AM
welcome to the paradise of beggers
Critic Roshan Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:53 PM
Good move, please provide good employments and a high salary as in Australia.
lalitha Wednesday, 19 June 2013 01:08 PM
come back to what???
Minister Thursday, 20 June 2013 04:40 AM
You mean before Naveen Pillai comes??
Yuri Wednesday, 19 June 2013 01:22 PM
What a new Drama !
michael Wednesday, 19 June 2013 01:36 PM
To know the Taste of Paradise
Mason Wednesday, 19 June 2013 01:59 PM
Those who left the country and those who are leaving the country will return if we could live peacefully here and make a comfortable living, devoid of political patronage.
Living overseas Friday, 21 June 2013 03:05 AM
Why would you want to leave a first world heaven and return to a third world under developed country where you get raped, killed or murdered. SL is worse than before the war.
ANTON Wednesday, 19 June 2013 02:21 PM
THESE POLITICIANS THINK THAT POOR PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LIVE IN RICH COUNTRIES.
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