Australian govt. denies allegations against senior Lankan official
February 1, 2013 09:12 am
The Gillard government has flatly denied a news report that a senior Sri Lankan government official was suspected by Australian authorities to have been complicit in the people-smuggling trade.
The Australian reported Friday that intelligence agencies had identified a high-profile Sri Lankan official close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had authorised asylum-seeker boats leaving Sri Lanka bound for Australia.
But a spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the claims were untrue.
‘‘There is no evidence to support the allegation that this official is complicit in people-smuggling,’’ he said.
‘‘Australia and Sri Lanka have a strong record of co-operation in preventing people-smuggling ventures.’’
The official was not named in the news report, which drew an angry response from the Sri Lankan Consul-General in Sydney, Bandula Jayasekara, who called the claims ‘‘unbelievable, ridiculous and mischievous’’.
The Australian stated that senior Gillard government figures were aware of the intelligence assessments about the Sri Lankan official. Options were canvassed for how to deal with the claims ahead of a December trip by Senator Carr to Colombo.
Senator Carr did not raise the allegations with the Sri Lankan government during that visit.
Much of the increase in asylum-seeker boat arrivals last year came from Sri Lanka, though this has tapered off in recent weeks. (Canberratimes)