Visit to Australia by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development to Co-Chair at the Second Joint Working Group on Human Smuggling and other Trans-national Crime 21st to 23rd April 21014, Canberra, Australia
April 30, 2014
On the invitation of the Government of Australia, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa led a senior delegation for the above Second Joint Working Group (JWG) which was successfully concluded under the Co-Chairmanship of Mr. Martin Bowles, Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Highlight of the proceedings was the historical signing of the transfer of deeds of the outright gifting of two Bay Class Patrol Vessels by Australia to Sri Lanka . The deeds were signed by Hon. Scott Morrison, Minister of Immigration and Border Protection and Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary/Defence in the presence of the two High Commissioners of the respective countries.
Addressing the JWG gathering, Hon. Scott Morrison, thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for the genuine effort of the Ministry of Defence and the relevant agencies, specially the Sri Lanka Navy for helping the Government of Australia in combating human smuggling. Hon. Minister emphasised the fact that Sri Lanka-Australia relationship should now focus on other fields of development and progress. Hon. Minister also acknowledged the post conflict achievements of Sri Lanka as solid.
Responding to the Minister, Secretary/Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked the government of Australia for the invaluable gift of two naval vessels which would invariably improve Sri Lanka’s capability in border protection. He also emphasized the sharing of important evidence for the mutual benefit and the value of capacity building in all spheres of the relevant agencies.
Secretary/Defence also endorsed the model and the mechanism that was followed by this JWG where exchange of views and engagement of several relevant agencies being very productive and educative. He congratulated both parties of the JWG for gaining lot of ground within a short period of time and for agreeing to be a part of other similar regional mechanisms where both countries could engage effectively.
Secretary/Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa also thanked the Government of Australia for the bold decision of not co-sponsoring this year’s human rights resolution on Sri Lanka.
Secretary/Defence during the visit met following Senior Officials and discussed and shared important information of mutual interests and agreed to work towards further cooperation :-
a) Mr. Dennis Richardson, Secretary/Defence
b) Air Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of Defence Force designate
c) Mr. Chris Birrer, Asst. Secretary, Major Powers, Department of Defence
d) Mr. Chris Moraitis, Acting Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
e) Mr. Michael Pezzullo, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Customs and Border Protection
f) Mr. Nick Warner, Director General, Australian Secret Intelligence Service
Secretary/Defence also had a brief unscheduled meeting with the Minister of Defence Hon. David Johnston and exchanged courtesies. Defence Minister conveyed the appreciation of the Australian government for the outstanding performance of the Sri Lanka Navy and reiterated the commitment to continue the engagement as two friendly countries.
It was evident from all interactions that the Australian government, at the highest level was appreciative of Sri Lanka’s success of defeating 30 year brutal terrorist conflict and the subsequent post conflict achievements.
It was also revealed that government of Australia considers accountability and human rights concerns should be addressed within an internal mechanism and not by any international investigation as suggested by other countries. Australian side indicated that they would render all possible assistance to Sri Lanka in this regard.
The visit of the Secretary/Defence to Australia at an important juncture has positively raised the level of cooperation between the two countries and understanding the challenges that Sri Lanka faces due to unsubstantiated and unfounded allegations with bias attitudes.
The Secretary/Defence also visited the newly constructed Sri Lanka High Commission building and met High Commission officials and the staff. Having made a tour of the Chancery and the facilities, the Defence Secretary conveyed his appreciation of the work carried out by the staff of the Mission. To mark this significant visit to Australia and the Sri Lanka High Commission, Secretary/Defence planted a tree in the Chancery premises.
The Sri Lankan delegation included H.E. Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, the High Commissioner, Officials of the High Commission and Senior Officials of Ministries of Defence and Urban Development, External Affairs and Justice and Sri Lanka Navy, National Intelligence Service, Sri Lanka Coast Guard, Sri Lanka Police, Departments of Attorney General, Immigration and Emigration.
The Australian delegation comprised of H.E Robyn Mudie, the High Commissioner for Australia in Sri Lanka, Commander of the Joint Task Force Operations “Sovereign Borders” Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell and Senior Officials from the National Security and Criminal Justice Group, Border Protections Command, People Smuggling Task Force.
High Commission of Sri Lanka