Wednesday 24 July 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

24 July  2019

Australian High Commissioner and Jaffna Governor

When I met Dr Raghavan – the governor of Northern Sri Lanka, earlier this year in Jaffna, I was happy. It reminded me of my early interactions with Professor Bruce Dowton – then the Dean of Medicine at the University of NSW (UNSW) and now the Vice Chancellor of  Macquarie University. In both cases I realised that they were good gentlemen but as my seniors – could not satisfactorily complete their duties in senior positions.  In many ways UNSW is the parallel of Jaffna and Macquarie University is the parallel of Colombo.
Earlier this week my husband did draw my attention to the news report that Dr Raghavan had met our Australian High Commissioner. I was happy about it but did not think further about it. This morning my attention was caught by the Island article headed ‘Australia-Sri Lanka relations and the significance of Chundikuli meeting

Chundikuli is a suburb in my home area in Jaffna. In essence, author of the Island article - Shamindra Ferdinando – who I understand is the News Editor of the Island – sounds unhappy with the meeting – as perceived by him. I on the other hand was happy that it happened. It was as if I had met with Mr David Holly. Every person who feels ownership in Jaffna is a governor of Jaffna. I am a natural governor of  Jaffna as well as Australia.
The article presents the following picture:

[Holly succeeded Bryce Hutchesson, in late January 2019. Hutchesson took over the Colombo mission in Feb 2016. His predecessor was Robyn Mudie (January 2012 to Feb 2016). Mudie was preceded by Kathy Klugman (Feb 2008 to January 2012).]

When Ms Robyn Mudie was to become the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, our Department of Foreign Affairs organized a meeting with those of us of Sri Lankan origin and I was facilitated to participate in it from Sangarathai-Thunaivi in Northern Sri Lanka through teleconferencing facilities. I felt that the High Commissioner had come to Sangarathai-Thunaivi. That is the way a governor feels. I invested in that position through service - and hence I am part of that position.  The Executive on the other hand would need arrangements that would show logical connections.
Mr Shamindra Ferdinando for example states:

[ Australian High Commissioner, David Holly, must have been quite surprised by the unprecedented controversial advice he received from Northern Province Governor, Dr. Suren Raghavan, when they met at the Northern Province Governor’s official residence, at Chundikuli, in Jaffna, on July 16, 2019.]

As an Australian I am not surprised and hence I expect High Commissioner Holly also not to be surprised.  For example – I received a response to my complaint to our Minister for Immigration which began as follows:

“Thank you for your correspondence of 16 May 2019 to the Minister for Immigration,
Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon David Coleman MP,
concerning an Australian citizenship certificate. The Minister appreciates the time you have taken to bring this matter to his attention and has asked that I reply on his behalf.”

The communication concludes as follows:

[The Citizenship Act 2007 does not provide for certificates to be re-issued or amended.
If a person wishes to replace a certificate that has been lost, stolen or damaged, or to reflect a change in their legal name, the person must apply using the prescribed form, provide the required information and pay the application fee.
Before approving an application and issuing a certificate, the delegated officer must
be satisfied of the person’s identity and that they are an Australian citizen.
These requirements assist in reducing the risk to the Australian community from
identity fraud.]

My complaint in essence was that I did not have to go through a process for a certified copy - that was identical to the process for the original. So out of frustration I suspended my application and wrote a complaint – so others would be better served. To me it ought to be not that much more difficult than getting a new passport.

Later our son who was in Sydney on work related visit - messaged his sister in Melbourne and our daughter confirmed that she had the original and said that I had asked her to keep it with her as her name was also included in it. Our daughter promptly sent it to me by express courier. To my mind – that was because of my genuine commitment to not only maintain documents but also to not disrupt others. I had forgotten that I had asked our daughter to keep it.

To me – the essence of my work in applying for a duplicate – was in that complaint. I expected it  to go towards improving  the relevant process. The response from the  Ministry did not address that but repeated what I already had knowledge of.  My contribution therefore was in ‘spirit’ – that I cared about fellow Australians at my level.

In the case of Australian High Commission and Governor of Northern Sri Lanka – the Island report presents the following picture:

[..All of them worked hard to advance Australia’s interests in Colombo. Australia pursued tough strategy to prevent Sri Lanka being used as a launching pad for those seeking illegal entry into Australia. In fact, unprecedented Australia-Sri Lanka co-operation, on measures to thwart human smuggling, received Canberra’s commendation throughout this period. In line with the Australia-Sri Lanka strategy, HC Holly, at his meeting with Dr. Raghavan, has reiterated Australia’s commitment to thwart illegal migration from Sri Lanka. Dr. Raghavan, according to his Office, told HC Holly as to how Australia could retain its ‘place internationally by creating a policy on the humanitarian basis, in the case of refugees, like the Canadian government.’

Dr. Raghavan’s suggestion is obviously contrary to the Australian foreign policy and the Australia-Sri Lanka project meant to thwart illegal migration. In spite of the change of government, in January 2015, Sri Lanka followed the joint operation, agreed during the previous administration.]

As governor of a Province which is strongly linked to emigration – it is natural that Dr Raghavan would identify with the relatives of emigrants to Australia from that region. Emigration outside the lawful pathway could be illegal but Dharmic/Right as per truth/common conscience.

On the basis of truth  if Australia has benefited more from adult migrants made in Sri Lanka – relative to ‘Australians born and groomed in Australia’ of the same age - then laws and agreements that block the manifestation of this value at national level – would result in diluting the real value of Australia’s investment in Sri Lanka.

Mr Shamindra Ferdinando shares the following with us, in this regard:

[Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, while announcing Holly’s appointment on January 29, 2019, referred to Australia’s Sri Lankan community of 170,000 people making a significant contribution to the Australian society.

Payne: "Our relationship encompasses development cooperation, education and close collaboration on countering people smuggling and transnational crime. Two-way trade reached a record $1.54 billion in 2017-18. We will continue to support Sri Lanka as it makes progress towards meaningful reconciliation. Australia and Sri Lanka work productively, together, to address shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, including through the Indian Ocean Rim Association."

The Foreign Ministry should explain Sri Lanka’s policy as regards a vital agreement/understanding with Australia. Sri Lanka cannot, under any circumstances, afford to undermine relations with major powers as a result of politicians and top officials taking different views on contentious issues.

I see the  above ‘advice’ by Dr Raghavan as the parallel of mine to the Minister for Immigration. Unless Dr Raghavan had acted  in breach of the rules of his position as Governor – he has contributed to lift the relationship to global level. In fact it is the duty of every Governor who enjoys official status to do so. That is how the value of the whole is greater than the sum of individuals. Natural governors like myself – are free to share or not to share.

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