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Government letting trade trump human rights

Behind-the-scenes meeting shows Govt letting trade trump human rights

The National Government is allowing trade to trump human rights, by doing deals with a regime accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party’s human rights spokesperson, Jan Logie, has released details of a meeting held in Auckland on May 8 between Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka.

The meeting, to advance dairy joint ventures, was held despite the UN Human Rights Council’s recent vote in favour of an investigation into alleged war crimes and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and ongoing concerns about human rights abuses there.

“The Minister kept the meeting quiet, and I can see why. It is morally wrong to help a regime that has been accused of genocide and war crimes,” said Ms Logie, who was detained in Sri Lanka last year for speaking out against human rights abuses.

“Extending our relationship at this time undermines international efforts to hold the regime to account.”

OIA documents released to the Green Party, and detailing official advice given to Murray McCully ahead of last year’s controversial CHOGM meeting in Colombo, again show the National Government putting trade ahead of human rights.

Despite warnings that “the human rights situation [in Sri Lanka] remains problematic”, that “freedoms for civil society and media are increasingly restricted” and that there is “ongoing discrimination against the Tamil minority” and “discrimination against other minorities as well”, the briefing documents say “CHOGM presents an opportunity to sign the New Zealand-Sri Lanka Dairy Cooperation Arrangement” and stress the importance of bilateral meetings to further the deal.

“The Government is not only ignoring the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, but it’s going a step further and providing diplomatic support to the Sri Lankan regime,” said Jan Logie.

When New Zealand was asked to co-sponsor the motion at the UN for the international war crimes investigation it declined to do so. At the meeting in Auckland, Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister thanked McCully for refraining.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre in which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed, maimed and displaced in the final days of the Sri Lankan Civil War.

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