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Abbott notes progress in Lanka

2013 Nov 12

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott won’t be joining other world leaders in a boycott of the Commonwealth summit, saying Australia shouldn’t be giving lectures to other countries about human rights.

Abbott, who will be in Colombo on Friday after the first week of parliament in Canberra, said he respected the Commonwealth as an institution, the Australian Associated Press reported.

“I certainly don’t want us to trash one of the very long-standing and important bodies that we are a senior member of,” Abbott said on Monday.

Sri Lanka had been through a horrific civil war involving atrocities on both sides, but he was “not inclined to go overseas and give other countries lectures”.

“My understanding is that ordinary civil society is resuming in the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka,” he said.

“I will be urging the Sri Lankan government to respect everyone’s rights but I will also be acknowledging a lot of progress has been made.”

Abbott said Sri Lanka had been cooperative in taking back people arriving by boat and Australia needed to maintain the “best possible relations” with the country.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said Mr Abbott was putting his asylum seeker policy ahead of human rights.

“What Tony Abbott is saying is he is not prepared to jeopardise his accelerated screening process by standing up for human rights,” she said.

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