Australia insists ties with Lanka strong

Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter DuttonThe Australian government today said that its relationship with Sri Lanka has not changed despite a new government taking office in January this year.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who just concluded an official visit to Sri Lanka said that Sri Lanka and Australia will continue to coordinate in fighting human smuggling.

Dutton, the first Australian Minister to visit Sri Lanka since the January 8 Presidential Election had met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and discussed ties between both countries.

Wickremesinghe had earlier been quoted in some media as saying that he will not warmly welcome the Australian Minister as Australia had very strong ties with the former Sri Lankan government.

However Dutton said that on the contrary he was warmly welcomed by the Prime Minister and they had discussed deepening and expanding its ties in various fields including on the people smuggling issue.

Hundreds of Sri Lankan had fled to Australia by boat during the country’s 30 year civil conflict but the numbers reduced following coordinated efforts between the two countries.

“Australia and Sri Lanka have and will continue to work closely to detect, disrupt and return people smuggling ventures and combat other transnational crimes,” Dutton said.

Former President Mahinda Rajapakse was known to have had a very close relationship with Australia which resulted in Australia supporting Sri Lanka against international pressure on the human rights issue. (Colombo Gazette)