Questions dog the government’s use of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) as a tool to execute behind the scenes foreign policy objectives by supporting the notorious Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
In the usual show of solidarity in foreign policy matters, both the government and opposition have quashed allegations aired last week by the ABC that the AFP’s support to the CID had any connection with efforts by Labor and Coalition governments to choke-off the flow of Tamil boat arrival refugees to Australia since the late 2000’s.
According to the AFP, the relationship which started in 2009 has been a way for its officers to extend a helping hand to peers in Sri Lanka who have endured decades of sub-standard amenities due to a prolonged civil conflict between the government and Tamil rebels.
“We had a lot of office furniture and bric-a-brac which was all in good condition but in accordance with policy requirements it had to be frequently replaced by slightly newer items,” an AFP spokesperson said.
“Rather than take it home ourselves like usual we thought we’d show our solidarity with less well-off fellow law enforcement officers and so every now and then with the assistance of the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka we’d load up a few sea containers and send them across to Colombo.”
Some academics with an interest in Sri Lankan-Australian relations say they are not surprised the AFP’s altruism has been taken out of context, although they worry a few more items were put into the containers than originally intended.
One of the academics consulted suggested, “It should be a concern that some fairly advanced data-crunching equipment that we might normally find deployed for crowd control at football matches found its way from the AFP to the CID who are notorious for their ruthless racist targeting of Tamil dissidents.”
Claims that the AFP also provided a ‘white van’ used to round-up undesirable Tamils have also been challenged.
The AFP spokesperson acknowledged: “It was actually a chemically-contaminated pest control van we seized in a drug raid in Canberra. As a proceeds of crime item it was probably a misjudgement to include it in a shipment although we trust it was used in an appropriate way by the CID.”