Sri Lanka Terrorist Attacks

02 May, 2019

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (15:23): I move:

That this council—

1. Expresses its deepest sorrow and abhorrence at the senseless killing of innocent men, women and children in coordinated terrorist bombings at Christian churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019;

2. Mourns the extensive loss of life, including two Australians, and hopes for the full recovery of the many injured;

3. Expresses its deepest sympathy to the families and friends of all those who have been affected by this appalling event;

4. Stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka and South Australia’s Sri Lankan community;

5. Condemns terrorism and extremism in all its forms; and

6. Reaffirms its commitment to an inclusive and harmonious multicultural society.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:33): I rise to support the motion moved by the honourable Treasurer in this place and also by the Premier in the other place on behalf of the government. Today, in South Australia and the whole world, we are reaching out to the Sri Lankan community and mourn the extensive loss of life after a series of coordinated bombings on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, which killed more than 250 people and wounding 500 others.

The attacks were the deadliest on the island nation since the end of its civil war 10 years ago. We see with great sadness that an act of evil has unfolded again, which has taken many lives of innocent men, women and children, having targeted three churches as well as four hotels in the capital, Colombo. Only six weeks ago, the South Australian parliament moved a motion condemning the acts of hatred and violence on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Today, we are united once again to condemn the acts of hatred and violence in Sri Lanka.

Australia and Sri Lanka have shared a strong relationship with common values and shared interests for many decades, and in 2017 celebrated our 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Through these historical ties we have been blessed with many Sri Lankan migrants calling Australia home, as highlighted earlier by the Treasurer.

With more than 3,700 Sri Lankan-born people living in South Australia, these bombings have greatly impacted on the community. Having the honour of knowing and working with so many wonderful people from the Sri Lankan community in my role, it has saddened me to learn that such a peaceful and welcoming community is under attack, and they are grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters back home in Sri Lanka.

Last Sunday, 28 April 2019, I joined His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia, the Premier, the Hon. Steven Marshall, the member for Adelaide, the Hon. Rachel Sanderson, the Leader of the Opposition and other colleagues at a mass with the Sri Lankan community at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. I express my deep gratitude to Father Philip Marshall, together with other reverend fathers, who showed great compassion and love to preside over the mass and the memorial service of shared prayer for the people of Sri Lanka.

The mass was also joined by other religious leaders from the Muslim and Buddhist communities. Special thanks go to the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka, Dr Charitha Perera, and Mrs Perera for working with the Sri Lankan Catholic Association to organise the mass and the memorial service. Also, my sincere appreciation to Madhavi and Prabath Perera for their outstanding organisational support to coordinate the mass with the Sri Lankan community.

This important community mass allowed everyone to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart to light candles, pay our respects and pray for the departed souls who were sadly lost in the horrific bombings. At the mass hundreds of people—Christians, non-Christians, people with other faiths and those of no faith—came together in solidarity to show our love and support to the community.

The killing of innocent people while they were acting in good faith, praying in their churches and going about their life in their normal ways was an act of pure evil. It was a deliberate and merciless attack on all peace-loving people. Taking the lives of innocent men, women and children based on hatred, intimidation and violence has no place in our society. We live in a society that is open, generous and respectful of all people. These fundamental values must be preserved and protected in order for every person to have the opportunity to follow the religion they choose and live a fulfilling life.

Today, as well as yesterday, both houses of parliament have spoken out on this motion to express our deepest condolences to families, friends and communities that have been deeply affected and devastated by the attacks in Sri Lanka. I join religious and world leaders to condemn the horrific acts of violence. We must stand together to make sure that no-one ever has to practise their faith in fear.

Together with all my colleagues in parliament, we condemn every form of terrorism and extremism. We express our deep sympathy by standing together with the Sri Lankan community. We pledge our love and support to the community in these difficult times. We grieve with them and we feel their pain and suffering. We are also grateful to the police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses who were confronted by the tragic and traumatic scenes caused by the bombings in Sri Lanka. Some of them were risking their life to save others. We say thank you.

We will continue to join the community in prayers and mourn the tragic loss of life, and we send our warmest thoughts and good wishes to those who were injured for their speedy and full recovery. I wholeheartedly support this condolence motion.

I stand together with and pray for the Sri Lankan community, and reaffirm my commitment for an inclusive and harmonious multicultural society.