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Dec-16-2012 13:51printcomments

Elderly Australian Doctor Deported by Singapore

Dr Senewiratne, who is Sinhalese but actively supports the Tamil cause, believes he was arrested in Singapore because he was going to speak to an “invitation-only” forum in Malaysia about the humanitarian crisis with refugees.

Dr Brian Senewiratne
Dr Brian Senewiratne photo courtesy: WN

(MELBOURNE ) - An 81-year-old Brisbane doctor was locked in a small cell without food, water or toilet access for more than five hours yesterday before being deported back to Australia from Singapore.

Dr Brian Senewiratne, a Sri Lankan-born Australian who has been a long-time critic of the Sri Lankan Government over its treatment of Tamils, was on his way to Malaysia and Indonesia to speak at forums on the Tamil refugee issue. He said yesterday he was locked up during his Singapore airport stop-over after being told he was not permitted to enter Malaysia, or travel to Indonesia. (For more background please visit Ode to a Humble Hero of Sri Lanka: Dr Brian Senewiratne by Tim King and Usha Sriskandarajah)

“They told me I was being deported straight back to Australia under a clause on an immigration card that said ‘ineligible for the issue of a pass under current immigration policies’,” he said.

Dr Senewiratne said that when he asked what was the current immigration policy that would prevent him from travelling, the security officer said it wasn’t for him to say. “I arrived in Singapore at 5a.m. on Friday and was put in a 10 feet square ‘box’ for five and a half hours with asylum seekers and refugees. There was no food, no water and no toilet. At 81 it was no walk in the park,” said Dr Senewiratne. “Then an armed policeman, with live bullets in his revolver, took me to a waiting plane. My passport was given to the captain to be locked up in a security safe during the flight and released to security staff in Brisbane. I arrived back in Brisbane at 9pm last night. He said he was going to ask his local MP in Brisbane, Kevin Rudd, to take action on his behalf. He will also be writing to Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr. “It is just outrageous, “ he said.

“If an Australian citizen is barred from talking to people in Malaysia and Indonesia about the refugee crisis, which involves them, then we are living in a very bad world. And if the Australian Government doesn’t do something then, as I said on the plane to the staff, an Australian passport isn’t worth the paper it is written on. I would rather have a passport for Guatemala.”

Dr Senewiratne, who is Sinhalese but actively supports the Tamil cause, said he believed he was arrested in Singapore because he was going to speak to an “invitation-only” forum in Malaysia about the humanitarian crisis with refugees. “My speculation is that the Malaysian Government told the Rajapaksa Government in Colombo about my trip and it asked Malaysia to tell Singapore to stop me. Or Malaysia instructed Singapore off its own bat,” he said.

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