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Former Australian PM calls for tougher approach on Sri Lanka

Malcolm Fraser, the former Liberal Australian Prime Minister, has urged the Australian government to toughen its stance on Sri Lanka until there is an investigation into war crimes on the island.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Fraser said,

''There ought to be a proper investigation and if that leads to indictments before the International Criminal Court or the War Crimes Tribunal, so be it.''

Fraser, who will be attending the 2011 CHOGM in Perth in a few days time, also slammed the decision to host the 2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka saying,

"Under current circumstances, holding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka in two years' time is quite inappropriate.”

Backing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s call, Fraser reiterated that human rights issues had to be dealt with first, before Sri Lanka would be allowed to host the meeting.

The former Prime Minister went on to criticise Australia’s current approach to Sri Lanka stating,

"To this point I think we've got one leg each side of a barbed wire fence. That's a rather uncomfortable position to be in you've ever tried it."

''If the government is taking a very soft approach in this matter because of its concern about asylum seekers, I think it is again forgetting what it ought to be doing.''

"We should not place a desire to stop boats and get the co-operation of the Sri Lankan government above the need to seek justice in Sri Lanka between the warring parties."

He went on to condemn then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s visit to Colombo in November 2009, describing it as “outrageous”. The visit ended with Australia granting Sri Lanka $11 million to help them halt the stem of asylum seekers on boats, seeking to leave the island.

"By giving financial support to the Sri Lankan government we were virtually saying, 'What you have done is all right so long as you stop boats'".

"You can't have principles which are important and then throw them over when it's expedient. There's been too much of that in Australia over the past 10 to 15 years." 

The call comes as pressure from Australia continues to mount on Sri Lanka as President Mahinda Rajapakse prepares to attend the CHOGM in Perth.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon criticised the Australian Federal Attorney-general’s decision to halt a criminal case against the Sri Lankan President for war crimes saying that it will "set a horrific precedent if it rolls out the red carpet for Sri Lankan officials at CHOGM while allegations of war crimes remain unanswered".