Australian High Commissioner (HC) Bruce Hutchesson has responded to the Sunday Times following last week’s page 1 lead story “Australia lists Tamil Eelam in census”, stating that, what happened was that internal guidelines of the census enumerators accidentally got into the official website. Not that the country’s national census recognised ‘Tamil Eelam’ as a separate country.
Explaining what happened, the HC says the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides internal guidance- instructions given on how to sort responses by members of the public to the question on ‘country of birth’- and, in this specific instance, staff were instructed that any respondents who choose to write “Tamil Eelam” as their country of birth, must be recorded as having been born in Sri Lanka. This guidance in no way grants validation to any such public responses- in fact, to the contrary, he says.
“We regret this internal guidance was placed on the ABS website”, the HC states.
HC Hutchesson adds that the Australian Government therefore did not list “Tamil Eelam” as an option for those responding to the national Census question on ‘country of birth’ and that, his government has never recognised ‘Tamil Eelam’ as a separate country. He says he has briefed senior Sri Lankan Government officials last week on the matter.
The Sunday Times reported last week that, the ABS website had included the words ‘Tamil Eelam’ in theit website during an ongoing national census, which invited a barrage of telephone calls to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra. HC S. Skandakumar had lodged a protest with the ABS and the Dept of Foreign Affairs, after which the reference to ‘Tamil Eelam’ was removed from the website. The Dept of Foreign Affairs however, hadn’t given the Sri Lanka High Commission an explanation of “internal guidance” being placed on the ABS website last week.
An inquiry is pending as to how the ABS website was hacked into on Augsut 9, the same day the reference to ‘Tamil Eelam’ was removed from the site. HC Hutchesson, however, says to suggest the guidance was the product of a ‘pro-LTTE stunt’ is “fanciful”.