Aid workers in attack on 'feeble' report

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 June, 1994, 12:00am

AID workers employed in the camps said yesterday they were disturbed at the report, which appeared to have overlooked the main issues.

''We are shocked at the feebleness of the report and very disappointed. The JPs who made the investigation and report have essentially behaved as Government servants,'' a statement by Refugee Concern said.

The group, led by lawyer Pam Baker, produced by far the strongest initial reaction to the report, which was largely accepted by legislators, who called on the Government to implement its recommendations.

But Refugee Concern claimed boat people who had been told of the report's findings were concerned it was an attempt to legitimise the Government's action so that further operations could be undertaken.

''It makes little sense to claim that the operation was carried out in an appropriate manner while at the same time finding that it resulted in confusion, with people retreating to and then refusing to come down off the roofs, resulting in an enormous amount of tear-gas being fired and hundreds of casualties,'' the statement said in part.

The inquiry praised the ''many'' CSD staff who were allegedly ''sympathetic'' when people climbed down off the roofs, rather than issuing any clear criticism of those alleged to have assaulted the Vietnamese, Ms Baker's group said.

It said the inquiry managed to recommend that a team of monitors be used in future operations, without a word of explicit criticism of the way in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was ''deficient'' in its monitoring.

''Three weeks ago we wrote to the inquiry highlighting that the most important issue to be investigated was the planning of the operation at the highest levels of the administration. The questions we raised concerning, for example, the use of gas very early and without negotiation, have not been in any way addressed by the report,'' the group said.

''We also asked the inquiry to recommend that all the information on which they based their report be made publicly available.

''As a non-public inquiry, we do not know what questions were asked of whom and what evidence was used in compiling the report.

''We stated that it was essential for the perceived and actual legitimacy of the inquiry that these documents be made public.

''That request from this office appears to have been ignored,'' the statement by Refugee Concern concluded.