Australia determined to act on attacks, says envoy

January 15th, 2010 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) Australian High Commissioner Peter Varghese Friday said his government was determined to take action against those involved in attacks on Indian nationals but said it was not right to draw hasty conclusions on the motives behind the violence.
“A total of 34 people have been arrested so far in connection with cases involving Indians in Victoria alone,” Varghese said in a statement.

“Some cases have been finalised by the courts, leading to stiff sentences. For example, three men found guilty of attacking Indian-born doctor Mukesh Haikerwal were sentenced to eight-and-half, sixteen-and-half and nine years in jail respectively in November 2009.”

There have been a string of attacks on Indians in Australia, causing an outcry in India and forcing the Indian government to issue an advisory to students studying Down Under.

Two attacks proved fatal. The body of Ranjodh Singh, an Indian-born seasonal work contractor, was found Dec 29. Accountancy graduate Nitin Garg was fatally stabbed in Melbourne Jan 2.

An Indian was set on fire in Melbourne Jan 9 while another Indian was assaulted at Coogee beach in Sydney Jan 11.

“It is important not to jump to conclusions about the motives of an attack or to take initial media reports as fact,” Varghese said, reaffirming the importance of allowing police investigations to run their course.

Detailing the progress in some of the probes, Varghese said claims that the burnt body of Ranjodh Singh found in Griffith was a racial attack should be treated with caution.

“The two persons detained by New SouthWales police in relation to this appalling incident were in fact Indian nationals.

“Similarly, it is far from certain that the reported burning of Jaspreet Singh in Melbourne Jan 9 was an attack.

“In all these cases, it is important to let the investigation establish the facts and then allow the criminal justice system to reach a view on the motives and the appropriate punishment.”

An Australian court Friday sentenced a man who had attacked an Indian taxi driver in Ballarat, Victoria, to three months in jail.

“The speedy justice provided in this case shows the Australian government’s seriousness in ensuring that high levels of safety and security for all are maintained,” Varghese said. “The verdict has come out within 24 hours of the incident.”

According to the Australian High Commission, police investigation into the death of Nitin Garg in Melbourne were continuing and authorities were treating the case as a matter of highest priority.

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