Meet me again, Australian state premier to Indian envoy

Last Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2010 - 11:59

Melbourne: Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh`s stinging remark that Victoria was a state in denial about the severity of the problem of race attacks on Thursday prompted the Australian state`s premier John Brumby to say he wanted to meet her again.

Discussing the assaults on Indians in Melbourne, Sujatha Singh told Governor General Quentin Bryce that Victoria was a state "in denial", a newspaper reported on Thursday.

She is believed to have told Bryce that Australia was not racist but warned of long-term consequences unless more action was taken to prevent attacks on Indians, the media report said.

Citing over 100 incidents of racist violence against Indians, she told Bryce that Victorian authorities were in denial over the scale of the violence.

The Indian envoy would return to New Delhi next week for talks on Australia`s response to the assaults.

Responding to her remark, Brumby said he would again seek a meeting with her to assure that his government was doing all it could to stop attacks on Indian students.

"I`ll be able to inform her of all of these things and again to reassure her that Victoria is a much safer place than other places in Australia and indeed around the world," Australian news agency AAP quoted Brumby as saying Thursday.

Brumby reiterated there should be a fair and balanced debate on the issue.

He said the most recent cases of violence against Indians, including a man who allegedly set himself on fire and a murder allegedly committed by an Indian couple, had unfairly damaged Australia`s reputation.

"There`s always a lot of speculation about these things but if you look at the facts of the matter ... in relation to assault in relation to Indian students, they are under-represented in terms of their population share.

"I think it`s important in this discussion and this debate that there`s some balance in the reporting and in attitudes that are expressed publicly."

Brumby suggested setting up an Indian task force to address racial attacks.

The string of attacks on Indians has caused outrage in India and strained relations between Canberra and New Delhi. One of the attacks proved fatal. Nitin Garg was fatally stabbed Jan 2 in Melbourne while was walking to the restaurant where he worked.

Brumby Wednesday criticised the Indian media and officials and said there had to be "some balance to the reporting" after it emerged that an Indian man who claimed to have been set alight by assailants in Melbourne had in fact accidentally burnt himself.

He also referred to the death of Ranjodh Singh whose body was found on the side of a road in New South Wales Dec 29.

"I think the point needs to be made that the people who have been charged with that murder are both Indians."

"So I hope that there is some balance to the debate, some balance to the reporting in India and certainly to date that balance hasn`t been there."


First Published: Thursday, February 4, 2010 - 11:59

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