The Peak Public Affairs Committee of the Armenian-Australian Community

3/3/2010 10:12:00 PM

ADELAIDE: Senator Alan Ferguson has apologised for calling the Armenian and Pontian-Greek Genocides "debatable". In a speech made to the Federal Parliament's upper house two weeks ago, Senator Ferguson brought into question the historical truth of the Armenian and Greek Genocides by stating they "cannot be accurately depicted" today.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and leaders of the Greek and Assyrian communities immediately presented objective academic material regarding the Armenian Genocide and demanded that Senator Ferguson apologise for casting doubt over the accuracy of these crimes against humanity, which have been condemned by the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

Senator Ferguson subsequently reviewed his position and in his letter of apology, stated that he was "deeply sorry" as his speech was never intended to cause "distress".

It continued: "I accept the findings of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples in relation to the atrocities that were committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks..."

ANC Australia President, Mr. Varant Meguerditchian said that the community accepts Senator Ferguson's apology and looks forward to establishing a strong working relationship with him.

"We accept the Senator's remorse as genuine and believe that the Senator now realises the great impact this crime against humanity has played in the lives of so many descendants of the Armenian and Pontian-Greek Genocides who now consider Australia their home.," said Mr. Meguerditchian.

FULL LETTER FROM ANC AUSTRALIA TO SENATOR FERGUSON

ATT: Senator the Hon. Alan Ferguson

Commonwealth Parliament Offices

100 King William Street

Adelaide SA 5000

RE: SENATE SPEECH – 18 MARCH 2009

Dear Senator Ferguson,

We refer to your speech in the Australian Senate on the 18th of March 2009, titled ‘The Turkish-Australian Community’. That day, you took offence at a statement made by South Australia’s Attorney General, the Hon. Michael Atkinson regarding the genocide campaigns of Ottoman Turks against its Christian minorities – including Armenians, Pontian Greeks and Assyrians – in the early 1900s.

You stated that you shared the concern of your “personal friend”, the Turkish ambassador at Mr. Atkinson’s remarks, and that the Armenian and Pontian cases were “debatable” and “cannot be accurately depicted” today.

Senator, you continued your support for modern Turkey’s internationally condemned denialist agenda by stating “we should not be passing judgment when we do not know the full facts”.

The full facts of the Armenian Genocide are undeniable. Any scholar denying that 1.5million of our ancestors were massacred, starved and death marched from their homes in 1915 is discredited by the ‘International Association of Genocide Scholars’.

The word ‘Genocide’ was coined by Mr. Rafael Lemkin in 1948, when he used the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust as references when sharing examples of organised attempts to exterminate an entire people.

Senator, your speech on 18th of March was ironically followed seven days later by your home state, South Australia’s Legislative Council recognising and condemning the Armenian Genocide. The motion, which was introduced by Mr. David Ridgway (Liberal MLC and Opposition Leader of the Legislative Council) and passed unopposed, also recognised a key component in South Australia’s history.

South Australians, along with Australians from other states, took part in Australia’s first ever international relief effort by donating clothing, money and infrastructure (orphanage for child survivors in Lebanon) to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Not recognising the Armenian Genocide means not recognising the great efforts of Australians to come to the aid of this oppressed people.

Further, Australian World War I prisoners of war (POW) accounts reveal testimonies of the horrors being committed against Armenians and other Ottoman Christian minorities.

Not recognising the Armenian Genocide means not recognising the accounts of our Australian soldiers.

Senator, your statement has deeply offended Armenian-Australians, Greek-Australians and Assyrian-Australians. The Armenian National Committee of Australia and the Armenian-Australian community joins the Greek and Assyrian communities in requesting you retract your statement with an appropriate apology.

We offer to meet with you to discuss this further and provide material to assist with your research towards correction.

Yours Sincerely,

Varant Meguerditchian

President