Assyrian memorial issue referred to state ombudsman in Australia

A decision by a council in western Sydney to approve a monument commemorating an alleged Assyrian genocide despite opposition from the Turkish community and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has been referred to the state of New South Wales’ ombudsman, news reports said.

The erection of the monument, proposed by the Assyrian Universal Alliance to commemorate the alleged Assyrian genocide, was approved by the Fairfield Council in Sydney’s western suburbs in December. Denying the Assyrians’ genocide claims, Turkey’s ambassador to Australia, Oğuz Özge, called the council’s decision “very offensive,” noting that the Turkish government was considering legal action against the council decision.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry had already condemned the council’s decision while reiterating Ankara’s stance on controversial disputes about history, saying the issue should only be discussed by historians through objective analysis.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday that a complaint was sent to the ombudsman last week alleging that conflicts of interest should have prevented at least two councilors from voting.
Adem Çetinay, who is of Turkish origin and who organized a petition opposing the monument, wrote a 14-page complaint highlighting links between Assyrian community groups and several councilors who voted for the monument.
The monument will commemorate the Assyrian victims of an alleged genocide that supposedly took place between 1915 and 1918. According to the allegations, approximately 750,000 Assyrians, or approximately 75 percent of the Assyrian population in the former Ottoman Empire, were killed.

19 January 2010, Tuesday