Genocide Statement ‘Free Speech’

GENOCIDE STATEMENT ‘FREE SPEECH’

Sunday Times, Australia
May 16 2006

A VICTORIAN MP’s parliamentary speech accusing Turkish people of
ignoring acts of genocide more than 80 years ago was a sign of free
speech at work, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said today.

Jenny Mikakos, the parliamentary secretary for justice, whose ethnic
background is Greek, has accused Turkey of ignoring the killing of
hundreds of thousands of ethnic Greeks between 1916 and 1923.

In a short speech to the Victorian upper house during the last session
of Parliament, Ms Mikakos reportedly said: “On May 19, the Pontian
community in Victoria and around the world will commemorate the 87th
anniversary of the Pontian genocide that occurred in present-day
Turkey.

“Between 1916 and 1923, over 353,000 Pontic Greeks living in Asia
Minor and in Pontus, which is near the Black Sea, died as a result of
the 20th Century’s first but less-known genocide,” Fairfax reported
her as saying.

“Over a million Pontic Greeks were forced into exile. In the preceding
years, 1.5 million Armenians and 750,000 Assyrians in various parts
of Turkey also perished.”

Two Labor MPs of Turkish descent, Adem Somyurek and John Eren,
interjected but Ms Mikakos continued speaking.

“The Turkish government must begin the reconciliation process by
acknowledging these crimes against humanity. The suffering of the
victims of the Pontian genocide cannot and will not be forgotten,”
she said.

The comments, made under a system of 90-second free statements for
MPs established by the Bracks Government, have outraged Turkish and
Jewish groups.

But Mr Bracks today said Ms Mikakos, one of two members for the safe
Jika Jika province in Melbourne’s north, was free to make the speech.

“Free speech is something that we uphold, and I understand that,
and the freedom to criticise someone who makes a statement is also
appropriate as well,” he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

“As to the interpretation of those events, that is a matter which,
really, other people can judge, but this is something she obviously
felt passionate about.

“It’s up to her. She is a member of parliament who can submit those
things to the Parliament.

“But equally, people have the right to vigorously disagree with her
point of view.”

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