May 05, 2003
Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)
Sri Lanka and Canada: Expanding Friendships
Dear Hon. Minister
We write in response to the remarks you made at the inaugural meeting of the Canada-Sri-Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group in Parliament Hill, Ottawa recently.
To begin with, we wish to commend your initiative to form a Canada-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group, albeit too late in the day. What more an important factor in the peace process equation is completely missing!
Right from the beginning the Liberal government has taken a hands off policy in respect of the two decades old armed conflict that ravaged the island. Our pleas to the government, including the Hon. Minister, to mediate between the warring parties fell on deaf years. The Foreign Ministry repeated ad nauseam We will facilitate peace talks between the belligerents if both parties jointly make a request. This was a charade by the bureaucrats in the Foreign Ministry to avoid facing the problem altogether. It is because the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE could not agree that we suggested third party mediation. Thankfully that role has now been assumed by Norway. We owe a sense of gratitude to this Nordic country for its selfless and thankless job as a facilitator.
Not only did the Canadian government refused to intervene, it also compounded the problem by labelling the LTTE as an organization engaged in terrorist acts. In doing so the Canadian government completely ignored the state terrorism and repression unleashed by a racist government against the defenceless Thamil people.
In October 1995 the Canadian government rubbed salt to the wound when it arrested Manickavasagam Suresh on charges that "there are reasonable grounds to believe he is or was a member of an organization engaged in terrorism (LTTE) in terms of Section 19(1) of the Immigration Act. This despite the fact that the Liberal Party while in opposition opposed tooth and nail the enactment of Section 19(1) describing it as draconian. But the same Liberal party Immigration critic on becoming Minister for Immigration lost no time in signing the Security Certificate under the same Section which led to the incarceration of Suresh. He was treated worse than a common criminal and at one stage he was kept incommunicado in a cold room! When he was released on bail after spending 2 years behind bars, he was a shadow of his former self having contracted the deadly TB while in custody. His lawful political activities in support of the Tamil peoples national liberation struggle for the right to self-determination under the leadership of the LTTE were construed as terrorism. At the same time the prosecution conceded that there was no evidence that Suresh ever committed any crime either in Canada or Sri Lanka.
The lawyers appearing for the Ministry of Justice told the Federal court judge unashamedly that Manickavasagam Suresh should be deported to Sri Lanka even if he faced torture or even if his life was at risk. This was Liberal governments perverted sense of justice despite Canada being a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture! Even today the Canadian governments sterile and unimaginative foreign policy remains unchanged.
1) LTTE is still considered a terrorist organization by the Liberal government;
2) Thamil Canadians who support the LTTE are potential terrorists in the eyes of the CSIS, the RCMP and the National Post;
3) LTTE members/activists are not permitted to enter Canada.
4) Thamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) is the only indigenous humanitarian organization providing relief work in the war-torn Northeast. But the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has denied charity status on the spurious grounds that it is a front organization of the Thamil Eelam Society/ WTM/LTTE!
5) When Fr.Gasper Raj, former director of Veritas Thamil Radio based in Manila came to attend a TRO function in Toronto on March 27, 2002 he was refused entry into Canada at the Pearson International Airport by CSIS/ Immigration Officials. He was handcuffed, humiliated, denied sleep, very shabbily treated and put on a plane next morning to the US! (Annexure 1). It was due to his charisma as a priest in the service of God that Thamil Canadians came forward to sponsor more than 1,000-orphaned children in Vanni.
Strangely we find that Canadian diplomats have no qualms or moral compunctions in shaking hands and posing for photographs with real LTTE functionaries in the jungles of Vanni. Apparently, Canada is practising apartheid internally but not externally!
The Hon. Minister has said, When there was very little outside aid reaching the North and East, Canada was delivering about one-fifth of the humanitarian relief. We are very skeptic about the Hon. Ministers tall claim and we invite him to back his statement with exact dollars given out for humanitarian relief. The only funding we are aware is the Canadian Sri Lanka development funding to Sri Lanka through South-Asian Partnership. But this did not exceed 12 million in any given year! Out of that 90% was spent on projects outside the Northeast! And not surprisingly there was only a solitary Thamil director on the SAP board.
However, if what the Minister says is a fact then half-a million people in Vanni should not have languished and continue to languish in squalor and disease due to lack of food and medicine. A report by an NGO said 90% of the children suffered from third-degree malnutrition. And pregnant mothers gave birth to under-weight babies!
The travails and tribulations of people in Vanni and elsewhere are still not over despite a ceasefire agreement in force for the last 15 months.
The Sunday Leader columnist Frederica Jansz who visited Vanni recently said inter-alia Out of a total population of 142,372 persons "the situation is desperate" as people have no employment opportunities and as such, are living below the poverty line. He maintained that more than 24,532 families depend on dry rations issued via government food stamps. "Over 32,000 families in the Vanni live below the poverty line . The columnist added, The shelters of many of these people living in the Vanni can barely be even referred to as houses. They look more like little play houses or even dog kennels with the tallest being a little over five feet in height. (Annexure 2)
The Hon. Minister has said we are home to over 200,000 Canadians of Sri Lankan origin, giving us the largest Thamil Diaspora in the world.. . I hope that this group can help all of Canadas Sri Lankan communities to be positive forces in this process.
Asking the Thamil Diaspora to be positive in the peace process is like asking the Pope to support the Catholic Church! The Hon. Minister is preaching to the converts! It can be even described as sanctimonious humbugging. As victims of a bloody war we have been insisting from the inception that a political solution must be found to the civil conflict. We have long agreed with President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghes position that negotiation offers the best hope for durable peace in Sri Lanka. Today as in the past we are fully supportive of a political solution based on self-determination, justice and equality. It is the Canadian government, which frustrated our efforts and continue to do so by treating the Thamil Diaspora as supporters of terrorists and denying charity status to TRO.
The Hon. Minister and his government may strike friendship with the Sri Lankan government, but that alone will not result in peace or progress. If the Canadian government is sincere in its commitment to peace, it should lift the ban on LTTE immediately. Your sterile policy of trashing the LTTE as a terrorist organization and a political outcaste is ludicrous, if not comical. It flies in the face of logic and ignores reality on the ground.
In conclusion, if long-term peace is finally achieved it will not be due to the efforts of Canada, but despite it. Thank you.
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