Canada should be sincere in it’s “Rekindling with Sri Lanka”.
Posted on August 6th, 2009

Noor Nizam   Sri Lanka Peace Activist & Convener Canadian Friends of Sri Lanka .

Re: Rekindling our ties with Sri Lanka.National Post, Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The visit of Canada’s conservative Member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai, who’s also Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Foreign Affairs Lawrence Canon, to Sri Lanka from July 5 to July 7 was an official visit that contributes much towards “Rekindling the ties between Canada and Sri Lanka”. The visit was also to ensure that Canadian aid is reaching the Tamil refugees in the IDP camps which are much discussed in the Tamil Diaspora community in Canada and the political corridors in Ottawa . That is indeed a priority because there is evidence that out of the 7.1 million dollars granted to Canadian Humanitarian NGOs, much of the funds have still not reached the IDP at all.

But what has “rekindled” our ties much more is the desire of Canada and Canadians to extend their warm humanitarian support and reach out to the IDPs in the 35 odd camps that have been set up in the Wanni after the defeat of the LTTE by the friendly Sri Lankan security forces on the 17th., of May 2009.

The Honourable Deepak Obhrai, when meeting Hon. Rishad Bathiudeen M.P., Minister for Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services who had himself been displaced by the LTTE process and has lived in an IDP camp said,

” Canada believes the best solution is to return the civilians to their homes as soon as possible”.

Sri Lanka insists that will happen, but that it needs time to clear land-mines and rebuild towns destroyed by the fighting. But Hon. Deepak Obhrai also said:

“I must make it clear we have to engage with the government of Sri Lanka . We have historical ties with the Sri Lankan government.”

This is again “rekindling” Canadian ties with Sri Lankan, but how far is the Honourable Deepak Obhrai sincere in what Canada represents to rekindle these ties.

Mr. Martin Collacott, former Canadian high commissioner to Sri Lanka , Vancouver was very correct when he stated that “Canada had friendly relations with the government in Colombo up to the 1980s. Regrettably, this was largely eroded by fact that, for many years, we allowed Tamil Tiger supporters in this country virtually unlimited freedom of movement and the ability to raise funds for terrorist activities. During this time, Canada was the largest source of overseas funding for the insurgency and terrorist attacks that kept Sri Lanka in turmoil. As a result, the Sri Lankan government, not surprisingly, became increasingly indifferent to Canadian views”. But to be sincere in “rekindling” our warm ties as expected by Mr. Bandula Jayasekara Consul General for Sri Lanka in Toronto, Canada has to be sincere in it’s commitments to help the Sri Lankan Government help the Tamil community and those in the IDP camps in the Wanni.

As a priority, Canada has the expertise of mine clearing know-how equipment and technology. Canadian NGO’s like the Canadian International Demining Corps Ltd., should be promoted by the Canadian Federal authorities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CIDA to immediately get down to clear land mines in the Wanni districts. Canadian NGO’s involved in mine clearing can work with the National Steering Committee of the government of Sri Lanka that has to clear the villages within the 180 days time line given by the government of Sri Lanka. The Canadians can work along with the Indian landmine clearing companies like Horizon and Sarvatra. In the absence of records, there is no clear idea where exactly the mines had been laid. And since this is humanitarian de-mining, extra care has to be taken, making it more time-consuming and difficult. It is estimated that it will take one-and-a-half to two years to do away with most landmines and another year to declare the areas safe for habitation. It costs $3 – $30 to purchase an antipersonnel mine, but it costs up to $1000 to remove one.

In “rekindling” Canada ‘s ties with Sri Lanka , Canada can contribute towards supporting Sri Lanka buy The MineWolf mine clearing machine.

MineWolf_Systems_Homepage
http://www.minewolf.com/demining-products-services.html

The MineWolf is a tracked mine clearance machine implementing an interchangeable tiller or flail system. It has been proven effective against anti-personnel (AP)It has been proven effective against anti-personnel (AP) and heavy anti-tank (AT) mines in many mine-affected countries including Sudan , Jordan , Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia (humanitarian projects). The system is capable of clearing up to 30,000 square metres per day.

Clearing the mine fields of all villages in the Wanni using the MineWolf machine will make it possible to resettle the IDP’s within the 180 days that the government has suggested. Surely The Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) can be identified as the source of funding for mine action and all ERW-related activity supported by DFAIT to make this humanitarian reach out to the IDP a reality. This is more proactive and realistic humanitarian assistance that just giving funds to Canadian NGO’s that have not shown proper results in the past in Sri Lanka .

This is what Hon. Deepak Obhrai should recommend to the Honourable Prime Minister “”…” Stephen Harper and the government of Canada and request Canada to be sincere in its efforts to help the Tamil community in Sri Lankan and the Tamil Diaspora in Canada .

Noor Nizam
Sri Lanka Peace Activist & Convener Canadian Friends of Sri Lanka .

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