Canada’s flawed stance on Sri Lanka
Posted on November 4th, 2012

Mahinda Gunasekera

SRI LANKA UNITED NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CANADA

4 Arkona Drive, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M1T 1X3                   

Hon. John Baird, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ottawa, Ontario

Honourable Minister,

Canada’s flawed stance on Sri Lanka

We refer to your letter of October 22, 2012 in response to ours of October 1, 2011, and find that the reasons given to justify Canada’s position on Sri Lanka are based on wrong assessments and more with an eye to winning the votes of the large Tamil diaspora residing in the Greater Toronto area that mainly funded the Tamil Tiger led war to break up Sri Lanka and establish a separate mono-ethnic, racist Tamil state called ” Eelam” in the north and east of the island.

The war was thrust upon Sri Lanka by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) when they launched their so called “ƒ”¹…”final war of liberation’ in December 2005 by carrying out lethal attacks on government forces and civilian targets, boycotting  peace talks held in Zurich and Oslo in early 2006 having travelled to these venues , and later cutting off drinking and irrigating water to farmers from Mavil Aru followed up with a lightning strike on the town of Muttur with intent to disable the operation of the Naval Harbor of Trincomalee.  Sri Lanka had no alternative but to respond to these attacks which rolled back the Tamil Tiger incursions forcing them to withdraw from the usurped territory in the Vanni resulting in their final defeat on May 18, 2009 on the northeast coast on the banks of the Nandikadal Lagoon.  As the Tamil Tigers retreated, they herded the Tamil civilian population from the northwest coast to the northeast coast over a period of 33 months to be used as a human shield, laying down over 1.5 million landmines and removing the roofing sheets and doors of the abandoned civilian homes as they proceeded.  Whilst this forced migration of civilians took place Canada and the international community stood by in silence only to make a half-hearted attempt to seek their release at the final stages when the civilians were being used as a human shield by the LTTE.

As stated in my previous letter, Sri Lanka made six separate attempts to negotiate a peace settlement through direct negotiations and international mediation but failed to make any headway as the LTTE did not negotiate in good faith and merely entered peace talks to buy time to rebuild their forces and re-commence hostilities.  Even during the final war, Sri Lanka declared two 48 hour ceasefires to allow the trapped civilians to cross over into safer areas only to be prevented from doing so by the Tamil Tigers firing on any civilian who tried to move out from their diminishing area of control. The LTTE moved their heavy weapons into areas designated as safe zones for the civilians and vicinity of hospitals to attack the advancing Sri Lankan forces unconcerned about retaliatory fire which could endanger civilians in those places.    

In respect of human rights violations said to have been committed by the Sri Lankan forces in the latter stages of the war in the year 2009, you have cited the report prepared by the UN Secretary General’s Panel which came up with several unsubstantiated allegations based on a one sided inquiry from outside the country using hearsay evidence coming from the Tamil diaspora which is clearly a prejudiced source. The UNSG’s Panel even failed to include the UN country report prepared by the resident representatives with information supplied by their local staff remaining on the ground throughout the duration of the military operation which spoke of around 7,200 deaths of Tamil Tiger cadres and civilians caught in the crossfire and many others executed by the LTTE, but instead they opted to join the band wagon of INGO such as the ICG, HRW, etc. guesstimating tens of thousands of civilian deaths from their ivory towers in the western capitals.  As their report contained submissions from only one side of the conflict, the Panel has seriously erred by acting in contravention of a cardinal principle of natural justice by failing to hear the other side.  Other reports prepared by the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and others too were done from outside the country long after the conclusion of the conflict with similar data gathered from the same prejudiced source.   

Sri Lanka has done much to bring about reconciliation by providing every needed care and speedily re-settling the internally displaced Tamil civilians numbering over 295,000 in their villages, whom they rescued from the heavily armed Tamil Tigers grip in the last stages at great cost losing over 3,900 men or around 60 percent of the total number of soldiers killed in the four year military operation, mainly due to battling the terrorist forces in the latter stages using just their hand carried weapons to minimize civilian casualties.  Heavy weapons were rarely used except to neutralize enemy gun positions. Sri Lanka’s record of resettlement of IDPs is an enviable one, in that they had to demine almost a 1,000 sq. km., repair and build new homes, put in infrastructure and evolve livelihood assistance programs which resulted in a 22 percent economic growth in the war affected areas.  They also carried out a comprehensive rehabilitation program including vocational training to provide new skills to the 11,000 former Tamil Tiger combatants and 600 child soldiers that surrendered helping them to become contributing members of society.  Added to all of this, they were able to hold local government elections in the north after two decades, thereby affording the people an opportunity to elect their own representatives to manage the local affairs.

We would like to mention that our association also took the initiative to ship pharmaceutical supplies, mosquito nets and school supplies for use of the Tamil IDPs, and also joined Sri Lankan community groups in their efforts to reach out to the IDPs with material goods and health services through the “ƒ”¹…”Brotherhood Train Project’ of November 2008 and the “ƒ”¹…”Trails Project’ of July 2011 which raised over US $150 million towards setting up of a Children’s Cancer Ward in the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.  We regret to note that the members of the Canadian Tamil diaspora who demonstrated on the streets of Toronto and Ottawa claiming to be deeply concerned about the plight of the trapped Tamil civilians did nothing to assist them, other than contributing to the war effort of the Tamil Tigers whom they backed with  funds for arms to create a separate Tamil homeland to be carved out of Sri Lanka’s sovereign territory.   

Sri Lanka has appointed her own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission whose report you have acknowledged, in order to determine accountability for any wrongdoing and improve the inter-ethnic relations.  Without doubt, she has the capacity to meet all international standards.  As a sovereign nation like Canada with a 2,500 year recorded history and rich heritage, she would naturally disapprove of international meddling in her internal affairs.

We would also like to point out that our association’s members and a substantial number of members of the Canadians of Sri Lankan origin are extremely pleased that Sri Lanka’s Security Forces were able to defeat the heavily armed Tamil Tiger terrorists that had at its command an army, an extensive naval force, a rudimentary air force and a standing brigade of suicide bombers responsible for over 387 suicide attacks, and bring to an end three decades of separatist terror and violence, and to win back the Right to Life of Sri Lanka’s 21 million citizens who had lived through a nightmare during a dark period of her history.  We must also add that we switched our support from the Liberal Party to that of the Conservatives whilst the Conservatives were still in the opposition, and have remained Conservative Party supporters from the time we developed ties to Stock Day, Val Meredith, Jason Kenney, Art Hanger and others, unlike the Tamil Tiger activists in the Tamil diaspora since turned Human Rights Champions who palaver all three political parties in pursuit of the single objective of seeking an anti-Sri Lanka stance in exchange for a promise of diaspora votes which they are today unable to deliver following the elimination of their armed group in Sri Lanka.  Conservative party ties to the Tamil Tiger separatist lobby could seriously affect the support hitherto extended to the party by members of our community.

Sri Lanka has single handedly eliminated terrorism from her soil and made great strides within a short space of three years to improve the economy and the inter-ethnic relations within the country, whereas Canada and her western allies waging war on terrorism have been bogged down in places such as Afghanistan in spite of the superior equipment, forces and funds at their command, merely causing immense death and destruction as the fighting drags on with no end in sight.

Prime Minister Harper declared his intention to not attend the CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 even before studying the situation, but thought it fit to attend the Francophonie Summit in the Congo where the ongoing war has resulted in over five million deaths and a horrific number of rapes.  Canada nor the rest of the international community have taken any meaningful steps to deal with the over 26 million and growing number of displaced persons around the globe who have remained in poorly facilitated camps in excess of 12 years, without asylum in any  country to resume a normal life.  If Mr. Harper wants the Commonwealth of Nations to continue and values the long standing ties with her fellow Commonwealth Member of Sri Lanka, he should stop playing games and flirting with the Tamil Tiger lobby in Canada and make up his mind without delay to attend the CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013.

Yours sincerely,

                                                                            
                                                                               Mahinda Gunasekera
                                                                               Honorary President    

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