An open letter to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Canada  regarding Statements in Canadian media that are highly damaging to Sri Lanka’s interests.
Posted on May 19th, 2017

Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada.

The following letter was sent to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa recently when a CBC broadcast  stated  the following about refugees sent back to Sri Lanka. This is about  Sri Lankan refugees in Hong Kong who had sheltered  the Wiki-Leaks journalist Snowden.

“There’s good reason to believe that they will be arrested on sight. They will be detained, tortured and most likely killed. …”.

It is indeed true that many pro-LTTE NGOs as well as organizations like Human-Rights Watch have claimed that ethnic-Tamil Sri Lankans who are refugee claimants when sent back to Sri Lanka face arrest and torture, but here the claim is extended to refugees who are ethnic-Sinhalese Sri Lankans. At a time when the government is claiming GSP-plus status in Europe with its presumably improved human rights record, this type of statement, if false, needs refutation. If this is true, then the human-rights situation in Sri Lanka has not improved one iota.

The Sri Lankan High Commission has replied to this letter stating that it is awaiting instructions from Colombo. Hence we make this letter public in the hope that it would influence the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry officials and also influence the Prime Minster himself to review the human-rights situation with serious concern.

In effect, please note  that this letter should not be regarded as a critique levelled at the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa  par se, but a wake up call to the Foreign Ministry and the Government in its general failure to meet this type statements against Sri Lanka that occur all too frequently in Western media.

The Ambassadors and High Commissioners are supposed to be men and women who have had much experience and training in their diplomatic careers, and should be given the appropriate authority to make statements in regard to such matters without undue delay, and when the matter has caught public opinion, rather than their having to wait for Colombo to react.

The letter to the High Commission is reproduced below:

The High Commissioner for  Sri Lanka In Canada             15-May-2017

Ottawa

Canada

Your Excellency,

Highly inaccurate and damaging remarking against  Sri Lanka uttered by Montreal lawyer Seguin on “As it Happens”, Monday 15th,  2017.

I wish to draw your attention to the highly defamatory remarks against Sri Lanka made by the Montreal lawyer Mr. Seguin on the CBC program “As it happens” at around 7:15 pm, 15 May 2015.  Mr. Seguin, representing some Sri Lankans in Hong Kong who had been denied refugee status there, alleged that the Sri Lankan government will in all likelihood murder these individuals if returned to Sri Lanka. In listening to the radio program I got the impression that the lawyer also alleged that the Sri Lankan government had even deployed extra-judicial means to harm these people even while they are in Hong Kong.

These refugees had provided lodgings and cover to Mr. Snowden and they are being sought by the US, and not by Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has every reason to be happy with  Wiki leaks as they have revealed the true situation contradicting some of the unfounded allegations that have been levelled against Sri Lanka by some organizations who are unhappy about its victory over terrorism.

The only reason why the refugees should not be sent back to Sri Lanka is because  Sri Lanka might hand them over to the US,  unable to withstand US pressure. Instead of stating that danger, Mr. Seguin made what most Sri Lankans believe to be false, unsubstantiated allegations against Sri Lanka itself; these are immensely detrimental to Sri Lanka’s reputation. This is of course not the first case that would-be refugees to Western countries and their lawyers have made such false claims against Sri Lanka. I am aware that High Commissioners and Consul Generals had intervened and filed their objections when this sort of thing happened in the past. This is a high-profile case and it is essential that this case be taken up. In fact, this is entirely in line with the government’s effort to secure GSP-plus in Europe on the basis of the improved human-rights record of the country. Hence one should not allow lawyers trying to gain an advantage to their clients to sully Sri Lanka’s reputation.

Hence I invite you, Sir, as the accredited representative of Sri Lanka in Canada, to take it up with Mr. Seguin, the CBC, and the program “As it happens” and ask for air time to clarify matters. But of course you may have already done so and I hope you would let the community of Sri Lankans and ex-Sri Lankans residing in Canada know about it.

Mr. Seguin has every right to advance the circumstances of his clients, but surely not by vilifying other innocent parties. I think most Sri Lankans also feel that everything must  be done in favour of these valiant people who came to the help of Mr. Snowden. But the Threat on the refugees is from the US and its agents, and the possibility of the refugees being handed over to the US.  That is what Mr. Seguin should have expressed.

Yours sincerely

Chandre Dharmawardana

57 Birch Avenue,

Ottawa, Canada. K1K 3G5

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4115469/may-15-2017-episode-transcript-1.4118345#segment2

SNOWDEN REFUGEES

Guest: Marc-Andre Seguin

JD: They helped Edward Snowden find shelter. And now, seven refugees in Hong Kong could lose their shelter. The Hong Kong government has formally rejected the asylum claims of the three families who assisted Mr. Snowden in 2013, when he was on the run. The families are from the Philippines and Sri Lanka and their identities came to light last year when the Oliver Stone directed a biopic “Snowden” was released. Now, a group of lawyers in Montreal is urging the Canadian government to accept them as refugees in Canada. Marc-Andre Seguin is one of the lawyers representing the refugee families. We reached him in Hong Kong earlier today.

CO: Mr. Seguin, why has the Hong Kong government rejected the asylum claims of these three families?

MARC-ANDRE SEGUIN: Well, from the get go the odds of having an asylum claim successfully adjudicated in Hong Kong or extremely low. Historically Hong Kong has had a 0.36 per cent acceptance rate since 1992. Now more precisely, our clients have been specifically targeted by the Hong Kong authorities even though they entered Hong Kong years apart from one another and filed claims that were different in nature as well. Their claims were rejected on the exact same day. This is not something that is normal. This does not happen. And we believe that that is for political reasons first and foremost.

CO: Are the political reasons because they gave shelter to Edward Snowden?

MS: That’s certainly one of the reasons. Their profile ever since it has become known in the general public since last September is that they provided shelter to Mr. Snowden when he was in Hong Kong. They’ve been at the center of a significant media attention and have been thrust onto the world stage. Because of that they present a security interest in Hong Kong. They’ve been interrogated by the police ever since their assistance to Mr. Snowden has been known. Despite the fact that that assistance was lawful at all times because Mr. Snowden was not a fugitive in Hong Kong he was lawfully on Hong Kong territory and there was no mandate for his arrest. But despite that, they’ve been specifically targeted and interrogated without any regard to the basis of their original claims for why they came to Hong Kong in the first place. We’re talking about people who have been in Hong Kong in some cases as far back as the early 2000s. So the Snowden factor has certainly been important. What’s also important is that they have essentially become the very public illustration of Hong Kong’s very poor treatment of asylum seekers in violation of international law. And for this have become an embarrassment for Hong Kong must be discarded no matter the consequences.

CO: Last September, we spoke with Robert Tibbo, who is a lawyer you’re working with. He also represents Mr. Snowden. He was looking for a way to help Mr. Snowden as he made his way out of the United States. And Mr. Tibbo is the one who set up this plan to have the refugees in Hong Kong offer Mr. Snowden a place to hide.

MS: To understand the context of this you have to understand that the asylum-seeking community in Hong Kong is a very special group. And one of the most ostracized segments of the Hong Kong population. And when they first saw Mr. Snowden they saw him as one of their own. And their act of compassion was one of solidarity towards a fellow asylum seeker. And to this day they have not regretted it. The one thing that they could not predict was that the role that they played would be depicted in a major Hollywood production. Ever since 2013, and up until September of 2016, nobody knew about this specific chapter of Mr. Snowden’s stay in Hong Kong. And our clients certainly did not disclose that.

CO: But at the same time, these people were willing to give him shelter. And our understanding when we’ve done this story in the past is that they didn’t know who Mr. Snowden was and they certainly didn’t know what kind of heat it might bring on them. Do you think that they should have been better informed by any of the lawyers trying to help Mr. Snowden that they might be putting themselves in jeopardy?

MS: Well, in all fairness no one at the time had an idea of what type of heat might come of this. This was presented in the documentary “Citizenfour”, but also in Oliver Stone’s production. What happened, at the end of the day, after Mr. Snowden made these revelations to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald is they went back to sleep. They didn’t go into hiding. So if they couldn’t have a full understanding of what would happen next how could our clients know without even having any further information than even the principal protagonists?

CO: But do you think that more should have been done to protect them from their identities coming out as they have? From becoming these public figures who are now probably going to be deported and split up with their children, but became recognizable on the streets of Hong Kong. Do you think that somebody should have done more to protect them?

MS: Well, a lot was done to protect them. It’s important to remember our clients and their legal representatives never sought this type of attention and for three years, our clients were very successful in keeping a low profile.

CO: So now what we are faced with is that these people — seven of them — possibly to be deported back to. One is to the Philippines, others to Sri Lanka and they may even be split from their children. So what can you possibly do at this point to get them someplace safe?

MS: There is the Hong Kong work that Mr. Tibbo is doing and that that’s to appeal the decisions. So what we’ve done was file refugee petitions to Canada for all three families. We received confirmation that the petitions that we filed have been transferred to the Canadian visa office here at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong. Now, we simply hope that they’ll look at the fact that our clients were rejected, that they could be subject to deportation and that they’ll understand also that because of these rejections our clients can now be arrested by immigration authorities, detained and be separated from their children while their appeal is processed.

CO: And you’re also playing beat the clock aren’t you? You only have a few weeks to make this appeal. What happens if your clients are deported back to the Philippines or to Sri Lanka?

MS: There’s good reason to believe that they will be arrested on sight. They will be detained, tortured and most likely killed. Because of their very public profiles, it will be impossible for them to return to their home countries unnoticed. Very clearly local authorities over there will be expecting them and will have a security interest. Si Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department has dispatched officers on Hong Kong territory to try and locate and possibly harm our client right here extra judicially. And the CID has also been to the houses of our client’s family members back in Sri Lanka. So there’s a lot of reason for concern.

CO: All right. We will leave it there. We will follow this story. Mr. Seguin, I appreciate speaking with you. Thank you.

MS: Thank you very much for your time.

JD: Marc-Andre Seguin is a Montreal-based lawyer. Today though, we reached Mr. Seguin in Hong Kong.

5 Responses to “An open letter to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Canada  regarding Statements in Canadian media that are highly damaging to Sri Lanka’s interests.”

  1. Nihal Perera Says:

    SL high commission in Ottawa is one of the least effective and a useless foreign mission of Sri Lanka. Over the years they have done absolutely NOTHING to fight the anti-Sri Lankan propaganda carried out by the pro-LTTE forces in Canada. As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons why Canada became a strong hold of pro-LTTE activities was due to failure of the SLHC in Ottawa.

    This HC is only good for housing the political cronies and their families who are loyal to the politicians in the government of the day. Majority of the staff is not qualified for the diplomatic services including some High Commissioners I have seen over the years. They are very reluctant to get involved in any activities that goes against SL, like Tamil propaganda, fearing that will expose their incompetence. They are here to educate their children and earn as much as they can during their terms in the high commission. Some of the staff members said to have seek refugee status after the end of their terms.

    The blame also should go to GOSL, especially the Foreign Ministry for their incompetence and cronyism for sending their party supporters, relatives and friends of the ministers, PM and the president. Like everything else by the GOSL, foreign missions, especially in Canada, are extremely ineffective, and not doing their job as Diplomats to defend Sri Lanka in foreign lands. We NEVER hear any statements issued by our HC to media or Canadian Parliamentarians, denouncing or counter acting their pro-LTTE support expressed openly in Canada. These are the parasites living on the expenses of the Sri Lankan tax payers. Shame on them…

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Nihal Perera,

    Thank you for exposing the sad state of inaction and the feathering of one’s own nest among SL diplomatic staff in Canada.

    In defense of the current crop of SL diplomats, I can only ask how they can open their mouths in DEFENSE of Sri Lanka, when the YAMAPALANA leaders themselves, starting with their own maximum leader in Colombo, the Foreign Minister Avamangala Samaraweera, are busy setting an utterly UNPATRIOTIC example of pandering to the EELAMIST DIASPORA and undermining Sri Lanka at the United Nations?

    Thetefore, as you noted, thesee minions hang onto their JOBS, EDUCATE their children, and prepare the groundwork to file a refugee application, if and when they are inevitably FIRED!

    I worked with the Sri Lanka Embassy staff in Washington,DC and LA to support the armed forces during the war years of the MR/UPFA government. They, in contrast, were very patriotic, active and dedicated to Sri Lanka.

    PATRIOTISM should begin at the TOP of the pile, in Diyawanna! Let us hope and pray that this awful PARA-GATHI INCOMPETENT Yamapalanaya can be ousted SOON!

  3. Nihal Perera Says:

    Ananda,

    Glad to hear that you worked for the SL Embassy in Washington and they were very supportive of the armed forces during the war.

    Unfortunately, same cannot be said for the Canadian counterparts in Ottawa. During the 30 years of war many expats and their patriotic organizations in Canada worked very hard to counter act Tamil propaganda while SLHC was very reluctant to go after Canadian media or the Canadian politicians who supported LTTE propaganda. The results was Canada became one of the LTTE strong-hold for raising funds and the LTTE propaganda.

    Some of us who fought against the propaganda wanted to know why SLHC was so quiet and not countering those false propaganda which was very damaging to SL. Their answer was that their hands were tied, and they couldn’t do anything without the approval of the Foreign Ministry in SL. Whether it was true or not we realised that HC was useless and they did everything to protect themselves, and they were there to serve only their personal agenda. Since then we never trusted nor believed that HC is here to serve the motherland, or help the expats to fight for it. That is the sad reality.

    It was few expats like Asoka Weerasingha, Ira de Silva, Mahinda Gunasekera, Daya Hettiarachi and their associations along with many other patriotic expats who fought very hard to get LTTE banned in Canada. During that period SLHC was sleeping at the wheel and wasn’t much of a help at all.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    I cannot understand why our leaders are so lacking in any moral fiber with the exception of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Please see below how Pierre Trudeau dealt with the FLQ terrorists in the 1970s.

    http://www.torontosun.com/2013/04/19/trudeau-right-on-terrorism

    Here are two excerpts from the article.
    “During the October, 1970 FLQ crisis, Trudeau didn’t wax philosophical about how terrorists feel “excluded” from society, as Justin Trudeau did when he was asked by the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge about how he would have responded as prime minister to the Boston Marathon bombings.

    To the contrary, when Canada was faced with a real terrorist threat in Quebec, including the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and the kidnapping and eventual assassination of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, Trudeau knew exactly what to do.

    He invoked the War Measures Act at the request of the government of Quebec, called in the army and empowered the police to conduct mass raids and arrests.

    Trudeau’s attitude towards the terrorists was crystal clear. He didn’t care what motivated them.

    As he put it at the time: “Nothing that either the Government of Canada or the Government of Quebec has done or failed to do, now or in the future, could possibly excuse any injury to either of these two innocent men. The guns pointed at their heads have FLQ fingers on the trigger. Should any injury result, there is no explanation that could condone the act. Should there be harm done to these men, the Government promises unceasing pursuit of those responsible.”

    Consider how closely Trudeau’s remarks then reflect Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s today, in his criticism of Justin Trudeau’s comments about terrorists acting as they do because they feel excluded from society.

    As Harper put it last week: “When you see this kind of action (the Boston bombings) when you see this kind of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes. You condemn it categorically and to the extent that you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible and that is what this government would do if it ever was faced with such actions.”

    Trudeau’s attitude to dealing with terrorists was best summed up in his famous exchange with CBC reporter Tim Ralfe on Oct. 13, 1970, where Ralfe pushed Trudeau on how far he was prepared to go to eliminate the FLQ threat.

    Trudeau: “Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of …”

    Ralfe: “At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?”

    Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.”

    To me, that’s a real leader responding to a terrorist crisis.

    Liberals, kindly take note.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Does each Lanka HC/ Embassy go along with the mainstream thinking of the govt of each of those countries ?
    It appears to be so in the case of the Canadian HC & the US Embassy.

    Canada & the UK received the most number of so called REFUGEES after the trumped up 1983 Riots. There was no other way for nearly a milllion Tamil people to go west and form the Tamil Diaspora, the “govt in exile” etc.

    Sri Lanka paying dearly for what goes on in Tamil Nadu, viz Caste, and Separatist ideas in INDIA.

    It is high time an MoU is signed between Lanka & INDIA under supervision of the UN Security Council that each country will not harm the other countrys Security Issues ?
    More ideas welcome on how to bring a lasting peace between Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka.

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