23 October, 2020

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How Canada Became The Odd Man Out In Sri Lanka

By Martin Collacott

Martin Collacott

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has announced that he will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka this November because of that country’s sub-par human rights record. No other members of the Commonwealth, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have followed Canada’s example.

There is no question that Sri Lanka has a poor human rights record — one that might have been expected to improve after the long civil war ended in 2009, but which did not. Judges have been threatened and impeached, and many journalists murdered or driven from the country. There is little tolerance for criticism of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government from any quarter.

Canada has the largest Sri Lankan Tamil community outside of South Asia, and many of its members seek to raise awareness of the fact that the government in Colombo is repressive and that Tamils in Sri Lanka are persecuted. This helps explain why Stephen Harper’s government feels the need to express its displeasure with Sri Lanka’s poor commitment to human rights.

Many Tamils living in Canada came here as refugees. Indeed, in one year alone (2003), Canada accepted far more Tamil refugee claimants than all the other countries in the world combined. Some of these refugees had ties to the Tamil Tigers military and terrorist group that was then fighting against Sri Lanka’s government.

The voting power of these Tamils distorted Canadian policy: Liberal governments repeatedly ignored CSIS recommendations that the Tamil Tigers be designated as a terrorist organization, even though Britain and the United States had done so. As a result, the Tigers were able to use Canada as one of their principal bases for fundraising — a situation that may well have contributed to prolonging the conflict and carnage in Sri Lanka.

Even after the Conservatives took office in 2006, and wasted no time in adding the Tamil Tigers to the official national list of terrorist groups, Tiger supporters continued to exercise considerable influence within the Liberal Party of Canada. At the Liberals’ December 2006 leadership convention, for example, a block of delegates pressing to have the Tigers removed from the terrorist list played a key role in the selection of the new leader.

The failure for many years of countries such as Canada to curtail Tamil Tiger activities is, in all likelihood, a factor in Sri Lanka’s continuing indifference to international entreaties to improve its human rights record: Having turned a blind eye to the Tamil Tigers for so many years, we no longer have credibility in lecturing Sri Lanka over its post-war policies.

As for calls for an international investigation into the massacre of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the closing stages of the civil war, this is another area where the Sri Lanka government feels it is not being treated fairly.

While there is considerable evidence that such large-scale killings took place, many occurred in large measure because the Tigers chose to use their own population as human shields. The fact that there are no longer identifiable high-level Tiger leaders around to blame for their contribution to these massacres no doubt does little to encourage the Sri Lankan government to expose itself to what it believes will be a very one-sided investigation.

No doubt Britain, Australia and New Zealand share Canada’s concern over the poor state of human rights in Sri Lanka. The fact that Canada alone chose not to send its foreign minister to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, however, may be more the result of domestic Canadian considerations — such as increasing political support among Tamil voters — than anything else.

*Martin Collacott was the Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka when the civil war there began in earnest in 1983. He now lives in Vancouver. This article is first appeared in the National Post

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    The American Jewish lobby influences the voting patterns of every administration in the US towards Israel (in the UN), this is nothing new !

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      This is the effect of the Tamil Canadian lobby Dev, not the American Jewish lobby. The fact that a couple of hundred thousand Tamils can alter the policy of a G8 nation is something very new. The Jews don’t give a flying **** about SL.

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        Please RE-read my comment !

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      So that means Canada acts against SL not becasue of the so called HR situation in SL but becasue of domestic compultion like voting power of refugees. In that case SL gov is right to ignore what canada says??

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        If Canada is doing good why Stephan HArpaer to go to UN head office to stop the Native – Canadian complains.

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    Strait from the horse’s mouth !!

    Did Woolwhich add a new dimension too ?.

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    Prime Minister Stephen Harper who did yeoman service smashing the LTTE fund raising networks in Canada has now turned anti SL regime. Thanks to the ‘skillful’ handling of the post war scene by the GOSL. Raises a couple of questions.

    (1) Is it in Canada’s interests to boycott the CHOGM considering all the other Caucasian nation Britain and the Prince of Wales will be attending? Is it in the interests of Canada or of a certain constituency within Canada?

    (2) Of the Commonwealth itself. Is it a relic of the past, no real significance in today’s world? where Bi lateral relationships are far more important and Asia’s rise.

    (3) Give Canada”s treatment of the First Nations and given the fact that they have taken what the the the GOSL is doing in the north to the highest level by totally depriving these natives of there ‘area of historic habitation’. How seriously can Canada take the lead in Human rights?

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    This is a surprisingly inaccurate description of the role that the Tamil diaspora has played in Canadian politics, particularly when it refers to its influence on the Liberal party during the time that party was government.
    When Paul Martin replaced Jean Chretien as leader of a Liberal (majority) government he won the contest with the support of 93% of delegates. To suggest that the Tamil delegates from ONE Toronto Scarborough constituency had a significant impact on that contest is just plain wrong and totally unjustified. Since that time, there has been one Liberal (minority) government and several Conservative (minority) governments leading to the current Stephen Harper majority government. The first person of Sri Lankan origin ever elected to the House of Commons was on the NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY ticket at the last election, not as either Conservative or Liberal party candidates.
    A clue as to where all this is coming from is the fact that the report is from the National Post which has, since its founding, been the journal of record for ultra-conservatism in Canada, founded by the arch-conservative Lord Black of Crossharbour, only recently released from jail in the US for criminal offenses, its editorial line has not changed since it first saw the light of day!
    In addition, Mr. Collacott is now prominent as a researcher for the Fraser Institute which is notorious as the single most reactionary “think tank” in Canada, funded generously by big business, and of which the current Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, was head during a brief hiatus from national politics. This is the same Stephen Harper that Mr. C has taken to task! The facts certainly don’t jibe with the central thrust of Collacutt’s argument that Harper is driven by a need to woo the Tamil or any similar “emigrant group.” The reasons for Harper’s “boycott” lie elsewhere and this kind of simplistic “analysis” serves no purpose in the matter of identifying his motivation.
    Besides, Harper’s government has certainly not given any evidence of being in any way pro-minority or socially progressive in a manner that would seek the traditional “new Canadian” vote. Check out the performance of Vic Toews, his Minister of Public Safety for confirmation of this fact.
    Whoever is seeking to give Collacutt’s piece prominence has a fairly obvious agenda, the usual one, which goes, “hypocrites have no right to be critical of anything they have been hypocritical about.” Sound familiar?!

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      Even the Drover’s dog would know it is the marginal voter my friend.

      If Harper and his FM play politics good luck to them.

      CHOGM is certainly bigger.

      Diasporians esppecially the contemporaries of Mr Poorten need Srilanka more than Srilanka needs them.

      Mr poorten is a good example, who lives a busy and productive life in his eco lodge with the poor natives attending to all his needs.

      Diasporians on the other hand are lost in an alien culture,and bored shtiless having nothing productive to do except , reading the Tamilnet and Lankaenews, and watching crappy cable TV shows and Indian Aunties on Vedeo One.

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        K. A. Sumanasekera:
        How does it go, “Better to keep one’s mouth shut and let people think you are stupid……………… But then, that kind of thing doesn’t enter into the consideration of those who sing for their supper, even if consistently off-key!
        Since you obviously claim expertise in the area, how about giving of your wisdom on the matter of “marginal voters” in the Sri Lankan context.

        Unfortunately, we don’t have “natives,” poor or otherwise, to attend to my “every need.” However, now that you mention it, we might consider taking on board some of lesser intelligence, particularly those who have expertise in living in a state of perpetual genuflection.

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          Mr Poorten,

          Marginal voters in Colombo want to hijack the Govt. Don’t they?.Of ourse with the help of your buddies Cameron and Harper.

          Talking about genuflection who can beat your leader who has come up with his brand spanking new Westminister Model to give the natives a good time.

          By the way didn’t you lot call us “natives” ever since good old da Gama landed in Thambapani.

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    Canadians have been identified as being involved in terrorism not just in Sri Lanka but in India, Mali, Somalia and elsewhere. If I was a Canadian I would be extremely concerned that the Canadian government seems to be saying to extremists around the world: “If you want a safe haven to recruit supporters and raise money come to Canada!” Sooner or later this unprincipled approach will rebound on Canada.

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    This is somewhat balance article, he admitted the Canadian government failure to proscribe LTTE as terrorist outfit in timely manner as a results more tamils including tigers have sought asylum in Canada. This has changed the demography of certain parts of Canada as a result voting patterns. This is regrettable a nation with high intelligence have kept a blind eye and welcomed all ex-tigers and Tiger sympathises.

    A four year period is barely sufficient to reconcile differences created by LTTE between the major and minor ethnic groups. To roll back the perception of Tamils towards Sinhalese governments to the same level as of – 40 years ago is like generating a counter impulsive force to turn a high inertia wheels (flywheel) in the opposite direction. If you apply theory of physics it is impossible and disastrous.

    The Canadian government’s action is based on Tamil lobbying power and the number of votes they want to secure. Good on them and do not interfere with Sri Lankan internal affairs anymore.

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    Commonwealth Meetings are only for showing the strength of British Raj. It has no wealth in common. Mahathir Mohammed, former Prime Minister of Malaysia raised this several years ago. Now it is a business venture with all member countries “enjoying” subsidiary status. As long as the British Raj has money to invest and has the control over “subsidiaries” they are happy. No concerns over human rights etc. etc. When they do not have money to invest, all these concerns are raised to cover up their poverty.

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    LTTE tried their best with their voted and dirty monet to cancel the Commonwealth meeting in SL and campagned hard to have countries boycott the event with not much results other than for Canada !

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    Canadian locomotives have been legendary in Sri Lanka’s railways since 1953, the year Tenzing and Hillary (both from the British Commonwealth) reached the Summit on earth Mount Everest and sixty years later Canada is again in the news as the one country absent from the World Summit of the British Commonwealth! The only driving factor for this negative turn would be that if they see Sri Lanka as it really is today their wishful thinking that here is one hell of a killing field where no man is safe may vanish like dew drops at sunrise.They know this and they do not like it!

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