The Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, who visited Sri Lanka early last month, told a group of Tamil journalists in Ontario last week that he had conveyed this message to the Sri Lankan government during his visit.
Kenney said that during his discussions in Sri Lanka he found that the political situation was deteriorating rather than improving.
He said he had reported his views to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as to Foreign Minister John Baird and the Canadian Premier will now make a decision on the level of Canada’s engagement at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka in November.
“There has been a dramatic failure by the government to pursue the opportunity for meaningful reconciliation in the post war environment.
There are many grounds on which to be concerned about on the human rights situation. We continue to hear stories about disappearances and about the lack of accountability for serious and violent crimes,” the Canadian Minister said at the roundtable media discussion.
The Canadian Prime Minister had earlier said he will not attend the Colombo summit unless there is progress on the human rights issue in Sri Lanka.
Kenney told Tamil journalists in Canada that he had informed the Sri Lankan government, including External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris that during the war in Sri Lanka the Canadian government had put aside its political interests and “shut off the money tap” coming from Canada that was supporting the LTTE which helped the government eventually defeat the LTTE.
Canadian politicians have long been accused of supporting the LTTE in an effort to have the support of the huge Tamil Diaspora in Canada during an election.
“So what I told Professor Peiris was that now in return we expect the Sri Lankan government to live up to its obligations in respect of reconciliation, accountability and human rights. So I said we come to you as a responsible player and for whatever reasons this is a message they don’t want to hear. The sense I had was it was a monologue not a dialogue,” Kenney said.
The Canadian Minister however noted that the government has made progress on some issues and some of the moderate Sinhalese political parties he met during his Colombo visit had hope for a meaningful political reconciliation.
Asked if he thinks Tamils in Sri Lanka can live with respect and dignity, Jason Kenney said that in general he feels they can’t.
He also said that the impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was a “very bad sign” and that it showed even the rights of Sinhalese people were being violated.
The Minister also said the current developments in Sri Lanka show the Commonwealth that the government is not taking seriously the reasonable expectations of the international community that it respects the Rule of Law.