GTF welcomes targeted sanctions imposed by Canada on Sri Lankans

The following statement issued by the Global Tamil Forum

In a historic decision, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, announced (Jan. 10, 2023) that Canada was imposing sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act against Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for gross and systematic violations of human rights during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The sanctions were also imposed on Sri Lankan Army Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake and Navy intelligence officer Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi. Sanctions imposed on Sri Lankan state officials –

The same two military officials were previously sanctioned by the US (Dec. 2021) for serious human rights abuses. Additionally, US sanctioned two more Sri Lankan military officials in the past – former army commander Shavendra Silva (Feb. 2020) and head of a clandestine army platoon Prabath Bulathwatte (Dec. 2022).

GTF congratulates and appreciates the actions of the US and Canadian governments and for standing up for justice, rule of law and democratic principles including accountability. GTF is also grateful to all concerned including political and non-political persons and organisations, human rights activists in Sri Lanka and overseas, Tamil diaspora organisations and many others who are working very hard for justice for victims of war.

Clearly a pattern is emerging. After more than a decade of inaction by the Sri Lankan authorities to address war time accountability, the international community is starting to take unilateral initiatives. But what distinguishes the Canadian action is the inclusion of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the list. They were the President and the Defence Secretary during the last phase of the war (which ended in May 2009), with command responsibilities.  

Sri Lankan civil war was one of the most brutal in the recent history, with UN reporting killings of 40,000 to 70,000 civilians in the last phase alone (other estimates place much higher figures), which was attributed mainly to the brutality of Sri Lanka’s military strategies, and unlawful killings and disappearances.

The Canadian Foreign Minister was emphatic, stating “These sanctions send a clear message that Canada will not accept continued impunity for those that have committed gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka.” Undoubtedly, the walls of impunity Sri Lanka painstakingly built around its leaders have started to crumble.

The timing of the sanction appears to reflect the lack of faith on the new Wickremesinghe Administration to reverse course (from that of its predecessor) on human rights and accountability. Human Rights Watch in its latest World Report (Jan. 12, 2023) argued that ‘the change of Presidents of Sri Lanka in 2022 did not lead to any improvement in the country’s human rights record”, further reinforcing the hopeless situation the country finds itself in.

It is important to highlight the plight of many victims and their families who have been waiting for more than thirteen years without accountability or justice, and the many who have passed on without knowing what happened to their loved ones. The Canadian action provides a sense of relief and perhaps even hope that justice may one day be possible.

Equally important is the message the Canadian sanction conveys to the people and leaders of Sri Lanka – hoping that with diversionary and delaying tactics the accountability concerns will disappear over time is doomed to fail and the better course of action would be to deal with the past openly and honestly, to build a strong and prosperous country for all its communities.

Canadian action also sends clear warning signs to many political and military leaders across the world that serious human rights abuses and unaccountable governance practices will have consequences – irrespective of the time it takes or the high positions the concerned individuals may have occupied.

Respect for human rights and effective universal accountability mechanisms are fundamental building blocks for a rule based world order and green shoots appearing across different countries in this regard provide hope for the emergence of a more decent world in the future.

It is in this context that the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) welcomes the historic decision by the Canadian government to sanction two former Sri Lankan Presidents, and calls upon other progressive countries, including India, the US, EU, UK, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand, to consider appropriate actions that will resonate with the Canadian initiative.


Is Canada Providing Free Run for Separatists and Terrorists?

It is well recognized all over the world that Canada is a glorious country with vast and beautiful landscapes, considerable natural and mineral resources and many attractive tourist spots. Given these reasons, Canada remains a prosperous country, though underpopulated.

In such favourable circumstances, the practice of welcoming migrants and refugees from various countries to Canada is adopted as a policy measure by the Government of Canada, not only to bolster its population level but also to reflect its humane approach. Today, people from several countries including Europe, Asia and Africa have migrated to Canada and settled down as full-fledged citizens, enjoying liberty, rights and privileges that the Canadian government liberally provide to its citizens.

However, there also seem to be a negative angle to such liberal policy towards migrants and refugees, as the demographic structure of Canada is getting disturbed and a sort of sectarian outlook appears to be developing between different groups with varying background, which may create friction in the coming years. Even now, there is evidence of such friction happening. So far, it appears that the government of Canada has not looked into a such possible scenario with the seriousness and care that they deserve.

Such developments have taken place in Western Europe also in recent times when thousands of refugees/migrants from Syria and other Islamic countries were permitted to enter Europe on humanitarian grounds. These migrants /refugees are unable to get integrated into the general population, as they lack the skill or sufficient education and have different religious practices. Such a situation has resulted in an increased level of crimes and violence and shootings in European countries in recent times and there is huge concern about such a situation. Recently, some Hindu temples were attacked in UK by those belonging to the Islam religion and many people wonder whether this would be the state of things to come in Europe in the coming years. Governments in Europe seem to be at a loss not knowing how to tackle this difficult situation, which is causing social tension and violence in public life.

In Canada, one serious development is that separatists and terrorist elements who manage to get entry into Canada as migrants, however small in number they may be in the total population, are getting entrenched in Canada. It appears that the Canadian government have ignored such elements so far since separatism and terrorism are not targeted or aimed at Canada but at other countries in the world. Such developments are now causing anxiety and huge concern to other affected countries such as Sri Lanka, India

LTTE, a separatist and extremist group with the declared objective of splitting Sri Lanka by force, has largely operated and seems to be now operating from Canadian soil. While this is causing a serious problem for Sri Lanka, the Canadian government have allowed them to operate in Canada and not bothering about the concern of the Sri Lankan government.

In an almost similar way, the Khalistan movement is operating in Canada with the declared objective of forming a separate Khalistan state in India. Despite India’s appeal, the Canadian government has not checked the activities and growth of the Khalistan separatist movement in Canada.

The Canadian government is doing a very big mistake by thinking that such separatists and terrorist groups operating in Canada will not harm Canada but only other countries.

But the recent experience shows that stabbings in Canada have become too frequent. Entrenched separatist groups have started attacking innocent people who may belong to India or other countries. Against which the separatist groups are operating. Very recently, a series of stabbing at an indigenous community in a town nearby Saskatchewan has left ten people dead and fifteen wounded. In 2020, a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fire across the province of Nova Scotia killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill ten pedestrians in Toronto. 

Recently, a few Indian students have been killed and Hindu religious centres have been attacked.

The situation in Canada has caused so much concern to the Government of India that it has advised students and visitors from India to be careful to safeguard themselves in public places against violent acts by some terrorist groups.

The writing on the wall is now very clear concerning the likely scenario in future in Canada concerning law and order.

Tolerating terrorists and separatists in the name of personal liberty and freedom on Canadian soil will become a suicidal path for Canada if such policy would not scrapped immediately. The terrorists will not only cause problems elsewhere but will also convert Canadian soil into a hotbed of terrorism if the Canadian government were to fail to understand the gravity of the situation and take necessary measures to control the separatist/terrorist groups operating freely in Canada now.