Tamil Canadians urged to persuade LTTE return to peace talks

by Bandula Jayasekara
David Kilgour, Canadian State Secretary for Asia-Pacific has urged the Tamil community in Canada to persuade the LTTE to return to the negotiating table since Canada, home to over 200,000 Canadians of Sri Lankan origin having the largest Tamil Diaspora, could play an important role in the process.

Addressing the inaugural meeting of the Canada-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group in Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Canadian MP for Edmonton South East said, "As we all know, diaspora politics can be complex. Misinformation can be death to a peace process. So I hope this group can help all of Canada’s Sri Lankan communities to be a positive force in this process. We hope that the LTTE returns to the table as soon as possible and participate fully in the upcoming donor conference. Tamil Canadians communicating that they too want this can only be helpful."

Kilgour hoped that this group could help in the creation of the ‘peace dividend’, which is desperately needed by promoting trade and investment in Sri Lanka. He warned that without economic growth, the requisite political will to resolve the conflict will falter and the peace process could ultimately fail.

The Canadian State Secretary lamented that the recent developments have not been encouraging and that Canada need to believe that the process would continue. He added, "It took off at a high speed and built momentum that surprised a lot of people, but it is only natural that the pace of this progress will slow down as the parties start tackling more and more difficult issues. Norway’s State Secretary Vidar Helgesen, was very careful to point out recently that seeing slower progress in the future will be a good thing because it will mean that substantive issues are being discussed."

Kilgour pointed out that peace underway is not the same peace achieved and that all have a role to play in reaching the goal and Canada looks forward to working with Sri Lanka to reach the goal. The Canadian parliamentarian also said that they knew that the road to peace would be rocky and the issues the LTTE point to as a justification for their withdrawal are difficult ones but they could only be addressed most effectively from within the peace process, not by withdrawing from it. Kilgour said that Canada regrets LTTE’s decision to suspend participation but is encouraged by their announcement that they remain committed to the peace process.

Kilgour who visited Sri Lanka last March said that he first got involved in the Sri Lankan issue in 1979 when Edmonton’s Tamil community made presentations to him in church basements. He also said that neither side entered the current peace process with perfectly clean hands.

A former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada told The Island that this is the first time that a Canadian politician has taken such a positive stand. He said that the occasion for Kilgour’s remarks, inauguration of a Sri Lanka Group in the Canadian Parliament; is another "first" and about 30 parliamentarians have joined the group.