Controversy over Canadian statement:
High Commissioner Whiting told vanquished were terrorists


by Shamindra Ferdinando

The External Affairs Ministry has summoned Canadian High Commissioner, Shelley Whiting over her recent public call to do away with the annual Victory Day parade as it was inimical to post-war reconciliation efforts.

Government sources told The Island that High Commissioner Whiting was told that her position was unacceptable. The government strongly objected to what a senior official called an attempt on the Canadian envoy’s part to misinterpret the annual celebrations.

High Commissioner Whiting in an exclusive statement to The Island in the run-up to the victory day parade said that Sri Lanka should stop the annual event as it perpetuated roles of victors and vanquished within the country. She called for a day of remembrance for all those who suffered as a result of the conflict.

The Canadian envoy pointed out that the government had deprived Tamil speaking people of an opportunity to commemorate the war dead.

The External Affairs Ministry pointed out that public commemoration of terrorists couldn’t be allowed, though there was absolutely no prohibition of having commemorative ceremonies privately. Referring to her statement, the Canadian diplomat was told that victors were the people of Sri Lanka and terrorists were the vanquished. The government took up the position that Canadian action was contrary to what it called constructive engagement.

The envoy was told that she could have simply informed the government of her decision not to attend without making a public statement.

The High Commissioner was also asked whether Canada would permit the commemoration of the killing of unarmed Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin laden.

Addressing the nation at the military parade, President Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged that his government would continue with annual military parade.

Meanwhile, a senior official told The Island that Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird and Minister of State Lynne Yelich on April 30 declared that Canada wouldn’t recognise recent measures taken by the Sri Lankan government targeting 16 organisations and 424 individuals. In spite of the LTTE being on top of the listed organisations, the Canadian Foreign Minister had cleared all 16 including the LTTE, he said. Responding to a query, he said, "We may have to seek a clarification."

Baird and Yelich said: "We are concerned by the Government of Sri Lanka’s listing of 16 entities and 424 individuals for purported links to terrorist activities, including some with ties to Canada. Sri Lanka’s action has no legal effect in Canada: It does not constrain the freedom of listed groups and individuals to lawfully express their views in Canada."

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