Getting Asoka Weerasinghe on board


Asoka Weerasinghe

Asoka Weerasinghe refused to meet me. He refused to speak to me or anything to do with the government of Sri Lanka. A strong supporter of Sri Lanka, member of SLUNA who wasn't scared to face the LTTE in Canada had written several articles to the Canadian newspapers. He battled them whenever and wherever he could with his friends from SLUNA. But, he was disgusted because he was of the view that Sri Lankan diplomats were not doing enough. I knew Mohan Samarasinghe had done a great job during his time as Minister- Information at the High Commission and later Nilantha Jayawardane who was a top cop assigned to our Mission in Ottawa.

Nilantha Jayawardane was a tower of strength to me in Canada, I consider and respect him as a top intelligence officer. I think Nilantha Jayawardane is now a Deputy Inspector General of Police. He always stood by me and supported me since Toronto was the hot bed. His information and contacts were helpful. Only regret I have is the transferring of Nilantha from Ottawa by Gotabaya Rajapaksa saying two years was enough. Later a mediocre police officer was sent to Ottawa. I made representation to Gotabhaya but he was too rigid on the matter. I could have done more during my tenure in Toronto even though LTTE was defeated in 2009.

Asoka’s issue was he wanted the diplomats to lead from the front. Asoka was the fighter. He has an amazing collection of history on LTTE and the fight against the terror group. I doubt even the Foreign Ministry would have such details. Ira de Silva was a fighter in her own no nonsense style. Mahinda Gunasekara who was very well organised, calm and quiet did a lot. Only he would have had the patience to do what he did tirelessly. He had an eye for detail.

I did not give up on getting Asoka on board. Sri Lanka needed the support of everyone. But, I had promised to lead from the front and do my duty well. I realised if I did my job well everyone else would support me. The man who refused to speak or meet me wrote to me suddenly after he saw one of my responses in the National Post in Canada.

Bandula, you have brought a new dimension to the Mission's attitude towards guarding Sri Lanka's sovereign interests without waiting for the expatriates to fight for Sri Lanka from the Canadian trenches. Congratulations. Such is an incendiary response that I have been waiting for from a Government official for years. You are on a roll and keep it up. Such responses also collect intimidation from Tamil Tigers. Mahinda, Ira and I have experienced that. So keep an eye for such a possibility - Asoka

This was the short piece I had written to The National Post less than a month of assuming duties in Toronto.

The Tigers are terrorists. Period

National Post

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 Re: Impose Sanctions On Sri Lanka, Report Urges, April 19. It is time that people such as Chuck Konkel, who hopes to run for the Conservatives in the federal riding of Scarborough-Guildwood, to stop playing politics with Sri Lanka and the innocent people living there, purely to obtain votes in Canada.

Outsiders who try to present action plans on Sri Lanka should instead look within themselves. Sri Lanka has suffered long enough due to the terrorist activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the most ruthless terrorist outfits in the world today.

The LTTE and its sympathizers have been raising funds in Canada and other countries to support their terrorist activities. While we thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for listing the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, some politicians are still misled by the LTTE and their front groups. Bandula Jayasekara, Consul General for Sri Lanka, Toronto

As I was writing this installment I received a long email from Asoka Weerasinghe which I consider as piece of history and thought of publishing it for the greater interest of readers. Here it is:

Good Morning Bandula,

I read the last two Toronto Assignment pieces, and I take my hat off to you the way you treated/confronted Garry, chewing him and spitting him out in front of him. I still have to meet a diplomat who has a spine and guts like you. I doubt I ever will.

Thank you for being frank about me and your encounter with me. I thought I ought to tell you why I had kept away from the Mission and diplomats since the autumn of 1996, except for the break with you and Chitranganee. Both diplomats who were in Canada served their Motherland honestly and well. I liked Chitranganee and so did I like Bandula. You might wonder why I had decided to boycott the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa. Here are a few events of my story It was Asoka Yapa and I who were the first Sinhala-Sri Lankan Canadians who were interviewed on camera to go on National TV’s 6 o’clock evening news on August 4, 1983, to tell our side of the story after the ethnic riots. By then, since July 25, the Tamil expatriates spat at us Sinhalese and the Government of Sri Lanka, and kicked and trampled us, using the audio-visual and print media every day, day in and day out and the media had a story to tell and they revelled in it. When I asked the TV reporter why me and not another Sinhalese the answer was: "Mr. Weerasinghe, you are the eighth Sinhalese person that I have approached in Ottawa, and all refused to be interviewed. The interview on camera took place at my home – 405 Dollard Street in Vanier, and Asoka Yapa travelled from Chalk River to partner me to be interviewed. That is when I decided to take on the separatist Tamils and went at them toe to toe, until August 4, 2013, when I decided to retire from the file, after 30 years, having written almost 1,600 letters to the media, MPs; being interviewed by the media; and presenting my views to Parliamentary Sub-committees on National Security and Public Safety, et cetra. Almost 500 letters were printed by papers right across Canada, India and Sri Lanka

My strength was Jeannie who told me in August 1983, "Asoka, I know you love Sri Lanka and I know you are a fighter (Having seen me fight issues for the poor out-port students at Memorial University in Newfoundland (1968-70) where we met). If you don’t help your Motherland, I will be disappointed in you, and if they take you, they will have to take me with you and we will take down one of those LTTE bastards with us." So this is a white Newfoundlander standing for Sri Lanka, her husband’s Motherland that he left behind on December 3, 1956. She didn’t have to, but she did and I love her for that . Throughout my 30 year involvement, only 50% of the Sinhalese-Canadians in Ottawa supported me, and the rest talked ill of me and bashed me at private dinner parties, and a fly on the wall at each dinner party sneaked to me of the conversations and of the actors In the mid-1980s when Bull Weeratunga was the High Commissioner, I used to take a half-day off from work every month to go and read the Sri Lankan newspapers to be on top of the ethnic issues to swat at the separatist propaganda. I had requested them to open the Library at 85 Range Road, so that I won’t be exposed to the Tamils who came to the reception area in droves where the newspapers were.

They complied. And one day, when I turned up I was told by one of the clerks (Zakeria) that the High Commissioner had asked them not to open the library door for me. A.J. Ranasinghe who was the Deputy High Commissioner was upset about this edict, and every time he got a bundle of Sri Lankan newspapers, he took them home and phones me to come and pick them up which I did. I read them over night and took them to his home the following morning. I am not sure why the sudden change but I suspect right through the years, the High Commissioners and senior staff felt threatened by me, being the person that the media and CSIS contacted for information et cetera, and seeing my letters appear in the newspapers on Sri Lanka often and not from the High Commissioner. That no doubt was tough on them and showed them up very badly July 1987 came along and I was voicing much and negatively on the proposed Indo-Lanka Accord and the way Bully India was going about it. I received several phone calls threatening to blow me off.

That June 24, I was summoned to a meeting at 200 Kent Street, which was a 15 storey building where I worked for the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans in Communications, as there had been a threat to blow up the building because I was hired by DFO and worked there. The people present at the meeting were the Chief Security Officer of DFO, Security officer of Campeau who owned the building, Ottawa Police and CSIS. It was serious. What happened is another story which I will relate to you another day. I took those chances and the Mission folk didn’t have to face that crap. And I hated intimidation and never hid under a table.

(The be continued)

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