Canadian MP Rathika in hot water over Jaffna episode


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Jaffna born Canadian MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan is likely to face disciplinary action back at home for falsely claiming that she had been placed under house arrest in northern Sri Lanka.

Canada based sources told The Island that the New Democratic Party (NDP) MP had caused chaos while being on a private visit to Jaffna. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair went to the extent of phoning Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Ottawa Chitranganee Wagiswara to inquire about Sitsabaiesan’s safety and security.

Immigration authorities yesterday told the visiting MP as she was here on a tourist visa she shouldn’t engage in  unnecessary activities. She had told them that she would be leaving the country on January 3.

The NDP is the main Opposition to Premier Stephen Harper’s ruling Conservative Party.

She met several TNA representatives in Jaffna.

A senior GoSL official told The Island that the Sitsabaiesan’s episode should be examined against the backdrop of MP Deepak Obhrai (Conservative Party), Parliamentary Secretary to Foreign Minister John Baird expressing serious concern over the situation in Jaffna. Having met Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, Bishop of Jaffna Rev. Thomas Saundranayakam and Tamil National Alliance MP Eswarapatham Saravanabavan in Jaffna during the second week of November, Obhrai declared that the people there had been deprived of even the basic democratic rights. Obhrai declined to reveal the names of others he had met in Colombo and Jaffna as, he said, he feared for their safety.

Sitsabaiesan earlier lost her position as the NDP spokesperson on higher education and universities soon after Thomas took over the leadership in 2012.

Canada based Tamils told The Island that Sitsabaiesan had undertaken a visit to Jaffna in the wake of Markham Councillor Logan Kanapathi (Liberal Party) challenging her in the newly created  federal electorate Scarborough North next year.

Kanapathi was inadvertently identified as a Labour Party member in our yesterday’s front-page news item. The error is regretted.  

As Kanapathi had the unstinted support of the powerful pro-LTTE groups based in Canada, Sitsabaiesan probably felt she could overcome the challenge by reaching out to the ITAK, the dominant constituent of the five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), sources said.

Sitsabaiesan earned the wrath of the LTTE grouping after she refused to attend a conference on Tamil People’s Rights on March 2, 2013 on the sidelines of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council session. Kanapathi agreed to attend the Geneva conference at short notice.

The Conservatives and the Liberal were represented at the Geneva meet by MP Partrick Brown and MP Jim Karrigiannis, respectively.

The LTTE grouping also prevented Sitsabaiesan from attending an event at the Queen’s Park, Toronto on May 18, 2013 to remember those killed war.

 Apart from Kanapathi, several others, including TULF leader Anandasangaree’s son, Gary, are seeking to enter the fray on the Liberal Party ticket. Sources said that most of those who had been seeking nomination from the Liberal Party were pro-LTTE. But, the LTTE lobby would also field some of their activists on the Conservative Party ticket, sources said. They identified Nehru Gunaratnam as one of those closely dealing with the Conservative Party in spite of him involvement in the LTTE during the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement in Feb 2002.

 Although the Conservative government was often accused of supportive of the LTTE, the Conservatives proscribed the LTTE and took tough measures to curb illegal migration.

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