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Canada, Britan oppose next Commonwealth meet in Sri Lanka

By Ajit Jain
November 28, 2009 23:07 IST
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As the three-day Commonwealth Summit of 53 nations is in progress at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, Canada has come out publicly that they are opposed to the next 2011 Commonwealth summit taking place in Sri Lanka.

"Canada will not be supporting Sri Lanka as the next host of the Commonwealth summit," announced Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman, Dimitri Soudas.

Canada has alleged that Sri Lankan army 'killed hundreds of innocent civilians during the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam' earlier this year and since May, when the war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, over 120,000 Tamil civilians are being held in refugee camps with poor living conditions.

"We continue to be concerned with the situation in Sri Lanka," a senior Canadian government official is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying.

A similar stand has been taken by Britain. Canada and Britain carry whole lot of weight in the Commonwealth, and so their opposition surely means there's no hope for Sri Lanka being chosen as the host for the next Commonwealth summit.

Tamil Canadians for the first time since the war ended are applauding the Conservative government's, decision as it 'demonstrates human rights violations that the Sri Lankan government committed during the war and continues to do so by detaining such a large number of innocent civilians in refugee camps.'

Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to foreign minister, went to Sri Lanka a few months back as his government's representative to ensure release of some Tamil Canadians who are detained by the Sri Lankan government and also to suggest that the Tamil civilians in the refugee camps should be allowed to go to their homes, but that was 'disregarded by the Sri Lankan government.'

Anzul Jhan, acting Sri Lankan high commissioner in Ottawa, says her government would have liked to release the detained civilians earlier, but was concerned about threats from the Tamil Tigers. "They were not released because we had to weed out the LTTE hard-core cadre," she said.

She said her government has already announced that the refugee camps would be emptied soon.

Those who know the situation there, argue that that's what the Sri Lankan government said in May, that soon the Tamil civilian would be allowed to go home, but more than six months have elapsed and those civilians continue to live in miserable conditions.

"Canada continues to urge the government of Sri Lanka to ensure full and unhindered humanitarian access to internally displaced populations," a Canadian official was quoted in a published report as saying.

"We welcome the Canadian government's decision to stand with Britain on the side of human rights," said David Poopalapillai, spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress. "The international community has a responsibility to ensure Sri Lanka is held accountable for its crimes against humanity, large scale massacres and internment camps in this year alone," he said.

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Ajit Jain in Toronto