"Canada missed opportunity to right Sri Lanka's wrongs" Jo Becker
Canada containing the largest Tamil diaspora from Sri Lanka outside to Sri Lanka , has been ignoring the human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Protests and requests of the Tamil community has been ignored by the governing party and even the opposition party, which has in the past actually lead the R2P initiative.
Especially with Michael Ignatieff as the opposition leader, it is outright shamefull that the Canadian government or its opposition has not found its time to at the least release a statement to condone latest human rights violations in Sri Lanka - the open air prisons of over 250,000 Tamil IDPs with no access to journalists to these camps, and few aid agencies have highly limited access to these camps.
Sri Lanka: attacks on free media put displaced civilians at risk
14 August 2009
Attacks on journalists, relentless intimidation, and government-imposed restrictions on reporting threaten freedom of expression in Sri Lanka and jeopardize the safety and dignity of civilians displaced by war.
In the recent IMF loan to Sri Lanka, the Canadian government has sided with China and India in granting the loan to Sri Lanka rather than going along with the west of at the least abstaining from vote to highlight the human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Argentina - holding more than 30 per cent of the IMF's shares - made the highly unusual move of abstaining from the vote, largely because of human rights concerns. It's too bad that Canada, with 3 per cent of IMF shares, didn't join them.
NDP all along has supported the Canadian Tamils' concerns for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and did acknowledge the largest Tamils' gathering in Ottawa by Jack Layton. There is a slight chance that the Tamils in Canada will probably remember this warmly when the election times hit the streets.
On July 22, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon wrote to Human Rights Watch, stating that the government would "evaluate any request for IMF financial assistance in terms of how effective it would be in helping to support the country's public finances and lead to meaningful improvements in the welfare of all Sri Lankans, particularly those affected by the humanitarian situation."
However, the government's conduct since the end of the war shows little regard for the humanitarian crisis. Instead, it is undermining hopes for stability and creating more bitterness and resentment among the country's Tamil minority.
The government has virtually imprisoned up to 300,000 people displaced by the war in overcrowded government-run camps, refusing to allow them to leave to stay with family or friends and even refusing family members access to the camps. To keep information emerging about the conduct of the war, it is severely restricting the operations of relief organizations, and refusing access to journalists and human rights monitors. It has placed thousands of suspected LTTE members in incommunicado detention, and it continues to accuse journalists who criticize government actions of being LTTE sympathizers.
In these circumstances, IMF members must question whether loaning money to Sri Lanka is a good investment or can achieve its objectives.
In reality, the vote on the loan has only given Sri Lanka immediate access to $313 million. Canada and other members of the IMF board will have to approve subsequent tranches of funds each quarter over the next 20 months. Canada still has a chance to use these quarterly reviews to make sure human rights progress is made. It should make clear that if it sees no progress, it will abstain from future votes. That's the best way to ensure that the loan benefits all Sri Lankans.
Latest flooding in the IDP camps has made the situtaion even more difficult for these war-torn Tamil IDPs.
Humanitarian organizations have long advocated the release of the displaced from the camps. Many of the camp residents have relatives, including close family members, with whom they can live if they are allowed to leave. Aanathi told Human Rights Watch that she would go to live with her mother in Jaffna or her mother-in-law in Trincomalee if released.
"The camp is like a desert, there are no trees here," she told Human Rights Watch. "When it is sunny, it gets really hot. When it rains, you can't walk because of all the mud. With a 1-year old it is very difficult to move around, and I can't leave him alone in the tent. It is painful to speak about my situation here. I am lonely, very lonely. If I could go to Jaffna or Trincomalee, I would have a good life again."
The government has refused to release the displaced from the camps, contending that it needs to screen them for Tamil Tiger combatants. In response to calls to release them, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, recently named Sri Lanka's ambassador to the UN, told the BBC on August 10 that it was "mischievous to talk of rights in the absence of security."
On August 15, the minister of resettlement and disaster management, Rizad Bathiudeen, told the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror that he held UN agencies responsible for the flooding in the camps, saying, "[T]he Government cannot be blamed for the poor condition of the drainage systems which burst and failed."
"The government bears full responsibility for the situation in the camps," said Adams. "Locking families up in squalid conditions and then blaming aid agencies for their plight is downright shameful."
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Negros Oriental, Philippines