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Shame On You Rajapaksa

Canadian Tamil Congress categorically rejects the Sri Lankan Government’s reactive measures to the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on SriLanka.

( April 4, 2014, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last month, United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 25/1 mandated the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into, “serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties inSri Lanka,” which was seen internationally as a victory for human rights in Sri Lanka.

It is with great respect for international law that the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) has advocated since 2009 for the establishment of an independent international investigation into human rights violations committed by both sides in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, as well as into the ongoing abuses of human rights in the country. It is evident therefore that the recent proscription of CTC by the Sri Lankan government, and its baseless allegations, are a direct response to the successful establishment of such an independent inquiry through the Human Rights Council’s resolution. Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the Sri Lankan government is clearly attempting to hinder the upcoming investigation in any way possible, by preventing and de-legitimizing the work of human rights defenders on the ground in Sri Lanka and attempting to curb the flow of information regarding the human rights situation internationally.

CTC is an organization that fundamentally believes in principles of human rights, openness, transparency and accountability, and operates in conformity with Canadian and international laws.We invite interested parties to review the recent judgment of the Ontario Superior Court,ruling in favour of CTC in a libel case against Sri Lankan-born ‘terrorism expert’ Rohan Gunaratna, who had been quoted as saying, “the LTTE is operating under the name of the Canadian Tamil Congress, which is the main LTTE front organization in Canada.” In his ruling, Justice Stephen E. Firestone found, “it is unequivocal and uncontroverted that [Gunaratna’s] statements were, in fact, false and untrue,” and awarded damages to CTC in the amount of $53,000. In this light, CTCcategorically rejects the Sri Lankan government’s proscription of CTC as funding or supporting terrorist activities.

“The work that CTC does in regard to Sri Lanka has always been and continues to be focused on improving the human rights situation, in conformity and with respect for international law,” stated David Poopalapillai, national spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress.

“This is a cynical attempt to silence that work. Sri Lanka cannot continue to vilify human rights defenders by resorting to accusations of ‘terrorism’. It is unfortunate, that the government of Sri Lanka is unable to concentrate on seeking justice and accountability, resorting instead to such low tactics and fear mongering” concluded Poopalapillai.

Governed by an increasingly authoritarian regime, with a politicized judiciary, Sri Lankaby all measures is a failed state. Critics of the state are slandered by the government, the rule of law is in tatters, and national institutions are firmly under executive control. It is in this context then that the Sri Lankan government has proscribed CTC, as an attempt at sidelining a vocal and effective critics of Sri Lanka’s gross human rights violations and breaches of international law. In addition to being utterly baseless, the proscription, signed by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, also permits the usage of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act by the Sri Lankan government against individuals found to be working for or with any of the proscribed organizations. These actions run in the same vein as consistent attempts by the Sri Lankan government to intimidate, harass and silence the voices of human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, most recently this past month during the session of the Human Rights Council. Furthermore, these measures make impossible any form of meaningful dialogue between all communities and parties affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka,including the Tamil diaspora,and show clearly that theSri Lankan government’s rhetoric on reconciliation is entirely superficial.

The Canadian Tamil Congress is presently considering all possible actions, including legal remedies that may be taken to respond to this slanderous and malicious decision by the Sri Lankan government. CTC will seek the intervention of the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the Canadian government, and various international non-governmental organizations, many of whom have already voiced their indignation at this proscription. We call upon the Canadian government and the international community to condemn these actions of the Sri Lankan government.

The Canadian Tamil Congress has long been a fervent critic of the human rights abuses perpetuated by and within the Sri Lankan state. CTC will not allow such fear-mongering tactics to dissuade our organization, and we will continue to work resolutely for the human rights of all Sri Lankans, and to seek truth, justice and peace for Tamils.