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Canadian MPs' genocide claims upset Lanka

Ajit Jain in Toronto | February 10, 2009 12:09 IST

Sri Lankan Consul-General Bandula Jaysekara
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Sri Lanka [Images] has expressed its anguish over remarks by some Liberal lawmakers in Canada [Images], who termed the island nation's military offensive in areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as 'genocide'.

An emergency debate was held at the House of Commons on the worsening situation in Sri Lanka in which over 300,000 civilians, mostly Tamils, are trapped in the conflict.

"There are a few Liberal MPs who used the word genocide in the parliamentary debate," Sri Lankan Consul-General Bandula Jaysekara told in a telephone interview.

"By using this word they have helped the Tamil Tigers create genocide in Sri Lanka for many years. They have no right to do that because we are two friendly countries. But these MPs are doing it because of their vote banks. They want to get elected because of the votes of Sri Lankan Tamils in certain federal ridings. These MPs are in the pockets of those people (Tamils)."

He singled out Liberal MPs Jim Karagiannais, Judy Sgro, Robert Oliphant, Albina Guarnieri and Derek Lee. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Karygiannais said he held a round table about the situation in Sri Lanka and the participants wanted the Canadian government to 'condemn immediately the slaughter and genocide of innocent Tamil civilians in the northern part of Sri Lanka by the army; break its silence about the genocide in Sri Lanka and call upon the Untied Nations to immediately invoke an internationally sponsored ceasefire; for the LTTE [Images] to lay down its arms, and for the Sri Lankan army to return to their barracks."

Robert Oliphant (Don [Images] Valley West) claimed 'genocide is occurring and the global community must take action. Tens of thousands are dead, towns and villages have been destroyed and this growing crisis has disproportionately affected the minority Tamil population in the northern and north east parts of the Island."

Oliphant claimed there was a 'shelling of civilian areas.' He later reportedly defended the use of word 'genocide'.

Intervening in the debate, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon said: 'Canada calls upon the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to declare and to honour an immediate ceasefire to allow full, safe and unhindered access, the evacuation of the sick and wounded and the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance to civilians.'

However, the Sri Lankan consul-general ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire saying, "Ceasefire has taken place earlier. Peace talks have taken place and every time the Tamil Tigers regroup and rearm themselves. When the East was liberated none of these guys (Liberal MPs) spoke."

The motion for emergency debate was moved in the House of Commons by NDP leader Jack Layton that called on the Canadian government 'to use all diplomatic means to put pressure on the government of Sri Lanka and its military to respect the human rights of the civilian Tamil population' and 'ceasing all violence against Tamil civilians and halting all government policies and actions aimed against the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka'. The motion was carried unanimously in the House of Commons.

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