Standing in solidarity with them Thursday on a cold Toronto evening outside the Sri Lankan consulate were opposition MPs, academics, labour leaders and councillors. The protest was a joint effort by the Canadian Tamil Congress and several other organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
“The time for half measures is over,” said Craig Scott and Andrew Cash, both NDP Members of Parliament from the GTA. Referring to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper staying away from the summit while letting a lower-level delegation represent the country, they backed Amnesty International’s stand on Sri Lanka not being handed the chair of the Commonwealth organization for the next two years.
A document handed out at the rally by the “Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE),” said the acceptance of Sri Lanka as the leader of Commonwealth governments “puts the very integrity and relevance of the … movement itself into question in the international arena.”
TGTE, which does not claim to be a government in exile, said the “moral fiasco” is not going to end when the summit concludes. “As the damaging repercussions will continue… challenges posed by international civil society to governments of member nations will escalate,” it said.
Activists at the Toronto rally, which attracted around 200 people, accused the Sri Lankan government of being behind disappearances of Tamil civilians, harassment of journalists and of failing to meet promises made in 2009 on political freedom and return of land occupied by the military in the north and the east to its original residents who were forced out during the nearly three-decade long civil war.
Continued sexual harassment of women in the North and East provinces was highlighted by the protestors. Adding credence to these allegations is the recent airing of a video clip showing dead Tamil propagandist Isaipriya in captivity.
Speakers at the rally said Sri Lanka should not be allowed to obscure real issues at the Commonwealth summit and be held accountable for well-documented evidence of wrongdoings by a host of international bodies, including the UN.
“Toronto is a name given by the aboriginal peoples of Canada to mean a gathering place for the world. As proud internationalists we must ask for full civil rights in Sri Lanka. This is an international call for global justice,” said John Cartwright, President of Toronto and York Region Labour Council. – New Canadian Media