TORONTO: The Canadian Tamil Congress has welcomed Canada’s swift condemnation of the Sri Lankan government’s dismissal of the country’s chief justice.
In a statement on January 13, Prime minister Stephen Harper had rebuked the Sri Lankan government for the manner in which it removed the country’s Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake
Thanking the prime minister and other political leaders for slamming the Sri Lankan action, the Canadian Tamil Congress said, “The recent statement from the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake of the Sri Lankan supreme court should be welcomed by everyone. Any country would descend into chaos when the democratic process is dismantled. Sri Lanka is no exception. With the lack of independence of the judiciary coupled with various allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the future of Sri Lanka’s people remains questionable.”
S. Umasuthan, president of the CTC, said, “We thank our Prime Minister for his swift statement, and the recent statements made by Minister Kenney and Minister Baird all relating to Sri Lanka’s lack of democratic process, human rights failings and lack of transparency.
“We also welcome the statements released by the NDP and the Liberal party voicing their concerns over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. We strongly believe a joint effort by all parties will certainly put a strain on Sri Lanka to move towards a more accountable and lasting peace process.”
The CTC chief added, “With the Sri Lankan issue taking centre stage once again at the UN Human Rights Council session in March 2013, it is imperative that continued pressure is exerted on Sri Lanka. We hope even at this late stage, that the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be moved to a more democratic country that promotes the values of the commonwealth nations.”
The 54-year-old chief justice’s dismissal by President Mahinda Rajapaksa came after the Sri Lankan parliament voted on Friday to impeach her allegedly on the grounds of ill-gotten wealth and misuse of power.
She was impeached after a parliament committee last month said in its report that the chief justice had accumulated illegal wealth and misused her power. However, the chief justice denied any wrong-doing.
But the real reason for Justice Bandaranayake’s removal is that she had given a ruling against Rajapaksa’s brother who heads the economic development ministry.
Rebuking Colombo over the impeachment process to remove the chief justice, the Canadian prime minister said, “Canada is deeply concerned by Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa’s decision to remove the Chief Justice from office following an impeachment process which appeared to be highly politicized and lacking transparency and respect for the guarantees of due process and fair trial.
“We call on the Government of Sri Lanka to respect the country’s constitution and the independence of its judiciary and change course immediately.’’
Harper said Canada continues to have “serious concerns about the human rights situation, the need for reconciliation, and the democratic deficit in Sri Lanka. We will continue to raise these concerns forcefully, without equivocation both directly with the Government of Sri Lanka and through resolutions at both the United Nations and the Commonwealth.
“We will push for this latest troubling development to be addressed at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.’’
Earlier, the Canadian Press had reported that Canada may even boycott the Commonwealth summit scheduled to be held in Colombo later this year because of the Sri Lankan action to muzzle the judiciary and its large-scale violations of human rights, mostly of the Tamil minority, during the last stages of military action against the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
As a UN panel has found credible evidence of human rights violations and war crimes against Sri Lanka, Canada moved a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council to force Sri Lanka to allow investigation of allegations of war crimes against it.