Canadian Tamil Congress

Canadian Tamil Congress

November 24, 2006 15:33 ET

Backlash Against Former Justice Minister Allan Rock in Sri Lanka

Angry Backlash Indicative of Sri Lanka's Onerous Status Quo

Attention: News Editor, World News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA, MEDIA ADVISORY--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 24, 2006) - UN envoy Alan Rock is being lambasted by thousands of Sri Lankan protesters, who are calling the former Liberal Health and Justice Minister's integrity into question and accusing the United Nations delegation of conspiring against the Government of Sri Lanka.

As Special Advisor to the UN's Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts, Rock recently visited Sri Lanka on a fact-finding mission and admitted to journalists that "there is both direct and indirect evidence that elements in the Sri Lankan security forces are facilitating and, in some cases, participating in forceful abductions by Karuna of young people." Meanwhile, Amnesty International is calling for the establishment of an internationally supported Commission of Inquiry in the country, independent of the Sri Lankan Government, which it claims has failed to adequately protect its Tamil citizens from repeated abuses.

A tempestuous mob of Sinhalese nationalists gathered outside the UN's Colombo offices, angrily parading an effigy of Rock and accusing Canada's former ambassador to the UN of being a paid international lobbyist for the LTTE.

The wave of protests and condemnatory news reports that Rock's findings triggered are indicative of Sri Lanka's hostile political environment.

"A violent anti-Tamil status quo is supported in Sri Lanka," noted David Poopalapillai, Spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress. "Any dissenting opinion, no matter who delivers it or how true it may be, is immediately discredited by the Sri Lankan government and its supporters.

"Truth is fabricated in Sri Lanka and any voice of dissent is immediately silenced. In the case of a respected international figure like Mr. Rock, Sinhalese hardliners seek to discredit his findings. On a smaller local level, however, the oppressive status quo is often maintained through state-sponsored violence," Poopalapillai added.

The media is not exempt from the Sri Lankan government's silencing campaign. In August, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse summoned the Sinhalese national media and urged them to "toe the line" in their reporting. Less than a week later, prominent Tamil newspaper editor and former member of parliament Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah was murdered outside his home in Jaffna, whose civilian population is currently subjected to daily aerial bombardments and a rigorous road blockade that is cutting off essential supplies from reaching the area.

"Events like this put things into perspective," said CTC Ottawa Coordinator Julian Francis. "If a UN advisor and former federal cabinet minister cannot conduct an objective inquiry without being accused of taking bribe money and producing biased reports, what chance does the international community stand of gaining an accurate picture of what's going on in Sri Lanka.

"The backlash against Mr. Rock says it all. The international community has been duped long enough by the Government of Sri Lanka. Events like this one are indicative of the silencing campaign that has stifled Sri Lankan Tamils for decades."

Over 3,000 civilians and soldiers have been killed in Sri Lanka this year and many fear that a conflict that has already claimed more than 70,000 lives since 1983 is set to sharply escalate.
IN: INTERNATIONAL, JUSTICE, POLITICS, SOCIAL

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