84 Tambrook Drive
Agincourt, ON M1W 3L9
Tel. (416) 498-0783
April 14, 2017
Copy to: His Worship the Mayor of Toronto
Mayor John Tory’s Opinion Column published on April 4, 2017 on
‘The quest for healing and Justice in Sri Lanka’
I find Mayor Tory’s opinion arrived at after a short visit to the country having spent just a day or two in the north is inaccurate, misleading and obviously based on whatever he heard from a few pre-selected individuals who were given the opportunity to meet with him. He being the Mayor of a city which has a multiplicity of ethnic groups that have made it their home, should avoid taking up the cause of a single ethnic group which has been engaged in a three decade long armed conflict including suicide terrorism in Sri Lanka to form a break away state with an eye to harness the votes of the expat Tamil community who are mainly residing in Toronto. Such comments could hinder the ongoing reconciliation process in that country, as he has ignored the views of other ethnic groups from Sri Lanka such as the Sinhalese, Moors, Malays, Burghers, etc. , who also live in his city.
He appears to be repeating some of the wild allegations made by extremist politicians of Sri Lanka’s north that he met, when he says that the military presence is overwhelming with one soldier for every three Tamil citizens. His math is obviously wrong as the number of soldiers in the north has been scaled down from 70,000 during the height of the hostilities to 13,000 to prevent the regrouping of 12,000 former Tamil Tiger fighters who have been rehabilitated and released, and to ensure the safety and security of nearly 800,000 citizens living in the Jaffna peninsula. He is probably mistaking police stations established to serve the people as military bases, which bases are being progressively removed with improvements to the security situation. Despite the elapsing of almost 8 years since the conclusion of the armed confrontation, there have been two attempts to revive the militancy of the Tamil Tigers with funding coming from Tamil expats to renew violent actions. The latest aimed at assassinating a leading member of the Tamil National Alliance, Hon. M. Sumanthiran, MP, came to light on a tip off and the men involved were taken into custody.
The Mayor’s statement that the UN estimated the loss of 40,000 lives during the last stages of the armed conflict is also not correct, as it was a figure quoted by the so called three member Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka appointed by the UN Secretary General for his personal guidance, and not in a report sanctioned by the UNSC, UNGA or other UN agency. The submissions received by the panel from just one side of the conflict have been locked away for 20 years on the recommendation of the panel till the year 2031. The UN Resident Representative’s office in Colombo came up with a figure of 7,721 deaths from August 2008 to May 13, 2009 compiled from sources within the conflict zone including their local staff from the Tamil community who were not released by the Tamil Tiger forces was not accepted by Sir John Holmes, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, stating that the number could not be verified as the UN was not present on the ground.
The Mayor also spoke of middle aged women protesters who brought pictures of male family members who they said based on second hand evidence had been taken away towards the latter stages of the war apparently by the military, who they claimed were missing up to now. The fact is that there is clear evidence to the effect that the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) had fired on members of their community who attempted to flee from their control and seek safety in areas controlled by the Sri Lanka Army. Also, others who fled from LTTE control may well have drowned in the Nandikadal Lagoon which they had to go across to get away. Some are known to have sought asylum in India and are presently living in refugee camps, while a few high profile persons previously said to have been killed in custody have also been later photographed entering India after a 45 minute boat ride . Several thousands managed to avoid surrendering themselves to the military for screening and rehabilitation/resettlement, and leave Sri Lanka’s shores to seek greener pastures in western countries, some of whom even arrived by boat to Canada and may be living in Toronto under a different identity. It is a very difficult task to trace them with the limited information being provided by the protesting mothers or middle aged womenfolk. The government appointed Presidential Commissions of Enquiry to collect data and determine their fate, and have even passed legislation to set up a Missing Persons’ Office to handle the subject. The last Presidential Commission recorded a total of 19,000 missing persons including over 5,000 members of Sri Lanka’s security forces personnel reported missing in action during three decades of hostilities. It will be up to the authorities to make further inquiries and reach a finality in each case.
The Mayor has presented a victimhood tale of the suffering endured by the Tamil community probably because they demonstrate and make a lot of noise about their grievances, while the rest of the constituent communities suffer in silence and are ignored by the world. The following video shows the extent of suffering undergone by members of the other constituent communities including dissident Tamils who were opposed to the violence and terror unleashed on them over a period of three decades: i.e. http://www.youtube.com/embed/4yQaZNQFtoI?feature=player_embedded . The truck bombing of the Central Bank building in Colombo’s financial district on the 31st of January 1996 killing 94 and injuring over 1,300 has a direct link to the $7.2 million transferred by pro-LTTE Tamils in Canada to a supplier of plastic and TNT explosives in the Ukraine. In the circumstances, it is advisable that the Mayor and other politicians of Canada maintain an impartial stance if they are to help in the healing process in Sri Lanka.
Mahinda Gunasekera a