Peter Kent, a former news anchor and candidate in the January 23rd Federal Election has called for the opening of a Canadian Consulate in Jaffna.
In an Op-Ed article appearing in the National Post over the weekend, Peter Kent welcomes the outlawing of LTTE but also calls upon the Harper government to put safeguards for proper delivery of Canadian Aid to Sri Lanka and also to monitor human rights violations of the Sri Lankan government.
Peter Kent says, “Canada’s High Commission in Colombo is largely ineffective in monitoring human-rights abuses and government-sponsored civil unrest; we should push for a consulate in Jaffna.”
In his Commentary published in the National Post titled, “Now it’s time for Sri Lanka to act”, Kent appludes the new Conservative government’s actions on LTTE, but recommends “to demand better from Sri Lanka” as well.
He asserts, “Democratic principles finally trumped a decade of domestic political pandering this week when the Harper government fulfilled its campaign promise to list the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization. And, as should have been expected, the banning provoked both tears of relief and tears of frustration throughout one of Toronto’s largest ethnic communities.”
Peter Kent contested under the Conservative Party banner in the Jan 23rd elections in the Toronto Midtown riding of St. Pauls. This affluent central Toronto riding includes the mansions of Forest Hill and multicultural neighbourhoods straddling St Clair Avenue. The riding elected incumbent Liberal Carolyn Bennett in the polls. Conceding to Bennett on January 24th, Mr. Kent pledged “I will continue to be a strong voice for Toronto on all issues”.
Kent began his career as a radio journalist in the early 1960s. He then moved to television, joining Calgary station CFCN in 1965, and subsequently worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CTV, Global and NBC. Kent made his reputation covering the Vietnam War as a freelance foreign correspondent in 1966.
Continuing his commentary in The National Post, the affable Tory stalwart further says,
“The Tigers should have been outlawed in Canada long ago but, in a perfect world, the Conservatives should drop another shoe, soon, at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa. Why? Because our Tamil community is desperately torn between the life they enjoy as members of Canadian society — our constitutional rights and freedoms and opportunities to prosper — and the deepening plight of family and friends in their strife-torn homeland.
Almost a quarter of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population have fled the island nation since the early 1980s, seeking more peaceful lives in the U.K., Canada and other Western nations. Some 300,000 Tamils call Canada home — a world away from the vicious, institutionalized discrimination and brutal civil conflict in Sri Lanka that has claimed more than 60,000 lives over the last quarter-century.
They believe Canada and the international community are not doing enough to protect the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. And that’s why some Tamil-Canadian leaders have embraced the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as protectors of the mostly Hindu Tamil minority from the Sinhalese ethnic majority, adherents of the state religion, Buddhism.
The Tigers are widely recognized as the originators of suicide bombings as well as for the forced recruitment of child soldiers in their armed struggle to create an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. Canada has long been a primary source of funds for the Tigers’ military operations.
Many in the Toronto community have made financial contributions to the LTTE — some willingly, others coerced. Those unable to pay have been reportedly told to borrow the money, make credit card contributions, or even re-mortgage their homes. Toronto police are aware of the practice but say victims have been afraid to file formal complaints.
On the other side of the issue, a number of Tamil community leaders who opposed banning the Tigers expressed concern Canada’s tough new stand will undercut the long-shot peace negotiations that are supposed to begin ”soon” in Switzerland.
That argument stands in stark contrast to the reality on the ground in Sri Lanka this week.
A series of suspected Tamil Tiger attacks on government forces and Sinhalese retaliatory violence against Tamil civilians has killed more than 40 people in the past seven days. That makes it the bloodiest week since the only partially effective 2002 ceasefire and raises fears of a resumption of all-out civil war.
Over the past few months I’ve spoken with many in Toronto’s Tamil community. Most are solid, law-abiding, taxpaying Canadian citizens — the sort of folks Torontonians are proud to have as neighbours. But they excuse Tiger terrorism on grounds that such action is necessary to defend the Tamil community from the institutionalized terror of the Sri Lankan government and the Sinhalese majority.
My answers are respectful but firm. There can never be any justification for terrorism against civilians. Suicide bombings and child soldiers have no place even in so-called ”wars of liberation.” Donations to the LTTE or any of its front organizations cannot be excused as humanitarian aid.
That said, as the Harper government moves confidently to restore Canada’s tarnished image abroad, the Sri Lanka tragedy should be added to our list of diplomatic priorities. This country annually sends hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to Sri Lanka, precious little of which is delivered to Tamil areas.
Canada’s High Commission in Colombo is largely ineffective in monitoring human-rights abuses and government-sponsored civil unrest; we should push for a consulate in Jaffna.
Within the Commonwealth and at the European Parliament — even at the moribund United Nations — Canada’s voice should be raised in defence of fundamental human rights. Canada is right to ban terrorist organizations such as the Tamil Tigers. But, we have an equal responsibility to demand better from Sri Lanka.”
– Peter Kent is a Global TV executive who was a candidate for the Conservative party in the Jan. 23 federal election.
[TamilWeek Apr 16, 2006]