Flaying our man in Ottawa
Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Ottawa Daya Perera, one of the country's best known and most successful criminal lawyers, is being politically crucified both by LTTE sympathizers and a group of vociferous Sinhala expatriates in Toronto. The former want his head on a platter and the latter want him recalled home.
"If two opposing groups are campaigning to oust Daya," says one Foreign Ministry official, "he must be doing something right." The only thing the two groups have not done so far is to join hands in a common cause. But maybe they should, he added rather sarcastically. That would be a moral victory for Daya: uniting the Tamils and Sinhalese to jointly battle for his ouster.
The campaign against the Sri Lankan High Commissioner comes at a time when the political relationship between the two countries remains strained. In some political circles, the Canadians are perceived as being mostly LTTE sympathizers.
Asked if this was a fair characterization, Daya told a news reporter last week that "most Canadians are not, repeat not, LTTE sympathizers." They have considered LTTE rallies to be a nuisance as they have blocked roads and even highways causing chaos and traffic disruption in Canada.
The only Canadian sympathizers of the LTTE cause are in neighbourhoods where LTTE supporters reside, mostly in the Toronto area. Most other Canadians are indifferent to the fate of Sri Lanka except when humanitarian issues are raised by Canadian politicians.
Though the attack on the Canadian High Commission in Colombo and the denial of entry to a Canadian politician did strain relations between the two countries, this is not expected to affect bilateral ties or development aid to Sri Lanka. Last month, Daya met officers of the foreign ministry in Ottawa and apologized for the vandalizing of the Colombo office and clarified the misunderstanding that arose from barring the Canadian politician.
Following a policy of political inclusiveness advocated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the defeat of the LTTE, Daya wants to establish confidence among the Tamils by reaching out to them and demonstrating the political rights they will enjoy-- if and when they join the fold and live as they used to.
But one section of the Sri Lankan expatriate group in Toronto has demanded his recall. Their grouse: that while the Sinhala expatriate groups have been confronting the LTTE, the Sri Lanka High Commission has done virtually nothing.
According to Daya, the expats in Toronto clearly do not know how the High Commission in Ottawa functions. It is much more effective to engage MPs and Ministers on their turf rather than send e-mails and confront demonstrators. In fact, the Deputy High Commissioner and Daya have been at great pains to drive home the point that the flag used by LTTE supporters was illegal and anyone using it would indicate support for the LTTE.
In Colombo last week, this position was also reiterated by Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Canadians did not go over to speak to Tamil demonstrators as they were carrying what Obhrai described as illegal flags. He further said that this was Canada's commitment to Sri Lanka's fight against terrorism
Despite the brouhaha in Canada, Daya's political support in Colombo seems rock solid. After all, Mahinda Rajapaksa was a graduate of Daya's chambers, as were the previous and current attorneys general. Daya is planning to persuade the Foreign Ministry that the time is right for the President to visit Canada officially with a view to clearing up any minor misconceptions one may have of the other. A visit of this kind will certainly strengthen the relations between the two countries. "Canada has always been our friend and we continue to be good friends," says Daya.
Lake House Chairman Bandula Padmakumara received a telephone call this week from none other than the President, but this time it was not to complain about a news item or to ask him to come for a chat. Film stars had beseeched the President, no mean actor himself, with requests that he re-commence the Presidential Awards programme that seemed to have come to an abrupt halt. Not long ago, the then Chairman of the Film Corporation had invited the President for the Awards Night and kept him ‘imprisoned’ for hours on end forcing him to listen to endless speeches that he wanted to play no role in it again.
Padmakumara, a film critic of yore before he became an editor and now chairman, has now been asked to organise a National Film Awards.
In the Eastern Province, the new Lord of the Ring – Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna is making waves much to the annoyance of those elected to office. No doubt he is campaigning for a future election. Tomorrow he is scheduled to be the chief guest at the ‘re-opening’ of the hospital at Kallar which has already been re-opened by the Regional Director of Health Services after repairs to it were carried out by the Red Cross. He is probably taking a cue from Colombo where the only new development to the General Hospital was a name board calling it the National Hospital.
Knives out for a colleague!
The Tourist Board's brand new 'Small Miracle' logo has become a big controversy it seems after this newspaper reported last week of the Presidential disagreement with its wording. But no sooner the papers hit the stands the Deputy Minister was woken up from his Sunday slumber by telephone calls. One would have thought they would have come to the rescue of a beleaguered colleague; but no, the folks were offering their 'professional services' to replace him. No harm has come to the colleague concerned. The phoenix always rises from the ashes. But, solidarity, bah!