Canada had summoned Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to discuss Canada’s “deep concern” with the country, a Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said.
Embassy News in Canada said that the meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Canada Chitranganee Wagiswara had taken place recently.
Baird later said in a press release that he would be pushing the issue during the the next Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting.
The prime minister’s office also sent out a press release on the subject.
Wagiswara meanwhile argues that after an almost 30-year civil war, significant social change in the country is not a sprint—it’s a marathon.
On the impeachment of the Chief Justice she said that any issue with a judge can be dealt with through law or standing orders and the government followed the standing orders process.
Ms. Wagiswara said that Sri Lanka wants “all countries to participate” in the Commonwealth meeting, and added that Canada is the only country that has threatened to not take part.
She also stressed that the civil war ended less than four years ago.
“It was a very difficult conflict, and there are so many issues,” she said, listing the work that has been done to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, rehabilitate child soldiers, and to successfully clear 98 per cent of the landmines that lay hidden.
But, she said the relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is not as easy to rebuild as buildings or bridges.
“What happened over 30 years we cannot solve in three, or four, or five years,” she argued. “It often takes a generation.”
Ms. Wagiswara said many programs currently running are meant to bring both Tamil and Sinhalese youth together to learn about each other’s community, and understand one another.
Language training is also being given so that citizens can better interact, she said.
Ms. Wagiswara said her government wants the international community to know that the Sri Lankan government accepts “that there are outstanding issues to be addressed,” but argued that when other countries are consistently pointing fingers at Sri Lanka’s faults, it “takes away our focus because we have to keep defending.”
“We would want Mr. Baird, or members of Parliament to…go to Sri Lanka and see for themselves what is being done,” she added.
When asked if Mr. Baird intended to R.S.V.P, his office only wrote that “Direct engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka at all levels is important” and highlighted that there were high-level Canadian visits to the country in 2012.
When asked when Canada would decide on its participation in the Commonwealth meeting, Mr. Baird’s press secretary, Rick Roth, wrote that “There is still time for the Government of Sri Lanka to demonstrate good faith in advance” of the meeting.
“Canada will continue to monitor developments closely and make a final decision based on assessment of the situation on the ground closer to the time.”
Mr. Roth outlined that “Canada needs to see positive signs in the area of human rights, political reconciliation, democratic values and accountability” before attending.
Specifically, Canada wants the Sri Lankan government to implement all recommendations of a post-war Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and steps outlined in its own National Action Plan, wrote Mr. Roth.
Meanwhile, while Ms. Wagiswara said she has found Canadian MPs and ministers very accessible, Mr. Roth confirmed that the she was “called into a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Friday, January 11th, to discuss Canada’s deep concern over recent developments in that country as outlined [by] Prime Minister Harper, Foreign Minister Baird and Immigration Minister Kenney.”