But Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird dismissed the criticism Thursday, saying Canada would continue to find ways to “increase pressure” on Sri Lanka’s government to protect human rights.
In a statement, Chitranganee Wagiswara, Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Canada, said it was “appalling and unprecedented for certain quarters to express views” opposing a decision by heads of state a few years ago about who would host of the 2013 Commonwealth summit.
Baird had said Tuesday that the Commonwealth was failing its greatest test by letting Sri Lanka host the November summit, instead of pressuring it to improve its post-civil war record and protect its Tamil minority.
“We’re tremendously concerned about the deteriorating and authoritative trend of the government in Sri Lanka,” Baird told a parliamentary committee. The federal government has suggested Canada may not attend the summit.
Wagiswara said Sri Lanka needed support after facing “separatist terrorism for nearly three decades,” and ongoing post-conflict challenges.
“Notably certain separatist elements within the diaspora including in Canada, still continue to relentlessly disseminate anti-Sri Lanka propaganda and lobby political leaders and other decision makers,” said Wagiswara. “Hostile criticism and unfair targeting of Sri Lanka by Canada only serves to further strengthen the evil forces working against Sri Lanka and does not contribute in any manner to the ongoing rebuilding and reconciliation process in the multicultural society of the country.”
Wagiswara added that his country was looking to all members of the Commonwealth to “uphold principles of objectivity, understanding, mutual respect and the equality of sovereign states.”
Baird’s spokesman, Rick Roth, responded Thursday: “Our government has spoken loudly and clearly on the issue of human rights in Sri Lanka, including our concerns on the lack of accountability for the serious allegations of war crimes, lack of reconciliation with the Tamil community, and with the events that have taken place since the end of the civil war.”