Sri Lanka stretches the truth on Canadian ruling

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 September 1997, 12:01 GMT]
When a Canadian judge upheld a security certificate issued against Mr. Suresh Manickavasagam by the Canadian Immigration department on the basis that he was a member of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government claimed that the Canadian court has said that the LTTE was a 'terrorist' organization. However, the judge had made it clear that he was not passing judgement on that issue, but was merely saying that the Immigration department had 'reasonable grounds' to believe that Suresh was inadmissible into Canada.

Mr. Justice Teitelbaum of the Canadian Federal court rendered his judgement against Suresh Manickavasagam on 31 August 1997. Before doing so he said "I am here to determine whether there exists sufficient evidence for me to conclude as to the reasonableness of the Certificate signed by the [Immigration] Ministers. It is not to determine the Ministers were correct in their assessment of the evidence".

Explaining why he was upholding the Ministers' decision, the Judge said that "From the evidence presented to me both in camera and in public, it was reasonable for the Ministers to conclude that Mr. Suresh is a person inadmissible into Canada".

The Judge stressed that he was not deciding whether the allegations against Suresh and the LTTE were true in themselves, but was only deciding on whether the Ministers had reasonable grounds to serve the certificate.

Explaining the Canadian Immigration Act to TamilNet, a leading lawyer said "all over the world, people are arrested for crimes because there are reasonable grounds to believe they have committed it. However, this does not mean they are guilty of the allegation. In fact, they have to be considered innocent until proven guilty."

The Immigration Minister's counsel also submitted that the prosecution was not saying that the LTTE is in fact an organization engaged in terrorism, but was saying that the Ministers could have 'reasonable grounds' to believe that this could be so.

The counsel conceded that there were no allegations of criminal misconduct or criminal activity in Canada against Mr. Suresh and that there were no allegations that he had engaged in terrorism in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan government however, has portrayed the ruling as a condemnation of the LTTE by the Canadian government. The Sri Lankan propaganda is being disseminated through the Colombo-based (Sinhala) press which have deliberately avoided focusing on the details of the case.

The Sri Lankan government even commissioned an article on the ruling from its Permanent Representative to the UN. The article, which was carried by some of the Colombo media, which maintained that the Canadian ruling signaled a condemnation of the Tigers.

The Sri Lankan government's intention seems to be to convince the Tamil populace that the Tamil armed struggle is being condemned by the Canadian government, in the hope that they would be frightened into not supporting the Tigers.

In fact, the Judge had actually been supportive of the Tamil people, noting that "The Tamil people of Sri Lanka suffer from discrimination...and in certain specific cases from what may be considered persecution".

A spokesman for FACT, a Canadian expatriate organization said that whilst they were disappointed with the upholding of the Certificate, the judgment "would in no way impede the lawful and political activities in support of the Tamil people's national liberation struggle for the right to self determination - under the leadership of the LTTE."

 

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