Canadian High Commissioner concludes Trincomalee visit
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 21 May 2003, 06:39 GMT]
The Canadian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Ms Valerie Raymond Monday commenced her Batticaloa tour, concluding her two-day visit to Trincomalee district Tuesday. She met Tamil and Muslim representatives in Trincomalee at the conclusion of her visit to east port town Tuesday evening held at the office of the Trincomalee District Development Association (TDDA). TDDA organised the discussion.
Canadian HC Ms Valerie Raymond told the audience that she visited Mutur where violence broke out between Tamils and Muslims recently. She came to know that Tamils and Muslims lived in the district in harmony for several years. She asked the audience the reason for the breakdown of the harmony between the two communities at present, sources said.
At the discussion Tamil and Muslim volunteers of the TDDA participated. They said majority Muslims and Tamils wanted to live in peace. But some elements were attempting to create trouble between the two communities. One volunteer said pure politics was the cause for the recent disturbances in Mutur.
Ms Valerie Raymond said this was her first visit to Trincomalee district and she tried her best to understand the views and difficulties of the people here. "I visited Mutur where I discussed with the local leaders the problems they are facing," said Ms Valerie Raymond.
Mr.O.L.M.Ismail, a senior lawyer in Trincomalee, told the Canadian HC that Tamils and Muslims lived in the district in perfect amity for several years. He recalled his schooldays when he along with Sinhalese and Tamil students studied under one roof in English medium.
He brought to the notice of the High Commissioner that Tamils who live in majority in the district elected a Muslim politician in the general election held in 1960s as their parliamentarian who contested in the Federal Party ticket, which was led by the late Tamil moderate leader Mr.S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, sources said.
To a question by the High Commissioner Mr. Ismail pointed out that in those days English language united all three communities The negative changes in the racial amity took place when the Sinhala only act was introduced.
A lawyer and human rights activist Mr.K.Sivapalan said the misunderstanding and mistrust arose due to lack of communication. This was one of the basic problems and not the only issue that created dissension among communities.
Mr.Sivapalan brought to the notice of the HC that all legislations pertaining to Tamil language administration in the government offices and law courts in the northeast are still only in writing and not implemented.
To a question by Attorney Mr.Sivapalan how Canada addressed the minority problems the High Commissioner replied that "English speaking Canadians are in majority. Only 25 percent are French speaking Canadians. At the start majority wanted to give official status to English language. But that attempt was thwarted by majority of the people. Official bilingualism policy was introduced in the country in 1960.
"I am an English speaking Canadian. Mr. Paul Gareau, who heads the Political and Economic section in my office and is presently attending the discussion, is a French Canadian. Ours is an official bilinquisitic society. The central government of Canada publishes all its official documents in two languages," Ms Valerie Raymond said.
In Canada it is mandatory that three judges of the Supreme Court should be from Quebec French Canadians, she said.
"We are not only respecting minority rights and also ensure that minorities enjoy their rights in their day to day life. Official bilingualism policy is very much implemented in our country. Unless we respect rights of minorities we cannot develop our country. This is our policy," stressed the Canadian High Commissioner.
She said where she went people of the district expressed their yearning for permanent peace in the island. "I do not have answers for all your problems. We cannot tell how to achieve peace. It seems to me that mistrust and suspicion still prevails among various communities. It is not an easy task to achieve peace. I wish that all efforts taken by the people of the country towards permanent peace bring success."
Mr. Paul Gareau. Head of the Political and Economic Section the Canadian HC in Colombo and co-ordinator Ms Shiranee Mills also accompanied the HC, sources said.
During her visit to Trincomalee Ms Valerie Raymond held discussions with the heads UNHCR, UNICEF. She met representatives of civil leaders, regional officials of Human Rights Commission and Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in Trincomalee.