Canadian Tamils protest outside Parliament

[TamilNet, Sunday, 28 September 1997, 12:02 GMT]
Over 850 Canadian Tamils staged a symbolic fast in Ottawa on Friday, protesting against the planned deportation of Tamil community activist Mr. Manickavasagam Suresh. The demonstrators stood outside the Canadian Parliament, holding placards denouncing the planned deportation. The protest was organized by the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT).

Hundreds of Tamil men, women and children lined up and stood in silent protest on the approach to Ottawa's Peace Tower carrying placards with slogans such as "Do not deport a social activist" and "Amend section 40.1 of the Immigration Act". Over 150 placards were on display.

The protesters also unfurled Canadian national flags and Tamil Eelam flags, and some of the placards carried slogans supportive of the Tigers, such as "LTTE is a national liberation organization". The protest was maintained from 11.00am to 3.00pm.

Mr. Suresh, the coordinator of the World Tamil Movement, a Tamil expatriate group, was arrested on 18 October 1995. The Canadian intelligence agency (CSIS) maintains that the WTM is a front for the LTTE, and as its coordinator, Mr. Suresh was a person deemed inadmissible into Canada.

The Canadian authorities admit that Mr. Suresh had not broken any Canadian law. He has, however, been detained for over two years without being tried for any crime.

According to Mr. V.Thangavelu, one of the organizers of the protest, the decision to stage the protest to coincide with the 36th Canadian Parliament was taken on Monday, after obtaining permission from the Ottawa police.

Mr. Thangavelu said that the Canadian authorities should either prove any wrong doing by Mr. Manickavasagam or release him. He also said that it was reprehensible that Canada should deport a recognized Convention refugee to the very country he had fled from.

Mr. Suresh was recognized as Convention refugee in 1991, which meant that he "had a well founded fear of persecution" in Sri Lanka.

Various human rights groups have described the law under which Mr. Manickavasagam was detained as 'draconian'. The Association of American Jurists have declared Mr. Manickavasagam to be a political prisoner, and Amnesty International have indicate that they may do the same.

The organizers said they were pleased with the turnout, given the demonstration had been initiated at short notice and had been held during a working day.

The organizers also said that they supported the LTTE, and that the Canadian Tamil community would continue to carry out lawful political activities in support of the Tigers.


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