Release….Bob Rae

Release


Personal Statement by Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic, the Hon. Bob Rae, on being
refused entry into Sri Lanka at the Colombo Airport:
On the evening of June 9, 2009, I arrived on a flight from Delhi to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I
had successfully applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission for a visa and had
discussed my visit with the Sri Lankan Commissioner, the Canadian High
Commissioner to Sri Lanka, and with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
When I arrived at immigration in the company of two Canadian High Commission
officials I was, after some delay, told that I was being refused entry “on the grounds of
national intelligence.”
I spent over twelve hours at the airport trying to find a reason for this decision. I had the
full support of officials there and in Ottawa. The Government of Sri Lanka stuck to its
position, and I was put on a plane to London.
The Foreign Office in Sri Lanka has indicated that they have no objection to my visit, but
the army and Defence Secretary have made the absurd assertion that I am a “LTTE
supporter” and a “security risk.” I was told to sign a statement with these words: “The
statements attributed to me on the situation in Sri Lanka, have been made without full
awareness of the true facts of the ground situation, which I regret,” but I was never told
which “words” or “statements” they were referring to. I refused to sign such an
Orwellian document.
I have been involved in Sri Lanka for over a decade, first as Chairman of the Forum of
Federations, and later as a Member of Parliament. I have traveled extensively
throughout the country, and have met many times with its political leaders of all parties.
During the peace process I obviously met with LTTE officials who were involved in
those discussions.
I also met with all political parties with a wide spectrum of opinions. My many trips to Sri
Lanka and my work in Canada, as well as the peace process post-2001, were intended
to work to a peaceful solution. To that end, I have met with people of all views. I have
never in any way felt that the violent tactics of the LTTE were in any way the right
course, and I have made that view known on many occasions, including debates in
parliament. To describe me as “an LTTE supporter,” as an Army spokesman has done
today, is a lie, pure and simple.
A review of my record would also show that I have been a champion of moderate Tamil
opinion and Tamil dissent. I have been a steady critic of the abuses of human rights
that were part of the LTTE’s tactics, and have spoken about this unhesitatingly in
Canada and abroad. I spoke at memorial services for both Lakshman Kadirgarmar, the
former Foreign Minister, and Ketesh Loganathan, who worked at the Sri Lankan peace
secretariat, both of whom were personal friends.
I am clearly not welcome there to discuss the humanitarian situation and the future of
reconciliation in this country. But the government of Sri Lanka knew my views, and
granted me a visa. I flew a very long way only to be told the door is firmly shut.
The Sri Lankan government has made this decision because they have apparently
reached some ill-conceived and defamatory conclusions about me. But after thirty years
of public service at home and abroad I have to say this decision reflects on them, and
not on me. I have fought against violence and extremism all my life. Everyone knows
that, and the record of my actions, speeches and reports is there for all to see.
What they now also know is that the government of Sri Lanka is afraid of dialogue,
afraid of discussion, afraid of engagement. All I can say is shame on them. If this is
how they treat me, imagine how they treat people who can’t speak out and who can’t
make public statements.
I shall have more to say on my return to Canada
-30-
Contact:
Office of the Hon. Bob Rae
613-992-5234

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted June 12, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    The Sri Lankans have labelled Bob Rae a security risk? Those are serious allegations. I think a full CSIS investigation is called for before we allow him back into Canada. Maybe we could have him accommodated at Gitmo until the investigation is complete. 🙂

  2. Anonymous
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The Sri Lanakans refused entry to Rae for precisely the same reason the Canadian Government refused entry to British MP George Galloway.

    They are both simple cases of censorship. Both Rae and Galloway had things to say that might embarass the Government. Rather than engage in meaingful dialogue or debate both governmnets simply chose to silence what they perceived as their opposition.

    It's what I would expect from Sri Lanka. They have no history of freedom of speech or democracy. I expect better from the Government of Canada.


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