Canadian High Commissioner Shelley Whiting yesterday said that her country wouldn’t be represented at the Victory Day parade in Matara on Sunday (May 18). The Canadian envoy said that the annual military parade wouldn’t help post-war national reconciliation, therefore she wouldn’t accept the government invitation.
The following is the text of a statement issued by High Commissioner Whiting toThe Island yesterday:
“As in past years, heads of mission resident in Sri Lanka have recently received invitations to participate in this year’s Victory Parade scheduled to be held in Matara on May 18. As Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, part of my role includes celebrating the successes of the country alongside the Sri Lankan people.
However, I will not be attending the Victory Day Parade on May 18. Some commentators will no doubt rush to judge and erroneously conclude that I am doing so out of some misplaced nostalgia for the LTTE. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me be clear: The LTTE was a scourge that brought untold suffering to this island nation and all its people.
Prior to arriving in Sri Lanka, my previous assignment was in Afghanistan where I saw first-hand the terrorist tactics (use of suicide bombers, IEDs) that are sadly the LTTE’s legacy to the world. The LTTE and its supporters were ruthless and single-minded, and did not faithfully represent the political aspirations of the communities they purported to represent. Canada joined the world in welcoming the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. In fact, the LTTE has been proscribed as a terrorist entity in Canada since 2006. To help stop the flow of funding to the LTTE, Canada further proscribed the World Tamil Movement (WTM) in 2008. Both of these organizations remain banned in Canada today.
However, five years after the end of the conflict, the time has arrived for Sri Lanka to move past wartime discourse and to start working seriously towards reconciliation. It is time to mend relations between communities and to ensure that all Sri Lankans can live in dignity and free from discrimination based on ethnic, religious or linguistic identities. Fathers and daughters, sons and mothers, all were victims, who were killed or never returned home at the end of the conflict. No community here – whether Sinhalese or Tamil, Muslim or Burgher – was spared during the conflict.
In this vein, Canada has encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to retire its annual Victory Day Parade, which perpetuates roles of victors and vanquished within the country, for a day of remembrance for all those who suffered as a result of the conflict. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s own homegrown Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report recommends that a solemn day of remembrance for all victims of the war would be more conducive to sustaining peace here. Such a gesture would go a long way towards putting wartime posturing behind Sri Lanka.
I will not be in Matara, but I will be thinking and remembering all those who lost loved ones over the thirty year conflict.”