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Rathika says she was warned

2014 Jan 02

Canadian MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan says she was warned by Government officials that she could face arrest or deportation but denied reports that she was under house arrest, the National Post reported.

Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said in an email Wednesday that the Canadian High Commission has “spoken with relevant Sri Lankan police and immigration authorities all of whom have advised us that at this time they have no arrest warrant.”

Sitsabaiesan, who arrived in her native Sri Lanka on Dec. 28 to visit relatives and learn about human rights abuses in the country, said in an emailed statement that government officials warned her that she could be arrested or deported from the country, as has happened to other commonwealth parliamentarians.

A New Zealand member of Parliament and Australian senator were detained in Sri Lanka in November before they were able to give a press conference about human rights abuses in the country. They were charged with breaking visa regulations.

Late Tuesday, the Colombo Gazette reported that Sitsabaiesan had been placed under house arrest in the northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna, where she was learning about human rights abuses in the country.

The Colombo Gazette later updated its article, saying the Sri Lankan police, army and immigration department have denied claims that Sitsabaiesan was arrested or detained.

“The Terrorist Investigations Department also denied that its officers had surrounded her hotel in Jaffna last night,” the corrected article goes on to say.

Workman describes Sitsabaiesan’s trip as a “private visit” and said the Canadian commission is in touch with her to make sure she receives assistance if it’s required.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich said on Twitter that they have been in touch with Sri Lankan authorities since the reports came out and they will follow her story closely until she returns to Canada.

According to an article published by the Colombo Gazette earlier in the week, Sitsabaiesan met with Tamil National Alliance members Monday to be briefed on human rights violations and women’s issues in northern Sri Lanka. She reportedly did not give any assurances that the information she obtained would be shared with her Canadian colleagues.

The article notes Sitsabaiesan “has been very critical of the Sri Lankan government.”

“She has been very vocal in the Canadian Parliament on the Sri Lankan issue and had even pushed for Canada to boycott the recent Commonwealth summit in Colombo,” the paper said.

Sri Lanka has been condemned internationally for human rights abuses during and after its civil war, which came to a bloody end in 2009. In October, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he would not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting being held in Sri Lanka because “the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by Canadians.”

Sitsabaiesan, who was born in Sri Lanka, was the first Tamil to be elected to the House of Commons. She represents the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Rouge River, which boasts a large Tamil population. She is expected to return to Canada on Jan. 14.

 

http://colombogazette.com/2014/01/02/rathika-says-she-was-warned/

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