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NDP backs Rathika on Lanka

2014 Jan 27

Canadian NDP party Leader Tom Mulcair is defending MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan’s trip to Sri Lanka over the holidays in a recent letter to the Sri Lankan high commissioner in Canada, stating that Sitsabaiesan had “no intention to embarrass” the country’s government, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said.

The letter was sent in response to accusations by the Sri Lankan high commissioner that Sitsabaiesan was trying to do just that by claiming she faced political intimidation while on a personal trip to the country.

Mulcair said the controversy was only created when Sitsabaiesan was followed, and that she “was right to be concerned.”

Sitsabaiesan, who is of Tamil heritage, travelled to the South Asian country on Dec. 28, 2013 to visit relatives and learn about human rights. In a statement released earlier this month, the MP said she was warned by Sri Lankan officials during her private visit that she could be arrested and deported.

“I recently arrived in Sri Lanka to visit my extended family and visit the places that were once home for me, during the earlier stages of my life and the civil war in Sri Lanka; but [I] was subject to political intimidation,” the statement read.

The commission took issue with the words “political intimidation,” which High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara called “grossly incorrect” in her letter to Mulcair dated Jan. 8.

“I also believe you would not want the MPs of your Party to make arrogant and patronizing statements about foreign states which creates a bad reflection on your Party and your policies,” she wrote.

Mulcair had his own strong words in his response, saying that the Sri Lankan government’s “human rights record continues to cause significant concern around the world.”

He went on to urge the Sri Lankan government to hold an independent, impartial international inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and war crimes.

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