COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Wednesday deported a MP it views as sympathetic to the Tamil Tiger separatists, the latest foreign official it has sent out of the country at the end of a 25-year war.
Bob Rae, a Liberal party legislator, said Sri Lanka’s government had reached “ill-conceived and defamatory conclusions about me,” and said his record showed he had spoken out against the Tigers during his prior involvement in the peace process.
Rea was stopped at Sri Lanka’s international airport, said C.B. Abeykoon, controller of immigration and emigration.
“We got some intelligence reports on this gentleman and the instructions were not to allow him into the country, so he is detained at the airport and he will be deported by the next available flight,” Abeykoon told Reuters.
Rae said he was stopped on Tuesday night when he reached the immigration counter in the company of two Canadian High Commission officials.
“The government of Sri Lanka knew my views, and granted me a visa,” Rea said in an emailed statement. “I have flown a very long way only to be told the door is firmly shut.”
Sri Lanka has refused entry to several foreign officials and journalists it viewed as hostile to its fight to wipe out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The government declared victory over the separatist rebels in a 25-year war on May 18.
It rejected Britain’s attempt to send a special envoy to the conflict, saying it had been done without proper consultation, and refused to grant Sweden’s foreign minister entry in the closing stages of the war.
Sri Lanka’s conflict has long attracted foreign politicians, and their past involvement has been perceived by many in the current government as one reason the war was prolonged in peace talks with the LTTE that ultimately proved fruitless.
Rae visited Sri Lanka to take part in the peace process after a 2002 truce and has been a featured speaker at Tamil forums in Canada. Rae’s constituency is in Toronto, which is home to a large Tamil population.
“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,” Rae said.
Repeated protests by Tamils in Toronto during the closing stages of the war, where demonstrators waved LTTE flags, infuriated Sri Lanka’s government since Canada is one of more than 30 countries that has listed the group as terrorists.
Writing and additional reporting by Bryson Hull; Editing by Sugita Katyal