Tamils suffer discrimination: Canadian court

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 September 1997, 12:03 GMT]
Whilst ruling on the case of Mr. Suresh Manickavasagam, the presiding Judge said that in his opinion the Tamil people suffered from discrimination. The Judge did not rule on the LTTE itself, saying he was not in a position to pass judgment on the conflict in Sri Lanka. During the case, the Judge had been presented with evidence of gross human rights violations by successive Sri Lankan governments against the Tamil people.

The Canadian Immigration authorities had served a certificate on Mr. Manickavasagam stating that they had reasonable grounds to believe that he was a member of the LTTE, and that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the LTTE engaged in terrorism.

In his summing up on August 31, 1997, the Judge, Mr. Justice Teitelbaum upheld the Immigration authorities decision to issue Mr. Manickavasagam with a security certificate, but noted that Tamils were discriminated against in Sri Lanka.

He said "I can only say and do say that, based on the evidence made before me, the Tamil people of Sri Lanka suffer from discrimination, and, based on some of the evidence made before me, may have suffered, in certain specific cases, from what may be considered persecution."

During the course of the judicial review (the case against Mr. Manickavasagam did not constitute a civil or criminal trial), the defense had presented considerable evidence of the situation in Sri Lanka with regards to the Tamil people.

Mr. Manickavasagam's defense had challenged the Immigration authorities' allegation, arguing that the LTTE was a national liberation organization. However, while the prosecution only had to prove that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the LTTE was engaged in terrorism, the defense had to prove conclusively that the LTTE was not.

While conceding that the court could not define the term 'terrorism', the Judge had taken the position that the defense had not proved the Immigration Minister did not have reasonable grounds.

However, the Judge had noted that he was not ruling on the Tamil question, saying " I would add that it is not the function of the Court to solve political issues that exist between groups of people in another country."

The Judge's comments have clearly irked the Sri Lankan government as they have nullified much of Colombo's potential propaganda benefits from the ruling.

In an article written by the Sri Lankan government's representative to the UN and published in the Colombo press, the Sri Lankan government criticized the Judge's statements, saying that it was "regrettable that the Judge ....should have ventured to pronounce on the peripheral issue of discrimination".

 

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