What follows is the text of a letter by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Anglican Primate, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In the letter, the Primate, writing on behalf of the House of Bishops, urges the government to “assume leadership roles in international efforts to guarantee and protect the civil liberties of Sri Lankans at this critical time.”
23 June 2009
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister’s Office
Langevin Block 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A3
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
We, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, write to urge the Government of Canada to assume leadership roles in international efforts to guarantee and protect the civil liberties of Sri Lankans at this critical time.
We call upon the Government of Canada to respond generously to the continuing humanitarian needs of Vanni Tamils, long deprived of basic commodities and securities, and more recently, exposed daily to the dangerous crossfire of Government and rebel forces. Thousands of families have been affected. They need immediate relief and sustained support towards social and economic stability in local communities, and in the north and east regions of the country.
We also call upon the Government of Canada, in responding to the humanitarian needs of Vanni Tamils to seek assurance from the Government of Sri Lanka that they will take the necessary measures to guarantee and protect the civil rights, safety and wellbeing of Tamils throughout the country, especially in Jaffna, the Jaffna Peninsula and north east.
Sri Lankan church partners have provided this analysis to share with you:
An impartial political culture will restore civilian administration, rule of law, and trust. Freedom of movement, and a demonstration of national confidence in the non-violent and peace loving majority within the Tamil community are essential, and long overdue. Tamil culture must be reflected in national events and as part of common Sri Lankan identity. Tamil leaders realistically acknowledge the reciprocation Tamils offer this process. Jaffna has a distinct role in dismantling its ethnic isolation and encouraging interaction with Sinhala and Muslim communities, especially amongst children and youth. The A Nine Road must be cleared and opened to the public as soon as possible.
A ray of hope already lies in the fine rapport between Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe and Jaffna’s Council for Peace and Goodwill. It is through such relationships that initial steps towards the integration of all Sri Lankans will come. Everything depends on our [Sri Lanka’s] ability to create a climate of political and cultural trust and socio-economic opportunity that will visibly include and recognise the skills of Tamils.
We further call upon the Government of Canada to seek positions of influence in international structures and processes of reconciliation, aimed at addressing and dismantling the root causes of historic tensions between Sri Lanka’s Sinhala and Tamil peoples. These tensions will resurface and flare and result in much more suffering without clear and continuing pressure by international leaders and states.
Last but not least, we call upon the Government of Canada to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to safeguard the democratic rights of journalists. The rights of all Sri Lankans to information must be protected so that Sri Lanka may strive towards a new era of freedom, development and long-term peace. The assault, detainment, torture and murder of members of Sri Lanka’s press are deeply disturbing, especially when Sri Lankan leaders are determined to liberate the people from all types of oppression. It is regrettable that Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic, Bob Rae was denied entry to Sri Lanka in May 2009, for supposedly supporting the defeated rebels. Thank you for formally registering the Canadian Government’s dismay and displeasure at Mr. Rae’s deportation. As distressing as this incident was, it clearly reveals the rigour and resilience required of the international community in dialogue for peace, justice and rule of law with President Rajapakse and his government.
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your attention to my requests. Be assured of our prayers for wisdom and guidance in all your work on behalf of the people of Canada, and our commitments to peace within and among all of the nations.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz,
Primate and Chair of The House of Bishops