Home » News

Forced to fight for Tamil Tigers, Canadian says – National Post

[MISC, Thursday, 9 July 2009 05:33 No Comment]

The Canadian government has asked Sri Lanka to confirm the number of Canadian citizens detained at camps where ethnic Tamils displaced by the country’s civil war are being held.

A Foreign Affairs official said yesterday the department had been advised that four Canadians were at the camps. Officials have confirmed the whereabouts of two of them but are seeking more information.

"Our High Commission in Colombo has sent a diplomatic note to the Sri Lankan government requesting confirmation of the number of Canadian citizens that are being detained," spokeswoman Laura Markle said.

A Brampton couple said on Wednesday their son, George Julius, was among the Canadians held in the camps. Richard and Fatima Julius said the 26-year-old had left Canada in October 2007 to visit relatives in northern Sri Lanka.

He was staying with an aunt in the rebel capital, Kilinochchi, when the fighting erupted and they lost contact with him. In May, they got word he was being held at a camp and contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.

"He’s my life," his mother said of her Sri Lankan-born son, who immigrated to Canada with the family in 1996, when he was 12. "He’s nice and friendly. He liked to enjoy the life. He’s nice to everybody."

Colombo freelance journalist Kath Noble wrote in an on-line posting on Wednesday that she had met the Canadian while visiting a camp for captured Tamil Tigers rebels. He was one of 300 men at the camp, located in a school in downtown Vavuniya, she wrote. She did not name him in the article but provided his name to the National Post.

"He claimed that he had returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 to visit some relatives in Kilinochchi, and had been forcibly conscripted by the LTTE," she wrote. LTTE is the acronym for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

"The Tiger police had turned up at the place where he was staying not long after he had arrived, he said, confiscating his passport and compelling him to join them."

The Julius family said they knew nothing about him having been conscripted by the rebels, and the Canadian Tamil Congress has said such claims should be viewed with skepticism because they could be the product of torture.

During a visit to Sri Lanka this week, Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai said a military official told him a Canadian captured during the civil war was being held at a camp for rebel "combatants."

"He is a combatant, according to them," Mr. Obhrai said. "We were told he was held at a camp which is for combatants, which is separate, which they classify as a rehabilitation camp."

Mr. Obhrai is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was Canada’s first official visit to the South Asian island nation since the civil war ended in May with the defeat of the rebels and the killing of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Sri Lanka is emerging from a long civil war between government forces and separatist Tamil Tigers rebels. During the last phase of the conflict, hundreds of Tamil fighters were killed while others surrendered or were captured.

The war forced almost 300,000 Tamil civilians to flee their homes. The government is holding them at temporary camps.

A handful of foreign nationals are among those detained at the camps, notably Australian, British, Norwegian and Dutch citizens. Mr. Obhrai met one of the Canadians on Monday but was not allowed to meet the one at the combatants’ camp.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.