The biannual national convention of the New Democratic Party held in Montreal, Canada from April 12-14 passed a resolution recognizing Jaswant Singh Khalra, a Sikh activist who was allegedly abducted and killed by the police in the Indian state of Punjab in 1995, as a human rights defender. However, a resolution submitted from Scarborough-Rouge River calling for, among others, an independent, international and impartial mechanism in Sri Lanka to ensure justice for the Tamils and a UN conducted referendum to determine their political future, failed to make it to the tables of the convention. While Tamil activists who attended the convention argue that the resolution could have been passed had it been pushed by the Tamil NDP MP from Scarborough-Rouge River, Ms Sitsabaiesan, a NDP source claims that the resolution was brought in late but the MP made sure that it was in the policy book.
The resolution on Mr Jaswant Singh Khalra, the Sikh human rights activist, was strongly pushed for by the NDP MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton Mr Jagmeet Singh at the convention, and was passed with overwhelming support.
However, the resolution on Sri Lanka, which included calls for the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Tamils and a UN monitored referendum, was not taken up as it was not pushed as a prioritized one by Ms Rathika Sitsabaiesan, the MP representing Scarborough-Rouge River and as a result, it was not tabled at the national convention, said a community activist from the Tamil Worker’s Alliance (TWA) from that constituency who participated in the convention.
The resolution on Sri Lanka, which was passed in the Scarborough-Rouge River riding, through a democratic process on February 28, was mentioned in a NDP booklet of regular resolutions from ridings across the country and was sent to the organizers of the convention well in advance and was submitted as an emergency resolution, the activist from TWA further said.
While there were other resolutions too that were not tabled, grassroots activists from Scarborough claim that given the gravity of the situation facing the Eezham Tamils both in the homeland and in the international scenario, and given the history of NDP’s position on the Tamil question, the resolution on Sri Lanka could have been tabled at the national convention.
However, a NDP source speaking to TamilNet said that the resolution was brought to the convention late but Ms Sitsabaiesan made sure that it was in the policy book. Adding that Ms Sitsabaiesan worked in the background very strongly to make sure that issues on Sri Lanka are addressed both in the party and the parliament, he further said that Ms Sitsabaiesan also supported the Sikh resolution because she is building solidarity with the Sikh community so that the two communities can work closely and be stronger allies.
An official response to TamilNet from Ms Sitsabaiesan’s office said “NDP conventions have passed resolutions, giving our Leader and Caucus the mandate to fight for Tamil rights. That’s what we’re doing and we’re very proud of our Leader and Caucus taking the strongest and most principled positions toward Sri Lanka. At this convention we also saw Neethan Shan, a Tamil activist and friend, elected to represent Ontario at Federal Council.”
“Thanks to Rathika, Canada’s Official Opposition has taken the strongest, most principled stance on Sri Lanka in support of Tamil rights. New Democrats have been standing up in the House of Commons to demand that Conservatives refuse to send any delegation to the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka. The Conservatives have refused. Rathika and Tom Mulcair will continue to increase the pressure on Conservatives on this.”
Full text of the resolution passed at the Scarborough-Rouge River riding submitted to the NDP National Convention follows:
Resolution on Human Rights in Sri Lanka
Submitted by Scarborough-Rouge River
WHEREAS the NDP has consistently supported the Tamil community’s call for justice, fairness, and human rights while being a strong voice for peace on the global stage; and
WHEREAS Noting while Tamil homes, schools, hospitals, and places of worship remain destroyed by the war in our home land, the Government of Sri Lanka is building symbols of Sinhala hegemony in the occupied lands to destroy any evidence of Tamil existence,
BE IT RESOLVED that New Democrats again reiterate the call on the United Nations to immediately establish an independent, international and impartial mechanism to ensure truth, accountability, and justice in Sri Lanka; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New Democrats call on the government of Canada to state unconditionally, and without reservation that it will not be participating in the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Sri Lanka; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that New Democrats call the United Nations to recognize the Tamils’ right to Self-Determination; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that United Nations to conduct a referendum among the Tamils originally from North and East of Sri Lanka to decide their political future.
NDP Resolutions 2013: Resolutions (PDF)