TORONTO – A group that represents Tamil-Canadians said Tuesday it will keep up demands for Ottawa to intervene in Sri Lanka’s conflict, even though the south Asian country’s government has declared victory over separatist rebels.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper should send a strong message to the Sri Lankan government to let aid groups, media and independent monitors into the war zone, said the Canadian Tamil Congress.
The congress called on Canada to send a team to assist in humanitarian efforts in the conflict areas, where Tamils say thousands of civilians are without food and medicine. The group also asked Ottawa to send aid to what it calls reputable aid organizations instead of the Sri Lankan government.
The congress said Canada should add its voice to calls by the European Union for a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes in the conflict.
“The militaristic fight has come to a halt, so the door is open now for the political struggle,” said congress spokesman David Poopalaipillai.
Tamil-Canadians have made repeated demands on the Sri Lankan government to allow observers into the war zone to verify reports of casualties, including the death of the leader of the rebel Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The rebels are considered a terrorist group by Canada and several other countries.
Sri Lankan state television announced Monday that Prabhakaran had been killed – claims that were rejected by many Tamil protesters in Toronto.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared his country “liberated from separatist terror” Tuesday as state television broadcast images of Prabhakaran’s body after it was recovered from the battlefield.
Prabhakaran’s body was later identified by Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, a former rebel commander known as Col. Karuna, who defected from the group and is now a government minister, the government said in a statement.
A rebel official overseas, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, denied Prabhakaran had been killed.
“Our beloved leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe,” he said in a statement posted Tuesday on the rebel-affiliated TamilNet website. “He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people.”
He offered no further details or evidence to support the claim.
The war has killed more than 70,000 people over the past quarter-century.