First thing in the morning these days I find the BBC website on my blackberry to find the latest on the tragic events in Sri Lanka. On a thin, 5 square mile strip of land on the northeast coast of the country the UN estimates that at least 50,000 civilians are huddled together, out of food, water, many sick, injured, wounded. About 500 or a thousand LTTE fighters are holding out against the surrounding Sri Lankan army. Their offer of a ceasefire was described by the Minister of Defence as “a joke”. At least 6000 civilians have been killed in the last few weeks. Some joke.
The same Minister announced this morning that the Sri Lankan army would no longer use heavy artillery and aerial raids in their continued assaults, this after the government of Sri Lanka denied being responsible for any civilian deaths, and denied using heavy weaponry.
The UN has sent UnderSecretary General John Holmes to Colombo to assess the humanitarian situation. Three European Foreign Ministers are expected to join him on Wednesday.
I asked Lawrence Cannon to go to Sri Lanka on Friday. I would ask it again. Canada’s voice has been pathetically silent, missing the point that this is a catastrophe in the making. One UN official called the surrounded area “the gates of hell”. Canada’s absence and silence are a disgrace.
Bob Rae is a former member of Parliament and former premier of Ontario.