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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Eyebrows raised over Canada rejecting ex-SLN Commodore’s refugee claim

Nadarajah Kuruparan

By Shamindra Ferdinando
Many an eyebrow has been raised over Canada refusing to accept retired Sri Lankan Navy Commodore Nadarajah Kuruparan’s refugee claim, on the grounds that the navy had committed atrocities during the conflict.

Authoritative naval sources told The Island that Commodore Kuruparan had never been involved in naval operations or served in the operational area during eelam war IV (2006-2009) or before.

Responding to a query, sources said that as an Acting Sub Lieutenant Kuruparan had served on board Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) SLNS Jayasagara in the ‘80s, though the navy subsequently moved him to Colombo to thwart LTTE attempts to compromise him.

Asked whether any refugee claims by retired Sri Lankan servicemen had been rejected by Canada or any other country over accountability issues, a senior GoSL official said that the Canadian decision was unprecedented in a sense the Court ruling upheld allegations that the Sri Lankan military committed atrocities during eelam war IV. Hundreds of ex-terrorists, including those who fought under the LTTE flag live in Canada, sources said. Of them, hundreds reached Canada since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.

“The extensive sources of evidence and the reporting contained therein, including references to tens of thousands of disappearances and the institutionalisation of torture, supports a finding that the navy and security forces’ acts were part of a widespread or systematic attack,” Justice John O’Keefe wrote in his 50-page decision.

GoSL officials said that the Canadian decision was obviously based on unsubstantiated allegations contained in ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,’ ‘Sri Lanka Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished,’ Darusman report et al.

In support of his refugee claim, Kuruparan said he feared the GoSL, pro-government militias and the LTTE, though the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled he was not a genuine refugee because he was complicit in crimes against humanity.

His appeal to the Federal Court of Canada was dismissed on June 13, 2012 and he and his family now face deportation to Sri Lanka.

Having retired in June, 2009, a few weeks after the army finished off the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, the Kuruparans reached the Canadian border on Aug 4, 2009. The navy told The Island that they hadn’t been aware of Kuruparan’s move until the international media reported the Canadian Court ruling on his case.

An official pointed out that a section of the international media had quoted David Poopalapillai, the Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman as having said the Court ruling gave credibility to the war crimes allegations.

“Now our judicial system, one of the finest in the world, is echoing this same thing. It means the Sri Lankan military apparatus have committed war crimes and it should be investigated,” Poolalapillai said.

According to the Court ruling, the commodore joined the navy in 1981 but he said as a Tamil he faced challenges. He was approached by the LTTE repeatedly and asked to help terrorists. The navy pointed out that the retired officer had acknowledged in Canada that the LTTE tried to recruit him during the war. According to him, the LTTE had first approached him in 2001 and then again in 2008, which led to the naval intelligence questioning him, though he wasn’t detained.

Asked whether the retired officer’s wife and children, too, would be deported, the Canadian High Commission in Colombo said that the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) decided on individual refugee protection cases. More info could be obtained from IRB’s national media centre, the spokesperson said.



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