Saying it's time "to build bridges, not destroy them," Sri Lanka's consul-general in Toronto urged the city's Tamil community to stop protesting, step out from their cultural "ghettos" and embrace Canadian life, now that the long and bloody civil war in their homeland is over.
Bandula Jayasekara also chided Canadian politicians who echoed protesters' allegations of a Tamil "genocide" as Sri Lankan forces unleashed a punishing final assault on the rebel Tamil Tigers in the country's north in recent months. Thousands of civilians, reportedly held by the Tigers as human shields, were killed in government shelling.
"Now that the war is over, let us hope that these same politicians will work with Sri Lanka to achieve a meaningful peace rather than get bogged down in diaspora-fuelled negative rhetoric," Mr. Jayasekara told reporters at the consulate on St. Clair Avenue.
The consul appealed directly to Toronto's Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora – at more than 200,000 people, thought to be the largest outside Asia – asking its younger members not to be "brainwashed" by Tiger supporters, and their parents not to "mislead their sons and daughters" by fomenting hatred between minority Tamils and the island country's Sinhalese majority.
"Don't only read your own news," Mr. Jayasekara said, referring to Tamil-language media typically uncritical of the Tigers. "Reach out and make the best of Canada."
Mr. Jayasekara said he has extended a hand to local Tamils, with some success, since his arrival last year, but that a hard core of "brainwashed people" has resisted his efforts, and "it's left to them to reach out."
He further urged local Tamils who raised money for the Tigers in the past to "show that they really care" by directing the funds to help the estimated 250,000 civilians displaced by the conflict.