OTTAWA — The federal government expressed “dismay and displeasure” to the Sri Lankan government Wednesday after Liberal MP Bob Rae was detained and booted out of the country.
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Emma Welford called it “unacceptable treatment of a Canadian parliamentarian” and said it’s absurd for anyone to suggest the former Ontario premier represented a security threat or is a supporter of the Tamil Tigers.
Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said he was also supposed to go to Sri Lanka this week to check on refugee camps. But the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa denied his application for a visa.
“Their excuse was that they could not accommodate me,” he said in an interview. “At least it saved me a long trip.”
Unlike Obhrai, Rae had successfully applied for a visa and had discussed his trip with Sri Lankan officials.
In an interview, the Sri Lankan high commissioner to Canada, Daya Perera, said it “might have been advisable” to allow Rae into the country to see for himself the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war.
“The country has nothing to hide,” Perera said.
Indeed, Rae said Perera phoned him to apologize for his expulsion.
The Liberal foreign affairs critic said the decision to expel him was made strictly by the Sri Lankan defence ministry.
“What this is all about is the defence ministry flexing its muscles,” said Rae in an interview from London, enroute back to Canada.
“The triumphalist view, which is the defence secretary’s view, is: ‘Well, if you haven’t been an absolutely, 100 per cent supporter of everything the government has been doing, we’re going to punish you.”’