Lanka envoy, Tamils cross swords over Toronto restaurant fire

Updated on May 24, 2009 12:23 PM IST

A Saturday morning fire at a Sinhalese restaurant here further fuelled tensions between the two Sri Lankan communities in Canada.

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IANS | By, Toronto

A Saturday morning fire at a Sinhalese restaurant here further fuelled tensions between the two Sri Lankan communities in Canada.

While the Sri Lankan consul general blamed Tamil Tigers for the fire, Tamil leaders hit back by asking Canada to expel him. There are over 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils as against about 50,000 Sinhalese in the Toronto area.

The early morning fire that gutted the Lanka Gardens restaurant in the Brampton area infuriated Sri Lankan consul general Bandula Jayasekara so much that he said Tamil Tigers were "on the rampage" in Toronto.

Jayasekara, who has been highly critical of Canadian authorities for their handling of Tamil protesters since January, said the fire was the handiwork of Tamil extremists.

"It is really about what the Tamil Tigers are up to. They are on the rampage here in Toronto,'' he said.

The consul general, who visited the gutted restaurant, said Tamil extremists have been threatening the eating joint owner for some time.

However, police refused to say whether it is a case of arson.

The Sri Lankan diplomat said the owner of the restaurant called him at 4.30 in the morning to inform that his restaurant "is under attack'' from Tamil Tigers.

He said the trouble is over in Sri Lanka after 30 years, but not in Canada.

The restaurant owner said LTTE flag-waving motorcyclists have been threatening him for some time, adding that the front glass of the restaurant was broken just two weeks ago.

The Sri Lankan diplomat's reaction angered Tamil leaders who called for his expulsion from Canada.

"While we whole-heartedly condemn the fire incident and want our police to get to the bottom of the truth and bring the culprits to justice, the behaviour of the Sri Lankan diplomat is absolutely undiplomatic,'' said Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai.

He said, "The diplomat is challenging Canadian authority and must be expelled from the country.''

The Tamil leader said, "It is not the first time that the Sri Lankan envoy has made undiplomatic remarks about Canada. Have you ever heard a diplomat getting involved in a host nation's affairs, but this man has done many times.''

The fire at the Sri Lankan restaurant comes just days after a similar incident at a Sinhalese temple in the Scarborough area of Toronto.

The Sinhalese community has blamed supporters of Tamil Tigers for that incident also.

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