COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned Canada's top diplomat here and expressed its displeasure over his country's decision to impose ''unilateral sanctions'' on its four citizens, including two former presidents.
Canada on Tuesday imposed sanctions on four Sri Lankans, including former presidents Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, for committing what it called ''gross and systematic violations of human rights'' during the country's civil war.
Sanctions were also imposed on Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake and Lt Commander Chandana P Hettiarachchithe.
Reacting to the sanctions, the foreign ministry summoned Canada's Acting High Commissioner in Colombo and expressed the government's displeasure over the move.
''Foreign Minister Ali Sabry summoned the Canadian Acting High Commissioner Daniel Bood to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs..., and expressed the deep regret of the Government on the announcement of unilateral sanctions brought against four individuals including two former Presidents of Sri Lanka by the Government of Canada based on unsubstantiated allegations,'' the foreign ministry said in a tweet.
Earlier, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya said that the sanctioning of former presidents was “untimely” and was intended to pacify domestic elements in Canada.
He said Canada's decision to impose sanctions on the Rajapaksa brothers came at a time when Sri Lanka was attempting to take forward the post-war reconciliation process.
''This shows who our friends really are and who are not,'' he was quoted as saying by the Colombo Gazette newspaper.
The sanctions target former president Gotabaya, who resigned in July last after a massive protest against his government, and his elder brother Mahinda, who has held the titles of president and prime minister.
Gotabaya temporarily fled his country last summer after mass protests over the country's economic crisis, while Mahinda resigned from his post as prime minister last spring.
Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese population had praised the brothers for defeating Tamil separatists after a 26-year civil war, which took place from 1983 to 2009.
The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader V Prabhakaran.