TWO MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of the state of Punjab in India were refused entry into Canada on Sunday and were forced to return from Ottawa airport, according to Indian media reports.
The two MLAs were identified as Kultar Singh Sandhwan (Faridkot) and Amarjit Singh Sandoa (Ropar).
According to the Indian newspaper The Tribune, the MLAs told the media that the authorities were not convinced about the purpose of their visit. “Accompanied by Sandoa, Sandhwan had reportedly gone to visit his sister who lives in Ottawa. Sandoa is facing a case of alleged molestation. State co-convener [of AAP] Dr Balbir Singh said Sandoa had taken permission from a Ropar court to go abroad.”
Sandhwan told the media: “I was not deported, due to a communication gap and me being an MLA they got confused whether it’s my political visit or personal visit, they told me next time I should come with prior information about my schedule.”
The Indian Express newspaper said that Sudeep Singla, AAP spokesperson in Toronto, told their reporter: “What we have learnt is that both were to stay with the sister of Kultar Singh Sandhwan in Ottawa and she was waiting to receive them. However, after hours of questioning, she was informed that both were being sent back.”
The newspaper also pointed out: “The Congress government in Punjab has accused state AAP leadership of being ‘close’ to separatist Sikh outfits overseas, most of them being pro-Khalistani organisations based in North America. In June, Khaira faced flak over his remarks on ‘Referendum 2020’, a campaign launched by US-based organisation Sikhs for Justice.”
Chandigarh: Taking a serious note of the issue, Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana K.P. Singh said on Tuesday that he will take up the matter of the two MLAs, who were sent back by Canadian immigration authorities despite having the required visa and relevant travel documents. Both arrived back in India on Monday.
The Speaker told an AAP delegation, which met him here on Tuesday, that he will write to the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to take up this matter with the Canadian government.
“India and Canada are Commonwealth countries and they should concentrate on further strengthening of ties and cooperation. The Canadian Government should respect public representatives. This episode is very unfortunate and condemnable,” he told the delegation, led by Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
Khaira told media later that sending the two MLAs back from Canada in such a fashion was also an insult of the Punjab Assembly.