“All Politics is local” – HRW Report and Canadians

by KT Kumaran

Spring is in the air. However, ‘The shock and awe’ of HRW report on LTTE fundraising in Canada is adding to the winter chill feel, as if something of a lesser ‘no war’ situation is at the door steps of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

Online, print and on air mediums since then are filled with fingers being pointed at Tamil ‘quislings’ and Sri Lankan government having a hand in the HRW report about LTTE fundraising in the West. Researcher Jo Becker is being charged as an ‘agent’ of the Sri Lankan government by LTTE supporters while others give a nod to the researcher and report.

The bombastic nature of how events unfolded – HRW’s pre announcement that the report being released later in the day on Tuesday last week and globally coordinated press coverage seemed startling. And a headline glance of the evening news seemed to drive home the message it intended. It was a message for entire Canada. And Toronto’s primary newspapers, called for action against ‘LTTE’ and ‘extortion’ in their editorials the next day.

CTC denial and HRW response

Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), described in the Canadian media as “leaders” of the Tamil community said the report’s allegations are unfounded and they denied there are fundraising drives to support LTTE.

“The report is painful,”, “It is hurtful for the entire community,”; the Canadian media persons were told at the CTC press brief.

HRW, to its credit, replied to concerns about its report, clarifying, among other things, which “we do not suggest that significant numbers of Tamils are engaging in extortion or other unlawful activity. We also note that many Tamils actively and willingly support the LTTE.”

Also it noted the fact that the report itself is based on qualitative rather than quantitative research.

Newspaper Editorials

The editorials and reporting of HRW release and aftermath should cause concern for the “leaders” in the Tamil community to remain status quo. Prime media set aside, moderated comments in the new media posted by readers in the Globe and Mail points that, a plain rejection and claims of “retraction by HRW” to fend off the HRW report by “leaders” of Canada’s Tamil community will not resolve the matter anytime soon.

Air India disaster

A comment posted in the Globe and Mail by Satya Das of Edmonton, sheds light to this; “This is terrorism at our doorstep, in our home, and it cannot stand. This is not a ‘problem’ for the ‘Tamil community’ or some other form of ‘let’s put it in a box and hope it goes away.’ This is an affront to Canada and to all Canadians. We made the mistake of considering the Air India bombing an ‘indo-Canadian’ issue and look at the tears and grief left by the largest mass murder in our nation’s history. The Tamil Tiger extortion campaign is a direct threat to Canadian values and it must be confronted and d crushed with the full weight of the rule of law. There can be no place in Canada for organized crime”.

This may be one of the core issues at the heart of the driving force behind the HRW report, rather than a Sri Lankan driven. LTTE in Canada and the Khalistan movement of the 80’s – The two cases are very different but posses the same current.

In Canada the Air India matter comes back to haunt every time there is an issue involving extreme political activity concerning the departed lands.

“All Politics is Local”

In the words of Tip O Neill Jr, the jowly, affable Speaker of the US Congress from 1977 to 1987, “All politics is local”, should speak volumes to what is at stake here in “Tamil” Toronto.

In a post 9-11 world where groups such as “Minute Men Civil Defense Corps” patrol the US borders and other ultra nationalisms, forces are at work to find the tipping point of their politicians walking the high wire of ethnic politics in Canada too.

Quantitative complains were lacking but a qualitative review – just like what HRW did in its report, simple internal revelations may have prompted related sectors in the Canadian government to be vigilant as well, without a public pronouncement.

Being in denial and LTTE media reports to appease core LTTE sympathizers that “HRW Backtracks on Extortion Charge” will only spell trouble for all Tamil Canadians in the long run, in the largest “Tamil” city of the diaspora as well as Canada.

“Labels” for “Tamil” Canadians

Merriam-Webster online dictionary’s definition of “extort” is “to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power”.

Many Tamil Canadians of all sides of this debate traveled to Sri Lanka since the cease-fire and a small number of them have told their experiences to HRW. More than a hand full of “Tamil Canadians” are here to attest to their travel experiences which will very well be falling under Merriam-Webster’s definition. Unlike the CTC, to Canadian government and even HRW, all are “Tamils”, “Canadians” without any “quisling” labels. Or more than ever, Canada sees them even without their “visible” and “ethnic” identities for the good of the country.

However, “this report makes it seem like they (HRW) are ignoring the facts,” was CTC’s pronouncement at last week’s presser. “But there are no facts because no charges in Canada have ever been laid regarding extortion of Tamils,” a spokesperson said at the Canadian Tamil Congress press conference on Wednesday.

CTC making a ban call easy for Toronto Star

The Canadian Tamil Congress denied categorically that no fund raising exists, prompting Toronto Star editorial’s call; “Because Tamil leaders are adamant that no legitimate community group is raising funds for the Tigers, they should not object. (a ban) A get-tough policy will provide better protection from predators for law-abiding citizens in Tamil communities in the Toronto area and across Canada.”

CTC in being so adamant and denying no fund raising exists, has made it easier for ‘Toronto Star’ to make its call for ban!

Rapport with elected representatives

The progress and contribution of Tamil Canadians, especially in the Greater Toronto Area as Canadians, is well recognized in the civil society. The elected representatives attend numerous business, cultural, and educational Tamil functions in the GTA. They have a strong rapport with many Tamil Canadians. Tamil Canadians too may become elected representatives in the near future.

[Jim Karygiannis MP, the Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt at a recent Tamil community event]

However, elected Tamil representatives from Sri Lanka are continuing to be refused visa to visit Toronto. Its’ been reported that even the TNA MP ‘Mamanithar’ Joseph Pararajasingham, brutally murdered during the Christmas day mass in the Batticaloa Cathedral, was refused entry to Canada.

Its well known that the Tamil “leaders” of Canada are unable to pedal their “influence” to bring elected MPs to Canada. They are well aware that its’ not an all clear signal here. And they do understand that if there is any hiccup with regards to Canadian Tamil-Sri Lanka policy, it’s these “allegations” – that are not proven yet in a court of law, do nevertheless hang over as a dark cloud.

So why this “hiding a whole pumpkin in the cooked rice”?

Tamils and Sri Lanka have been in the ‘news’ coast to coast in Canada in a big way twice in the past two decades.

Arrival in Newfoundland

Firstly, the arrival of 155 Tamils via boat to Newfoundland in 1986, which resulted in Tamil Canadians’ best loved Prime Minister of Canada, Hon. Brian Mulroney remarking, ” We don’t want people jumping to the head of the line . . . (but) if we err, we will always err on the side of justice and on the side of compassion “. Its’ under this Tory PM that ground work for vast migration of Tamils to Canada got accelerated.

Now under another Tory PM, the “compassion of Canadians” is touted to be respected by all Canadians here at home.

Tsunami Aid

Secondly, the tsunami. Under the same dark cloud, propelled by charges of Prime Minister Paul Martin attending dinner hosted by FACT, the predecessor of Canadian Tamils Congress, primary aid – Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami was stationed in Ampara considering the local political under currents.

The third big ‘news’ is here. Will the “leaders” recognize and take corrective measures within the community to begin a new day for ALL Tamil Canadians or are they willing to risk further?

A new Toronto “Tamil leadership?”

“Search” for word “Tamil” in the “Toronto Star”, reveal the following headline matches since the release of HRW report: “Ottawa urged to probe Tamil threats”, “Tamil leaders deny extortion claim”, “Something fishy about research”, “Editorial: Ban Tamil Tigers and halt extortion”, “New Tamil group backs allegations against Tigers”, “Place Sri Lanka on terrorist list”.

Toronto Star reiterated this in its editorial – “Human Rights Watch is a credible international organization. And this report is plausible.”

The bitter medicine of these for Canadian Tamil Congress is the headline “New Tamil group backs allegations against Tigers”. This is like pulling a “Karuna” on CTC, by Toronto’s primary newspaper that has been generally supportive of if not opposed, in its editorial stands regarding Tamil-Sri Lanka matters.

Toronto Star’s message

The Liberal leaning ‘Toronto Star’ exerts tremendous influence across GTA area and Ottawa. Its editorial weighing heavily on the HRW report should be writing on the wall to the Tamil “leadership” and others To Whom It May Concern. It’s just not all about Sri Lanka and “quislings”. Let there be a new day for all (“Tamil”) Canadians just so to join Celine Dion, the Grammy and Oscar wining Canadian pop star in singing, “Let the rain come down and wash away my tears…Let it fill my soul and drown my fears…Let it shatter the walls for a new sun..A new day has… come….,” because the HRW report is all about Canada. [TamilWeek, Mar 26, 2006]

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  1. There is a proverb in Tamil, “Sheep is getting wet, wolf is crying for it”. It is a inside work of Srilankan government. All they want bad name for Tamils in Canada and find a way to lable LTTE as a terorist Org. If LTTE is forcing for money, there will be no support for LTTE. LTTE is the only true representative for Tamils in Tamil Eelam. No one can refuse that. They are stronger, because Tamils supporting them. Last 25 years LTTE fighting for Tamil rights. As a real Tamil, will help them forever. No one can stop them. Even if Tamils in Canada want to give support for Internaly displaced relative Tamils in Srilanka. They have to give the money to LTTE. That is the only way, money will get those people. If it goes to Srilankan government, It will spend only Shihalese People. Tsunami’s releife fund never reach to the Tamils. Only those give to the LTTE reached to Tamils. We Tamils know how many Srilankan agent working in Canada. We Canadian Tamils not scared for anybody. We respect Canadian Law and order. We are good citizen of Canada. Let not worry about us. Save our brothers and sisters from Srilankan terorist government. They are not interested on any of the peace talk. All they want, just keep the peace talk ongoing and let the LTTE fade out. So they can keep the Tamils as a slave.


    Jeg . R

  2. LTTE is ruthless killer. Please at least now let the srilankan peole sort out this problem with out promoting terrorism. The world needs to understand the the tamil people should be protected from the LTTE.

  3. The fact is that Tamil DO support LTTE, and by default Srilankan government is enemy of Tamils. No body can deny this fact, but what they can do is try to get arround with other strategies that is what HRW did. It is so simple to understand.

  4. The whole world opened up to help the tsunami Vicitms in Sri-Lanka.What happened-The sri-lankan govt closed the door from helping the Tamils.It is tamils living abroad opened up and generouly contributed,aThe sri-lankan govt stopped Clinton,Koffi Annan from visiting thease areas.Where did the HRW go while this is taking place.
    It is obvious there is a very concerted involvement by the proxies of sri-lanka behind the Jo Beckers report.Why do we need 40,000 troops in North Sri-Lanka,why are people from the north moving to LTTE territory.Where is the HRW.Tamils in Canada has a responsiblity in taking care of their fellow tamils in Sri-Lanka.There is no extortion.The Toronto Stars editorial is dissapointing and not balanced.

  5. In the early 80’s LTTE began it’s training camps in Tamil Nadu (South India). They held exhibitions to display the photo’s of the fallen heroes in Chennai, Madurai and Trichy. In England, they were collecting funds in Tamil shops (Namely, at 6 Kumar’s, East London) and at Hindu Kovils in East London (East Ham). In Canada, to my knowledge, they collect funds at the Richmond Hill Hindu Kovil. I remember, in April 1996 I happened to visit this Kovil for the Hindu New Year. Tamil boys and girls were requesting people to contribute money for the tamil cause. There were “tills” in front of the kovil. I saw to my own eye’s. I’ve seen the same tills in most of the tamil shops in Toronto. One could see the LTTE Leaders photo and the Sri Lankan map ( with N & E parts seperated). You would notice LTTE videos and literature in these shops as well. The Canadian government turns a blind eye to these for the simple reason. The Tamils are a majority in Toronto. Thus, for the sake of their votes the government keeps quite or ignores the whole issue.

  6. If we look in to the Tsunami aid issue, in recently concluded US representatives sub committee on Asia & the Pacific, an objective view was disclosed.
    Mr. Donald Camp Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, answering a question by Congressman Brad Sherman, shattered this LTTE propaganda item. (Please take note that Donald Camp is one of the most knowledgable on issues of the region with access to all kind of breifings/reports from US and other agencies).
    Here is the excerpt from the hearing-

    The government has taken substantial action to prevent aid from reaching the parts of the island that were most affected by the tsunami, namely the northeast, which generally supports the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE. What has the United States done to make sure that aid that’s supposed to go to individuals is not interrupted for political reasons?
    I would say that the government of Sri Lanka made efforts to in fact make sure that aid was not only equitably delivered, but it would seem to be equitably delivered. And their attempt to establish this mechanism, with which they reached agreement on the LTTE — a fairly significant achievement that took quite awhile — was thrown out in the courts. Therefore, they’ve had to find other mechanisms.
    I think I would take issue with the idea that they have actively attempted to prevent tsunami assistance from reaching the northeast.

    Infact in the aftermath of the Tsunami, LTTE’s priority was not to help people but to prevent SL government or other Sinhalese helping affected Tamils. Now we see why it was so important to LTTE.

    The last three lines – not a part of the Hearing report, but my comment on it.

  7. I srongly belive that we are seeing the last chapter of the tamil liberation,if LTTE plays the politics well with the prsent strenth,and use diplomacy then there is a solution waiting.If they lose patience,then distruction is waitng.We hope and pray god to give wisdom to Mr.Pirabaharan,to make a right decission in the interest of Tamils.

  8. “We know through painful experience that freedom in never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”

    “Nothing in this world is more dangerous than sincere ignorence and conscientious stupidity”

    “I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isen’t fit to live”

    Martin Luther King Jr.

    Nither the ignorence of the majority nor the active distortion of the truth by a wicked few will erode the resolve of the Tamil minority’s fight for their just rights. We have seen actors like HRW, however well meaning their intentions may be, have been in the past used by the GOSL (Government of Sri-Lanka) to oppress its minority. The supposedly “Peace keeping force” of India was responsible for the most gruesome of murders and human rights violations the Tamil people have witnessed in their sordid history since Sri-Lanka gained independance. The Tamil phyche hardened by decades of oppression and illtreatment will not be cowed by a single report into giving up its fight for their rights. On the contrary we will intensify our strugle to win back our rights.

    We dont need nor do we aske anybody’s permission to determine our own future. Its our inalienable right. We have the right to preserve and protect our culture and our way of life. We refused to be intimidated by people who have one set of rules for themselfs and another set of rules for everyone else. True Dr. King was a champion of non-violence, but if the Sinhalese had responded to our cry for equality and respect without resorting to brutal oppression this problem could have been long solved.

    Another writer here made an observation about what transpaired at the recently concluded US sub committee for Asia & the Pacific. This is what Dr. King had to say on the Vietnam war and and his own government’s recourse to violence to achive its objectives.
    “As i have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry men I have told them that moltov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action, but they asked and rightly so, what about vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasen’t using massive doses of viloence to solve its problems and bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyour of violence in the world today – my own government”

    Need I say anymore, I rest my case!

  9. I think we all misunderstands the whole issue. LTTE is made by successive Sri Lankan government policies towards to Tamils in Sri Lanka since independence. Still we don’t see any substatial change in that policies towards to Tamils. Beside most of the Tamils living in the western countries came here after the ethnic war started in 1983. In the early days they give money by own wish because they felt it in their own soul how have been treated by the Singalese thugs. But now most of the Tamils from Sri Lanka been here for 10-20 years things life has been changed with children and western lifestyle. But situation in Sri Lanka same or even worse than ever before. LTTE is become a monster which couldn’t abandoned it’s thirst for war and undemocratic behaviour. otherside GOSL has no viable solution for a protracted ethnic issue. Here we all need help from whole world to stop this meaningless war and by that we can stop the intimidation and extortion of the undemocratic LTTE to keep Tamils in the west as their clients.

  10. The notion `…whenever a weaker minority is willing to loose everything to oppose a stronger majority.. there is usually a strong fundamental cause..` has been used by separatists in Ireland, Kosovo, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraqi-Kurdistan etc. But stayed just mere Romantic Slogans until they were backed by some out side big hand.

    If u just take a look at history you’ll know where minority grievances were sincerely sympathised and where they had been used as cat’s paws in order to gain a chance to interfere with internal affairs of a foreign country.
    Of course Tamils in Srilanka suffered in Singhala hands and they had grave grievances, but they were NOT grave enough until India decided Jayawardena regime should be taught a lesson for letting US to come too close. They tested several options, LTTE came through as the most efficient. But it was India who learned the lesson when the LTTE was hijacked/bought by the West and started using against India. ( http://www.lankainsider.com/external%20factors/india%20influence.htm
    We should admit that Srilankan Tamil’s trend to support any outsider as far as they are against Singhalas, was “a” main hindrance to development of SriLanka. Tamils of Sri Lanka today need to realise the adverse effect of line of thinking- “if it harms Sinhalese, it doesn`t matter even it kills us“.
    Early pseudo separatist campaigns after the so-called independence, gave the convenient excuse to successive governments (who in turn were emissaries of the West themselves) for suppressing legitimate grievances of ALL-SriLankans regardless of their race. Mean time politicians of both sides used racism as a rallying slogan therefore depriving people of any chance to raise real issues in due seriousness. (i.e. poverty, neo-colonialism, corruption etc) SL leaders always managed to present `other community` as the biggest problem facing the other. No wonder that, practicing these deceptive politics for a half a century landed us where we are today.
    Today, the Results of our ignorance have grown so big and devastate ‘Both’ communities ruthlessly, it is hard to ignore them. What amazes me is, why we still keep dancing to those racist tunes instead of letting them know that, we are aware of who writes the music.

    If we have a Martin Luther King among Tamils he would say, “we should never raise our voice against the violence of the opposition, without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in Sri Lanka today – the LTTE”.

  11. The acceptable solution to the tamils in srilanka is the recognition of the administration that is in force in their homelands and has successfully grown out into a formidable forceful entity that can easily manage the affairs of the tamils of North East. They have proved beyond all doubtd that tamils don’t want to be under sinhala domination any more.It will be an impossible task to disarm the tigers or to dismantle the existing shadow government but the only respectful non blood letting alternative would be to extend an arm of frienship and recognise their existing administration in afeasible format to allow a tamil government to function beside the sinhala government. Since the two languages are spoken by almost the entire population the two administrations are vital for the progress of the island in amicability. On the contrary if suppression of tigers is the hidden agenda of the government then the devastation and bloodshed will bring world players into the conflict zone and perhaps will drag them and India also into the nasty conflict.

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