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.
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.
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]