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Friday, May 1, 2009

Tamil supporters can’t get facts straight

In a post I made to this blog in March, I asked the question: If the Tamil Tigers are terrorists, why are we not arresting their Canadian supporters?

The following is a portion of an “Anonymous” comment I received yesterday:

I think the reason some people can not leave their ‘bitterness and biases behind in their homelands’ is because they have relatives their suffering and dying. There is a controversy whether or not the Tamil Tigers really are terrorists. The Canadian law assumes they are, but really if you listen to some of the stories about Sri Lanka right now, it is the government creating a genocide against the Tamil people. The problem is, no one really knows about, or they keep quiet. The only reason those people are protesting and cheering these so-called ‘terrorists’ on is because they are the only people protecting their loved ones. They protest to make Canada aware of the potential genocide similar to Rwanda. They just don’t want a future where people say the Tamil genocide.

The comment is, I believe, disingenuous. To begin with it is made anonymously—no signature at all. Secondly, while it is probably well intentioned, it is not factual on several counts.

There is no real “…controversy whether or not the Tamil Tigers really are terrorists.” As I have written here before, the Tamil Tigers are currently considered to be a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, the United States and 27 countries of the European Union.

These countries all share similar legal systems and core values to ours, therefore, I am prepared to believe that the Tamil Tigers are, indeed, terrorists who have committed atrocities against civilians and have carried out assassinations of Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. They are also guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers. These are the people who invented the “suicide belt” and are known to use suicide bombing as a tactic against civilians.

There is no evidence of “…the government creating a genocide against the Tamil people.” The civil war in Sri Lanka has claimed more than 100,000 lives. This from an estimated Tamil population of over 3.5 million. This is a tragic, disastrous civil war with atrocities on both sides, but decidedly not genocide.

The Tamils are not “…so-called ‘terrorists’,” they are terrorists—32 countries, including our own say they are.

The commenter states, “They protest to make Canada aware of the potential genocide similar to Rwanda.” To, in any way, compare the plight of the Tamils to the slaughter in Rwanda is shameful, unfair and downright cruel—not to mention, totally inaccurate. This is the most odorous comparison I can imagine. Consider for a moment that in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, over the course of approximately 100 days, at least, 500,000 people were killed, with most estimates indicating a death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000—perhaps as high as high as 20% of the total Rwanda population.

Instead of feeding us gross exaggerations and blatant falsehoods, Tamil Tiger supporters should head back to Sri Lanka to take up the fight against the injustices they see there—and, for God’s sake, leave the rest of us alone to get on with our Canadian lives.

4 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. Two comments.

    First, you are right that the Tigers are a terrorist organization and they should remain so. They are one of the nastiest groups going. However, the commenter is correct in saying that they are also the only viable defenders of the Tamil against some pretty aweful violence perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil minority (not genocide, but atrocities nonetheless). That doesn't justify supporting them, but it does put Canadian Tamils in a bit of a bind, especially those with relatives caught in the same bind right in the thick of the fighting.

    Second, we have a Constitution that protects certain rights. Anyone should be free to advocate or verbally/in writing support whoever they want. That is one of our fundamental freedoms. Giving them money, advocating violence yourself, these should remain banned, but not support.

    What you are proposing would result in a severe restriction on our freedoms. Imagine the Irish Canadian who speaks out for the IRA? What about Jason Kenney and Stockwell Day who have supported and advocated for the terrorist group PMOI/MEK. I would never compare PMOI/MEK to the Tigers, but if you want to throw supporters of banned terrorist groups in jail, how can you draw the line?

  2. Oh, I see, Ted.

    Is the IRA banned in Canada as a terrorist group? I think not.

    As to the PMOI/MEK, that The group officially renounced violence in 2001 and today claims to be dedicated to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran. Their members in Iraq were disarmed in 2003-5 by the US and have adhered to a ceasefire. Hardly anything like the Tamil Tigers, eh?

    You rote, "Anyone should be free to advocate or verbally/in writing support whoever they want." I agree.

    But does that describe the Tamil Tigers supporters’ recent actions in Ottawa and Toronto. Blocking traffic—including access to hospitals in Toronto—and otherwise disrupting our lives goes well beyond our fundamental right to free expression.

    The “Black Tigers” are a special wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) who commit suicide if needed to complete their mission. They are one of the most lethal suicide groups in the world. More than 330 Black Tigers have died in various actions, including the assassination of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

    Do we wait for their suicide bombers to start setting off bombs in our streets before we take action to curtail their activities in Canada? I hope not.

  3. "Hardly anything like the Tamil Tigers, eh?"That is my point, Russ. PMOI/MEK are nothing like or as bad as the Tigers. But they are a banned terrorist group. So if you are going to start throwing people in jail for supporting terrorist groups, how do you actually distinguish? If they are a registered terrorist group? If they have killed X number of people? How bad do we decide between really bad, unredeemable groups and groups that have killed in the past but may someday become de-registered?

    That is the problem with throwing people in jail for speaking out in support of any particular group. It is why I say we should not.

    As for taking action because they are blocking traffic — including access to hospitals in Toronto — and otherwise disrupting our lives goes well beyond our fundamental right to free expression, I agree. But we already have laws to deal with that. The access and traffic problems they are causing and the inconvenience is not bad because of who they are supporting. It is bad because it causing access and traffic problems.

    With all due respect, throwing someone in jail because of who they support or what they say is classic Big Brother Stalinism.

  4. Ted,

    You wrote, "That is the problem with throwing people in jail for speaking out in support of any particular group."

    All I'm asking for is that our laws be enforced, nothing more or less.

    And it is my understanding that our federal government’s listing of the Tamil Tigers under the Criminal Code means that any groups or individuals associated with them are also vulnerable to prosecution. It also means it is a criminal offence to participate in the activities of the Tigers, with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

    I want this law enforced. That is my entire point.