SPECIAL REPORT : Part 11
February 18, 2014, 5:33 pm
Canadian Conservative politician Patrick Brown addresses a Diaspora gathering opposite parliament last October. LTTE activists organized the meeting to appreciate Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s decision to boycott Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo. Nehru Gunaratnam looks on
By Shamindra Ferdinando
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, in consultation with his senior colleagues appointed two high level committees at the onset of the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) finalized in February 2002. The CFA was underwritten by the US, EU and Japan.
The committees were in accordance with Prabhakaran’s grand strategy to propagate the eelam concept overseas. The then UNP administration didn’t at least bother to check what was going on.
One committee represented Tamils living overseas, while the other was tasked with overseeing the same. The latter operated under the supervision of Castro, one of Prabhakaran’s trusted lieutenants. The LTTE picked persons loyal to its macabre eelam project to represent the two committees.
Canada based Nehru Gunaratnam had been among those who earned the admiration of the Vanni based LTTE leadership. Therefore he was named in both committees. Gunaratnam visited the Vanni twice in 2002 and 2003 to confer with the LTTE leadership. As the LTTE’s top man in Canada, Gunaratnam wielded immense power during the CFA and subsequent years (2006 to 2009), as the LTTE battled the Sri Lankan military. Gunaratnam played a pivotal role in the Canadian operation during the conflict, as well as the ongoing operation to humiliate Sri Lanka.
After LTTE fighting formations collapsed on the Vanni east front in May 2009, those who had been committed for a separate state changed the direction of their campaign. Instead of raising funds for the acquisition of armaments, the Diaspora now utilized all its attention to secure the support of Western powers, India and South Africa. The new project was meant to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal.
In the wake of Canada joining a US-led coalition to move a resolution at the 25th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month, it would be pertinent to discuss the Canadian factor in espousing the eelam project.
As the LTTE had lost its wherewithal to wage war, it no longer posed a conventional military threat, the LTTE rump remained a formidable foe with an uncanny power to move foreign governments as well as various organizations, including the UN.
Let me examine the Canadian factor with the focus on the growing power of those who propagated the eelam cause there. The Sri Lankan government seems ignorant of ground realities due to failures on its part. The government should realize that Western powers would move another resolution against Sri Lanka at the next Geneva session at the behest of the LTTE rump. The LTTE rump in Canada is playing a critically important role in the Geneva project. Although many perceive the US as the driving force behind the forthcoming Geneva resolution, it wouldn’t have been a reality without Canadian and British inputs.
Although Canada’s Conservative government listed the LTTE and its front organization, the World Tamil Movement (WTM) in April 2006 and June 2008, respectively, as terrorist entities, the group continued to flourish.
Although Canada declared in April 2006 that anyone knowingly providing financial support for the LTTE could be jailed up to 10 years and those who raised funds or facilitated the work of the banned organization faced 14 years imprisonment, the LTTE operations continued unabated. The then Public Security Minister, Stockwell Day warned that anti-terrorism laws would be utilized to imprison and deport LTTE operatives? Minister Day urged members of Canada’s large Sri Lankan Tamil community to denounce the LTTE activists.
In justifying the ban, Day claimed that LTTE activists have used threats of violence to coerce Canadian Tamils into making financial contributions.
Six years after the Conservatives banned the LTTE, those who represented the interests of the group have emerged as Diaspora leaders propagating eelam. Interestingly, some of those who had been earlier represented by the LTTE, and the WTM today, publicly work with Canadian politicians, particularly the Conservatives.
LTTE hail Conservatives
The Canadian media captured Nehru Gunaratnam with Conservative politician Patrick Brown opposite the Canadian parliament on October 28, 2013 at a meeting organized by the LTTE to thank Premier Stephen and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Human Rights, John Baird for their decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo last November. Gunaratnam was seen in animated conversation with Brown, a well known LTTE sympathizer . At least four Canadian ministers and over a dozen MPs joined about 300 LTTE activists, including Gunaratnam. It would be pertinent to mention that Gunaratnam had been the spokesperson for the WTM, at that time it was proscribed in Canada. Due to Brown’s involvement with the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government denied visas to him and a parliamentary colleague, Paul Canandra to visit the Vanni at the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. Another LTTE sympathizer, Canadian MP Bob Rae (Liberal Party) too, was turned away at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). The presence of Canadian politicians at the gathering opposite the parliament made the Conservative government proscription of the LTTE as well as WTM nothing but a joke (CHOGM 2013: Low level Canadian delegation expected to visit Jaffna with strap line Premier Harper represented by Tanzanian of Indian origin, The Island , November 8, 2013).
Weapons training for Canadians
Canada has conveniently forgotten that some of those Canadians of Sri Lankan origin received weapons training under the guidance of LTTE instructors. In fact, Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Human Rights, John Baird, visited the Vanni at the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 to see the ground situation, particularly to meet two Canadians in military custody. The Canadians were held for allegedly fighting for the LTTE. Tanzania born Obhrai, the senior most MP of Indian origin in the Canadian parliament represented Premier Harper at the CHOGM 2013. During Obhrai’s weeklong stay, he caused controversy by laying a wreath in Elephant Pass in memory of minorities who died in the conflict. Obhrai’s gesture was meant to placate the LTTE.
The listing of the WTM as a terrorist organization in June 2008 paved the way for the formation of the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), the premier Diaspora organization in that country, two years later. In spite of the NCCT propagating WTM’s ideals publicly, the Canadian political establishment works closely with it. MP Obhrai and MP Parm Gill are widely believed to be closely working with the NCCT, therefore responsible for facilitating its operations. According to well informed sources based in Canada, MP Gill had facilitated a meeting between Obhrai and Nehru Gunaratnam. Interestingly, some senior Canadian diplomats assigned for its mission in Colombo, are believed to have met top NCCT representatives in the presence of Canadian politicians. Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, Shirley White is believed to have met NCCT representatives under the auspices of the Conservative government.
In January this year, the Canadian media reported that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaking with Nehru Gunaratnam, a key representative of federally listed terrorist organizations, while on a visit to a Toronto Kovil.
Wynne and Gunaratnam, along with city councillor, Michelle Berardinetti and Liberal MP Lorenzo Berardinetti, attended the event at the Kanthasamy Hindu Kovil to celebrate Thai Pongal, a Tamil festival that celebrates the end of the harvest season.
NCCT flexes muscles
Gunaratnam has emerged as one of the most influential NCCT representatives. Today, the NCCT is widely believed to be the most powerful Diaspora organization in Canada. The grouping is now pushing for parliamentary representation at the next general election in 2015. The grouping’s strategy is aimed at securing the support many Canadian MPs and also helping some Canadians of Sri Lankan origin to win seats at the next poll.
The ongoing campaign against Sri Lanka on the human rights front has helped the NCCT to consolidate its power and undermine those unwilling to accept its leadership. Jaffna born MP Rithika Sitsabaiesan (main Canadian Opposition New Democratic Party) is one of those who had earned the wrath of the NCCT for refusing to attend a conference on Tamil People’s Rights on March 2, 2013 on the sidelines of the UNHRC session in Geneva . A furious NCCT leadership directed Markham councillor Logan Kanapathy to take part in the event. The LTTE grouping is now promoting Kanapathy as a Liberal Party candidate for the newly created federal electorate, Scarborough North at next year’s polls. Kanapathy will battle Sitsabaiesan, who made an international media uproar by falsely claiming that the Sri Lankan government placed her under house arrest in Jaffna during a visit last January. Another Canadian of Sri Lankan origin contemplating a political carrier is Gary, son of TULF great V. Anandasangaree. Gary, who had been campaigning vigorously for an international war crimes probe is also eyeing a Liberal Party ticket (Canadian MP Rithika in hot water over Jaffna episode, The Island January 3, 2014).
Interestingly, Kanapathy was joined in Geneva by Conservative MP Patrick Brown and Liberal MP Jim Karrigiannis, to call for an international war crimes probe.
The NCCT went to the extent of preventing Sitsabaiesan from attending an event at the Queen’s Park, Toronto on May 18, 2013 to remember those who had been killed during the final phase of the conflict.
NDP MP Sitsabaiesan used her visit (late Dec 2013 to early Jan 2014), to lionize herself in the wake of the LTTE grouping back at home fielding a candidate of its own to sabotage her re-election bid. Sitsabaiesan first entered parliament in 2011. The Conservatives, the Liberals as well as the relatively young New Democratic Party will have no option but to go flat out against Sri Lanka to secure the support of Diaspora votes. Bashing Sri Lanka in the run-up to the Geneva vote on the US led resolution co sponsored by its allies will make Canadian political parties dear to Tamil voters.
Perhaps, Sri Lanka should expose ex-LTTE operatives now masquerading as human rights fighters and political activists in Canada. May be the government should bring their existence to the notice of Interpol, as well as taking the issue up with the Canadian High Commission in Colombo, and the Foreign Ministry.
The Paranchithy affair
Those who had been promoting separatist sentiments here have managed to infiltrate Canadian political parties at the highest level. There couldn’t be a better example than Canadian of Sri Lankan origin Gavan Paranchothy securing nomination from the Conservative Party to contest parliamentary polls in May, 2011. Paranchothy was among two Canadians of Sri Lankan origins to contest the polls. Although Paranchothy failed in his bid, Rithika Sitsabaiesan, who secured nomination from the New Democratic Party, succeeded in her first attempt.
But what made Paranchothy special was his relationship with Kumaran Pathmanathan aka ‘KP.’ In an exclusive interview with this writer in July 2011, KP said that Paranchothy was talking to him over the phone when Malaysian security agents swooped down on him on August 3, 2010. KP was at the First Tune Hotel on 316, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahaman Road, Kuala Lumpur. At that time of the Malaysian raid, KP was in charge of the LTTE in the wake of Prabhakaran’s killing on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 19, 2009. KP said that Paranchothy was the last to call him before his arrest (Canada polls: Last person to call ‘KP’ before his arrest now in the fray, The Island April 20, 2011).
Paranchothy had been in touch with many top Diaspora representatives, including Norway based Nediyawan, though he wasn’t definitely in the class of Nehru Gunaratnam. Gunaratnam is now a key leader in the consortium comprising the NCCT, the International Council of Tamil Eelam et al, spearheading the Canadian operation. The grouping is working closely with the British Tamil Forum (BTF) in the wake of the UK based group distancing itself from the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). The Sri Lankan government should realize that since the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009, the Diaspora groups have emerged stronger, primarily because they now have the freedom to work closely with whatever political party without being supervised by the LTTE military wing.
A Canadian attack on Sri Lanka at the UNGA on September 2012 revealed that the incumbent Conservative government’s relationship with the LTTE. Canadian Foreign Minister Baird went on the offensive at the UNGA, after an abortive bid to formalize an interactive dialogue on the LLRC process in Sri Lanka at the March 2012 session of the UNHRC in Geneva. In spite of promising External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris that the Canadian move would be on hold for the time being, Minister Baird went on to refer to Sri Lanka at the UNGA. The Sri Lanka Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohana promptly accused Canada of appeasing the LTTE, back at home at Sri Lanka’s expense.
Sri Lanka needs to reexamine the Canadian project directed in Sri Lanka. With the Diaspora set to increase its influence in parliament at the next parliamentary polls, Sri Lanka needs to study ground realities without further delay.