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  Opinion   Columnists  28 Sep 2023  Padma Rao Sundarji | Two-faced Canada is on a re-run of its LTTE policy

Padma Rao Sundarji | Two-faced Canada is on a re-run of its LTTE policy

The writer is a senior foreign correspondent and the author of Sri Lanka: The New Country
Published : Sep 29, 2023, 12:13 am IST
Updated : Sep 29, 2023, 12:13 am IST

Canada's own Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) identified at least eight fronts of the LTTE in Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP)
 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP)

Is India guilty of assassinating a terrorist in Canada? At least to one of India’s neighbours, Ottawa’s accusation will come as a boring re-run of Ottawa’s inglorious policies, of which it has long been a victim.

For 30 years, one of the world’s bloodiest civil wars had raged in Sri Lanka. What began as a separatist movement in the north and east, quickly escalated into a full-blown armed conflict led by the terror group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Thousands of frightened Tamils sought asylum in the affluent countries of the West.  

Given the West’s love for “freedom struggles” (as long as they were far away), diaspora groups backing the Tamil Tigers rapidly mushroomed in Canada, Australia, Britain and the EU. From 1983 onwards, these groups began to send money and ship weapons to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Banks -- and ports -- in Western countries looked the other way.

The LTTE invented the suicide vest, built a “navy”, in later years even a small “air force”, forcibly recruited child soldiers and routinely pushed infirm civilians to battle front lines as “covers” and “human shields”. It also assassinated a Sri Lankan President, India’s former PM Rajiv Gandhi and at least 55 other parliamentarians, activists, police officers and journalists. Western governments still pretended not to notice.

By the mid-late 2000s, Western intelligence agencies began to present findings. Canada's own Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) identified at least eight fronts of the LTTE in Canada. Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a 45-page report, minutely detailing the LTTE’s extortion tactics in Canada. A South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) report estimated that the LTTE were receiving $10 million per year from pro-LTTE groups in Canada alone. (Many years later, these findings were confirmed to me by the LTTE’s former chief overseas financer, K. Pathmanathan -- “KP” -- himself). Canada did nothing. By the time the Sri Lankan armed forces finally defeated the LTTE in May 2009, a total of 130,000 people had been killed.

Given the firepower of Sri Lanka’s armed forces at the time, why did it take three decades to end the war?

Primarily due to interference by the Western countries, including and especially Canada, the UK and the EU. In extensive interviews both during and after the civil war, Sri Lanka’s Army brass confirmed that Colombo was threatened with sanctions and ordered to call ceasefires, each time victory was imminent. The Tigers used each pause to recruit, replenish and refresh their terror campaign. And when they were ready, they would start fighting again.

Canada and the EU were and remain victims of the moronic syndrome known as “Wokeness”, towards conflicts they neither fully understand nor face themselves. However, it must be admitted that India, too, initially treated the LTTE as “freedom fighters” and armed, trained and funded them. It is only after the brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi that New Delhi -- and soon the United States -- banned the LTTE.

In 2006 -- merely three years before the war ended, a Conservative Canadian government finally proscribed the LTTE as an “organisation known for its commitment to using indiscriminate terror tactics and suicide bombings”.

Global bans didn’t end the war, Colombo did: by ignoring Western pressure and launching its final offensive against the LTTE. Whether he is revered or reviled today, the majority of Sri Lankans acknowledge that it was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government that enabled that long-awaited victory.

Of the worldwide nearly nine lakh-strong Tamil diaspora, nearly 2-3 lakh live in Canada today. The majority still shun the LTTE. However, small but influential groups still support separatism in Sri Lanka. Consequently, the defeat of the LTTE only saw an escalation of global pressure.

The West insists that 40,000 Tamil civilians alone (unsubstantiated till date) and not a total of around 12,000 (as substantiated by the ICRC on the ground in Sri Lanka at the time) were wilfully slaughtered by the Sri Lankan Army, and that it (and the Rajapaksas) must be subjected to international investigation. Sri Lanka’s current economic mess has only served to turn the screws tighter.

Canada’s own history of human rights isn’t quite covered in glory:

*After World War II, it shoved citizens of Ukrainian origin into concentration camps.

*It used Chinese labour to build its railways, but once done, it did its level best to keep Chinese migrants out.

*After Pearl Harbour was bombed, Canada seized and auctioned properties belonging to Japanese Canadians and detained them in camps.

*It “resettled” Inuit Indians against their will in the High Arctic, only to claim the inhospitable territory.

*It set up “residential schools” for Canada's original aboriginal inhabitants.

What is Liberal PM Justin Trudeau’s avowed stand on Sri Lanka today?

A year before Mr Trudeau’s 2018 India visit (when a fetching Sophie Trudeau was photographed with a convicted Khalistani terrorist in Mumbai), he had met and posed with the chief of a banned Tamil organisation at an event in Canada. A photo was posted on Twitter by Mr Trudeau’s principal secretary and labelled “good people”.

In May 2023, when Sri Lanka celebrated its annual Victory Day to mark the end of the war, Mr Trudeau chose to commemorate the same as the “Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day” instead.

An enraged Colombo summoned the Canadian high commissioner in Sri Lanka and told his government where to get off. “Such irresponsible … pronouncements… breed disharmony and hatred… instead of promoting peace and reconciliation,” read an official statement.

Mr Trudeau’s popularity is waning. The Conservatives are gaining ground again.  But unlike the beaver -- Canada’s national animal -- which moults every summer, this is a nation which will never shed its double standards, whosoever comes to power.

The Conservative leaders are also striking a pro-LTTE and, by default, an anti-Colombo stance. Some have promised to de-list the Tamil Tigers if they return to power. Others are openly appealing to pro-separatist Canadian Tamils. Not to be outdone by a single vote when elections are held at the latest by 2025, both major parties now associate Sri Lanka with only one word: “genocide”.

“Today, (we) renew our call for accountability for those who perpetrated this genocide,” said Conservative chief Pierre Poilievre, also on Sri Lanka’s Victory Day. His statement refers to “unimaginable atrocities, genocide and war crimes” against Tamil Sri Lankans during the Sri Lankan civil war.

But what about the LTTE, who kidnapped schoolkids and put them in suicide jackets?

There’s not even a passing mention.

Tags: justin trudeau, liberation tigers of tamil eelam (ltte), khalistan