Articles

Still No Tiger Ban

By July 22, 2005 No Comments

One problem with reading your news over the internet at breakfast is the risk of spewing coffee all over the keyboard when something really outrageous pops up on your monitor. This is what happened last January on learning Ottawa’s latest excuse for continuing to refuse to list the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist group. Apparently, our Federal government believes listing the Tigers would impair the peace process in Sri Lanka.

Incredible as it may seem, a few decade ago Canada’s civil servants and diplomats were regarded as being among the most professional in the world. One wonders what happened. On the other hand, we’ve been told on several occasions that the current custom of briefing papers for many cabinet ministers is to keep things to a single sheet with large type; so perhaps our senior mandarins are not entirely at fault.

Yet it really doesn’t matter whether there are too many inexperienced foreign affairs experts loose in the halls of government, or if some cabinet ministers get their briefs from cocktail parties or at New Age encounter sessions. Either way, Canada’s continued refusal to take action against the Tamil Tigers is a mistake of incredible magnitude, a disgrace to Canadian diplomacy and a betrayal of some of our own citizens.

Here is the brief that our Cabinet ministers should have received.

  1. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups. They fomented a civil war that has claimed some 65,000 lives; pioneered the use of the suicide belt bomb; are the only group to have killed two national leaders; and used – until Arafat started the Second Intifada in 2000 – more suicide attackers than the combined total of all other terrorist groups around the world.
  2. The LTTE is highly advanced in their use of political and fundraising techniques. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, the Tigers raised the standards for all other groups with the size and sophistication of their international fundraising and political apparatus. Having first created an international Diaspora of Sri Lankan Tamils, they have battened on this overseas community to fuel their insurgency ever since. This has meant that Tamils living in Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom were expected to toe the Tiger line and contribute to their war chest.
  3. The Tigers are active in Canada. The primary leadership groups for the Tamil Community in Canada are fronts for the Tamil Tigers. They raise money here for the terrorists and strive to advance the Tiger cause. Although the leaders of the Tamil community (almost all appointed from within the ranks of the Fronts) claim there are about 250,000 Sri Lankan Tamils here, our last census only found some 92,000 people who claimed Tamil as their birth language.
  4. This Tiger presence is not good for us. The LTTE’s open presence here undermines Canada’s credibility, weakens our relations with other nations, and costs our taxpayers enormous sums of money. This last point reflects the incredible costs that accrue from illegal immigration (an LTTE fundraising specialty) and the subsidies from Canadian governments – particularly Ottawa – to their front organizations for immigration related services.
  5. The Tiger presence is not good for Canadian Tamils. There have been physical attacks on Canadian Tamils who have stood up against the Tigers. Others resent the imposition of war taxes, the intimidation of their community, and the false hero worship that the Tigers’ fronts encourage. Canadian Tamils cannot be free to fully participate in Canadian life until they are rid of the Tiger presence.

Other countries have taken action to limit the ability of LTTE to dominate and feed off their expatriate communities. Plainly, they recognized the first five points as they pertained to Diaspora Tamils in their own nations.

Now for some fundamental lessons about terrorists and peace processes…

  1. Terrorism is not a ‘political’ problem. Yes, terrorism certainly has a political dimension, but treating a symptom is not the same thing as attacking the disease. The real ‘root cause’ of terrorism lies within the internal psychological domain of the leaders who create terrorist movements – for reasons associated with their own self-image and personal ambitions. You can not hope to tackle a terrorist group without recognizing this.
  2. Look how well the “Peace Process” worked with Arafat and in Ulster. Arafat used the 1994 Oslo Agreement to return to the West Bank (although Palestinians were certainly not unanimous about the benefits of his return). He then connived at increased attacks on Israel, culminating in the murderous Second Intifada of 2000-2004. The culmination of ten years of non-progress in Ulster – all thanks to the intractability of the IRA and Sinn Fein – was the multi-million dollar bank robbery of last December. Arafat and the ‘Hard Men’ of the IRA were alike in being absolutely unwilling to disarm and learn the arts of peaceful negotiation.
  3. The Tigers don’t care About Peace. As a result of the 9-11 attacks, it looked like most Western nations were about to take a far more aggressive stand against international terrorism – even Canada was contemplating a set of tough new anti-terror laws. Locked into a stalemated campaign against the Sri Lankan Army, the LTTE evidently feared that they could be badly damaged in their overseas sanctuaries, and so declared a sudden new interest in peace talks in February 2002. However, they have refused to yield on any substantive issues and have taken advantage of the pause to restock their cadres (with child soldiers especially), their arsenal, and their war chest.
  4. The Tigers are gearing up for the war again. Even before the 2004 Tsunami, the LTTE showed clear signs that they were preparing to restart the war. They were holding rallies and running communications to their Diaspora community to mentally prepare them for this in the Autumn of 2004, and have used opportunities caused by the December Tsunami to try and create a casus belli. Even now, a pattern of provocative skirmishes (such as the Tigers engaged in before 1983) has begun in Sri Lanka.
  5. Do we want to share responsibility for the renewal of the civil war in Sri Lanka? Insurgents love having sanctuary areas – places where they can recruit, raise money, refit and rest. It is the one asset that all terrorists dream of having, and the first advantage that those who fight against them must seek to eliminate. Canada’s refusal to act against the LTTE has provided them with such a sanctuary, and has no doubt been a major consideration in the Tigers’ assessment of their situation. What Afghanistan was to Bin Laden, so Canada is to the Tigers.

Finally, let’s inject some realism into our conceptions about peace. The purpose of diplomacy and negotiation is not about gaining recognition and status for foreign ministers and their home country – it is about ending the waste of human lives and the destruction of property as quickly but also as permanently as possible. Against this, nothing else matters.

As an aside, the modern penchant for many Western nations to jump into peace talks with both flat feet is not always welcome. In May of 2004, for instance, the author was in Israel and the West Bank. The time spent with a Palestinian driver-translator on the West Bank was particularly instructive for both of us; and he asked me if I thought peace was possible between his people and the Israelis. I thought that it was, provided that they separated themselves. He went quiet for a while and then exploded later: “I wish next time we talk peace, everyone else would stay out! We just need one person – someone that we both respect – to handle negotiations. We don’t need everyone else!”

After some discussion, it turned out that Arabs and Anglo-Saxons have a similar expression –that too many cooks spoil the meal. If we still feel compelled to help out, remember this…

  1. Terrorist leaders are people who chose violence to achieve status and influence – don’t give them what they want. Terrorism must not be seen to be effective, and those who resort to atrocity and deception to earn themselves a favorable mention in history cannot be allowed to achieve this.
  2. Why respect the dignity of terrorist leaders? With the passage of years, terrorist leaders inevitably grow corrupt and tyrannize the very people they claim to lead… and with the LTTE, its founder wasted no time in reaching this stage. There are hundreds of thousands of Tamils who want delivery from the LTTE and a peaceful life. Who are we to deny them this?
  3. Peace is not a good substitute for victory. In 1938, Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich with an agreement signed by Hitler, promising “peace in our time”. In 1945, Germany and Japan’s cities were burned-out rubble, their armies broken, their fleets sunk, and the boots of the Allied forces were on their soil. Chamberlain’s negotiated peace lasted barely eleven months, victory brought a peace to Western Europe and much of the Pacific that has endured for 60 years so far. Moreover, the Japanese and Germans are close allies and valued friends now.
  4. We can make a contribution to peace in Sri Lanka. All we have to do is demolish the ability of the LTTE’s fronts to operate here – this will deprive the Tigers of a vital source of revenue and go far to damage their credibility and prestige. If we act quickly, we may even prevent the war from starting up again. The people of Sri Lanka (Sinhalese and Tamils alike) can do the rest, particularly if they know the Tigers have just been seriously weakened.
  5. Ottawa already implicitly recognizes that the Tigers are terrorists. No surprise here; the police and security agencies of the Federal Government have long known exactly what the Tigers are. Moreover, Ottawa’s statement that we will not list the Tigers because we do not want to endanger the “peace process” in Sri Lanka now puts the onus on the LTTE. If they succeed in restarting the war, or even continue to refuse to make real progress, then it is incumbent on Ottawa to act against them.

So, let’s give peace a chance for once, and work to close down the Tiger’s fronts in Canada. Besides, I’m not sure my keyboard could survive another dose of coffee…