Book in Review:
Traitors: Suspicion, Intimacy and the Ethics of State Building, edited by Sharika Thiranagama and Tobias Kelly, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2010, 272 pp.
As a prelude to my review of this book, I offer the following definitions taken from The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001), as the co-editors in their introduction to the book had failed to define, who is a traitor or a collaborator or an informer. They as well as other contributors use these terms synonymously. While Thiranagama in her chapter on Eelam/Sri Lanka scene opted to use the word traitor (in singular or plural) over 100 times, Kelly in his chapter on Palestine preferred to use the word collaborator (in singular or plural) to that of traitor. In his chapter, ‘traitor’ word appears only once and that too within parenthesis to illustrate its Arabic equivalent khawana.
Hero: a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
Traitor: a person who betrays a friend, country, principle etc.
Collaborator: (one) who work jointly on an activity, esp. to produce or create something.
Informer: a person who informs on another person to the police or other authority.
As one could notice, there is a subtle difference between the words, traitor and collaborator. Primarily, a traitor has to “betray” a friend or a country, or a principle”. Secondarily, for a traitor to betray a ‘principle’, he should be first associated with that principle. Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold were traitors by this definition. A collaborator need not betray a friend; but may betray a ‘country’ by his principle. A collaborator need not be associated with the principle beforehand. In recent Sri Lankan history, Lakshman Kadirgamar was a collaborator (as he was not associated with the Eelam principle beforehand). Col. Karuna and Douglas Devananda are both (a traitor and a collaborator), as they were associated with the Eelam principle and then betrayed it to become collaborators. In current milieu (e.g: USA and Russia), those who betray their country’s military secrets are considered as traitors; thus, relieving an identification of a specific hero. Traitors and collaborators may function as informers as well, depending on the demands forced on them.
In the Introduction page, the co-editors begin with a reference to English novelist Edward Morgan Forster’s (1879-1970) quip, ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’. But, fail to explore in depth the meaning of this controversial quip, beyond page 1! There is no reference to an interesting, previously published an essay by Professor Robert D. King on the same theme (‘Treason and Traitors’) in Society journal in 1989. King had provided the following context to E.M. Forster’s controversial quip. Excerpts follow:
“E.M. Forster stated in 1937 that, faced with a choice between betraying his friend and betraying his country, he hped he would have guts to betray his country. Since then, in the minds of a certain number of American and British intellectuals, friendship, courage (‘guts’), and treason have had a certain connection – a potential connection if not an actual one….
E.M. Forster’s (Cambridge sage-in-residence, King’s College, and an Apostle) statement – about hoping he would have the guts to betray his country rather than his friend – sounds very 1930s Oxford/Cambridge, very British young intelligentsia vintage 1935.”
Then, King links the ‘Cambridge Five’ (Philby, Blunt, Maclean, Burgess – the spy traitors who passed the secrets to Stalin’s Soviet Union) who were in cahoots with Forster! And King’s inference was this.
“Forster’s choice – betray your country or betray your friend – turns out to have been a false one. What we learn from the British spies is this: you betray your country and you will probably end up betraying your friend, your friend’s friend, your wife, your children, and everyone else in sight – that’s what Philby did.
Forster’s is a false dichotomy. A country is after all a network of families, friends, and institutions: people….Betrayal is a garment without seams, and one betrayal inexorably leads to another: codes, secrets, troop movements, agents, friends, lovers, wives – all part of the seamless web of betrayal. That, ultimately, is the sad and ironic lesson of the British spies…” It is a pity that Thiranagama and Kelly had ignored this fascinating commentary on traitors by King.
Lack of a discussion between the traits of a traitor and that hero in the introductory chapter was a disappointment for me. The focus of this book seems either to present the traitor as a hero to the community, or to blur the identities of a hero and the traitor. As such, I have prepared a table comparing the traits of a hero and a traitor and present it with this review. I could recognize seven inter-related criteria which distinguishes a hero and a traitor. These include charisma, trust, skill, originality, perceived faults, fame and identity. I also provide some historical examples for heroes and traitors.
Following the introduction by the joint editors, ten chapters contributed by 10 academics (including the two editors) comprise the contents of the book. The names of academics and the region (or country) of conflict are listed below, in the order as their contributions appear in the book.
Lars Buur (Mozambique)
Nayanika Mookherjee (Bangladesh)
Richard W.Whitecross (Bhutan)
Julia C. Strauss (China/Taiwan)
Simon Turner (Burundi)
Sharika Thiranagama (Eelam/Sri Lanka)
Steffen Jensen (South Africa)
Tobias Kelly (West Bank Palestine)
Kamran Rastegar (Iran)
Istan Rev (Hungary)
Continent-wise, Asia (including Palestine) is predominantly covered with 7 chapters. Africa is represented by two chapters, and Europe with one chapter. American continent (North, Central and South) has been excluded. Even the Hungarian case in Europe relates to the 1956 uprise. Notable omissions from Europe include, Ireland, former federal state of Yugoslavia (which had split into numerous states within 20 years) as well as Russian conflict involving Chechen separatists. It is somewhat ironic that Tobias Kelly (the joint editor) couldn’t find any academic who had studied the Irish-British conflict, which was nearer home. Whole sale omission of American continent makes this collection rather lopsided! Weren’t there any traitors in the conflicts which raged in Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Chile in the 20th century?
Steffen Jensen covering South African conflict between the native Africans (represented by African National Congress or ANC) and Whites in a coloured township at Cape Town provides the following clarity. “Treason amounts to denouncing one’s identity, betraying it, and collaborating with the enemy. In other words, treason means acting against one’s natural polity on behalf of those who wish to destroy it.” He had covered the dilemma of ‘coloured community’ (those who couldn’t be categorized with the native African blacks, and predominantly from the Indian subcontinent). These coloureds “occupied a position – although marginal – within white South Africa, and they received more state attention (for better or for worse) and had better options than Africans.” Some among the coloureds opted to identify with the Blacks. However, Jensen records appropriately, “it is fair to say that the ANC and Africans in general have never really trusted the coloureds and their loyalty to the new South Africa.” In Eelam/Sri Lanka, Muslim ethnics could be equated to the position occupied by the coloureds in South Africa. Though they were Tamil-speaking, majority among the Muslims opted to side with the Sinhalese for business/job opportunities and privileges. As such, they were not trusted by the Tamils, or even by the Sinhalese!
It is my impression that Thiranagama and Kelly (co-editors) have tried their best to polish the image of traitors from the stigma this nasty group of anti-socials do face in many societies. Have they succeeded in their mission? I strongly doubt. This book was the outcome of a ‘Traitors Workshop’ organized by the co-editors at the University of Edinburgh. When it took place? No detailed information is provided in the book, other than cryptic acknowledgement to this workshop in the notes to the chapters at the end. My prime focus in this review will be on the two chapters authored by the joint editors, because of the states they had chosen to cover, namely Eelam/Sri Lanka and Palestine.
Thiranagama makes a banal statement about whom Tamils consider as traitors. “When I asked Tamils if Sinhalese or Muslims could be considered traitors, the answer was unequivocal – only Tamils could be traitors; Sinhalese and Muslims were instead ethiri (enemies). This implies that she herself was clueless on the definition of a traitor. The dictionary definition for a traitor clearly states, “a person who betrays a friend, country, principle”. By this definition, Sinhalese and Muslims are excluded.
Again, she couldn’t clearly recognize who was the traitor during the 2004 split of LTTE. In the foot-note 8 to the chapter she gullibly records, “in eastern Sri Lanka by the 2002 split (sic) of the LTTE into northern and eastern factions, both claiming that civilians working with the other are traitors.” Let me clarify the issue here. Prabhakaran was the leader of LTTE. Colonel Karuna (who subscribed to LTTE’s ideals of a separate Eelam state under Prabhakaran, until March 2004) deserted LTTE. After leaving LTTE, Karuna (prodded by his intelligence handlers and the anti-Tamil media) projected himself as the ‘real’ Tamil leader, and even presented a phony Maveerar day’s address, in a ‘recording room’ in November 2004, in competition with Prabhakaran. Even many international journalists, like Frances Harrison, who covered the Sri Lankan conflict for BBC, were fooled by Karuna’s braggadocio. Until he died in May 2009, Prabhakaran did not deviate from his ideal of a separate Eelam state. But, what was the fate of traitor Karuna? Within few years after his desertion from LTTE, he couldn’t even sustain his newly formed party with a grandiose name Tamil Makkal Viduthali Pulikal (TMVP), he couldn’t even continue to deliver his Maveerar day’s annual address, and finally he surrendered to the enemy party of Eelam Tamils, for his survival. However, Thiranagama attempts to present Karuna (the traitor) in a shining armor; but, Tamils as well as Sinhalese know well that he was indeed a traitor. Nine years later, what is his current status now?
Thiranagama mentions that she did fieldwork for this study “among Tamils in Sri Lanka and Canada”. I would assert that her field work in Canada is defective and the samples are chosen selectively to endorse her viewpoint. Among the 20-odd citations she includes for her chapter, she had omitted a vital reference on a traitor (Kumaravelu Vignarajah, who belonged to the Mahattiah group in 1980s) that appeared in the Maclean’s magazine of August 15, 1996 with the by-line Paul Kaihia. For those who are interested in his story, I provide the entire text (a little over 3,000 words) as an appendix.
Kelly’s chapter on the collaborators among West Bank Palestinians is informative for the following facts. “Mousa Arafat, the nephew of Yasser Arafat and the former head of military intelligence, was widely known by the Hebrew version of his name, Moshe, because of his ties to the Israeli security forces. He was later assassinated in 2004 by unknown assailants in the Gaza Strip.” Even if one is a nephew of the leader of PLO and shares the same family name, if he turns into a collaborator, his life will not be spared for his betrayal! Kelly also had described the fate of a Palestinian collaborator as follows: “In March 2002, a Palestinian from the refugee camp of Amari, stripped to the waist and his hands tied behind his back, was marched into the main traffic circle in the town by masked gunmen and shot dead. He was then hung by the feet from the large scaffold that stood in the center of the circle and left to swing upside down as the cars drove past.” This sort of treatment to collaborators still continues in Gaza city, as one could see the photo which appeared in the International Herald Tribune (New York Times) of December 4, 2012. I provide a scan of this photo nearby. Kelly’s chapter offers good evidence that what was happening in Eelam during LTTE’s reign for traitors was not unusual at all. An example was the fate of Tamil traitor, identified as PLOTE Mohan (real name Kandiah Yogarajah) who was assassinated on July 31, 2004. The pathetic plait of traitors in any culture is that, they are not even remembered by their handlers, after their death!
I allow Robert King to have the last word on this traitor theme. In his 1989 essay, he admonished us, “We owe it to our own integrity and clarity of thinking to resist the urge to romanticize the traitor, the spy.” Even, Stephan Feuchtwang who contributed the ‘Afterword: Questions of Judgment’ for this book shared the same sentiments: “I don’t want simply to say ‘hooray for traitors’. That is too easy. It would deny the other moral feeling, which I share, the honourable feeling by which we condemn traitors.”
In sum, despite the limitations, this book offers some insight into (1) how a traitor’s mind operates, (2) fate of traitors in many contemporary cultures, (3) prevailing personal bias of academics who study treason and traitors, and last but not the least, (4) the obstacles in sample collection.
Banker, Tiger, soldier, spy: a Tamil immigrant’s arrest masks a tale of international intrigue
[source: Paul Kaihia, Maclean’s, Canada, August 15, 1996]
Colleagues at the Bank of Nova Scotia found the hardworking teller, with his cosmopolitan manners and exotic accent, a welcome distraction in the beige, workaday world of a suburban bank. Vic Vignarajah’s smooth talk, impeccable dress and cheerful outlook made him a favorite with both customers and staff at the Toronto-area branch, winning him an award for best employee. But a radically different image of the 37-year-old Tamil immigrant began to emerge on May 9 when roughly 20 RCMP detectives and heavily armed officers in SWAT fatigues arrested Vignarajah at gunpoint in the bank’s parking lot shortly before lunch. In allegations contained in a search warrant application filed that day — and yet to be proven in court — investigators say that Kumaravelu Vignarajah (his real name) was an area commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the guerrilla army that has waged a war of independence against the government of Sri Lanka for 13 years and, in 1991, established a reputation as one of the world’s most feared terrorist organizations by assassinating former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
What is more, according to the court records, Vignarajah had not only been a Tiger allegedly implicated in bloody violence, but also a Sri Lankan military intelligence informant — playing both sides in the country’s dirty civil war (page 30). According to the RCMP documents, Vignarajah, by “infiltrating” Canada’s national police force as a part-time translator of top-secret wiretaps in 1994, “did wilfully attempt to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice by: being a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and or a member of the Sri Lankan military intelligence.” That revelation is stunning in light of two facts. For one thing, Vignarajah’s affiliation with the Tigers was common knowledge before he came to Canada in 1989. For another, he was accepted as a landed immigrant after making a refugee claim using his real name — and passing a security check by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Vignarajah, who told Maclean’s last week that he does not know why he is in jail and that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, now faces eight charges related to infiltrating the RCMP. He has also been charged with making a false statement on his refugee claim — by denying that he has ever committed a crime or offence. And as he awaits trial, his case raises troubling questions about the twisted, often byzantine world of Canada’s security agencies, as well as the extent to which the politics of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict have spilled over into Canada.
In fact, during a three-week investigation into the murky Vignarajah affair, Maclean’s has learned that: Vignarajah’s career as a double agent continued in Canada. A senior Sri Lankan intelligence officer says that he was actively passing information to the Sri Lankan authorities while in the RCMP’s employ. Other sources say that he was also supplying RCMP secrets to the LTTE — classified as “a terrorist organization” by the Canadian government, and linked by European Union officials to the Mafia and drug trafficking. CSIS was fully aware of Vignarajah’s Tiger past, according to federal sources. But, wanting to capitalize on it for its own ends, they did not inform the RCMP. Vignarajah’s connection to Sri Lankan intelligence could hardly have come as a surprise to the Mounties — he applied for his translations job on the strength of two letters of recommendation from the military intelligence directorate in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.
Vignarajah is not alone: more than 30 leading figures from various Tamil rebel groups, as well as up to 10,000 former guerrillas, are currently residing in Canada, most of them having gained refugee status by concealing their past. Some of them, police sources say, are actively involved in fund-raising efforts for the Tamil independence struggle — efforts that often involve extortion. Some of the funds are directed towards arms purchases. “If an independent Tamil nation is ever formed,” one federal official drily noted, “half of those people will end up in the cabinet.”
Most of Canada’s 150,000 Tamils live in the Toronto area, and that is where Vignarajah settled when he arrived in the country as a refugee claimant seven years ago. Vignarajah was raised in the northern Sri Lankan town of Atchuvely, the son of a wealthy coconut plantation owner. “I’m from a very rich family,” he said in an interview last week. After completing the equivalent of high school in 1978, he studied banking and got ‘a senior job’ in the nearby city of Jaffna at the Bank of Ceylon in 1982. By that time, ethnic tensions between the country’s ruling Sinhalese population and Tamil minority had repeatedly erupted in violence — largely at the expense of the Tamils. But Tamil guerrilla activity escalated dramatically after 1983, when Sinhalese thugs went on a rampage that left more than 3,000 Tamils dead. In the shadow of that escalating violence, Vignarajah began his murky double life as both a Tiger and an informant for the Sri Lankan authorities. Asked last week about his LTTE membership, Vignarajah referred a Maclean’s reporter to his lawyer, adding, ‘I can’t answer those kinds of questions right now.’
It is unclear whether the banker’s initial loyalty was to the militants or Sri Lankan military intelligence. But he allegedly began his career with the LTTE as a collaborator. According to the Canadian court records, Vignarajah, whose LTTE code name was “Nishantan,” informed the Tigers about the finances of bank clients from whom the guerrillas then extorted funds. He rose rapidly: by 1986, Nishantan had become a close aide to Tiger co-leader Gopalaswamy Mahendrarajah — alias ‘Mahathaya.’
The following year, the Tigers launched a bloody campaign against Indian peacekeepers who had been sent to the Jaffna peninsula by Gandhi to guarantee a fragile peace accord with the Sri Lankan government. That November, India Today, a New Delhi-based mass-market newsmagazine, published a shocking cover photo showing armed Tigers standing over the bodies of slaughtered Indian peacekeepers. According to former Tigers interviewed by Maclean’s and a forensic photo analysis cited in the Toronto court records, Vignarajah was one of the armed men in the cover photo. (In their court submission, the RCMP say that under questioning Vignarajah ‘denied killing anyone,’ although he also said ‘if he did kill anyone he was following orders.’)
Little did the Tigers know that Mahathaya’s trusted confidant was, in fact, cooperating with Sri Lankan military intelligence the whole time. The high-ranking intelligence official who controlled Nishantan told Maclean’s that Vignarajah was recruited as a spy in 1982. Sri Lanka’s intelligence service came to regard him as a top agent after he confirmed information obtained from a captured Tiger guerrilla that led to a raid on a major arms cache in Vignarajah’s home town on Jan. 9, 1985. The raid, in which the Tigers’ deputy leader was killed, was a staggering blow to the LTTE – and remains the largest weapons seizure by the army in the civil war. But in 1989, after quitting his job at the bank the year before, Vignarajah told his controller that the LTTE’s ruthless leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, suspected him of being a spy — and asked for help to flee the country. The intelligence officer wrote him the two letters of recommendation. Eighteen months after Nishantan’s picture had appeared on the cover of India Today, he travelled to Canada and applied for refugee status using his real name. According to an immigration official familiar with his file, Vignarajah claimed he was fleeing persecution not only from the Tigers, but also the Sri Lankan authorities. Said the official: “It was your standard Tamil story: ‘I’m being squeezed by the Tigers as well as from the government side.'” Vignarajah would only say, ‘I came to this country because I like the peaceful life.’
The Immigration and Refugee Board accepted Vignarajah as a refugee on Dec. 22, 1989. Before acquiring landed immigrant status, he passed a standard, secret security check conducted by CSIS and known as a ‘Stage B.’ He received landed immigrant status on Aug. 6, 1991; by 1994, Nishantan was a Canadian citizen. After settling in Toronto, Vignarajah used his banking experience in Jaffna to get his senior teller’s job in Canada. And in 1994, he used the two letters of recommendation from the Sri Lankan intelligence officer to get a job with the RCMP. According to the Canadian court records, Vignarajah worked in the ‘wire room’ of the RCMP’s Toronto headquarters, translating confidential wiretaps for an investigation into local Tamil alien smugglers and document forgers, some of whom had ties to the Tigers. ‘Vignarajah was being groomed for future translation and wiretap projects by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and would have been recommended to other police agencies,’ the RCMP submission says.
That statement is all the more incredible given the following twist: according to a high-ranking federal official in a different branch of the government, CSIS had identified Vignarajah as a senior Tiger before he went to work for the RCMP — and never told the Mounties. ‘My information is that they knew he was working for the RCMP translating wiretaps and they wanted him to go back in and become an activist with local Tiger front groups,’ said the official. CSIS agent Gerald Baker, who specializes in Tamil investigations, had no comment. ‘I’m not able to talk about service investigations,’ said Baker.
A few months after the wiretap project, sources in the Tamil community tipped an embarrassed RCMP off to Vignarajah’s Tiger past. When confronted, the court papers say, Vignarajah offered to provide the force with intelligence on the LTTE and immigration frauds. Instead, he was arrested. In a raid on Vignarajah’s home that day, investigators found the following items: the 1986 edition of the Shooter’s Bible, a weapons manual favored by outlaw militia groups; transcripts and tapes from the RCMP Tamil investigation; electronic equipment allegedly stolen from the RCMP wire room; and a resume stating that he was employed by ‘the RCMP Central Government Secret Intelligence Service.’
In fact, Vignarajah was an agent for an intelligence service at the time — but it had nothing to do with the RCMP. Vignarajah’s former Sri Lankan controller says that the banker re-established contact with military intelligence after settling in Toronto, and ‘gave valuable information on LTTE operations in Canada, as well as on LTTE’s international operations’ until the end of last year. At the same time, at least two Tamil police informants in Toronto — one of whom identified Vignarajah to the RCMP as a Tiger in the first place — say that Vignarajah was passing Mountie secrets to senior LTTE officials (an allegation he denies). ‘There was some kind of communication going on between Vigna and the Tigers,’ said one of the informants. ‘Why do you think he had the tapes and the transcripts?’
Vignarajah is only one of dozens of alleged high-ranking Tamil terrorists who have entered Canada under false pretences. According to interviews with government officials and Tamil sources in both Sri Lanka and Canada, including former senior Tigers and supporters of the terrorist organization, more than 30 leading figures from various Tamil rebel groups are currently residing Canada. In addition, says one former high-ranking Tamil militant now in Toronto, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 of his countrymen in Canada who have received military training in guerrilla boot camps — and fought in the civil war. Some Tamils note that, given the history of persecution they have suffered, that fact should not be surprising. And, they add, Canadians should not be dismayed that many attempt to hide their past when they make refugee claims. ‘They were involved in armed activities and they all lied because of the system,’ said the ex-militant. “If you make up stories, then you’re OK. But if you try to be honest to the government and tell the truth, they’ll say, “We believe you did a crime against humanity.'”
Canadian government, law enforcement and intelligence officials are quite aware of the extent of the Tamil rebel network in Canada, and claim that those who are still active are using the country as a base for intelligence-gathering and raising money for arms shipments. Said one law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity: “I’m amazed that there are so many people who have been trained by a group that our government says is a terrorist organization, and we’re letting them in. I just can’t believe how stupid we are.”
Their presence also helps explain why Canada’s Tamil community is rife with fear, paranoia and extortion. ‘Most of the Tamils here are hardworking people who pay taxes and hate the Tigers,’ says one Tamil immigrant who recently learned that a relative had been executed in a Tiger-run prison camp in northern Sri Lanka. ‘The Tigers are always threatening them and asking for money for the war back home.’ Added a Tamil community activist who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals: ‘I love this country, but I have to tell you that new Tiger people are arriving every day. Canada should kick them all out. Why are they bringing the civil war here? Don’t bring the old sicknesss to the new society.’
Vignarajah is not the only ex-Tiger to become entangled in that dilemma. Thalayasingam Sivakumar, a former major in the LTTE, has been involved in a seven-year battle with Canadian immigration authorities. According to affidavits filed last year in the Federal Court of Canada, he was an informant for CSIS from 1989 until last year. Sivakumar, 39, is the most senior Tiger known to have taken up residence in Canada. He joined the rebel organization as a student organizer at the age of 21 in 1978, and was kicked out by leader Prabhakaran 10 years later. In between, he oversaw the mass production of LTFE antitank mines, won appointment as the Tigers’ chief of intelligence and acted as the military commander in charge of the defence of Jaffna in 1987.
He made a refugee claim in Canada on June 16, 1989. In fact, Sivakumar, and a former LTTE captain who was also interviewed by Maclean’s, are the only Tamil militants who have disclosed their LTTE affiliation to the refugee board. The board rejected both of their claims on the grounds that their membership in the Tigers made them accomplices in crimes against humanity — a ruling that both are appealing. In an interview with Maclean’s, Sivakumar, who works in Toronto as a supervisor for the tax preparation firm H and R Block, vehemently denied taking part in terrorist acts. But according to Sri Lankan intelligence files, the former major was allegedly involved in the killing of 18 policemen, political rivals and other civilians in nine separate attacks between January, 1981, and April, 1983. ‘This is all bullshit,’ said Sivakumar, reacting with anger when a Maclean’s reporter listed the allegations. ‘Don’t believe it. This is all lies from the most fascist government in the world.’
Still, the Canadian government took a keen interest in Sivakumar after his arrival in Toronto. In court affidavits, Sivakumar said that CSIS recruited him as an informant in exchange for monthly payments of 8200 and help in obtaining landed immigrant papers (his status is still in limbo). In a filed response, the agency denies making such a deal, but does acknowledge getting intelligence from Sivakumar. In his affidavit, the former Tiger major says that CSIS investigator Dann Martel asked him about LTTE fund-raising in Canada, arms purchases and ‘covert LTTE offices in Canada and their activities.’ The CSIS agent also showed Sivakumar pictures of suspected Tigers living in Canada, as well as lists of names, and asked for information about the individuals. ‘CSIS knows a lot of things,’ Sivakumar says. ‘They are very powerful people.’
There is a lot to know. Maclean’s has learned that among the senior Tamil rebels in Canada are a former LTTE intelligence squad chief; an ex-Tiger zone commander in Jaffna who now delivers pizzas in Toronto; a senior leader from a faction called the Eelam Revolutionary Organization; and an ex-priest who was arrested in 1982 in Sri Lanka for an attack on a police station and acting as an accomplice in a major bank robbery led by Prabhakaran. ‘Every group has senior people here,’ said a former Tiger captain, who left the LTTE in 1990 and came to Canada the following year as a refugee.
While many of the ex-militants are keeping a low profile, those who are still active are primarily involved in raising funds for the Tigers through donation drives, concerts — and extortion. Typically, Tamils who are targeted are asked to pay six per cent of their gross income to Tiger bagmen. Back home, if a Tamil wants to leave an LTTE-controlled area and travel to Canada to make a refugee claim — dozens do so each week — the Tigers will not grant them passage until a relative in Canada begins making the payments. Estimates vary, but Canada is clearly fertile ground. One high-level source says the Tigers raise up to 87 million a year in the country.
That money, the source adds, is used to buy arms. Often, the weapons are purchased in South Africa and then shipped to India, from where they are smuggled aboard LTTE-owned ships to northern Sri Lanka. In a 1994 transaction, the source says, $ 6.8 million was transferred from the bank account of an LTTE front organization in Canada to a bank in western Europe, and then to Ukraine. Those funds were then used to buy explosives that were smuggled to Sri Lanka on board an LTTE-owned ship registered in Honduras to a Malta-based front company. The source adds that the explosives have been used in five terrorist attacks that have killed more than 200 people, including Sri Lankan presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake.
That climate of terror reaches deep into Canada’s Tamil community. And Vignarajah, for one, insists that he fears for his life. ‘All over the place there is big danger for me,’ the banker lamented. Given the double agent’s current incarceration, and the presence of Tiger militants in both his homeland and adopted land, that is hardly surprising.