The National Post and the Tamil Struggle


From Canada

February 28, 2002

The editor,
National Post,

Dear Sir,
This refers to your editorial ‘Declawing the Tigers’ (National Post – February 23 2002).

The editorial is reflective of your innate prejudice against Tamils in general and LTTE in particular. As the editor of a conservative newspaper with a right wing agenda, it is a waste of time trying to convince you about the legitimacy of the Tamil national liberation struggle. This is because you have already made up your mind that a national liberation war is “terrorism” which no doubt fits your political philosophy.

In this respect you are in good company with persons like Rob Anders, Canadian National Alliance M.P. who dubbed Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa a “terrorist.”

If you have any civility left in you, you should have accepted the explanation by the organizers of the dinner that it was to celebrate a cultural event. Instead you unashamedly continue to describe the dinner hosted by FACT as a fund raising event despite repeated denials by the organizers. One cannot raise funds by dining in a five star hotel after paying $60 per a plate. If the dinner was indeed for fundraising, I am sure the organizers would have owned-up because that is not a crime.

You blame Velupillai Prabhakaran for the two decades old war when you should know that wars are caused by large social and economic forces and not by individuals. In that case you might as well blame Abraham Lincoln for the American civil war.

In any event, the demand for Tamil Eelam is not the brainchild of Prabhakaran or the LTTE. Years before in 1976, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) passed a resolution to RESTORE (emphasis mine) “ a free, sovereign, secular, socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right to self-determination to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil nation in the country.” To enforce the resolution, the TULF sought and obtained a mandate at the parliamentary elections held in 1977 by winning 18 out of 23 seats it contested in the Northeast.

So in effect Prabhakaran is merely carrying the cross of the Tamil people’s aspiration for freedom handed over to him by the TULF.

You posed the question “How many hundreds of Sri Lankan lives would have been saved if Canada had acted to shut down Tiger financing in 2000 – or even earlier, as the United States did – rather than waiting till after Sept. 11?”

There are always two sides to a story. My answer to your question is ‘Tiger financing’ SAVED the lives of thousands of defenseless Tamils getting slaughtered by the Sri Lankan army (99% Sinhalese). If not for the ‘Tiger financing’ the death toll would not be 60,000 (90% Tamils), but 160,000 or more,

You should by now understand that Tamils are fighting a war in self-defence against an invading army after exhausting peaceful methods of protest. Suppose the role is reversed, Tamils a majority and the Sinhalese a minority, the latter would have resisted the hegemonic rule by the Tamils in the same way, if not more forcefully,

You are dead wrong in assuming that post September 11 events influenced the LTTE decision to enter into peace talks. Long before September 11, in November 1999, Prabhakaran in his Heroes Day speech declared:

“Though the LTTE stands today as a formidable force, with the military capability to liberate our homeland, we have not abandoned the path of peace. We want to resolve the Tamil conflict through peaceful means, through civilized methods without recourse to bloodbath and destruction of life.”

(Prabhakaran’s Heroes Day Speech-November, 1999).

The LTTE leader was referring to the military success of Unceasing Wave III operation, a unique historical achievement in the art of contemporary warfare, which saw the sudden collapse of a colossal military structure with its multiple military complexes, well-fortified bases in Vanni, like houses built on sand!

Prabhakaran re-iterated his desire for a peaceful solution in 2000 as well after the LTTE captured the well-fortified Elephant Pass military base described by defence analysts as the gateway to Jaffna peninsula. This is what he said:

“Our liberation organization is prepared to participate in negotiations to find a political solution to the ethnic conflict through peaceful means. We are not opposed to peaceful process of resolving conflicts. Nor we are reluctant to engage in peaceful dialogue. We are seeking a negotiated settlement that would be fair, just and equitable and that it would satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people.”

(Prabhakaran’s Heroes Day Speech-November, 2000).

To prove its commitment to a negotiated political settlement, LTTE declared a unilateral cease-fire for 4 long months commencing from December 24, 2000 which came to an end when the government failed to reciprocate.

Your enterprising columnist Stewart Bell also suffers from selective amnesia. He claims “ the international terrorist crackdown that followed Sept. 11 has forced Mr. Prabhakaran to settle for less. Blacklisted around the world for their terrorist tactics, the Tamil Tigers have been losing both their legitimacy and outside sources of support.” (Sri Lankan guerrilla dream comes to an end- National Post, February 23, 2002).

While comment is his prerogative, he should learn to respect facts. Does the signing of the ceasefire agreement brokered by the Royal Norwegian government between Prabhakaran and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe indicates “loss of legitimacy” or “gain of legitimacy”? In any case, LTTE derives its legitimacy from a near unanimous support of the Tamil people,

Stewart Bell has also parrot-like repeated the charge without a shred of evidence that “The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has estimated the Tigers raise $2-million a year in Canada through donations, as well as an unknown sum garnered through extortion, fraud, theft, migrant smuggling, passport forgery and other crimes.” If the unknown sum is garnered through extortion, fraud, theft, migrant smuggling, passport forgery and other crimes is indeed true, then what are the Canadian law enforcement authorities doing about such illegal activities?

In the same vein I can also quote Sri Lankan intelligence sources saying that Stewart Bell is in the payroll of the Sri Lankan government; it funded his trip to Jaffna when Northeast was closed to local and foreign media etc. May I respectively submit that this type of yellow journalism is unworthy of even tabloid newspapers! Stewart Bell’s mischievous journalistic concoction is extremely derogatory of the Tamil Canadians.

Finally I wish to make it clear that Tamil Diaspora is not unduly concerned about the label terrorist or front attached to those who support the LTTE. Tamils owe no one an apology for supporting the LTTE. Tamils will continue to support the cause one hundred percent, but not necessarily all the means to achieve that objective.

Yours truly,


From Australia

National Post and its Stewart Bell,
And their last volley at the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

By Dr. Victor Rajakulendran

National Post (NP), one of Canada’s national newspapers, had been anti-Liberal in its political inclinations. This newspaper had been highly critical of the sympathetic approach the Liberal government of Canada towards the Tamil immigrants, most of whom sought refuge in Canada due to the civil war in Sri Lanka. Any government ministers found friendly towards the Tamils, or participated in Tamil events in Canada, were branded by the NP as indirectly aiding and abetting terrorism in Sri Lanka. The last Sri Lankan government exploited this situation and used this newspaper in their campaign of demonising the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Stewart Bell is one of those journalists who helped the last Sri Lankan administration a lot by his frequent writings in the NP about the Sri Lankan conflict in a way the last Sri Lankan government (SLG) wanted the world to see it.

NP’s and Stewart Bell’s dream of helping the Sri Lankan administration by demonising the LTTE came to almost an end when President Chandrika’s government lost power in the last elections. With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the present government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and the LTTE this dream of the NP and its Stewart Bell seems to be sealed. With the MoU coming into effect confrontations between the Sri Lankan Security Forces (SLSF) and the LTTE is expected to cease for an indefinite period, denying the NP and its Stewart Bell the opportunity to carry out this propaganda work for the Sri Lankan government.

While the International Community (IC), including the Secretary generals of both the UN and the Commonwealth, the European Union, the governments of USA, Canada, Great Britain, India, Japan and Australia were busy praising the historic signing of the MoU between the SLG and the LTTE, Stewart Bell through his article ‘Sri Lankan guerrilla dream comes to an end’(23rd Feb 2002) in the NP, and the NP through its editorial ‘Declawing the Tigers’ (26th Feb. 2002), were preoccupied in firing their last volley at the LTTE. While the IC was appreciating the LTTE leader for compromising on his longstanding demand for total independence, Stewart Bell is trying to ridicule him for backtracking on a promise the LTTE leader was supposed to have given to his carders when he started his armed struggle for independence!

Stewart Bell claims that the international terrorist crackdown that followed September 11 has forced Mr. Prabhakaran to settle for less. This either shows his political ignorance or his penchant to portraying the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. Stewart Bell has failed to note that the LTTE was prepared to consider a viable alternative to total independence as far back as 1987, when the LTTE leader agreed to accept the Provincial Council arrangement as the unit of devolution of power, offered under the Indo-Lanka accord by the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Then again in 1994 the LTTE leader encouraged the Tamils to elect a present President to power, who came up with the promise of negotiating with the LTTE an alternative solution to total independence. Then again, when the IC proposed third party mediation as a means of bringing the two warring parties to the negotiating table, the LTTE agreed to accept Norway as the facilitator. The LTTE even went to the extent of declaring a unilateral ceasefire just after it drove away the Sri Lankan Forces (SLF) from Vanni and overrunning the Elephant Pass SLF Garrison and was poised to take over Jaffna. This they did, so that Norway could facilitate negotiations with the Sri Lankan government to find a viable alternative to total independence. The LTTE leader has stated this position - of willingness to compromise - several times in his last few Annual Hero’s Day speeches. Stewart Bell seems to have, intentionally or inadvertently ignored these facts. Furthermore, the major players behind the international terrorist crackdown following September 11, USA and Great Britain, even after including LTTE in their lists of Foreign Terrorist Organisations, have been insisting the Sri Lankan government to negotiate a political settlement with the LTTE. It is pathetic to note that a journalist of Stewart Bell’s calibre has either failed to understand or has ignored the messages these two leaders.

Stewart Bell is at pains to prove that the LTTE have been loosing both their legitimacy and outside source of support, and that is why the Tiger leader quickly dropped his demand for full independence and entered into talks with the government. If this is the case why did the Tigers declare a ceasefire and offer to negotiate soon after they overran the Elephant Pass garrison of the SLF and were poised to march into Jaffna? This was well before September 11.

Stewart Bell has talked about the Tigers loosing their legitimacy. This again proves either his ignorance about the recent political developments in Sri Lanka or his intention to mislead his readers. December 5th (2001) election gave the Tamil people their first opportunity to express their opinion on whether the LTTE has the legitimacy or not to represent the Tamil people. In this election the Tamil people voted overwhelmingly for an alliance of 4 major Tamil parties, Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which campaigned on a platform of claiming LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil people. Fifteen TNA candidates were elected to parliament, out of the total 18 Tamils elected from the Northeast of the country. Two out of the 3 electorates the TNA failed to capture were won by a Tamil paramilitary group fighting along the Sri Lankan Forces, through armed intimidation and murder.

Stewart Bell has declared that Mr. Prabakharan’s guerrilla dream seemed to be sealed when he and the Prime Minister signed a permanent cease-fire agreement. The LTTE leader has never been dreaming. He only planned and executed a line of action to liberate his people from the clutches of the Singhalese governments. He set out a goal before he embarked on this line of action and he has been reviewing the situation and constantly making changes to his plan. The present change Stewart Bell is trying to misinterpret is also another step in the correct direction the LTTE leader has undertaken to liberate his people.

Stewart Bell also tries to put the blame on LTTE for the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom in which few thousand innocent Tamils were butchered by rampaging Sinhalese mobs in the capital Colombo and its suburbs. It is a well-established fact now that this anti-Tamil pogrom was a premeditated one, orchestrated by the then government. The proof for this was that the rampaging mob had access to electoral list to identify the Tamil homes. This was even revealed by the present President when she appeared on the BBC TV program, ‘Hard Talk’ last year.

Stewart Bell has described the LTTE as a cult-like group, which embraced terrorism and have staged close to 200 suicide attacks. No one denies that the LTTE have carried out suicide attacks. At the same time people like Stewart Bell always fail to see the other side of the story. When and why did the LTTE embraced suicide attack is a good question to answer here? The LTTE did not start the suicide bombings until the SLF resorted aerial bombing of the Tamil civilian centres. If LTTE also had planes, they would have sent their planes out for reprisal bombing in Colombo, instead of the suicide bombings. Then it would have been the same as the Sri Lankan forces, and may have even been classified as an ‘act of war’.

In writing about USA, Britain and Canada proscribing the LTTE, Stewart Bell tries to boast that Canada has ordered banks to freeze the assets of the LTTE and its supporters. I would like to ask Stewart Bell that whether the Canadian authorities were able to freeze any LTTE assets so far. For Canada to freeze any assets there should be LTTE assets in Canada in the first place. To find any LTTE assets the Canadian authorities need to go to Vanni in Sri Lanka. Not that Stewart Bell does not know this, but he pretends to be unaware in order to give legitimacy to the way he wants to write his story.

National Post’s editorial on the 26th of February has been written to support Stewart Bell’s story of 23rd February. But, it is rather amusing for the editor to have claimed that Ottawa has helped engineer the cease-fire in Sri Lanka. The editor’s comment that passing of the Bill C-36 by the Canadian parliament only has forced the Tiger leader to negotiate has become the joke of the day among the Tamil Diaspora. I do not know whether the editor knows that most of the weapons the LTTE needs are taken from the Sri Lankan forces. I do not know whether this editor knows the claim made by the LTTE that the amount of armaments they collected when they over ran the Elephant Pass SLF garrison was enough for them to fight for 10 years. If the Diaspora was financing the LTTE as this editor claims, the Diaspora will not have any problem continuing that within the legal limits of their country of residence.

The NP editor also tried to hit at the Liberal Ministers, as this may be the last opportunity for him to do this. With a convoluted logic, he tried to prove that if the Canadian government had listened to the complaints made by the NP two years back (about the Finance Minister participating in a Tamil fund raising function, allegedly for the LTTE), several hundreds Sri Lankan lives would have been saved. This editor is trying to use his dirty brush to paint a picture that if there were enough pressure put on the LTTE earlier, a situation like the present one could have been achieved then. What the editor has failed to grasp is that the LTTE has showed it willingness to negotiate a political settlement, as I had explained before, long time ago. The fact is if Canada and other donor nations had put enough pressure on President Chandrika and her previous two governments, the present situation would have been achieved long time back. It is after the signing of the ceasefire accord that the Canadian government offered for the first time to help the two sides in constitution making process. As everyone knows today President Chandrika is trying hard to scuttle this accord reached. She has even failed to turn up at the CHoGM meeting in Australia to avoid facing the international media. It is ridiculous for the editor to oversimplify a complicated issue and relate the success to Bill C-36, and blame the Liberals for the delay in achieving this success.

If the NP editor and Stewart Bell, who are trying to shed crocodile tears for the Sri Lankan lives lost, are really interested in achieving peace in Sri Lanka, they should desist writing derogatory materials on this issue any more and instead, join the world leaders and others who have taken the correct step of encouraging both sides involved, to consolidate on what they have achieved so far and progress towards achieving the final goal of a just and permanent peace.