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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: Essential Points - Page 5

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Notwithstanding their interest in carving out a single ethnic state in Sri Lanka, LTTE political fronts in Diaspora communities have always stressed multicultural politics in their new societies. The Tiger Fronts in Canada made early connections with 'anti-racism' groups as a way of securing allies in their fight to keep liberalized refugee policies that facilitated easier immigration. They were also quick to cultivate political contacts, particularly with incumbent politicians. In Canada, this meant (in the mid-1990s) wooing the NDP at the municipal level, the Liberals federally, and the Conservatives in Ontario. Similar behaviour has been seen in Europe and Australia.

Among the Diaspora, the only organizations that were permitted to exist were at best strictly neutral and non-partisan. However, most were pro-Tiger. Tamils who had left Sri Lanka found that every Tamil cultural body, temple, newspaper, or language and immigration service that they might resort to was pro-Tiger. Being known to hold Anti-Tiger views was to risk ostracism (a severe threat to a new immigrant) or a beating. Trying to avoid paying 'War Taxes' meant running the same risks; and could result in penalties to family members still living in Tiger-controlled areas back in Sri Lanka.

Frequently, if the Tiger controlled front organizations needed to make a point, mass attendance at a protest march might be compelled. In recent years, Tamil store owners have been ordered to shut their shops to maximize attendance; and the men used to collect War Taxes might also go door to door in Tamil neighbourhoods ordering people to appear at events. However, as the Diaspora community matured and disappointment with the failure of the 2002 ceasefire grew, a growing number of Tamils started avoiding Tiger events. Legal prohibitions and orders against the LTTE and its front organizations in a number of countries have also encouraged many Tamils to defy these groups.

However, the LTTE has controlled Tamil language media and education in Diaspora communities for years and many Sri Lankan Tamils still see the Tigers as champions of their people. There are many who remember the events of 1983 or human rights abuses and have decided to side with the Tigers. Much of the support for the Tigers is genuine and will remain so in future.

As the war in Sri Lanka grinds to a conclusion; the flare-up in protest activities is a natural outcome. It could be seen as a displacement activity and a rejection of an unpalatable reality for many Tamils. Imagine a Tamil immigrant in their 50s who gave a child to the movement and contributed thousands of dollars over 30 years; now imagine how desperate they might be to avoid seeing the cause come to an end and all their sacrifices come to naught.

For many of the children of Tamil immigrants, their idea of their Sri Lankan Tamil identity was entirely defined by the Tigers. The heroes they were encouraged to emulate were LTTE veterans at the Diaspora's "Martyr's Day" celebrations who paraded under the Tiger flag in their old uniforms. They cannot accept that the Tigers were ruthless killers under the control of a pitiless sociopathic leader.

The problem for Tamils in the Diaspora is that they cannot really fit into their new societies as long as the Tigers exist and influence their lives. The problem for Sri Lanka is that it can never realize its true potential, as many other Asian countries have, so long as the Tigers remain. The LTTE arose as a radical response to a situation that existed decades ago, and it has long outlived its time.
The Mackenzie Institute

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By John C. Thompson
A Fascinating Terrorist Group


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