" Should a democratically elected member of Parliament like you continue to support a ruthless terrorist organisation thereby encouraging it to continue its senseless campaign of murder and mayhem? I am sure that you, in your heart of hearts, wish for peace in my homeland, as much as any other peace loving human being. Then, please discard the blinkers put on you by LTTE propaganda, go and see for yourself what is happening in Sri Lanka and then help the peace process positively by supporting the Sri Lanka Government's peace efforts"
The LTTE has been methodical, systematic and effective in executing their propaganda machinery in the West. With their headquarters in London and other offices in Paris and Canada their diaspora in the West is making use of the latest Internet and e-mail techniques to the core. With the latest media campaign through their own publications from London, it is an indisputable fact that the LTTE has been making a clear headway in their propaganda with distorted facts to exploit the transnational Tamil network to the maximum.
Another strong area of the LTTE propaganda has been their one-to-one basis lobbying of the British Parliamentarians over the years, claiming that 'Tamil people in Sri Lanka have been chased out from the north and east by the Sinhala racists regimes' and their 'struggle is merely to get the lost land back to Tamil people'! This has been quite effective to win the hearts & minds of many parliamentarians in the UK. The unfortunate fact is that while the Tiger terrorists massacred killed and maimed thousands of innocent civilians in Sri Lanka through planted bombs and suicide attacks they have masterminded & quite successfully waged a different kind of propaganda war in the West, to accuse the Sri Lankan government of discrimination and genocide - ironically at times with bodies of the Sinhala victims itself portrayed as innocent Tamil massacres by the security forces.
One such parliamentarian who has successfully been brainwashed by the LTTE is the Member of Parliament for Brent North in the UK - Mr.Barry Gardiner. It is not surprising that Mr. Gardiner has quite innocently fallen an innocent prey into the LTTE trap as he himself shares 'minority feelings' having Scottish antecedents. Brent North being predominantly an immigrant area where there is an influx of Sri Lankan immigrants and refugees, majority being Tamils, the LTTE tactics seem to work wonders here when it comes to community grants, housing benefits, disabled allowances or refugee benefits. The impact of the LTTE campaign on this British Member of Parliament was such that he plucked up courage to get onto a stage at Concordia University in Canada on 1 February 1998 to support the LTTE demand for a separate state in Sri Lanka . How did a member of the British Parliament manage to publicly cry out from a public platform in Canada to support a group of ruthless terrorists proscribed by many nations in the world such as USA, Australia, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc. ?
While thousands of Sri Lankans who read his speech or heard about this incident raised their eye brows and decided to get back to their slumber, at least one patriotic Sinhalese, Herman Pathige, in London, had the courage to ask the British MP to remove the goggles he was wearing.
On 1 May, 1998 (prior to the assassination of the Jaffna Mayor by the LTTE) he addressed the following letter to Barry Gardiner at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, with copies to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Derek Fatchett. Full contents of the letter was as follows:
Dear Mr. Gardiner
I have seen a copy of your speech at a meeting at Concordia University on 1 February, in which you express unqualified support for the demand of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for a separate state to be set up on a part of the territory of the Republic of Sri Lanka. A reading of the text suggests that you have been misinformed even on basic aspects of the situation in Sri Lanka.
You have said, for example, that the Tamils involved in the current ethnic dispute are about one-fifth of the population of the island. This is simply incorrect. Sri Lankan Tamils make up no more than one-eighth - 12.5 per cent - of the population. The LTTE may be unscrupulous enough to exaggerate the Tamils' share of the population. It seems irresponsible of you to endorse that claim. ( The total population, incidentally, was estimated at 18.3 million in mid-1997, not the 17 odd million as stated by you),
You have said that the " LTTE have established themselves as the single greatest representative voice" of the Tamils. In saying this, you are again merely repeating the LTTE's propaganda, but not stating a fact. As an elected MP in a democracy, one would expect you to demand any party that claims to be representative of a community to have established itself as representatives of such a community. The LTTE has never been willing to establish its credentials to that end. Even when elections were held three months ago to local authorities in northern areas such as Jaffna, the LTTE chose not to do so.
Without doing so, it not only claims to be " the single greatest representative voice" as you put it but wants to be treated as the "sole representative" of the Tamil people. And in pursuit of that objective, the LTTE has over the years sought to eliminate or intimidate all others who wish to represent the Tamil people; it has carried out a policy of assassination directed against leaders of every other Tamil political party and Tamils active in mainstream democratic parties comprising members from all ethnic groups.
The list of Tamil leaders eliminated by the LTTE is a long one. The last name of its is that of Arunachalam Thangadurai, an MP from the east of the country who belonged to the United National Party and who was killed as recently as ten months ago. As an MP yourself, it may interest you to know that the LTTE has assassinated as many as 11 other Tamils MPs, all democratically elected as representatives by predominantly Tamil electorates but seen by the LTTE as barring its attempt to secure complete dominance over the Tamil people, by the use of violent means. Three months ago the LTTE killed four members of another Tamil party contesting the local elections in the north.
Tamil people have refused to be cowed down by the LTTE despite its viciousness. Several other Tamil political parties continue to function and to oppose the LTTE. The new Mayor of Jaffna is from the Tamil United Liberation Front; she is the courageous widow of a Tamil MP killed by an LTTE gunman in 1989. ( One of the earliest victims of the LTTE was also a Mayor of Jaffna, killed in 1975 by its leader Prabhakaran himself because the Mayor belonged to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.)
Jaffna now has its own Mayor after a lapse of 15 years precisely because the people of that area defied the LTTE and returned to their homes there from the Vanni region to which the LTTE had herded them. These people were denied such democratic luxuries as elections when the LTTE held sway over them in Jaffna.
Furthermore, Tamils continue to support mainstream national parties. You must be aware that the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, who has lobbied hard for international action against terrorism, is himself a Tamil.
You told your Concordia University audience that the LTTE wants to create a separate state out of the north and east of Sri Lanka, which it claims as the Tamils " Traditional homeland". It would have been a fair comment if the audience were appraised of the following:
The two provinces referred to as the north and east of Sri Lanka constitute almost one third of its land area, and such an area is claimed on behalf of one-eighth of the population
Even of this one-eighth of the population, a large proportion (48 per cent) do not live in the north or east, preferring instead to live permanently in predominantly Sinhalese areas, such as Colombo, and elsewhere in the country.
While Tamils predominated in the north, they have been significantly less than half the population of the east, which has traditionally been home to a mixed population of Tamils, Moslems and Sinhalese.
The LTTE , which practised ethnic cleansing long before Bosnia made the term familiar, has driven out all Moslems and Sinhalese from the north and has tried to do so in the east as well.
The Last point has a special relevance, since you pointed out that Scotland welcomes the English to live within its boarders. What a contrast with the policy practised by the LTTE which you champion !
You have spoken of " wholesale Sinhalisation". This is grossly unfair. Perhaps you have not been told that, for instance, Tamil MPs have always had the right to speak in their language in Parliament ( which is more than Scottish MPs have in the House of Commons). Or that Tamils can secure and do hold jobs in the public sector without knowing Sinhalese; if they are otherwise qualified, they have five years to learn basic Sinhalese.
You have referred to the preference given to students from backward rural districts, including Tamil areas, to gain admission to Universities as discrimination against the Tamils. This is simply not true as the students affected by this scheme are Sinhalese, Moslems and Burghers as well as Tamils. They all have to score higher marks if they come from districts with a better educational infrastructure such as Colombo, Kandy or Galle. Today, Jaffna is classified as a disadvantaged district and, as such, enjoys an advantage over the rest of the provincial capitals.
Tamils have had grievances, but you take no note of the fact that many improvements have been made, including in the key educational and employment sectors and with regard to the language of administration. And, as you must be aware, the present administration in Sri Lanka was elected on a manifesto, which offered a new deal to the Tamil community. One of its first acts was to open negotiations with the LTTE, and it was the LTTE, which unilaterally broke off the negotiations and returned to violence. Despite that rebuff, President Kumaratunge has put forward a package of constitutional reforms including, prominently, extensive devolution of power to provincial authorities, far beyond the degree of devolution granted to Scotland.
Successive Sri Lankan governments have sought a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Each time it is the LTTE that has left the negotiating table. Each time the LTTE has unilaterally withdrawn from peace negotiations, it was significantly evident that they have used the respite of cessation of hostilities, during the negotiations to re-group and re-arm their cadres for fresh onslaughts - a cunning strategic ploy which is a key feature of its guerrilla logistics.
Support for the LTTE has declined significantly in Sri Lanka and outside, because of its disregard for civilian life, its intolerance of other viewpoints, its contempt for democracy, and its refusal to engage in genuine search for a negotiated settlement. It is sad that a democrat like you should continue to support it, thereby encouraging it to continue its senseless campaign of murder and mayhem.
I am sure that you, in your heart, wish for peace in my homeland, as much as any other peace loving human being. Then, please discard the blinkers put on you by LTTE propaganda, go and see for yourself what is happening in Sri Lanka and then help the peace process positively by supporting the Sri Lanka Government's peace efforts".
Herman Pathige cc The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair - Prime Minister The Hon. Robin Cook - Foreign Secretary Mr. Dereck Fatchett MP - Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.