Two local MPs say their attendance at a memorial for a Tamil Tigers leader does not mean they support the group.
Scarborough-Guildwood and Scarborough-Rouge River MPs John McKay and Derek Lee went to the memorial held in Markham on Nov. 5 for S.P. Thamilchelvan, the second-in-command and chief peace negotiator for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The service was held three days after Thamilchelvan was killed in an attack by the Sri Lankan air force.
As of last year, the Conservative government in Ottawa recognized the LTTE as a terrorist organization, based on its violence, suicide bombings and murder of both Sri Lankan civilians and government officials in their pursuit of a separate Tamil state within that country.
In an editorial in the National Post Nov. 7, the Liberals were accused of using ethno-politics to win over their respective constituents by relying on support from the largely Tamil community in the GTA. It included a claim the federal Liberals have “turned into full-blown apologists for terrorism.”
But in an interview with the Observer, Lee said he’s just doing his job.
“The people suggesting that I or some of my colleagues were playing ethnic politics suffer from stereotyping my constituents,” Lee said. “They’re simply Canadians in my view.
“Just because my constituency might be stereotyped by some as having a lot of ‘ethnics’ in it, they‘re not ethnics to me, they’re my people.”
“A nasty bunch of people”
McKay acknowledged the terrorist status of the Tamil Tigers, saying, “There’s no question they are nasty bunch of people.”
In the past, the LTTE has assassinated the president of Sri Lanka, two foreign ministers, the leader of the Opposition and three mayors of Jaffna.
But McKay added there is “No question that the Sri Lankan government is a nasty bunch of people and there is a no-go zone for this peace process — and you don’t assassinate the negotiator. That’s like shooting the guy with white flag.”
Having already visited Sri Lanka with the government’s blessing in the past, McKay calls it a “very discouraging place to be” and worries about the repercussions of Thamilchelvan’s death.
“When you assassinate the peace negotiator you assassinate the peace process — there is none, so they go back to civil war,” he said.
In a response article written to the Post, McKay said, “Thamilchelvan’s death leaves the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to peace on shaky ground, a worrisome prospect considering that the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers will not be resolved through military force.
“Unfortunately, because of its emphasis on the indirect and largely irrelevant ethno-political implications of Thamilchelvan’s assassination, the National Post does a disservice to its readers by giving this fact little attention.”
The Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Toronto referred comment to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa.
As of press time, repeated calls were not returned.