The Tamils of Sri Lanka are fighting for their independence after decades of oppression
By ERIC MARGOLIS, TORONTO SUN
CALGARY — This week’s arrest of six Canadians of Tamil origin on terrorism charges reminds me of Sir Peter Ustinov’s brilliant maxim: “Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.”
In an apparent rush to U.S. President George Bush’s ideology and policies, the Harper government recently added Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers guerillas to its terrorism list. The U.S. added the group last year.
In 1983, civil war erupted in Sri Lanka after decades of growing strife between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Hindu Tamils. Tamil Tigers guerillas have waged a ferocious, bloody struggle against the Sinhalese government for an independent Tamil state. Over 65,000 Sri Lankans have died. The war continues in spite of foreign mediation.
Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese control the army, navy and air force. The Tigers have only small arms, in large part purchased with money raised by Canada’s 250,000 Tamils.
Canada’s Irish did the same for the IRA. Canadian Jews raised funds to buy arms for Israel’s independence struggle from Britain. Sikh separatists in Punjab were funded by Canadian Sikhs.
The Tigers are courageous, highly effective fighters — call them the Hezbollah of South Asia. They used their bodies as human bombs to fight first the government army, then India when it invaded Sri Lanka in the 1980s in an effort to annex the island. A female Tiger blew up Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
The Tigers are exceedingly brutal and often murderous. They are a fanatical, highly dangerous totalitarian organization. But they are not “terrorists,” as the U.S. and now Canada claim.
Terrorism is generally defined as “attacks on civilians for political purposes.” Mad dogs who blow up airliners, trains and schools are terrorists, no question. But under this definition, then what do we call the Allied mass slaughter of civilians in Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
Or Russia’s massacre of 100,000 Muslim Chechens a decade ago; Israel’s 1982 bombardment of Beirut that killed 18,000 civilians; U.S. destruction in 1991 of Iraq’s water treatment plants, creating an epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of children?
What about the indiscriminate bombing of Afghan villages by U.S., Canadian and NATO forces? Or the recent killing of over 1,000 Lebanese and Israeli civilians, denounced by Amnesty International as a war crime?
Those accusing others of terrorism are often far more guilty of it themselves.
Tamil Tigers ably govern a third of Sri Lanka. Dismissing them as “terrorists” is as meaningless and misleading as calling Hezbollah, which is Lebanon’s only effective, non-corrupt government, “terrorist thugs.”
Enough with propaganda labels. I detest this deceitful, poisonous term, “terrorism,” which has become a propaganda weapon to demonize political opponents.
Canada has recently made itself an enemy of the Muslim world and now faces attacks on its citizens and business interests abroad. This is not a good time to kick the Tamil Tigers hornet’s nest. Sometimes it’s better to avert your gaze, as previous Canadian governments did, and not seek trouble — particularly when the Tigers have committed no hostile acts against Canada or the U.S.
Terrorism is a tactic, not a thing. Tamil Tigers are fighting for independence after decades of oppression. We westerners have forgotten that armed resistance to intolerable oppression is a legitimate right of all peoples.
One really must ask why Ottawa is sticking its nose into another remote, bloody foreign war and creating new security problems for Canadians when it can’t provide even Second World health care to its own people.