Legacy of Tamil Tigers still resonate

Renouncing terrorism as part of a national liberation struggle is a complex business, either done for pragmatic reasons or genuine remorse. Whatever the reason, Tamils in Sri Lanka remain deeply oppressed:

Five years after they were caught buying arms for Sri Lankan rebels, three Canadians have signed an open letter from prison acknowledging they were wrong and renouncing political violence.

“We incorrectly believed that violence could achieve the goals that we sought,” they wrote. “We now realize that what we did was not helpful in leading to a positive resolution of the issues that existed in Sri Lanka.”

The rejection of armed militancy is a complete reversal for the Toronto men, who were part of the international weapons procurement network that supplied the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, during Sri Lanka’s long civil war.

But since being caught in New York shopping for $1-million worth of surface-to-air missiles and AK-47 assault rifles — a crime that earned them sentences of at least 25 years — the men have apparently had a change of heart.

“Each of us has come to the conclusion that the criminal activity for which we have been sentenced has caused much harm to all citizens of Sri Lanka,” wrote Sathajhan Sarachandran, Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam.

“We incorrectly believed that supporting LTTE ideology on armed violence would bring peace to Tamil people. We refrain from those believes [sic] now,” reads the joint letter signed by each of them at their prison in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 21. The letter, obtained exclusively by the National Post, was to be released publicly in the coming days.

The repudiation of political violence is the first of its kind to emerge from Canadians actively involved in supporting the Tamil Tigers, a federally banned armed separatist group that has long been active in Toronto.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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