The Sri Lankan government says the polls for a transnational government of Tamil Ealam held in Canada yesterday is illegal and is an attempt to keep the LTTE movement alive. Tamil Canadians turned out by the thousands to cast ballots in the controversial election.
“Now there is peace, no war, no killings in Sri Lanka,” Chitranganee Wagiswara, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Ottawa, told The Globe Sunday night. “This action, this event is trying to continue this, to keep the movement alive.”
Ms. Wagiswara pointed to April’s election of 14 Tamil members to the Sri Lankan government as a truer measure of Tamil wishes, namely, for a political voice within a united Sri Lanka.
Turnout was reportedly high in Toronto, which is home to more than half of Canada’s estimated 200,000 Sri Lankan Tamils, many of whom fled their country after civil war broke out between the separatist Tamil Tigers and the national government in 1983.
The Tigers’ defeat led supporters of Tamil independence abroad to take a novel tack to keep their dream of a homeland alive: a highly organized election of 135 “government” members, with the largest block of seats, 25, in Canada.
“It’s very smooth; I haven’t seen anything unusual,” Tam Sivathasan, spokesman for the committee for the formation of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, said a few hours before polls closed Sunday night, The Globe reported.
Mr. Sivathasan’s characterization of the vote, which he said aspired to and met Canadian election standards to prevent voter fraud and corruption, contrasted sharply with that of critics of the exercise both inside and outside the Tamil community. They saw the election as no more than a front for the defeated Tigers to revive their violent, secessionist movement, and said it will only impede Sri Lanka’s new peace and prevent Tamils from moving forward, The Globe reported.
Chris Sandrasagra, secretary of the Canadian Relief Organization for Peace in Sri Lanka, was similarly critical, and said callers to his Tamil radio show in Toronto were overwhelmingly against the vote.
“We love this country and we don’t want to have any kind of exile government; we can live in peace,” Mr. Sandrasagra said.
Proponents of the transnational government election, which also saw polling in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France and Switzerland, said their efforts are all about a peaceful and democratic way for Tamils abroad to continue supporting their war-weary kin back home, in the face of majoritarian chauvinism by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-led government.
“We welcome the democratic process in any community,” said David Poopalapillai, spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress. “As long as the process is open and transparent, we’re happy with it.”
Mr. Poopalapillai disputed critics’ assertions that the transnational government is simply a soft rebranding of the Tamil Tigers. He said Tamils who strongly disagreed with the Tigers’ brutal approach have lined up to support the new political movement, The Globe reported.