The protests by supporters of the Tamil Tigers in major cities across Canada have sparked a debate about the Tamil’s cause and tactics. But given what is being reported, it is difficult to assess either sides’ statements about the conflict.
When Tamil supporters shut down a major highway in Toronto, Mayor David Miller released a statement that showed his support for the demonstrators’ cause, but lamented that, “endangering public safety by occupying the Gardiner or other public highways is not the right way to make a statement.”
A CNN report on May 11, 2009 stated that hundreds of civilians died in the fighting as the Sri Lankan army surrounded rebel fighters, putting civilians in the crossfire. “Verification is, of course, the part of the problem, because humanitarian agencies are denied access to the region,” U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss said from the capital, Colombo.
The reports of the actual civilian death toll are under scrutiny. The numbers presented to the UN “pale in comparison ” to those reported by TamilNet. TamilNet reports that more than 3200 civilians died from government attacks; however, the Sri Lankan government has denied the allegations and accuses the Tamils of “taking the whole world for a ride with its well-engineered propaganda ploys.”
In a subsequent interview with a former Tamil Rebel, who is now a Sri Lankan minister, one is presented with the view that the Sri Lankan Government does, in fact, know that it is responsible for the deaths of civilians. As well, according to this minister, the government made a mistake in implying that it shares no part of the responsability for the mass civilian casualties in the months of January to May.
Canadians want to know the truth. The various “truths” propagated by both sides necessitate an investigation by the international community. Otherwise everyone is left caught in the well-oiled propaganda machine.