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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2904

Canada Outlaws LTTE Front Organization – World Tamil Movement

Toronto, 17 June, ( A Toronto non-profit group that has long been accused of raising money to arm Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas was added to Canada's list of outlawed terrorist organizations Monday.

The decision to designate the World Tamil Movement (WTM) a terrorist "entity" marks the first time the Conservative Cabinet has used its Anti-Terrorism Act powers against a registered Canadian community group.

"This is something we've done with care and caution," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said here at a news conference. He accused the WTM of using threats and intimidation to raise money for the Tamil Tigers, and noted 100 people had been killed and 260 injured in recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.

"When we think of the fact that innocent civilians in other countries have been killed by terrorist activity, and that those terrorist activities, in part, are funded by dollars that have come from Canada, we want to put a stop to that," he said.

WTM President Sitta Sittampalam said he was consulting with his lawyers and was considering an appeal of the decision. The WTM has always denied funding the Tamil Tigers.

Although the government said it had taken the step to support the Tamil community in Canada, the Canadian Tamil Congress denounced the move.

Spokesman David Poopalapillai said Ottawa should be pressuring the Sri Lankan government to curb its human rights abuses and military campaign rather than singling out the Tamil Tigers. "This is not the way to promote peace in Sri Lanka."

The WTM has been a registered Ontario non-profit society since 1986. Its incorporation papers list its mandate as serving ethnic Tamils, lobbying governments and raising money "for charitable organizations serving the Sri Lankan Tamils, particularly destitute refugees."

Allegations it secretly acts as a financial front for Tamil terrorists date back to 1995, when the group's co-ordinator was arrested in Toronto for allegedly raising money for the Tigers and purchasing equipment with military uses.

In 2003, the RCMP launched a criminal investigation into the WTM called Project Osaluki. Police raided the WTM offices in Toronto and Montreal in 2006, seizing thousands of documents. In April, the RCMP seized dozens of bank accounts linked to the WTM and closed its Montreal branch office.

The WTM's financial assets were frozen at 9 a.m. Monday. It is now illegal to knowingly participate in, contribute to, or facilitate the activities of the WTM. Day acknowledged the decision could affect some legitimate community services provided by the WTM.

Prof. Wesley Wark said the listing could drive Tamil Tigers fundraising underground where it would be more difficult to monitor, but he believed the government had made the right decision.

"It makes it very difficult for the WTM to function and it sends a message to the Tamil community in Canada that financial support for a terrorist group will not be condoned," said the University of Toronto intelligence expert.

"That message might anger some in the Tamil community, but it will also give others a sense that the Canadian government is willing to try to protect it from extortion and threats of violence, the kinds of things that have been documented by Human Rights Watch in its studies of the Tamil diaspora."

The Anti-Terrorism Act passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks allows cabinet to prepare a list of "entities" whose activities are proscribed by Canadian law due to their involvement in terrorist violence.

Until Monday's announcement, there were 40 listed entities, all of them directly engaged in violence, such as al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas. Although the law allows for the listing of front or support groups, cabinet had so far refrained from doing so.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, but its use of suicide bombings and political assassinations has landed the group on international terrorist lists.

The civil war in Sri Lankan often reverberates in Canada, which is home to the world's largest ethnic Tamil population outside South Asia. Police say Canada also has become an important offshore base for the rebels, who control several front groups in Toronto, which harness political and financial support that bankrolls the insurgency.

Many Canadian Tamils are sympathetic to the Tigers, considering them freedom fighters. Canada outlawed the Tamil Tigers under the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2006.

The names of listed entities under the Criminal Code can be found on the Public Safety Canada Web site Share this