The president of the Tamil United Liberation Front is in Toronto for a few days meeting with his constituents, Sri Lankan-Canadians, Canadian politicians at various levels, sharing with them how political conditions in his country have deteriorated.
V Andasangaree, who was previously member of Sri Lankan Parliament, was a guest speaker at the opening of the exhibition The Call of the Conscience at Toronto's Royal Thompson Hall on August 25.
"Loss of democratic rights, fundamental rights and human rights amount to slavery," he told a few dozen people who were present at the opening of the exhibition that largely relates the story of one Christian Sri Lankan who identifies himself as Samaran (not his real name) as to how he was for years tortured by Tamil Tigers simply because he carried a rosary, that he's a Christian.
"They beat me till I fainted just for wearing a rosary," he's quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying. Hundreds of those he was jailed with were tortured and many were killed, he said. He luckily escaped when Sri Lankan military planes bombed the jail in 1996. Samaran then came to Canada.
But to his dismay, he's amazed at the level of support the Tamil Tigers enjoy in Toronto, in Canada.
It is that level of support to which Anandasangaree took exception to in his brief remarks at the opening of the exhibition: "Prabhakaran should take the responsibility for the death of over 70,000 citizens of Sri Lanka and for the loss of limbs and eyesight of many. Thousands had become widows, orphans and destitute persons."
Prabhakaran, this Sri Lankan senior politician said, "Has brought utter disgrace to the Tamil community -- which is proud of its culture and civilization. I expected Prabhakaran to show some sympathy towards the suffering Tamils of the north and east who are undergoing untold hardship more at the hands of his cadre than from anybody else."
Anandasangaree and his TULF are in support of the Indian type of Constitution as a solution for their country's political problems, he told rediff.com in a telephone interview August 22.
"I met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he was recently in Colombo for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation conference and a memorandum was presented to him on behalf of TULF," he said.
"Our fear is that any solution found within a Unitary Constitution will not last long" and so "we are agitating for provisions to the Provincial Council to be similar to those provided to the various states in India," the memorandum suggested.
The memorandum details a 5-point plan for Sri Lanka for which Anandasangaree said he sought the help and support of India's prime minister: "Democratic and political pluralism to be ensured throughout the country, in the north-east in particular" and "while ensuring the safety of the civilians by both parties to the war (Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), the people should be assured of uninterrupted supply of relief items."
"We are totally opposed to the separation," he told this rporter about his own party. "We want the government to find a solution based on the Indian model, even though some Sri Lankans are allergic to that term. I firmly believe just copy the Indian model here based on diversity as it can be easily sold amongst Tamilians in Tamil Nadu and also in Sri Lanka."
Anandasangaree believes "no other country will support separation. India is opposed to any separation in Sri Lanka. India has stated that time and again and very clearly."
While calling LTTE a "terrorist organisation," Anandasangaree conceded that the Sri Lankan government is also violating rights of the people.
"The only difference between the LTTE and the government is that the LTTE is indulging in killing and assaulting innocent people openly, while the government is doing it quietly. The aerial bombing in the night by government planes is indicative of that and "I have openly protested again it," he said.
During his earlier visit to Toronto, Ananandasangaree had met Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and he told him how the LTTE was raising funds in Canada for their terrorist activities back home. He has once again asked for a meeting with Day.
"I saw whether we are Tamilians, Sinhalese or Muslims, we all come from India," he said. "Our language, our culture, everything is akin to India."
In 2006, Anandasangaree received the UNESCO peace award that carries a check for $100,000: "A most deserving winner of a Peace Prize, Anandasangaree has brought great pride to Sri Lanka, and being a Tamil (East) in the circumstances in which a deadly Fascist force has been calling the tune among us, this recognition gives new hope to the Tamils of Sri Lanka," one media report analysed the signficance of the UNESCO award.
"The fact that Anandasangaree has stood firmly against the Tiger threat that is both brutally cold-blooded and mercilessly ruthless and one who has been targeted by its killers wherever he went, Anandsangaree has emerged as one of Asia's great leaders committed to Gandhian non-violence and pursuit of democratic conditions."
The UNESCO award given to Anandasangaree "gives new hope to Sri Lanka."