Apr 27 2009

Globe & Post: Tamil Protest in Vancouver. The Tigers Are Back

There are hundreds of Tamil-Canadian protesters a stone’s throw from my office near the US consulate in downtown Vancouver. Their drums and chants are pretty catchy (and distracting the hell out of the IT consultants hunched frowning over their keyboards). Their flags – the flag of a recognized terrorist organization – are even more attention-grabbing.

It appears the Tamil protesters’ black flags of mourning were a short-lived tactic that could not win the support of their constituents, who continue to show allegiance to the flag of the Tamil Tigers – a group accused of (inventing) suicide bombings, recruiting child soldiers, ethnic cleansing and a bunch of other behavior most of my fellow citizens would consider un-Canadian. Interestingly, large Canadian and American flags are also waving in the crowd.

I spoke in passing with one of the protesters while wandering back to the office with some sushi. “I think you’d get more support for your cause if you put away the flag with the guns on it,” I offered. “It’s the flag of a terrorist organization. You want independence, great! But you know what that flag represents.”

“This is our national flag!” replied the over-eager protester. His friend added that it had been their flag for 1,500 years. Could I be so perverse as to argue with him that, technically, there is no Tamil state (and the chances of it ever being realized appear to be diminishing rapidly each day, thanks to the efficient gains of the Sri Lankan army) and that the firearms on the flag would not have been around 1,500 years ago?

I walked away.

What was the point? They’ve chosen this flag to represent their national aspirations and will not be convinced otherwise. If they’re blind to the implications of their own symbols, Canadians of all stripes and our elected representatives will continue to remain deaf to their chants for international intervention.

UPDATE: This post has been published at the National Post’s Full Comment section under the title, Tamils Drop Their Black Flags in Favour of Terrorist Option.

As a response to a fairly consistent theme in the comments at the NP, I would remind readers that I have nothing against Tamils protesting – frankly, given the circumstances, I’d be surprised and disappointed if they didn’t. What I’m criticizing is their choice of symbol, a flag recognized by anyone familiar with this conflict as being synonymous with terrorism. If they truly want the help and sympathy of their fellow Canadians, they ought to at least go back to the black flag they used for all of two minutes. A little pragmatism could go a long way politically.

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Globe & Post: Tamil Protest in Vancouver. The Tigers Are Back”

  1. gimbolon 27 Apr 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Just a thought.

    Do you suppose this influx of activity in Vancouver was intended to coinside the liberal convention taking place this coming weekend?

    I’d appreciate an update later in the week to see if these protesters make their way into the convention as delegates.

  2. fernstalberton 27 Apr 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I agree with gimbo – the Tamils have moved their protest to Vancouver so it coincides with the Liberal convention. Perhaps they are hoping to have a bigger profile in Vancouver than they are currently projecting in Ottawa. Wonder how many Liberals will take the opportunity to have photo ops with the demonstrators?

  3. MJ18on 07 Aug 2010 at 9:51 pm

    The Tamil National Flag also known as the Tamil Tiger flag has a lot of meaning to it.
    Yellow signifies that Tamils’ aspiration to freely govern themselves in their own homeland is a fundamental political and human right. The color expresses the righteousness of Tamil struggle and reinforces Tamil Nation’s will to uphold moral high ground during its path towards freedom.

    Red represents the realization that freedom is not complete by establishment of a separate state of Tamil Eelam. We should abolish distinctions of caste and class. Egalitarianism should become our spiritual principle. Gender equality should permeate Tamil society. The revolutionary changes necessary to spread social justice represented by these principles are reflected by this color. It also represents the blood of the 50,000 plus cadres that sacrificed their lives for independence.

    Black reminds that march towards freedom is wrought with dangers, death and destruction. That it’s filled with pain and misery. Black signifies determination and resoluteness vital to withstand the adversities and build the new nation of Tamil Eelam. To provide security and to defend the borders.

    White demands purity, honesty and selflessness from the leaders and citizens of Tamil Eelam.

    The Tiger is from the Tamil Kings flag that ruled Tamil Kingdoms more than1500 years ago. Its a leaping tiger. That is what the protester got confused with.

    The guns represent the weapons used in modern warfare. (The Sri Lankan governments flag has a roaring lion holding a sword. Back in the day the sword was the weapon in war.)

    The yellow bullets represent the number of years the war will take and it ended correctly with the number of bullets.

    This is our flag and its meaning. It means a lot to us.

    The Tamil Tigers are the only organization that is labeled as a Terrorist org. that has its own bank,law college, police station, courts, medical college,hospitals,schools,orphanages.
    National bird, flower,tree,animal and anthem.

    As a Canadian national, I worked and lived in the Tigers de facto capital as cardiac surgeon for 3 years before I left for Canada for Chemotherapy treatment. The professionalism and standards are remarkable.

    There has been a radio interview done by Australian station with a Australian doctor who worked with the students from a medical college in Tamil Eelam. Listening to the audio clip available on the internet. You can understand the standard of this organization.

    The Tamil Tigers were never labeled as a terrorist org before 9/11, they were always labeled as a separatist movement. Only after 9/11 everything changed. The allegations against the LTTE maybe true but what about the government for waging a war against the people against UN standards and Geneva convention. The use of banned cluster bombs. The bombing of marked hospitals and schools. The hospital were I worked has been bombed in last stages of the war, many of close friends have died. Till date no one was dealt with before the court of law on the government side. But the government has taken law on its hand and killed the LTTE leadership and members waving the white flag.

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