A Tamil group based in Canada has won a defamation ruling and an award of $53,000 in their case against a Sri Lankan-born terrorism expert who had accused it of being a front and perpetuating the cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Toronto-based Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) filed a defamation case against Rohan Gunaratna for linking it to the LTTE, and in his judgment, Justice Stephen E. Firestone of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto agreed. He awarded $37,000 in general damages and imposing $16,000 in legal expenditure.
CTC filed the suit following an article published by Lakbima News in February of 2011, titled “Gunaratna says only 1400 people died in final war, warns Canada is emerging as a LTTE hub.” Gunaratna was quoted as saying, “The LTTE is operating under the name of the Canadian Tamil Congress, which is the main LTTE front organization in Canada.” He also wrote that “the Canadian government is aware of this and currently investigating.”
In his ruling, Justice Firestone said Gunaratna’s statements “were clearly defamatory, either directly or by innuendo, because they imply CTC is involved in the commission of violent and illegal activity…it is unequivocal and uncontroverted that these statements were, in fact, false and untrue.’’
Reacting to the verdict, the Canadian Tamil Congress said Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was part of the Sri Lankan government’s “smear campaign prior to the final military onslaught of May 2009 in Northern Sri Lanka which resulted, according to UN estimates, in the massacre of 40,000 to 70,000 Tamils.’’
The CTC is the representative body of over 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils in Canada – the largest Tamil diaspora group outside of Sri Lanka.
CTC spokesman David Poopalapillai said, “The Court’s decision is a vindication to CTC and its members and supporters. The surest way to attempt to destroy an ethnic group is to make its members afraid to even admit that they are part of that group for fear of being labelled terrorist sympathizers or terrorists themselves,” adding, “the Sri Lankan government and its sympathizers have labelled all Tamils as terrorists for far too long—this judgment is a victory not only for CTC but for Tamils everywhere.’’