Tory hopeful's stations played Tamil Tiger 'propaganda': expert
By John Nicol and Priya Sankaran, CBC News
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 7:56 PM ET
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2011 7:56 PM ETBack to accessibility links
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The Conservative government's own expert on Tamil extremism is raising concerns about a Toronto Tory candidate, claming he has worked for two television stations that telecast "propaganda" for the Tamil Tigers.
Rohan Gunaratna told CBC News that Raghavan "Gavan" Paranchothy's work for two Tamil television stations in Toronto that "at times telecast information that was propaganda for the LTTE, the Tamil Tiger organization" does not work towards the reconciliation Sri Lankans of all beliefs need.
But in an interview with CBC News, Paranchothy denied that, saying: "If I can do anything to trigger [reconciliation] or be part of that process, I'd be happy to."
The government called upon Gunaratna when Tamil migrant boats appeared off the coast of British Columbia last August.
Paranchothy sparked controversy after a YouTube video of him emerged calling soldiers of the Tamil Tigers "freedom fighters" and "martyrs." The Canadian government has classified the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization.
Gunaratna, head the International Centre for Terrorism and political violence based in Singapore, said Paranchothy's characterization of the Tamil Tigers led him to believe Paranchothy "had sympathy and support for the Tamil Tigers."
Last week Conservative candidate Peter Kent questioned his party's vetting of the Scarborough Southwest candidate after watching the YouTube video of a "Heroes Day" special that was hosted on a Tamil station in late November
In the video, Paranchothy talks about "Tamil freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the rest of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, either guidedly or misguidedly."
Paranchothy issued a statement saying: "I absolutely condemn terrorists and terrorism. I believe in the rule of law and the democratic process." He also said his actions as a journalist do not reflect his personal views.
Kent later clarified his remarks, saying at the time he made his comments he was not aware Paranchothy "had given firm and unequivocal assurances that he is not a supporter of the [Tigers]."
Kent also apologized to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for embarrassing him during the campaign.
Paranchothy told CBC News that Kent's comments were "unfortunate," but said he continues to have a lot of respect for his fellow former broadcaster, whom he has not spoken to since the incident.
Paranchothy would not discuss the political slant of the stations where he worked, and suggested he had severed ties with them last summer.
Paranchothy's office later called CBC News to clarify that he continued to work for one of the stations right up until the election call.
CBC News has also learned that Paranchothy's first cousin, Thevathasan Kanagasabai, is under arrest in Sri Lanka as a suspected terrorist.
"He's a long lost cousin of mine," Paranchothy told the CBC. "I've got cousins all over the world, half of them I've never seen.
"But as far as this man is concerned, I think he's innocent. He worked for the Sri Lanka filming corporation or something, and he was at the wrong place at the wrong time from what I hear."
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