Kent decries candidate's Tamil Tiger support
Conservative candidate Peter Kent on Thursday questioned why his party has as a candidate in the May 2 election a man who last fall paid tribute to the Tamil Tigers.
Kent said he came to the decision after watching a YouTube video of a "Heroes Day" special that was hosted on a Tamil station in late November by Ragavan Paranchothy, now running for the Conservatives in the Toronto riding of Scarborough Southwest.
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."
Elsewhere in the video, Paranchothy speaks of how the Tamil Tigers' "deaths symbolize the idealism that Tamil aspirations should be won at any cost."
He later says in the video that the Tamil Tigers "are now a banned organization" in many countries.
In April of 2006, the Canadian government added the Tamil Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to its official list of terrorist organizations for its use of suicide bombers and child soldiers in the decades-long conflict in Sri Lanka. The designation made it a crime to fundraise for the group.
Kent, who had earlier endorsed Paranchothy as a candidate, told the Globe and Mail that somebody in his party "obviously dropped the ball" with respect to Paranchothy's candidacy.
"It is certainly a reflection on the party's lack of due diligence," Kent told the paper.
Later Thursday, Ari Laskin, a spokesman for the Kent campaign, told CBC News there would be no further comment on the matter. Kent is a former foreign journalist who also served most recently as federal environment minister.
Last week, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper faced a question about Paranchothy in the wake of a report suggesting he had obscured his Tamil origins by shortening his name from Ragavan to Gavan.
"It was as Ragavan Paranchothy that he hosted broadcasts on Tamil Vision International television and Canadian Multicultural Radio in Toronto," the Globe reported.
Asked about the Tamil Tiger connection, Harper at the time didn't address the candidate issue directly, but he said the Conservatives have strongly opposed the organization.
"We have taken a strong position against the Tamil Tigers, and we have made them a banned group under the [Anti-Terrorism] Act .… Our position is clear."
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were a political and military group that had been trying to fight for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka since the 1970s.
The Tigers were fighting for an independent state in the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, an area they refer to as Tamil Eelam, until the government declared victory over them in May 2009.
Paranchothy is described on a Conservative "Meet Our Candidates" website as "a prominent and well respected journalist" for whom "family life and community are very important.