Former Tiger chief confirms he talked to man now running for Tories
A Conservative candidate in Monday`s election is facing fresh questions about his contact with a former leader of the Tamil Tigers.
At issue is the nature and amount of contact between Gavan Paranchothy, a Tamil-Canadian broadcast journalist running in Scarborough-Southwest, and the ex-Tiger boss known as KP, who ran the terrorist group`s multimillion dollar international arms-procurement and support operations.
Mr. Paranchothy denies having met KP, and says what minimal phone contact they had was for journalistic purposes.
But in a rare and lengthy interview with The Globe and Mail, the once-elusive Tiger boss, now in government detention in Sri Lanka
, said Mr. Paranchothy is well known to him and they spoke by phone numerous times over several weeks in 2009.
KP, whose real name is Thambiaiya Selvarasa Pathmanathan, ran the Tigers` foreign operations from Thailand and Malaysia before he was arrested and taken to Sri Lanka on Aug. 5, 2009. Long wanted by Interpol, KP said he was seized in a Kuala Lumpur hotel corridor while chatting on his cellphone with Mr. Paranchothy.
He really frequently talked with me, KP said by phone this week, adding that his chats with the radio and television host were not media interviews.
Mr. Paranchothy and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have faced questions about the broadcaster`s candidacy during the campaign, since The Globe reported that he hosted a televised special honouring dead Tigers as heroes and freedom fighters last November.
Conservative cabinet minister Peter Kent called the TV tribute outrageous and said his party was wrong to approve Mr. Paranchothy`s candidacy, but retracted his criticism after Mr. Harper said the candidate`s position is real clear, and for a long time he`s been rejecting the Tamil Tigers.
Mr. Paranchothy has said that he does not support the Tigers and that insinuations to the contrary are based on his seven years as a journalist, during which he interviewed many news makers relevant to my target audience [Tamil Canadians].
The Conservatives listed the Tigers as a terrorist group in 2006, making it illegal to support them materially or financially from Canada
. Toronto, home to the largest Tamil community outside Asia, was a key source of Tiger funds during their 26-year insurgency, which ended in defeat in May of 2009.
The candidate has offered differing explanations of his contact with KP since The Globe began investigating Conservative political ties to remnants of the Tigers` Canadian support structure this year.
Regarding the alleged phone conversation during the Tiger chief`s arrest, Mr. Paranchothy told The Globe in March: I was speaking with someone in Malaysia it could have been KP, but I did not talk to them with me knowing that I was talking to KP. But I have spoken to him once on the phone [it] could have been before [the arrest].
That account changed this week when Mr. Paranchothy who declined to be interviewed about KP`s remarks instead issued two statements one via the Conservative Party and the other through his campaign manager.
In the party statement, he said, My employer did take me with him to Maylasia [sic] and Europe in 2009 to interview Tamil people after the war. I have never met or interviewed the terrorist known as KP. I did speak to him over the phone once to set-up an interview but it never took place.
Mr. Paranchothy`s employer at Canadian Multicultural Radio, Stan Antony, referred questions to his lawyer, Igor Ellyn. Mr. Antony and other media went to Malaysia to interview KP. However, KP refused to be interviewed for CMR, Mr. Ellyn wrote in an e-mail.
Eighteen minutes after the party released its statement, Mr. Paranchothy`s campaign manager released another one, which said nothing about trips to Malaysia and Europe, and was less certain about whom the broadcaster had spoken to by phone. The pertinent paragraph read, I have never met or interviewed the individual known as KP. However, I did speak to either him or one of his representatives over the phone once to try to set-up an interview but it never took place.
Neither statement mentioned the earlier phone conversation with KP that Mr. Paranchothy said he`d had when interviewed by The Globe in March.
Bret Snider, his campaign manager, explained the difference in the two statements by describing the party version as official and his version as an earlier draft.
The Globe and Mail approached Mr. Paranchothy in person several times this week to request an interview about KP`s remarks. Similar interview requests were made through Mr. Snider. All were declined.