Theater of Cruelty

Caught in the tigers' claws in Norway

Outside his home in Oslo, he was threatened with a gun late one night. The message was crystal clear: If you don't stop criticizing the Tamil tigers, your days are counted. While Norway mediates in Sri Lanka, the Tamil tigers use Norway as a base of power to collect "revolutionary taxes".


[blackmail] Next week, the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan authorities will meet for peace talks in Geneva. Norway and Foreign Minister Erik Solheim have in recent years sought to play a crucial role in ending the conflict, which has resulted in over 60.000 lives lost.

But in Oslo, Tamil Rashasingam Sivarajah sits fearing the death sentence of the notorious guerrilla leader of the Tamil Tigers: Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The LTTE leader is wanted worldwide by Interpol, including for the killing of India's Rajiv Gandhi. In recent months, the violence in Sri Lanka has only increased. The Tamil tigers from northern Sri Lanka are included in the list of terrorist organizations in a wide range of countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Australia. In the EU, the leaders were banned from entry in the autumn.

Norway has not included the Tamil Tigers on the terror list. Many people therefore believe that Norway is a haven for the guerrilla group.

Even Amnesty International's campaigns point to Norway in this context. In 2002, the organization's headquarters in London ran a campaign against the Tamil Tigers' use of child soldiers. The members were asked to send protest letters to three organizations: the Tamil Coordinating Committee in France, the World Tamil Movement in Canada – and the Tamil Cooperation Committee, which has its address in Vika in Oslo.

Similarly, the Tamil Cooperation Committee in Oslo was singled out by Amnesty in a campaign to release a man the Tamil Tigers had taken hostage in 2002.

- I've given up. Now it does not matter anymore. It's just a question of when they decide to kill me, says Sivarajah.

He is one of the few Tamils ​​in Norway who openly dares to criticize the Tamil Tigers. Sivarajah is part of the Liberal Democratic Tamils, a human rights organization that works across religious and political divides among the Tamils.

It was a late April evening last year that he received the last warning from the dreaded guerrilla organization. He had just parked his car by the apartment block on Furuset where he lives. As he was crossing Maria Dehli's road, a man suddenly came over and stabbed him in the side with a pistol.

- I was terrified that he would shoot me. While holding the gun to me, he threatened to stop all criticism of the Tamil Tigers. This is the second and final warning, he said, before announcing that he was just waiting for further orders from "annai". It means brother and is used about Prabhakaran (leader of the Tamil Tigers, editor's note), says Sivarajah.

His first instinct was to try to escape the situation. He quickly pushed it aside when he saw another man lurking in the bushes further down the road.

- Before they disappeared, the man with the gun warned of the consequences if I did not listen to him. Then the same thing would happen to me as to Sathiyarajan Subramaniyam, says Sivarajah.

Subramaniyam fled to Norway in 1990. He too was threatened with death for his criticism of the Tamil Tigers. In 1999, he was killed in a car accident while visiting Tamil Nadu in India.

- There are many ways to kill a person, says Sivarajah, and shows a picture of the now deceased Subramaniyam.

- Everyone's scared

Despite the fact that Erik Solheim and Norway succeeded in getting the parties in Sri Lanka to enter into a ceasefire in February 2002, the violence has continued on both sides. According to the ceasefire observers, led by Norway, the Tamil Tigers alone have accounted for over 90 percent of the reported violations of the ceasefire agreement. This includes a number of politically motivated killings of Tamil dissidents, as well as the kidnapping of children who are forced to become soldiers of the guerrilla organization.

Sivarajan's story of the death threat reflects what many Tamils ​​living in Norway experience: The Tamil Tigers' iron grip on their own in Sri Lanka also applies in Norway. Recently, Ny Tid has had contact with a number of "Norwegian" Tamils ​​about the threat they feel on their bodies on a daily basis.

Unlike Sivarajah, no one else dares to stand openly.

- We have many problems with the Tamil Tigers here in Norway. But do not write my name in Ny Tid, I do not dare, says a Tamil woman.

- If I stand up and tell about this, my family in Sri Lanka will have problems with the Tamil Tigers, says another Tamil resident in Norway.

- Everyone is scared, says a third.

They live in different parts of the country. The common denominator is a distinct fear of what will happen if they say no.

Money for "the last war"

The most widespread problem is the pressure to pay "revolution tax" to the Tamil Tigers. Recently, LITTE's people in Norway have traveled around the country and collected money for what they describe as "the last war" against the authorities in Sri Lanka. Previously, they collected money by more or less forcing people to accept direct debit withdrawals of at least 500 kroner a month. But now they want at least 20.000 kroner in lump sum, with the promise that people will get their money back when the Tamils ​​have got their own state.

This tells one who does not dare to stand up. Sivarajah himself refuses to pay money to the Tamil Tigers.

- But I know people who have recently paid lump sums of between 25.000 and 50.000 kroner, says Sivarajah.

Another Tamil tells of families who have paid several hundred thousand kroner. To have this opportunity at all, they go to the bank and refinance their mortgage.

- Someone I know, who is a social client, paid 300 kroner a month to the Tamil Tigers. When I asked him why he did not buy winter clothes for the children, he could not answer. Tears just flowed down her face, Sivarajah says.

No one hides that someone pays the "revolution tax" to the terror-stamped Tamil Tigers with joy and of their own free will. But according to a New Time has talked to, most people are pressured to do so. Another says that no one wants to talk about this due to fear of the Tamil Tigers, but suggests that half of the Tamils ​​living in Norway are pressured to pay. It is claimed that the Tamil Tigers collected one million kroner in just one day.

- Most of us just want to avoid trouble when we go to Sri Lanka to visit family and friends, says another.

Afraid of reprisals

According to the Tamils ​​who have contacted Ny Tid, everyone who has paid "revolution tax" will receive an ID card from the Tamil Tigers as proof. The ID card has a letter followed by a four-digit number code. Tamils ​​living in Norway get the letter N in front of the number code.

By presenting this card when traveling back to Sri Lanka to visit relatives and friends in LTTE-controlled areas, they avoid "trouble". If they do not have the card, they risk that the Tamil Tigers will not let them in, Ny Tid is told.

- When they came to me and demanded money, I refused to pay. Then they said that the Tamil Tigers wanted to know that I have not paid if I go to Sri Lanka, says one of the Tamils ​​living in Norway.

Many say they pay for fear of reprisals from the Tamil Tigers against family members still living in Sri Lanka.

Sivarajah can testify that the Tamil Tigers closely follow what is happening in Norway. In December last year, he handed out a letter from the organization Liberal Democratic Tamils ​​to all the representatives in the Storting. In the letter, the representatives were asked for help in getting a Tamil who was kidnapped by the Tamil Tigers released.

- Although I was not the sender of the letter, my parents in Sri Lanka were approached by the Tamil Tigers that evening. They were told to stop me from criticizing the LTTE, Sivarajah says.

Hero's day

Many also claim to Ny Tid that people in the Tamil community do not dare other than to show up at events that the Tamil Tigers are behind in Norway.

One such event is the annual celebration of Heros Day. It takes place on November 27 – the birthday of the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Prabhakaran.

Last year, the celebration was added to the Exporama exhibition hall at Hellerudsletta outside Oslo. First, Ny Tid was invited by someone who supports the Tamil Tigers to come to the celebration, "so you can see how much support the Tamil Tigers have". At the last moment, however, there was a counter-message from Tamil Yogarajah Balasingam, representative of the Labor Party in Oslo City Council. The event was now closed, and Ny Tid was still not welcome.

Information from Tamils ​​in Norway and photos from the event show, however, that what took place on Hellerudsletta was a pure tribute to the Tamil Tigers' fight for a separate country. And a tribute to the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Prabhakaran.

- Those who support Prabhakaran call him "the sun god". But he is a dictator, says one of the Tamils.

At the center of the five-hour event were coffins, tombstones and pictures of LTTE martyrs. Through posters, theater and dance, the history and goals of the Tamil branches were highlighted on the "sun god's" 51st birthday.

- Only those who have sacrificed their lives for the Tamil Tigers are remembered during the event. I am Tamil and will never accept that we are treated as second class in Sri Lanka. But when the police in Norway can not help us against the threats from the Tamil Tigers in this country, how can Norway then help the Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka, Sivarajah asks.

Now he is just waiting for the Tamil Tigers to knock on the door.

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