Pirapaharan roams the world again …. as a stamp

Courtesy of India Today online, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/slain-ltte-chief-turns-up-on-french-postal-stamps/1/166737.html

He may not be in his trademark fatigues and expressionless glum face, but there’s no mistaking the man in the stamp — a smiling and clean-shaven Velupillai Prabhakaran in casuals. The ghost of the slain LTTE supremo has returned to haunt Sri Lanka, on stamps allegedly issued in France with government approval!

In all, four stamps have been brought out by LTTE operatives who keep their identity under wraps, claim pro-Tiger and Tamil websites in Chennai. These websites have gone to town claiming this as a post-war public relations victory for the Tamil diaspora. The portals also claimed that people have already started using these stamps.

This peculiar event has created curiosity not only among the apologists of the banned outfit but also among Sri Lanka watchers. Besides the Tiger chief, the other stamps are that of the LTTE flag with its sword-crossed tiger emblem, the Eelam map and the ‘Kaarthigai’ flower – the national flower of Eelam.

Sri Lankan newspapers and the BBC have also reported this development and the response of the French government is awaited, while a rattled Colombo has reportedly lodged a strong protest with Paris.

The LTTE was wiped out and its military might crushed in the 2009 Eelam war, which resulted in the death of over a lakh people, besides rendering over five lakh people homeless. During the close of the war in the middle of May 2009, Prabhakaran was found killed and his body recovered in Mullivaikal, a lagoon in north-eastern Lanka.

Following the rout, the outfit’s global network has come under severe strain and to a large extent its fund-raising machine, too, has remained crippled. But the release of these “stamps” clearly show that the remnants of the LTTE abroad are down but certainly not out. They have changed tack and adopted different tactics to keep alive the dream of Eelam, which many believe is a lost cause.

In the aftermath of the war, Tiger functionaries as well as sympathisers abroad have joined together under the leadership of Rudrakumar, a noted lawyer settled in the US, to form the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). It has a parliament with representatives from all over the globe. The TGTE has announced that it was no more wedded to armed conflict and would explore democratic means to secure an independent Tamil homeland, for which the LTTE had been fighting for since 1983.

But, significantly enough, the TGTE has not yet reacted to the release of the stamps in France, indicating that this could be the handiwork of a splinter group within the former military outfit.

“We would look into it and respond,” Sri Lankan deputy high commissioner Vadivel Ravanan said when asked about this development.



With regard to stamps originating in France, bearing various symbols representing the LTTE, a terrorist organization listed as such by the EU, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Paris wishes to make the following statement:

The Embassy of Sri Lanka has been in communication with La Poste which is the issuing authority for official stamps, with regard to the matter of stamps bearing the symbols of an organization which was responsible for many atrocities that are well known by the world community.

The Embassy wishes to inform the Sri Lankan public that it has received a communication from La Poste which informs us that one of their services includes the possibility for the public to create customized or personalized stamps with the option of choosing and uploading freely the image they expect to see. This facility is administered by 3 designated agents who receive over 2000 requests per week. These agents are required to put in place the necessary means for the verification of the images sent to their service by the clients/customers.

La Poste accepts that a collection of “stamps with inappropriate visuals” associated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an association classified by the EEC as a terrorist group, had been printed “by mistake”. La Poste has apologized for this error on behalf of Phil@poste, the entity engaged in the overall administration of the online service. 

It further “confirms that these personalized stamps are not in any way a part of the official French philatelic programme” and gives its assurance that no other stamp will be undertaken by their services “with these visuals and for this association”.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka has initiated a process of further representations to the relevant authorities at the highest level about these stamps, which prima facie violate the terms and conditions that have to be met in order to be produced, one of which is that no weapon of any sort should be reproduced. This Embassy also intends to make the case that the systems and controls in place to prevent further occurrences of this sort should be adequate and be sufficiently monitored.

 Embassy of Sri Lanka, Paris, 3rd January 2012

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