‘Political issues should be resolved through discussion’
Sayed M.M. Bazeer
In Sri Lanka, there is nothing scarier than being a Tamil person of
influence - whether you are a teacher, a school principal, a doctor, a
journalist, a politician, or a successful businessman. Ordinary Tamils
have learned to keep their heads down, do exactly what their neighbours
do, and not make waves. These lessons travelled with them to Toronto and
London and Paris - where the LTTE and its supporters continued to take
over and monopolize social structures, from refugee relief in the 1980s
to newspapers, shops and temples. A few threats, a few smear campaigns,
a murder or two, and the lesson is reinforced.
A 2006 report, ‘Funding the Final War’ of the Human Rights watch
which tabled numerous threats the LTTE issued to outspoken Tamils began
with the above quote. Our protagonist, however, is not a Tamil but a
Muslim who loves his motherland.
A leading social figure in the UK, Sayed M.M. Bazeer, the President
of the Sri Lankan Muslim Information Centre, London had to live in fear
during the height of LTTE war. The fact he was thousands of miles away
from the LTTE strongholds in the North of Sri Lanka was hardly
reassuring. The threats against him were so fresh that he thought they
originated on his doorstep.
His outspokenness against the LTTE and boldness to put these ideas to
pen as a writer of both English and Tamil media and deliver highly
critical speeches at various forums earned him the wrath of the terror
outfit. The fear was so intense, at one time, a police patrol was
deployed to cover his house and Scotland Yard took over investigations
into his complaints.
The HRW report which classified LTTE threats on Lankans referred to
one of his cases as follows, In December 2005, Seyed Bazeer, a
U.K.-based lawyer, was accused by an LTTE-associated website of being
linked to Al-Qaeda after he had spoken publicly against LTTE killings of
Muslims in Eastern Sri Lanka. The website, Nitharsanam, claimed that
Bazeer, a Tamil-speaking Muslim, was the U.K. representative of the Sri
Lankan arm of Al-Qaeda, and was “known to incite violence by spreading
Osama Bin Laden’s Jihad theology and ideology.” The site published a
photo of Bazeer and urged U.K. government action to “curb the activities
of such individuals.”
The Sunday Observer met Bazeer in Colombo while on a trip to Sri
Lanka. Although his life stood still during the height of LTTE terror,
his courage, boldness and outspokenness have not diminished. The
excerpts from the interview:
In early 88 I began my practise in Colombo because I could not
practise in Batticaloa, my hometown, due to LTTE problems.
I graduated from the University of Peradeniya and subsequently moved
to Colombo where I finished my professional studies at the Sri Lanka Law
College to become an Attorney-at-Law. In early ‘88 I started my
practice. It was a bad period in the country, the LTTE had its share of
violence in the North and the East and JVP instigated riots dominated
the scene in the South. In 1992 I moved to the UK.
I started a general practise there. Then I had couple of people
working for me. We did immigration counselling as well. I was mostly
concentrating on civil litigation cases, property matters. This is still
my line of focus.
From the people I have come across, most of the refugees from Sri
Lanka have left the country due to financial reasons. They did not have
other problems but they concoct stories so that they will not be
extradited from UK.
Like what happened here, with the end of the war, the LTTE has
changed appearance to look more democratic. They want to show that their
dealings have transformed from military purposes to democratic and
peaceful means of winning the ‘genuine grievances of Tamils’.
Their military voice has lost its spark but the same ideologies still
persist. They don’t want to let it die down. The LTTE remnants are
marking their time for the next available opportunity.
The LTTE continues to be a proscribed organisation in UK. Those days
the LTTE used force on the Tamil diaspora sections in the UK to extort
money. They were compelled and sometimes threatened to contribute but
now this practise seems to have vanished. It has assumed a different
guise. It is the humanitarian cloak that they wear now. This is an easy
way of propagating separatism and disseminating hatred among the Tamil
community and selling their stories of Tamil persecution in Sri Lanka.
The unlawful methods used in the past to bleed money from diaspora
sections cannot be used now. But organisations like the Global Tamil
Forum which advocates a transnational government has taken centre stage
and it is not simple to counter their propaganda.
A famous Tamil dramatist who had performed at places such as
Elphinstone Theatre, is a vocal advocate of the LTTE now. He is the one
persuading the younger community in the UK now, making use of a Tamil
radio station dedicated to the cause of the LTTE. He is also behind the
Oxford demonstration at the time President Rajapaksa was invited to
address the Oxford Union. That was a premeditated and a highly organised
protest. The British media reported it as a spontaneous protest by Tamil
youth but I came on BBC and countered that this was not a spontaneous
outburst of anger but a premeditated and highly organised conspiracy and
that the LTTE players were behind it.
I felt sorry for what happened. It could have been avoided if the
LTTE’s under currants were identified and defeated at the right time. By
blocking that speech they disgraced their own Motherland, not the
President or anyone else.
Presently there is a major media campaign against Sri Lanka and the
Government. A vigorous mechanism in the Sri Lankan mission in UK is
needed to counter this propaganda of the LTTE. This is very vital if
their international network is to be dismantled. The Tamil media
stations led by extreme elements of Sri Lankan Tamils have to be closely
monitored and countered immediately before they succeed in brainwashing
the moderate diaspora community.
With the end of the war most of the Tamil diaspora members wanted to
help their people in the North and the East rebuild their lives, but the
situation is fast shifting from this goodwill mentality to ‘taking
revenge’ thanks to the work of the LTTE remnants.
In Canada when the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum was formed somewhere in
2000, I was invited to speak. There I presented the case of the Sri
Then I fell out with them, it was originally formed against the LTTE.
It was a Tamil organisation, there were few Sinhalese such as Kanishka
Gunawardena and Arjuna Parakrama.
A lot of people were reluctant to join the organisation as they were
scared of the LTTE. It was a time the LTTE was fairly strong. The
inaugural meeting was held in Canada. I slowly moved out, because when
the LTTE was completely destroyed they started to find fault with the
Government and shifted their criticism towards the State.
The target changed. But the same vigorous propaganda was used. I felt
uneasy to be there. I felt the issues we have with the Government should
be resolved through discussion. They are internal matters and they
should not be leaked out. We don’t want to feed the international media
or groups with vested interests to go against the country.
I was invited as a speaker to the Burgher Foundation, Germany, in
2006. I participated in several of their meetings. I did not realise
they had a hidden agenda. The (vociferous pro-LTTE figure) father
Emmanuel also participated in the meetings. Also K.P. Reggie, the TRO
head and several other LTTE representatives who took part in peace talks
on behalf of LTTE attended the meetings. They all had some clandestine
When I spoke on behalf of the Muslim people they accused me of trying
to divide the communities. They wanted us to toe the LTTE line as Tamil
speaking people of Sri Lanka. They were trying to get our help to get
what they aspired - a separate homeland.
Many people who left Sri Lanka over numerous reasons have formed NGOs
overseas. This is a very lucrative business and the best way to earn
money is to betray your country and portray a distorted picture of human
rights abuses. Then the money will keep gushing in.
Tamilnet, Lankasri are few of the websites I can quote as
disseminating LTTE ideologies. Eelanadu (Eelam Nation) is a newspaper
printed in France, most of the papers are issued freely. In every temple
these papers propagating LTTE ideologies in a very subtle manner are
distributed freely. There are two TV stations in the UK which openly
support the LTTE.
Even though Prabhakaran is no more, his separatist ideology is being
carried forward. That’s how I look at it. They still repeat ‘we want
autonomy, we are a separate entity, we want our own rule’.
These kinds of feelings are still there. These newspapers harbour
such feelings. They project the terrorists killed in fighting as heroes
and assure the fight for Eelam is hardly finished. They even promote the
culture of sacrifice, suicide in the name of Eelam. These are dangerous
These are not free papers. There is a large population of Tamils who
do not belong in the educated category. They migrated during the height
of war. These people rely on these media for information.
In UK freedom of expression is regarded highly. The Government cannot
do much against these things. But promoting terrorism is a crime in UK.
Monitoring the media is critical. I once complained to Oftel (Office
of Telecommunications the regulator for UK telecommunications industry)
that some of the Tamil media houses promote terrorism and terrorist
leaders. They replied to my complaint.
Even the Sri Lankan Government has to do a lot. We are not working
for them but we love our Motherland and we are patriots. I have been
countering LTTE propaganda on my own with a lot of risk to my life and
my family. We don’t belong to any political party.
This is a domestic issue and we don’t want any outsider to interfere.
We want to settle this issue among us. We don’t want NGOs or
humanitarian organisations telling us what to do. The LTTE fronts always
meet British parliamentarians and try to drag them into pressurizing the
Government to give into their demands.
Recently I met Lord Brown. He sent for me. I briefed him on what is
actually taking place in Sri Lanka.
The Tamil people are not afraid of the LTTE. They say the LTTE is now
defeated. What is the solution now ? They are expecting some solution to
address the existing problems. The defeated mindset is there now.
This is the area the Government should work on. Prabhakaran created
such a myth that they were invincible. They even challenged the US and
The LTTE said we chased off IPKF, we are such a valiant force. The
people who believed that rhetoric, now question them. Where are your
boys, the valiant force, now. This type of criticism is also there. But
the bottom line is they now wonder what is going to happen.
When I was interviewed by DAN TV about ten days back, I asked them,
you talk about a solution, what exactly is your problem. First of all
you must identify the specific problem that you have. Without that you
cannot talk about a solution, as if we are in 1956. Talk about
standardisation is out of the agenda now. Of course the language issue
has to be looked at. I don’t think there is anything else. In the past
we had a few hours of allocation for Tamil medium programs on TV. Now we
have half a dozen Tamil TV stations, radio stations and print media.
We can go anywhere and work anywhere in the country. How can you say
the Sinhalese are persecuting you or discriminating you. New laws have
been introduced for national reconciliation. I ask them to identify what
Rather than threatening everyone, you have to identify the issues and
then we can talk about the solution. If not there can never be a lasting
Muslims in the East took up arms not because they had a problem with
the Sinhalese, that was because they had to protect their villages from
the LTTE. Our people never claimed to have problems.
We don’t have problems living among the Sinhalese. If you speak to an
ordinary Muslim living in the South, they will never talk about problems
from the majority community. The SLMC talked about issues just to take
political mileage. That was a political agenda. They are also quiet now.
In the past it has been the Tamils who pulled out whenever there were
negotiations for a solution. President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s solution
was a better offer at the time. Who pulled out? It was the Tamils. Now
there is talk about the need to merge the North and the East. The
package offered by her was the best opportunity to do that. Why did not
they seize the opportunity, then ? This is the nature of Tamil
To sustain their position, they keep criticising the government and
alter their demands from time to time to scuttle the process. Otherwise
they will be out of business. They want to sustain their political
Within the TNA there is a leadership struggle now. There is Mavei and
Suresh Premachandran, who will be the next leader. It seems to be that
Sampanthan is in the last leg of his tenure. They are vying for the top
post in the party.
MP Sumanthiran is a different person, he was born and studied in
Colombo. He is a Royalist. This background impacts on how he looks at
the Tamil issue. If he becomes the leader, then solving the problems
will not be difficult. I don’t think Sampanthan will ever change.
Bazeer was a guest speaker at the Oxford Student Union in 2010 and
was also invited to speak at the Oxford Union again in 2011 on the
occasion where the President was invited to speak but never materialised
due to alleged LTTE instigated protests. He was a founding member of the
Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, which was inaugurated in Canada in 2002.
He was one of the members of the first Tamil speaking Diaspora
delegation that visited Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Sri Lankan
government in February 2008.