“Cinema!” “Montage!” “Photoshopped picture”, “fake corpse”, “Sri Lankan government propaganda”... These are the reactions of the Tamil diaspora in France, who refuse to believe that Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran is dead.
On Tuesday, Sri Lankan television showed images of the corpse of Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the chief of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But for the Tamil diaspora, these images are manipulated or fake.
Nadesan, a Sri Lankan who feels the images are "good news, because Prabhakaran is behind much violence”, is among the very few in the Tamil diaspora to celebrate Prabhakaran's death.
Rejecting government declarations, a large majority of the Tamil population in France has been relying on information on the separatist group’s website. A communique from the LTTE’s international relations head Selvarajah Pathmanathan re-affirmed on Tuesday morning that the rebel chief “is alive and safe”.
“Prabhakaran, I know him well. It’s not his body. This is false information meant to discourage the Tamil people,” said a client at Nissan Exotique Market, a grocery store at the corner of Rue Louis-Blanc and Rue Perdonnet.
“An honest man”
In the neighbourhood crammed with Sri Lankan shops and restaurants, the “number one Tiger” is a highly regarded political personality. Many shop-owners in the area placed his effigy at the entrance. Written roughly in French, the inscription leaves no room for ambiguity. “Our leader of the Tamil people and of our land, the Tamil Eelam, is very precious.”
Others took it a step further by putting a portrait of “Prabha” as their mobile phone wallpaper. “He is not like other politicians, who send their children to study in Europe and in the US. He has never kept a cent for himself. He’s an honest man,” says Regaan, while getting a haircut in a salon.
Most Tamils fail to understand why the West compares their hero Prabhakaran to Osama Bin Laden or a godfather of a new mafia. “The classification of the Tigers on the list of terrorist organisations is unfair," says Vithuran, who has been living in France since 1987. " Their targets were never anything but military. No-one forces us to pay a claimed revolutionary tax. This is a lie spread by traitors in the pay of Colombo. In France, during the Second World War, was General de Gaulle a terrorist or a resistance hero?” he argues.
For Vithuran, Tamils have lost their land, but not their courage. "We will soon recover our territory," he says.