I was invited to attend an event at the Toronto Law Courts organised by the South Asia Bar Association of Canada. I thought it was a very good opportunity for me to meet and network with South Asian lawyers in Canada. After the lecture by the Attorney General of Ontario, I walked into the reception hall and saw a prominent LTTE backer and harsh critic of Sri Lanka, Garry Anandasangaree. He is a son of TULF leader, V. Anandasangaree.
When the LTTE was trying to kill his father, this son became an ardent supporter of the terrorist group. I was well briefed on the activities of Gary Anandasangaree by Major General Kapila Hendavitharana, Head of the Military Intelligence and Darshana Perera, who headed the Counter Terrorism Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Though I knew Anandasangaree’s background well, I thought it was my duty as a diplomat to reach out to the man and, if possible, explain the situation, clear his doubts or even win him over. So, I walked up to him and introduced myself: “Hello Garry. I am Bandula Jayasekara. I am the new Consul General for Sri Lanka in Toronto.” I was sure he knew me but without batting an eyelid and looking at me angrily, the man responded, “Deepest sympathies!”
Needless to say I got my goat. It had to react. I walked closer to him with only six inches separating us and questioned: “What did you say, …. ? What did you say? How much money have you collected for the terrorists?”
A shocked Sangaree took a step back and told me: “You take a step back.”
“No! You take a step back you …,” I yelled. I looked around and made sure no one was watching or listening to us. I knew it would be trouble if anyone heard me. Gary who felt very intimidated asked me repeatedly to take a step back. I continued to ask him how much money he had collected for the terrorist group to kill innocent people of Sri Lanka. I didn’t budge. Then, I told him: “I know what people like you are up to. You are a bloody terrorist.”
I thought to myself, “This is Canada; and it’s like the Wild West; after all America is next door and let me enjoy this while I can.” As Garry kept staring at me, I told him: “I am watching you. Be careful of what you do,” proceeded to network with other guests.
Whilst interacting with other guests, I watched a dumbfounded Garry standing still with a glass of wine in his hand. He sure was uncomfortable in his own territory. My guerrilla diplomacy had worked. I met several people at the event; not only lawyers but other guests and explained to them the situation in Sri Lanka and shed light on the atrocities committed by LTTE terrorists both in Sri Lanka and Canada. That was the purpose for which I had been sent to Toronto.
But, my battle with Garry Anandasangaree wasn’t over yet. I kept looking at him. I wanted to intimidate the man who said “Deepest Sympathies” to me. As I was leaving the reception, I walked up to him and whispered: “Listen you …. I am not like the previous Consuls General.”
That was one of my happiest days in Toronto despite it being one of my early days there. I walked to the car, beaming.
However, I expected a counter attack any moment. Even that night itself! I called some Sri Lankan/Canadian Tamil friends and informed them of the incident. I also contacted the father of the man in question, V. Anandasangraee himself. The TULF leader who referred to me as ‘son’ laughed when I told him of the incident over the telephone.
To my surprise Garry or the LTTE lobby didn’t react at all except for a mention of the incident very much later (2009) by pro-LTTE Martin Regg Cohn of The Toronto Star in an opinion piece. It said: “A Tamil Canadian lawyer, Gary Anandasangaree, described being accosted by the consul general at an event where he ‘asked me how much money I collected for the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).’” He said the diplomat was “belligerent and rude.” I had no chance to tell Cohn what else I had told Gary. May be he will read this and know what it was like.
I still thank the Wild West American diplomats for inspiring me to stand up to Gary. I knew I wasn’t wrong in using those words [edited out] when former American Ambassador Robert Blake used similar terms to describe Dayan Jayatilieke (who was Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Geneva at that time). When I met him at a cocktail party at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence in Colombo, Blake was angry that Jayatileke was taking an anti-American stance in Geneva and supporting Cuba.
I saw Gary lobbying against Sri Lanka in Geneva during the Human Rights sessions on a few occasions after the incident. I had no hatred but we were battling a ruthless terrorist group rooted in Sri Lanka, which ran a well-oiled propaganda machinery in the west.
Much later, a Canadian Diplomat, Daryl Copeland, who wrote the book “Guerilla Diplomacy- Rethinking International Relations,” acknowledged my presence at his book launch in Toronto and commended me for thinking out of the box. Copeland says in his book: “Diplomats, as they have traditionally been trained and developed are particularly ill-prepared to diagnose or treat the growing range of political, economic and specially, science based global problems that have become a prominent feature of the evolving international landscape. Like the bases for the new security, the diplomat too must be re-imagined. Class, pedigree and social status, once among the defining elements of the trade, have eclipsed by personal and professional skills not easily acquired at Ivy League schools. These new skills are central to what I call Guerilla Diplomacy”
In Toronto, the capital of Eelam, guerilla diplomacy was mandatory.