The Sunday Leader

Stamp Sized Issue Causes International Fiasco

By Rhian Deutrom

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M. K. B. Dissanayake Picture Courtesy: srilankamirror.com

In just three years, the island nation of Sri Lanka has emerged from a civil war eagerly anticipating a future free of bloodshed and loss.
The country is already experiencing a period of economic development, tourism is expected to soar and smiles are slowly returning to people’s faces as they rebuild their lives in peace.
Yet, as the people of Sri Lanka enjoy a much needed break from the violence which spanned nearly thirty years, an international terrorism threat has rocked the government and placed the island’s harmony in jeopardy.
Reports have emerged that pro LTTE postage stamps have been issued in the United Kingdom, France and Canada in attempts to gather support from Tamil Diaspora and LTTE sympathisers keen to reignite their fight for a separate Tamil state.
The overseas propaganda material was immediately brought to the attention of all relevant Sri Lankan High Commissions to begin a process of investigation.
The UK, France and Canada have issued statements to the press maintaining that the issue has been sorted out and publicly apologised for any distress caused.
Although the true intent of the circulating stamps is yet to be announced, some say that Sri Lanka’s fragile state of rejuvenation has been threatened by this regrettable incident.

France

An initiative known as Montimbramoi (My Own Stamp) commenced five years ago by the French postal service La Poste where customers can print personalised sheets of stamps.
An unidentified individual has reportedly printed several sheets of these custom made stamps depicting 32 rounds of bullets and crossed machine guns, a symbol which is universally attributed to the LTTE.
According to La Poste, this is the first grave incident that they have known in the printing of personalised postage stamps.
In a press statement, La Poste Strategy and International Director, Lousi Virgile said, “These stamps were printed on December 14, 2011, a holiday season during which the printing office of La Poste in Boulazac had to deal with more than 2,000 requests for personalized postal stamps per week”.
This, however, should not excuse the effortless promotion of a group which the European Union has deemed a terrorist organisation since 2006. In a country which has publicly opposed the war in Iraq and deliberately avoided engaging in several instances of violence, how could France allow the printing of material which carries images used to incite rebellion and civil war?

The United Kingdom

One would assume that a country which has followed the United States into a war to protect the world against terror is not one in which terrorist material would be printed.
However, the United Kingdom has come under attack for allowing an LTTE front organisation to print personalised stamps depicting the late LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
According to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, Royal Mail runs a service known as ‘Smiler Service’ which allows customers to combine a postage stamp with a photograph of an individual.
The High Commission released a statement saying, “Royal Mail has investigated the matter immediately and confirmed to us that they promptly cancelled an account set up by the individual”.
According to Royal Mail a small number of these custom made stamps were printed however all future orders will be prohibited.
What is of concern to many is that if the West is so intent on tackling terrorism, how could they let a simple sheet of stamps depicting a terrorist organisation escape their otherwise meticulous monitoring?
Is this due to the fact that the LTTE poses no immediate threat to the stability of the United Kingdom? If this is the case then Sri Lanka should brace itself for a future of violence provoked by extremist Sri Lankan Diaspora and LTTE sympathisers.

Canada

Canada has also been caught up in the sensational stamp saga with allegations emerging that the country’s postal service allowed the printing of a stamp which read ‘I remember Tamil Genocide’.
In a press statement, President and CEO of the Canada Post Corporation Deepak Chopra assured critics that the offending stamps “Were not printed by our picture postage programme and is in no way part of our official philatelic programme which goes through a very careful selection process including approval by our Board of Directors”.

Back home

Additional information has surfaced regarding the fate which awaits the offending stamps in Sri Lanka.
Upon the identification of any pro-LTTE postage stamps, the Sri Lankan postal service will record the details of the addressee and commence an investigation.
Postmaster General of Sri Lanka, M. K. B. Dissanayake told The Sunday Leader, “I have instructed all international inbound sector officers that  once they receive these particular letters they are to remove the envelope and stamp, make a record and personally deliver them to the client”.
The Postmaster General’s ‘personal touch’ has sparked allegations of illegal tampering with inbound mail.
According to the Universal Postal Union Convention, ‘Postal administrations shall be liable for the loss of, theft from or damage to registered items’.
By interfering with this mail, the Sri Lankan Postal Exchange could potentially breach a vital code of conduct as letters carrying the terrorist stamps will be opened and investigated.
While most people would believe this to be an extreme invasion of privacy and a criminal offence, Postmaster General Dissanayake has already given the go ahead.
“No letters carrying the stamp have arrived in Sri Lanka yet, but we are prepared,” he said.
Sri Lankan Ambassador to France, Dayan Jayatilleka told The Sunday Leader, “If people are unhappy with this and there are legal implications they can petition it and take the matter to the Supreme Court”.

Symbolic terrorism?

In an age of liberal democracies brimming with progressive thinkers, freedom of expression is an act which is encouraged and accepted by the vast majority.
Some believe that this sensationalised case of ‘terrorist’ postage stamps will have no impact on a resurgence of civil conflict – they are merely an expression of the Tamil identity and rich heritage.
They have questioned whether a stamp can really begin another civil war. However this small act of propaganda could mark the beginning of a Diaspora-inspired movement against Sri Lanka’s newly established peace.
Ambassador Jayatilleka told The Sunday Leader that while he has no problem with ethnic groups expressing their grievances, he has taken particular issue with these groups’ explicit use of symbolic terrorism to spread their violent message.
“These Diaspora have chosen to live in liberal democracies so one expects them not to abuse or misuse the freedoms of their host country”, he said.
“This incident shows that these extremists have not changed one bit – they still have no respect for democracy”.
While the country awaits the arrival of these pro-terrorist stamps one thing remains certain – animosity towards the Sri Lankan government still exists in the international community and is making its way back to our island.

French Postal Authority Apologizes
The French Postal Authority, La Poste, has apologized for printing stamps with members and symbols of the LTTE.
According to the Sri Lankan Embassy in France, the apology has been published on the website of La Poste after the issue was raised with both the postal authority and the French government.
The French Postal Authority says, “this is the first grave incident that Phil@poste has known in the printing of personalized postal stamps”.
The statement says La Poste has been the “victim of unscrupulous and manipulative customers”.
It says that in addition to written apologies, two directors, François Chalvet, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Louis Virgile, Director of Strategy and International have apologized to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Paris, in person on behalf of Phil@poste.
In December 2011, a customer ordered sheets of personalized postal stamps representing members and symbols of the LTTE, an organization listed as terrorist by the European Union since 2006.
These stamps were printed on December 14, 2011, a holiday season during which the printing office of Phil@poste in Boulazac had to deal with more than 2,000 requests of personalized postal stamps per week.
La Poste said that the personalized postal-stamps with images of the LTTE exceptionally escaped the vigilance of the controlling body.
Phil@poste has been in touch with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Paris on this matter.
“Beyond the written apologies, François Chalvet, Director  of Sales and Marketing, and I have met this Thursday, January 5, His Excellency the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to apologize in person on behalf of Phil@poste,” Louis Virgile, Director – Strategy and International at Phil@poste has said.

12 Comments for “Stamp Sized Issue Causes International Fiasco”

  1. yakolis

    Aren’t the French, the British and Canadian Postal Authorities being naive? If the LTTE is categorized as a Terrorist Organization in those countries has not this LTTE Diaspora act violated the Criminal Law of those countries?

    • Ma-Rout-Ti

      No they are not naive., it’s simply that the LTTE rump has found a way to exploit the Westerners without them realising it., It’s the same story with the gullible HR industry, NGO’s etc etc

  2. raj

    since war crimes accussations have arised, both warring parties on the same level. What is happnening is one tries to convince world that other is worse than the accuser. No one’s hand is without blood. before accuse, one need to face all accussations and to prove all are false. Just denial is not ok. anyone can deny easily. .

  3. Umesch

    Come to equity, come with clean hand. If GOSL is 101% CLEAN and not committed any war crime it is reluctant to face inquiry. GOSL should have
    volunteered for or initiated an International inquiry .LLRC is not acceptable
    in any way as it is formed by GOSL and financed by GOSL.INDEPENDENT INQUIRY is good for the country and for the peoples. Otherwise this is
    going to haunt GOSL & it’s present ruler. Compare CHILIE’s strong man
    who was arrested in UK. This could happen in future.

  4. Johanne Goonesekara

    The LTTE is well and truly alive. This stupid thug govt thinks that it has destroyed the LTTE is foolish. Think again. This damn development (with starving people) and tourism will stop once the war begins. It will only be a matter of time.

  5. MKV

    I wouldn’t blame France, UK and Canada Postal Dept for this.
    Most of these countries run the personalised postage options.
    Any Individual can print their own Stamp. These stamps would not be sold at All post office like regular stamps.
    Its unfortunate that things lie this happen.
    Its very difficult for these Post Dept to keep track of all these stamps.
    From GOSL part it was a correct decision to report it to these Postal Depts.

  6. Nishanka

    When Sri Lanka is allowed to print currency depicting “war criminal” there is nothing wrong in printing stamps with Prabaharan, What you guys say?

  7. gorakaya

    It’s all over guys. The diaspora can stick their stamps anywhere they like.

  8. Saman

    Fight between terrorist and state terrorist

  9. john Silva

    As war criminals are running Sri lanka what does it matter if other people get some private stamps printed. At least they don,t have blood on their hands like the family regime in complete control of the country.It has been said in the past that a country gets the government it deserves , … was there ever a remark that was more true than this about Sri lanka.

  10. human

    Sri lankan govt must show they are perfect enough to blame or .. what ever .. is wrong to others, stop corruption and illegal activities, favours to supporters etc, show the world Law is the LOKKA in sri lanka….

  11. Mahes

    To the Singala regime which proclaim that they are holier than holy buddhist regime but even after their victory involving terrible war crime , massacre and continued military occupation ,cruelty to the discarded displaced people , abduction , continued dissapearences ,human rights violation on the supposedly its own citizens are all in the name of security. They the Singala regime want the world to ignore all of their violations and focus on LTTE printed stamps in the western countries and presence of tamil organizations.

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