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The Globe and Mail

Harper brushes off questions over Tamil candidate who praised terrorist group

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper at a campaign raily in Beaupre, Que., on April 14, 2011.

Mathieu Belanger/Reuters/Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

Stephen Harper insists the Conservatives maintain "a strong position against the Tamil Tigers" despite a party candidate's role in hosting a televised tribute to the banned terrorist group in November.

"Our position on the Tamil Tigers has been strong and unequivocal," Mr. Harper told reporters Thursday in Beaupré, Que. "This is the party that listed the Tamil Tigers [as a terrorist group] previous governments have refused to do so, and our position on that is not going to change."

Mr. Harper was responding to questions raised in a Globe and Mail story about Gavan Paranchothy, a Tamil broadcaster running for the Conservatives in the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Southwest.

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The candidate, who changed his first name to Gavan after he was nominated last month, was known as Ragavan Paranchothy when he hosted a sombre TV special to mark Heroes Day, an annual commemoration of dead Tiger fighters. He referred to the militants as "strong and faithful people who stood guard for the Tamils, fought for freedom and peace."

Mr. Harper's party designated the Tamil Tigers an illegal terrorist group in 2006, and shut down their key Canadian support group, the World Tamil Movement, in 2008.

The Conservative Leader did not answer directly when asked how Mr. Paranchothy became a candidate and whether he would be dumped.

Mr. Paranchothy has told The Globe that he supports the ban on the Tigers, but has yet to elaborate on his opinion of the militant group. The Tigers used suicide bombings, child soldiers and political killings in their failed 26-year war for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, which ended in 2009.

Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Mr. Harper, said Mr. Paranchothy "was asked, and confirmed with the Conservative Party, that he in no way, shape or form was a sympathizer or supporter of the Tamil Tigers" before he was nominated. "If that had been the case ... he would not have been a candidate," Mr. Soudas said.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Mr. Paranchothy remained the party's nominee in Scarborough-Southwest.

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