France apologises to Sri Lanka over Tamil Tiger stamps
France has been forced to apologise to the Sri Lankan government after its post office issued “personalised” stamps supporting the armed separatist Tamil Tiger group, which is banned in France.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister GL Peiris summoned French ambassador Christine Robichon on Tuesday to protest after local media revealed that stamps calling for Tamil Eelam – an independent Tamil homeland – had been arriving from France.
According to the Sri Lankan government, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrilla group, which the Sri Lankan government defeated after a long war in 2009, was instructing its supporters to use the stamps to raise funds and show support for its cause.
A furious Peiris pointed out that the European Union has classified the LTTE as a terrorist group, as has the US, and expressed “acute concern” that four sets of a total of 360 stamps had been printed by the French post office, La Poste.
They include images of slain LTTE leader Velipullai Prabhakaran and the movement's logo.
The stamps were produced by La Poste’s Phil@poste service, which invites subscribers to upload images to be printed on custom-made stamps.
La Poste has admitted that “stamps with inappropriate visuals” had been issued “by mistake”, according to a statement by the French embassy in Sri Lanka, and has undertaken not to produce any more stamps for the group that had commissioned them.
Three “designated agents” – presumably little-versed in international politics – are charged with checking the suitability of about 2,000 images a week, it said.
Contacted by RFI, La Poste’s press office appeared unaware of the incident but admitted that it could have taken place since the employees are more used to keeping an eye out for nudity than for guerrilla fighters.
Sri Lanka’s Paris embassy called for the monitoring service should be beefed up to ensure that its terms and conditions, “one of which is that no weapon of any sort should be reproduced”, be enforced - a call that may give some small hope to a few of France's four million jobseekers.
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