Sunday, September 19, 2010


*** Still the biggest act of terrorism against Canadians in our history.

CSIS / RCMP issues still remain - such is the nature of organizations tasked to collect/analyze/disseminate intelligence products in competition with one another. Thankfully Canada has only a handful of such agencies and when you look at the U.S. with its massive bureaucracies, it should be sufficient to convince us to be very cautious about engaging in national security while in competition with one another.

Air India was a national tragedy for Canada and it remains so because lessons are truly not learned. A government report by virture of issuance cannot correct the inherent flaws to be found in large bureaucracies, especially those MOST resistant to change (police, military types). Change must come from within, which requires a recalibration of mindset and perspective. The question is: does the will to do so exist? MS ***

VANCOUVER - Convicted bomb maker Inderjit Singh Reyat didn't flinch when he heard the word "guilty" in court Saturday, nor when a judge said he'd be held in custody pending a sentencing hearing for a perjury conviction.

Reyat, 58, has spent almost a quarter century in and out of prison, and in November he will likely learn he'll be serving more time behind bars after two prior convictions related to the 1985 bombings.

His third conviction could be the last chapter in the Air India saga, a tragedy of unmatched proportions in Canadian history, but one with a most unsatisfactory ending because others believed to be involved in the disasters that killed 331 people have not been held responsible.

Reyat, a bespectacled Sikh who wears a turban and has a long greying beard, told court in 2003 at the trial of two other men facing mass murder charges that he became a baptized Sikh at age 16 after his family moved from India to England three years earlier.

He said he was the only member of his family to be baptized and that his mother prepared separate meals for him so he could adhere to his religion, which bans the eating of meat.

Reyat testified that when a leader of a Sikh separatist group asked him to collect bomb-making materials in Vancouver in 1984, he agreed to do so "to help people in India."

"I complied with Parmar's request because I was very upset with the Indian government's treatment of the Sikh people and I wanted to assist their cause in any way that I could," he said in a February 2003 affidavit for his second conviction.

That netted him a controversial five-year sentence for the bombing deaths of 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985.

Reyat had already served a decade-long sentence for another bombing that day at Tokyo's Narita Airport, where two baggage handlers died when a suitcase bomb meant for Bangkok-bound Air India Flight 301 exploded prematurely.

Reyat's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, said his client was merely a "soldier" who followed orders from a "general" when he agreed to collect bomb parts.

The Crown maintains the two bomb-laden suitcases originated at Vancouver's airport as part of a plot against government-owned Air India by British Columbia-based Sikh extremists who felt the Indian government was oppressing Sikhs, a minority in their former homeland.

In June 1984, a year before the Air India bombings, the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, home to the religion's holiest shrine, in an effort to oust Sikh separatists fighting for an independent homeland called Khalistan they wanted to carve out of the province of Punjab.

Thousands of Sikhs died in "Operation Bluestar" and the religious fervour and anger that resulted spread to Canada.

In Vancouver,Sikhs including Reyat rallied by the thousands outside the Indian Consulate and called for the death of then-prime Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in October 1984.

In 1986, a year after the Air India bombings, Reyat moved back to England with his wife, Satnam Kaur Reyat, with whom he had four children.

He was extradited from England to face the Narita charges after police found evidence at the blast site and connected it to bomb-making material Reyat bought in Duncan, B.C.

The Crown subpoenaed Reyat to testify in 2003 at the trial of Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, who were charged with mass murder in the Air India bombings.

Malik and Bagri were acquitted, and Reyat was charged with perjury in 2006.

The Crown accused Reyat of lying 19 times to minimize his involvement in the bombings and to protect others who targeted Air India.

Major Sidhu, whose sister died aboard Flight 182, said "everybody knows that (Reyat) was lying" at the Air India trial.

Sidhu said Reyat repeatedly made false statements at the trial because he feared retribution and despite others' involvement in the plot, he is the only one who has been punished.

"I think he was under pressure from other people and he was scared," said Sidhu, who was a regular spectator at the trial in 2003 and 2004.

Sidhu said it's a well-known fact in the Indo-Canadian community that Reyat's devotion to his Sikh cause is so extreme that his wife and four kids have suffered as a consequence.

"His daughter got married in Toronto, and he was in jail," Sidhu said.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Ian Josephson, who presided over the Air India trial in 2003 and 2004, cited Sikh extremism in his written ruling, which paid tribute to the deaths of 331 people, mostly Canadians, who lost their lives in the disasters.

"These hundreds of men, women and children were entirely innocent victims of a diabolical act of terrorism unparalleled until recently in aviation history and finding its roots in fanaticism at its basest and most inhumane level," he said, comparing the Air India bombings to the 9-11 attacks in the U.S.

Perviz Madon's husband Sam Madon was on the doomed plane when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland.

She attended Reyat's perjury trial and heard a recording of the same lies he told at Malik and Bagri's trial seven years earlier.

"I'm really happy that the jury saw (the lies), and it's a good message that we're sending that you can't get away with lying under oath," she said.

"I hope that this is the end of it."