Birunthan Muralidaran to be nominated for bravery medal!
Abdraw Palamarchuk Dec. 15, 2006
Police plan to nominate 11-year-old Birunthan Muralidaran for a bravery medal for trying to save a friend before he himself drowned in a Scarborough pond, the boy's father says. "It gives me comfort that he will be remembered as a hero," Muralidaran Nadarajah said of his son. "Really, he's a hero."
On Dec. 10, Birunthan's friend Kishoban Alakeswaran, 15, fell through the ice of a pond near Morningside and Old Finch avenues. Birunthan went onto the ice to try to rescue Kishoban, but he too fell into the frigid water. Both boys were pulled out by emergency crews. Birunthan was pronounced dead in hospital. Kishoban remains in critical condition.
Police also plan to nominate eight people, a civilian and seven emergency workers, for bravery awards for trying to rescue the boys.
A Tamil community group based in Scarborough said it was unfair for news organizations in the city to shift coverage of Birunthan's death to focus on his father's alleged affiliation with the Tamil Tigers.
The shift in direction away from the boy is a sign of the media's disrespect for immigrants and visible minorities, said David Poopalapillai, national spokesperson for the Canadian Tamil Congress.
Though Birunthan and his heroic attempt to rescue a friend from a freezing pond was the focus of news reports, other stories, including one in The Mirror, mentioned federal authorities have accused his father of belonging to the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a charge Nadarajah has denied.
The entire Scarborough family is facing deportation after a failed bid for refugee status.
Tamil families phoned the Congress to complain about "what they describe as impulsive suspicion and finger-pointing at immigrants," Poopalapillai said in a release.
"Had the boy not been of a visible minority origin, I'm sure his heroic actions and not the questionable dealings of his father would have been the centre of media attention."
The Tigers are classified a terrorist group in Canada. The media should have waited at least a week before asking questions about Nadarajah's alleged Tiger membership or the family's status in Canada, Poopalapillai added in an interview.
"They didn't have time to grieve. We find it very distasteful journalism and it was not appropriate."
The Congress is not telling journalists not to pursue such stories, Poopalapillai said. "We want to be in an open society. At the same time, there are limits and bounds and the media should not cross them."
- with files from Mike Adler