The previous Rajapaksa regime initiated a plan to interact closely with the Tamil Diaspora soon after the end of the war in 2009.
A group of Tamil professionals from various parts of the world arrived in Colombo and they held special meetings with former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapasa, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris and former Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa on their role towards stabilizing the reconciliation process in the Island.
It has been estimated that nearly one million Lankan Tamils who had fled the Island’s Northern and Eastern Provinces due to the war are presently domiciled in various developed countries in the West. The majority of them being ordinary civilians with their direct exposure to the war, a significant number of Tamil professionals were also compelled to leave the Island considering their safety following the eruption of civil strife.
It is not only the Tamils even the Sinhalese professionals and academics from the South also fled the Island seeking greener pastures abroad.
So there was a huge ‘brain drain’ that had taken place when the country struggled to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ when the war was in progress.
For instance when the University of Jaffna was established in the mid seventies several leading academics serving especially at the universities of Colombo and Peradeniya arrived in the Peninsula to improve the university education in Jaffna some of them even belonged to the era of the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Ceylon (Colombo) and the founder of the University of Peradeniya Sir Ivor Jennings.
However, several of those academics had fled the Island due to the intensity of the war in the North and the East.
As the war continued for nearly three decades several Tamil Diaspora organizations backed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as well as by the Tamil expatriates genuinely concerned over the humanitarian issues, emerged in the West paying their attention towards the North and the East situation.
Apart from the organizations which remained supportive of the LTTE and continued to support the ruthless outfit without any farsightedness in reaching a settlement for the Tamil question, there were even several organizations that functioned actively to seek an amicable solution to the Lankan crisis through political means.
France’s prestigious Cannes Award winner for the film Deepan Anthony Thasan who was an ex-LTTE cadre told Ceylon Today that there were a significant number of Tamil expatriate associations that remained critical of the LTTE even when the outfit was active in the Island.
“Being an ex-LTTE cadre I didn’t agree with the manner the outfit carried out the struggle. So thousands of Lankan Tamil expatriates domiciled in democratic countries in the West were highly disturbed over the human rights violations and war crimes committed by both sides in the Island,”Anthony Thasan said.
Thasan also criticized the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam led by former Jaffna Mayor Mark Viswanathan’s son Rudrakumaran in the USA.
“The Tamil expatriate activities of this nature will only hamper the moves taken forward building healthy reconciliation in the Island,” Thasan said.
Cannes Award winner
So it is evident from the views expressed by the Cannes Award winner, the strong support in favour of peace and reconciliation which remains among certain section of Tamil Diaspora abroad.
The efforts taken by the Rajapaksa regime to build good relations with Tamils domiciled abroad had failed as a result of the accusations that surfaced against the regime with regard to alleged war crimes and human rights violations believed to have been committed at the end of the war in 2009.
Two months ago when President Maithripala Sirisena was on an official visit to London to attend a Commonwealth event he had met some of the key members of the Tamil Diaspora in the UK and discussed with them on his plans of building peace in the Island.
It is for the first time nearly in three decades that a Lankan Head of State got the opportunity of meeting a Tamil Diaspora circle in London early this year.
However, the last week meeting which had taken place in London among the Tamil National Alliance, The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a premier Tamil Diaspora organization and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera representing the Sri Lankan Government had come under criticism by the Leader of the Opposition saying that the meeting was more in favour of the pro- LTTE organizations in the UK.
The Tamil National Alliance was represented at the London meeting by Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran and the TNA in a statement on the meeting pointed out that the London gathering was focused mainly on tapping the exceptional capacity and capabilities of the Tamil Diaspora towards building peace and reconciliation in the country.
Norway’s former Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Erick Solheim, was also present at the meeting along with the Global Tamil Forum Convener, Suren Surendran.
The London meeting had also focused on the humanitarian issues such as building houses with assistance from the Tamil Diaspora.
The views and expectations expressed by the Lankan Tamil Diaspora towards building peace and reconciliation in the Island are inevitable , since the massive presence of the Tamil Diaspora which is found in the West as well as down under remains even more than the present population in the Jaffna Peninsula.
Chief Minister’s Fund
Even Northern Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran, received the approval from President Maithripala Sirisena a couple of days ago to launch the ‘Chief Minister’s Fund’ to obtain financial assistance from the Tamil Diaspora to rebuild the war-torn Northern Province.
Chief Minister being a former Judge of the Supreme Court had also told the President that the raising of funds from the Diaspora by the Northern Province would be transparent and it could be even audited by the Government.
Therefore, taming Tamil Diaspora and tapping it for the betterment of the Northern and Eastern Provinces which are gradually limping back from the damages of war remain inevitable and Foreign Minister Mangala Samarawera has taken not only the right move but also the bold step towards interacting with the Tamil Diaspora in London towards peace building measures in the Island.
On his return to the Island after the London meeting Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, had also recommenced the dual citizenship scheme to encourage the Lankan Diaspora to return to the Island as well as to make it more economic oriented towards the development activities in the Island.
So as part of the Tamil Diaspora with extremist outlook geared up to scuttle the opportunities for peace and reconciliation, the move jointly made by the Tamil National Alliance, Global Tamil Forum and Foreign Minister, Mangala Samarawera, on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, in London could be rated as diplomacy of high calibre in bringing all stakeholders together in strengthening peace and reconciliation in the Island.