An Extraordinary Gazette Notification [No. 1941/44], issued recently by the Ministry of Defence, lifted the ban on eight leading Tamil Diaspora organizations. The Tamil Diaspora organizations which were thus removed from the list of banned organizations included the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), British Tamil Forum (BTF), Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), World Tamil Movement (WTM), Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), World Tamil Coordination Committee (WTCC), Tamil National Council (TNC), and the Tamil Youth Organization (TYO).
Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Karunasena Hettiarachchi, going to the media had said that the ban was lifted subsequent to studies carried out into the activities of these organizations, over a period of time and discussions between President Maithripala Sirisena and other government authorities. Secretary Hettiarachchi asserted that these arrangements were being made to hand over lands belonging to civilians, which are now being used by the military.
This Gazette Notification was published as an amendment to a list of individuals and organizations named under Provision 4(7) of the United Nations Provisions No. 1 of 2012, according to the United Nations Act No. 45 of 1968.
Secretary Hettiarachchi claims that the lifting of this ban on the eight Tamil Diaspora groups is ‘phase one’ of procedures being carried out by the government to bring about reconciliation between the races and ethnicities in the country. This phase one calls for an immense change of attitude in the general populace as well as public representatives: the attitudes of looking at a person with suspicion clouding and infecting our perceptual psyche the moment we hear that they are Tamils.
Undoubtedly the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe National Government did not arrive at this decision in hasty heated argument overnight. Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Co-Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senarathne have had made lengthy observations and comments on this matter prior to the government lifting the ban. According to those remarks the civilians and their generations of children who were displaced from their original motherland were to be given their land back in order to reinforce more private and direct investments to the country. The government’s dependency on private investments was clearly portrayed in the recent 2016 Budget proposal, which encouraged the private sector and the overseas international companies to invest in the country.
This lifting of the ban will undoubtedly bring in new businesses, new enterprises, and new resources; human and otherwise to the country which will definitely have an impact on the country. Whether if it would be a positive one or otherwise is yet too soon to be predicted.
Those comments and observations were however heavily criticized by the members of the Joint Opposition and even a selected few of the civil society and the general populace. Regardless, the Sirisena- Wickremesinghe Yahapalana Government has decided to give the green light to the Tamil Diaspora Organizations which will return to the country in a matter of months.
We, the general populace, the laymen, the average Joes and Janes of the society warmly welcome the idea of bringing back our fellow citizens who were displaced due to a thirty-year-long civil war. We are ready to leave aside the suspicions and hatred that divided us for far too long. We linger with arms wide open with no hidden knives of malice.
However, it is up to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government that has the responsibility of monitoring these groups and organizations in order to avoid any adverse repercussions. Although these Tamil Diaspora Organizations were deemed relatively harmless and the chances of resurrecting extremist factions through these groups were discarded, monitoring and close scrutiny of their activities is essential. Repatriation of these Diaspora groups will bring out the possibility of bringing extremist groups into the country which cannot be allowed at any cost.
France and other European countries learned a bitter lesson by letting Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees into their countries without proper monitoring procedures. They learned a bitter lesson only after a several hundred citizens of Paris were killed brutally by ISIS terrorists. This should be a lesson for us. We find our humanity in helping other humans in whatever way we can. Yet, we are intelligent enough to know that there are those who would exploit this for their benefit. We must beware and act accordingly.
The Joint Opposition yesterday expressed its total and vehement opposition to the government’s decision to deproscribe eight Diaspora Groups and 269 individuals, after being determined by the previous regime as having alleged links with the LTTE.
They, in individual interviews with Ceylon Today, also said in unison and in combination, the move could not only lead to national security threats but also to separatism. The new Gazette which was issued last Friday, further to earlier Gazette of March 2014 which proscribed eight organizations are the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the British Tamil Forum (BTF), Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), National Council for Tamil Ealam (NCTE), Tamil National Council (TNC), Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC).