By Shamindra Ferdinando
The UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) hadn’t influenced voters of Sri Lankan origin in the run-up to the EU referendum to decide UK’s future in the organisation, the grouping’s spokesperson Suren Surendiran told The Island yesterday.
Surendiran said that it would be the prerogative of each individual to vote for or against ‘Brexit’ on Thursday (June 23).
Asked whether the GTF had covertly influenced voters, Surendiran said: “Like I always said, GTF is an organization solely about Tamils in Sri Lanka. All Tamils in the UK must use their democratic right of franchise to vote after assessing merits and demerits of leaving and staying in. GTF will not get involved in influencing each individual’s thinking in this regard.”
Diaspora Tamils inaugurated GTF in February 2010 in the House of Commons with the participation of all major political parties.
However, Surendiran emphasized that he personally believed the UK remaining in the 28-member EU would certainly help their cause.
A key member of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the UK played a significant role in a project leading to the adoption of a resolution meant to set up a hybrid war crimes court.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), too, echoed Surendiran’s view. The GTF and the TNA are jointly pushing for war crimes with the participation of foreign judges.
Responding to another query, Surendiran said that the UK as a member of the EU would be able to play an influential role in 28 member group of nations meant to ensure justice and address accountability as well as immediate needs of the war affected in Sri Lanka. Referring to high profile UK role vis-a-vis Sri Lanka, Surendiran said that the UK’s present status in the EU would facilitate on-going efforts to resolve the Tamil national question.
“I believe PM Cameron of the Conservative Party and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party share my personal view”.
Surendiran acknowledged that a substantial number of voters of Sri Lankan origin who had been on the UK electoral register during the past 15 years were eligible to exercise their franchise at the ‘Brixit’ vote.
The UK Independent Party spearheads the campaign for UK quitting the EU. Approximately half of Conservative members of parliament including five cabinet ministers, several Labour members as well as the Democratic Unionist Party are pushing for ‘Brixit.’
Surendiran pointed out that both Premier Cameron and the Labour Party wanted to remain in the EU.
A spokesperson for Global Sri Lankan Forum (GSLF) yesterday told The Island that those who had been using UK as the nerve centre of operations against the government of Sri Lanka would suffer a severe setback if UK exited the EU. According to him, influential section of the Tamil Diaspora, including those representing the GTF had been campaigning against ‘Brixit.’ Obviously, the UK government had an understanding with influential Sri Lankan Diaspora groups in this regard, the GSLF spokesperson said, recalling the abortive joint British-French bid to halt the military campaign against the LTTE in April 2009 on behalf of their citizens of Sri Lankan origin. The GSLF described the UK Tamils support for Conservative Premier Cameron as a new phase of their partnership which would be inimical to the Sri Lankan state.