The UK-based Global Tamil Forum yesterday (21) described President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s declaration that he was ready to have a dialogue with the expatriate Tamils as certainly a progressive move. GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran welcomed the announcement made in New York on the sidelines of the 76th UNGA.
The Island: President GR told the UN Chief he was ready for a dialogue with the Tamil Diaspora. He reiterated he wanted to discuss domestic mechanisms with the Tamil Diaspora. What is GTF’s response to Prez’s declaration?
GTF : Isn’t it interesting that this is the same President on his watch, a gazette notification was issued in March 2021, only six months ago, to proscribe most of the Tamil diaspora organisations including GTF and individuals including myself, as terrorists. Now, from New York, he has declared that he wants to engage with us. We wonder why the sudden change of mind.
In any event, wanting to engage is certainly a progressive move and we welcome it. As for the domestic mechanisms, in transitional justice, there are judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms. We will be very happy to engage and discuss about the latter but as for the former, for judicial mechanisms, in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1 which describes what exactly needs to happen. If the President so wishes, he can engage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the relevant UN bodies and special mandate holders (Special Rapporteurs) and they will be very willing to progress these as described in the already adopted resolutions.
The Island: During the previous administration GTF had talks with Prez Maithripala Sirisena and in fact met him in London. Do you think a similar dialogue can take place now?
GTF: GTF met President Maithripala Sirisena twice in London (2015/2018) and once in Berlin (2016). We are ready to talk to anybody if grievances of our people, in fact, grievances of all peoples of Sri Lanka can be resolved. The first impediment that the President will have is that he will have to somehow justify his actions or the seeming u-turn to his constituency.
The GTF didn’t stop its engagement with the people of Sri Lanka just because of the ill-advised action of this administration. Even recently, we facilitated multi-million US dollars’ worth of medical equipment to assist in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, not just in the north and east of the country but the entire Sri Lanka.
Just for the record, we recently did a calculation of the potential loss of foreign currency income for Sri Lanka due to the proscription of organisations and persons being over US $300m per annum. This is in addition to the professional help and assistance that many organisations and people used to render.
The Island: What are the other Tamil Diaspora groups working with the GTF?
GTF: We have members and associates in Norway, Australia, US, UK, Canada, South Africa and many in Sri Lanka from all communities
The Island: Will GTF take up this issue with TNA?
GTF: We work and will work very closely with the TNA, as democratically elected by our people in Sri Lanka, not just on this but on a multitude of matters concerning our people.