Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Trade: An Old Leverage

by Peter Ratnadurai, May 23, 2010

Trade remains a source of leverage. Let us embrace it as individuals with 'Buy and Return', or as regional groups with store-front protests, or as virtual gatherings with marketing campaigns. Today, as ever, the objective remains to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to treat our people with respect - to allow them to exercise fundamental rights such as that of self determination. What we do amongst ourselves will not change Sri Lanka, as the past 12 months have shown.

A year has passed since I penned Trade: A New Leverage. Back then I stressed the importance of cultivating a new leverage to use against Sri Lanka, if we, the Diaspora, are serious about balancing power to pave a level field for future negotiations. I highlighted the need for immediate action and singled out the British Tamils Forum (BTF) and its heir apparent, Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), as organisations that could take forward this aspect of the struggle.

Sadly, during the past year, nothing was done. Not surprisingly, then, little has changed for our people back home. Manik Farm still exists; the whereabouts of thousands of suspected former fighters are unknown; and Sinhala colonisation is swiftly sprouting.

The Diaspora, meanwhile, has been busy 'electing' itself and patting its own back for alleged achievements of sorts.

The latest farce is the Trans-National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), a so called body of 'elected' representatives of the Tamil Diaspora. Truth be told, in many regions like the US and parts of London, there were not enough candidates to warrant an election: thus, many 'representatives' were 'elected' without a single vote. Where there were elections, turnout was around 10%. I do not want to fully fault this well inspired initiative. But, I can not nod in approval for such a waste of money and energy - change for sake of change when constituents were simply not ready.

Those who were keen to take the 'democratic' path have ended up giving premature birth to a deformed child that is bound to waste half his life fighting for his own legitimacy; made only worse by the obstetrician's claim to parentage. Rudrakumaran's role in the the set-up remains riddled with conflict of interests: he the coordinator of the formation committee; he, now, the chairman of the executive committee...?

Another folly is about termination of GSP+ trade benefits from EU to Sri Lanka. Many in the Diaspora have been convinced by 'patriotic' crooks and some member organisations of the GTF that the scheme has been ended thanks to well executed lobbying. That is far from the truth: Sri Lanka is still the only country in Asia to enjoy GSP+ and, as latest news reports indicate, Sri Lanka will continue to benefit.

And then there is the infighting: a carefully planned bid by a foreign intelligence organisation to divide the diaspora on imagined lines by exploiting the raw wounds of post-Mulivaikal. Some activists are busy placing themselves on either side of this 'divide', creating the 'other' to be tagged traitor, having forgotten that all are guided by a single leadership with a single aim. Bear in mind, if this trend is
not immediately arrested, a raw deal awaits us all.

There is an urgent need to cease or at least slow down all the 'restructuring' of the Diaspora. We are a collective held together by a cause -we do not need dotted lines on academic papers to connect with each other. Such initiatives are only causing divisions and forcing all of us to take our eyes off the ball; to lose sight of the enemy; to act in a manner forgetful of the suffering endured by our
people on a daily basis.

Trade remains a source of leverage. Let us embrace it as individuals with 'Buy and Return', or as regional groups with store-front protests, or as virtual gatherings with marketing campaigns. Today, as ever, the objective remains to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to treat our people with respect - to allow them to exercise fundamental rights such as that of self determination. What we do amongst ourselves will not change Sri Lanka, as the past 12 months have shown.