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TNA, GTF seek TN and Indian backing to achieve political goals

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The TNA and the GTF, in a joint statement issued in Colombo and London over the weekend, declared that they looked forward to directly engaging the Tamil Nadu government and further strengthening the engagement with the government of India in line with overall efforts to settle the Tamil national question in Sri Lanka.

Tamil people in Sri Lanka aspire to a degree of self-rule in the areas of their historic habitation (the North-East) and believe this empowerment is fundamental for their equal citizenship in Sri Lanka and to protect their unique identity in the island – a position that always resonated with Tamil Nadu and Indian thinking and policy positions, they said.

The following is the text of the statement: “It has not even been a year since M. K. Stalin became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, yet the mark that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader has made in his State and among Tamils worldwide is unmistakable.

Whether it was ably handling the second wave of the pandemic, or the progressive social justice agenda that includes economically uplifting the underprivileged while removing caste and gender barriers in many aspects of lives, or the bold vision of making Tamil Nadu ‘a one-trillion economy’ by 2030 – Chief Minister Stalin has become the envy of many leaders across India.

With the theme of ‘let Tamil bind us together’, Chief Minister Stalin has taken many meaningful steps towards promoting the commonalities and cohesiveness of the global Tamil community, arguably more so than any other Tamil leader in recent history. Appointing a dedicated Minister, viz., K.S. Masthan, whose portfolio includes Welfare and Rehabilitation of Non-Resident Tamils; declaring January 12 as the World Tamil Diaspora Day with Chief Minister Stalin inaugurating the event; taking steps to institute Tamil studies in international universities, including through donations towards the establishment of Tamil Chairs at Harvard University and the University of Toronto – are just a few examples.

The TNA and the GTF hold Chief Minister Stalin in high esteem for his inspiring leadership of the global Tamil community.

From the perspective of Tamils from Sri Lanka, including those living in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora – the approach adopted by the present Tamil Nadu government is commendable. They are grateful for the invitations extended to the Member of Parliament from the TNA, M. A. Sumanthiran, and the President of the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), Sivan Ilangko for the inaugural World Tamil Diaspora Day event last month. The participation and felicitation by the Tamil Nadu Minister Hon. K. S. Masthan at the annual Thai Pongal Celebrations conducted by the CTC on January 29, 2022 is equally pleasing.

Chief Minister Stalin’s announcement last August regarding Ilankai Thamizhar refugee camps, stating the following was a welcome gesture of notable significance. “They are not orphans; we are there for them and hereafter they will be called Ilankai Thamil rehabilitation camps” This announcement was backed up with a generous allotment of Rs. 317 crores for their welfare schemes, with a promise to improve their living standards further. We also note with gratitude Chief Minister M.K. Stalin’s strong public statements, in his capacity as Opposition leader, exerting pressure on India to support the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka during the March 2021 session.

Chief Minister Stalin’s supportive approach towards the Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka is consistent with the long tradition of Dravidian political leaders of Tamil Nadu, particularly his illustrious father, late Hon. Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi. Tamil people in Sri Lanka and their political leaders looked upon the leaders of Tamil Nadu for guidance, support and inspiration. Their support – directly, as well as through the Government of India – has always been a great source of comfort for the Tamil people living in Sri Lanka.

We remember with gratitude, the leadership shown by the late Hon. M. Karunanidhi – the initiatives to protect lives, property, and political rights of the Tamil people following the 1983 anti-Tamil riots; the late Chief Minister using his influence to prod different Indian Prime Ministers to find a political solution to address the Tamils’ quest for equality, justice, peace, dignity, and devolution of power; and DMK MPs’ consistently voicing for the Ilankai Thamizhar in the Lok Sabha over decades. We are also conscious that the DMK support for the Tamil cause continued despite many challenges it faced in the Indian Union, including the dismissal of the DMK government in 1991 relating to the Tamil peoples’ problems in Sri Lanka.

We are acutely conscious of the difficulties and degrading treatments encountered by the leaders of the mainstream Dravidian Movements in Tamil Nadu, many of such regrettable actions originating from unrealistic and hardline positions adopted by some from both sides of the Palk Strait. However, the overwhelming majority of the Tamils of Sri Lankan origin have always been appreciative and grateful for the support provided by the leaders of Tamil Nadu, and also recognise their limitations in shaping every event of the past. Such understanding is growing in strength and will help solidify the bonds and mutual respect enjoyed by the people and the leaders of both communities.

Tamils in Sri Lanka are, once again, at a critical point. Twelve years after the end of the war, their economic prospects are dismal. The progress on war-related accountability is marginal at best. Tamils face many existential challenges – to protect their land and to preserve their identity in the Northern and Eastern Provinces against rampant militarisation and state sponsored initiatives aimed at altering regional demography. It is feared a new constitution under preparation could further weaken the status of the Tamil people, especially by abolishing or weakening the Provincial Councils – the only constitutional power devolution arrangement the Tamil people achieved with direct Indian involvement.

It is in such a dire situation that we are looking for guidance and support from India and Tamil Nadu.

India has significant leverage over Sri Lanka and has repeatedly called upon Sri Lanka to address the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, dignity, and meaningful political devolution. India has emphasised on many occasions, including during the March 2021 UNHRC sessions, about its two-pillar policy of supporting Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity, and its commitment to Tamils’ aspirations, and that these were not mutually exclusive choices.

Tamil Nadu has always been critical in setting Indian policies towards Sri Lanka, and it is in this context that a path setting and pragmatic approach adopted by Chief Minister Stalin will give us enormous comfort. A continued focus on this issue at this critical time is crucial for the long-term peace and prosperity of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. It is also intrinsically linked with the interests of Tamils on both sides of the Palk Strait, and the greater India.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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