How does the situation in Sri Lanka affect the Diaspora in UK?

They may not want to make the same mistakes they have made in the past of sorting out piecemeal individual issues cropping up from time to time in Sri Lanka

by Victor Cherubim

( November 30, 2018, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is now commonplace for the diaspora to talk privately among themselves about the importance of innovation for a new strategy to achieve the goal of visibly helping their kith and kin back home. This soul search has been accelerated recently, after the disruption of life for all citizens of Sri Lanka after two episodes on 26 October and 14 November 2018 respectively, when Parliamentarians “ran wantonly angry at each other,” seemingly at the behest of power hungry men of two political parties, for personal gain.

To what extent does the concern about Sri Lankan conundrums remain a side show for the UK diaspora and how much does it impact on producing pragmatic solutions for the future relationship?

What can the diaspora (those who live abroad) do, if any, to help rather than hinder, by use of measured approaches and commiserate action, to show to the world that Sri Lanka not on the verge of becoming another Zimbabwe?

How can the diaspora bring to notice of Sri Lankans at home and abroad that the unconstitutional acts committed in Sri Lanka have caused much damage to diaspora abroad?

Imponderable questions posed to the diaspora?

Do many Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims peoples still live in fear of reprisals? Are you able to visit Sri Lanka and your families? Is it safe for us to visit as tourists? These and many more questions have been posed to Sri Lankan diaspora in UK?

How can the diaspora pull off the social, cultural and political shift needed to ensure that every Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim person, for that matter every liberal thinking mind in the UK – from the bottom to the top not only of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim society, organisations, but also individuals, families, intellectuals, workers, students and ordinary people are literally able in their own ways to support the motherland at this critical time, to seek ways to ameliorate the situation?

Could embracing among other things innovation to resolve the continuing problem, including funding organisations for social justice bring back normalcy?

These and many more questions are under scrutiny.

It is just the beginning?

How much room is there in Sri Lanka today for more disruption of ordinary life?

How much more will the diaspora have to endure before an equitable solution is found of all the people back in Sri Lanka?

The situation in Sri Lanka may be ripe for disruption and to waylay the benefits accrued for the people over the past years, but there are also high barriers to entry for any Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim among Sri Lanka diaspora in UK for the formation of a Movement for a Just Society? Why?

The general view expressed by many segments of the diaspora is that they don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

At the same time the diaspora, at least many known observers do not want to fall into a trap and mistake what is happening so far in Sri Lanka will suddenly be resolved.

They also question their mode of approach to protest? The current practice of protest demonstrations, holding flags and marches, shouting slogans and standing in the cold to send a message both to the people and the outside world, the working people of Sri Lanka have taken stock of their destiny to seek a solution of the constitutional crisis by legal means and that a solution is not far in sight?

However, they also have taken note of vested interests within and outside waiting to exacerbate this scenario to turn it into an uncontrollable situation?

Where will innovation come from?

That innovative approaches, will need to be shared by many skilled Sri Lankan citizens serving positions abroad, is the general opinion among diaspora.

From the reports received, the working people of Sri Lanka are saddled with nepotism, corruption, family rule among others.

The cost of living in Sri Lanka has gone up the roof. The Sri Lanka Rupee depreciated from Rs.1.40 to Rs.1.80 to the US. Dollar, noted within weeks, not months.

There appear to be two Governments vying for power at the expense of working people. There are two men claiming to be the Prime Minister. Law and order is at risk.

Recent developments send worrying signals that the socialist democracy created over the years, is in a fragile shape almost a decade after the calamitous Civil War.Besides, Foreign Governments seem not to accept either administration as Sri Lankans state it is only a Caretaker Government.

Whilst this is happening the country is saddled with a debt mountain and no amount of printing currency can resolve this issue. Tear Gas is acceptable against peaceful protesters and “butter knives “allowed inside Parliament. Our values seem to have changed overnight.

How long can the diaspora pursue a “wait and see “policy is on everyone’s mind

What are the best ideas for innovation among the diaspora?
Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim diaspora over long periods have been dispersed and polarised. But many have during this period sent funds from abroad to support their loved ones in Sri Lanka.

Daspora organisations in the UK are in a quandary at present. Funding through charitable giving to worthy causes in Sri Lanka is presently exempt of tax status. Charitable status organisations, perhaps, now have to seek alternative ways to address a variety of problems of supplement resource funding for education among others.

The worry, perhaps, is that all these charities for so called “good causes” may have to curtail their funding activities due to the constitutional crisis continuing in Sri Lanka at present. The possibility of stopping of charitable giving is a prospect, due to stringent compliant mechanisms of the UK Charity Commission.

The need of the hour is for unity of purpose.

What is the real problem today?

Many now consider the problem posed in Sri Lanka at present, is a political problem rather than a social problem, which the diaspora has failed to answer up to now. Many rightly or wrongly feel that the organisation of a political movement abroad is the obvious choice open to the diaspora. To organise a political movement they need a framework of an ongoing structure, a member recruitment campaign, a funding mechanism, at the very least and most of all, a workable and competent movement.

What specific advantages can a Political Movement offer to help resolve the impasse in Sri Lanka today?

Diaspora need a massive campaign strategy, comprising all liberal thinking people of all ethnic community groups, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, which cannot be achieved overnight.

Can a small group of individuals of the above Community Diaspora offer the same advantages as a Political Movement to support what is needed today in Sri Lanka?

Are there risks with this approach? If so what are the anticipated risks?

A pragmatic way forward

The diaspora comprising of all nationalities in Sri Lanka are realistic that as overseas Sri Lankans they cannot impose their will on the citizens of Sri Lanka. They will have to be guided in their approach by the wishes of people of Sri Lanka?

What this Movement can do is to resolve the impasse at the moment? It cannot direct or govern Sri Lanka?

Embracing Change of mindset?

The Sri Lanka diaspora in UK thus needs urgently a defined strategy agenda if they wish to take the political movement forward. The views expressed are that they have a responsibility to act now or suffer the consequences. But they are limited in this approach. The constraints are many and the time short?

They may not want to make the same mistakes they have made in the past of sorting out piecemeal individual issues cropping up from time to time in Sri Lanka.

With no leadership in sight for this Movement at present, the considered opinion among many is that it must be fronted by a Committee of People, Elders and Youth, who will have to be entrusted with responsibilities for policy planning, for recruitment, for funding among others and particularly for lobbying groups in Sri Lanka and abroad.

For a new political movement of Sri Lanka diaspora in UK, they need a registered organisation, which has to be taken care of. They need appointed convenors who can give written undertaking to set up movement branches in the London Burroughs, under a strict Code of Conduct.

They envisage mass campaign rallies; mostly they need communication channels, weekly updates. They may first need to fund a Webinar to introduce this hypothetical political movement to its interested members?

How can the diaspora pull off the political shift in Sri Lanka?

“Can they do it”?

First, is the recognition that in the digital age, the platform approach is the key to optimising the planning of this new political movement?

Second, they will have to know marketing is a big issue?

The taglines of the past and old activists will not be sufficient anymore? They are obsolete as they have served their purpose in the past. New members have to be recruited. They have to modify their outreach to adjust to new realities in the outside world.

The mode of having meetings will have to be looked at. People now don’t have time to come to regular meetings anymore?

They have to use more the internet based outreach to reach out to members and a wider audience.

The view among diaspora is that they have to look to the third generation of migrants – the children and grandchildren of the original diaspora in the UK for marketing purposes. Many of the diaspora children can only speak English?

What was once the reason for Sri Lankans to leave Sri Lanka as migrants no longer hold water today? The new generation of diaspora are different, with different perspectives. Thus there is no point to make a hash of events. The Movement if it to survive, will need to reach out to the younger generation – of students at High Schools, Universities around London, working people, both young and old for membership to carry the message across.

The opinion among the older generation of all communities of Sri Lankans living in UK is not to overdo the scenario by turning a crisis into a calamity for no reason? They seem to say: “join a Political Movement if you think that is the only way to resolve the situation back home”. There must be clarity in purpose and policy programme of action – short term, medium term and long term of any future Political Movement envisaged by the Sri Lanka diaspora?

To moot the formation of this so called: “Diaspora Political Movement to Safeguard Sri Lanka” is a decision than cannot be made on the spur of the moment. It has far reaching consequences for generations to come.


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