Consensus building forum in London

| by Victor Cherubim

( December 12, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) A gathering of six visiting MP’s from both the Governing UPFA and Opposition UNP and the TNA, along with members of the Sri Lanka International Alert and Chamber of Commerce, came face to face with the Sri Lankan diaspora in UK, on11 December 2011 at Norbiton, near Kingston,Surrey.
The concept definition of “diaspora” was viewed differently and not as a monolithic idea as mooted in Sri Lanka. For the Tamil people abroad, it was a “conflict generated” diaspora.
Informed circles state a cross-section of Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim diaspora and other well wishers, all came together for the first time, in as many as forty years at this informal meeting, to get to know each other and to air their opinions with candour. It was an open, no holds barred meeting, with opinions and perceptions aired on a variety and range of issues of interest to Sri Lankans.
All the MP’s who attended were 40 years and under, many of them, first time parliamentarians. It was an opportunity to study where and what went wrong in the war and how to make amends at reconciliation. It was a learning experience for the MP’s, to take back the feelings of the diaspora back home and for the diaspora, a firsthand knowledge of what can be done to have a new beginning at a meaningful dialogue, without preconditions.
The concept definition of “diaspora” was viewed differently and not as a monolithic idea as mooted in Sri Lanka. For the Tamil people abroad, it was a “conflict generated” diaspora. For the Sinhala people in UK, is was stated that it was portrayed as a “party” based diaspora, whilst for the Muslims it was basically of “humanitarian” perception of the political aspirations as well as articulating the economic needs of a people at the butt end of the ethnic divide.
The government MP’s were of general opinion that the whole nation lost in the war, the entire peoples of Sri Lanka lost as a result of the war, that there was no single winner or the loser in the war. Every community, every household, every family lost as result of the war.
They were not sure whether separatism was as desirable as contemplated.
They admitted that certainly past governments had not focussed more powers to be
devolved, but they were reluctant to pass judgment of what the present government could or would be advised to do in the forthcoming publication of the LLRC report. All the government MP’s were in full agreement that whatever solution was recommended, the people of Sri Lanka as a whole must have a good lifestyle and a higher standard of living.
In answer to a question that the government had demonised the Tamil diaspora, the
MP’s were of one voice that not everything in Sri Lanka was “hunky dory.” They admitted that there were a lot of issues to be resolved. The Opposition MP’s reiterated that governance was as serious an issue and that they had fearlessly raised it in Parliament.
In answer to a question from the diaspora that the government in some kind of a way has by its actions alienated the diaspora, to seek refuge in the right of self determination as the relief of last resort and that the government has to think differently if Tamil diaspora is to feel safe back in Sri Lanka and to contribute to its development; the MP’s were of one voice that there is to be a new beginning.
A question was raised by a domiciled Sinhalese who was of opinion that it was ”the way the war was over,” which had to be taken note of and as reciprocity of goodwill something has to be done to re-establish the lost trust. In response, an Opposition UNP MP stressed that concentration of power is at issue. It has often been raised by the Opposition in Parliament. There is too much concentration of power at certain levels of government which is wielded, at local, the provincial and at the national levels. Party loyalty is an overriding factor in Sri Lanka, particularly in the governing party in power, which in turn has a bearing on the emotional thinking of a people, in regard to their government. What was not said, but possibly implied was that this stance was as a defence mechanism in support of an embattled government with accusations from outside.
On the issue of the recommendations of the LLRC report, the spokesman MP of the
Government stated, he did not want to prejudge the findings. He further emphasised that it was not a Government report. The findings are the views of the people appointed to study the situation and it is their credibility and integrity that matters.
In regard to the aspects of the” wounds of war” the MP’s clearly admitted they are fresh and have to be addressed. It was suggested by the diaspora that a national day of mourning be set aside for the remembrance of all the victims of the war and not only for the Tamils Day of Atonement, “Mahavira Thinam” on 27th November annually.
Many questions were asked of the MP’s by the diaspora. It was vociferous but an orderly encounter. It adjourned but not prior to the self appraisal by a member of the Sinhalese diaspora who emphasised that there is no doubt in his mind of the multi-ethnic nature, charm and character of the people of Sri Lanka. He noted that for the diaspora in UK, there is an abiding connection to their country of birth, an innate love and affection, though many hearts are torn and broken by war on all sides. Many he said, have felt let down, their rights trampled, their feelings shaken, the time has arrived to move forward towards some devolution of power and political rights.
Any child born in Sri Lanka must now be able and allowed to achieve and reach its potential without fear. The lessons of the past are a milestone, a future without recourse to war.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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