2 December, 2020

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Let Us Design, Define & Create Our Future

By Managla Samaraweera

Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

On January 8th President Maithripala Sirisena was elected on mandate for true national unity, reconciliation and accountability. In fact, point 93 of President Sirisena’s 100 day work programme says,

“Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of national independent judicial mechanisms.”

Later, after the new Government was elected, on behalf of the new Government, I requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to defer the publication of the OISL Report as the government needed to deliberate on and design the framework for truth seeking, accountability, reparations and non-recurrence.

In September, after having formed a government comprising of the two main political parties for the first time in history, I outlined this framework for reconciliation and accountability at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva based on the four pillars of truth seeking, accountability, reparations and non-recurrence. Later Sri Lanka and all the other countries of the world represented on the UN Human Rights Council co-sponsored a resolution based on the contours of that speech.

The Government of Sri Lanka, the President and the Prime Minister have over the last year repeatedly emphasized our commitment to reconciliation and accountability; and our unwavering commitment to the implementation of the Resolution.

On Independence Day last year, President Sirisena, in a dramatic departure from the insensitivity, short-sightedness and orgy of triumphalism in the recent past, said

“The time and peace required for healing and building sustainable peace and security for all, is upon us. It is now for us to seize this opportunity to ensure the fruits of democracy and citizenship can be equitably enjoyed by all.Mangala Sumanthiran Austin Jaffna

A few months later on Remeberance Day, the 19th of May, President Sirisena observed that

“With the ending of the war on May 18 and 19 of 2009, we witnessed a period of peace. We have to ask ourselves with intelligence, experience, knowledge and wisdom; whether we have fulfilled the tasks we should have performed during the post-conflict period.

I think we did not fulfil that responsibility. Prominence was given to the development of physical resources, and there was no importance given to the process of reconciliation among communities.”
Now Independence Day this year, he expressed his commitment in greater detail,

“It is now time for us to seize the current opportunity that is before us to implement the provisions of the Resolution, not because of international pressure, but because, as a nation, we must implement these provisions for the sake of restoring the dignity of our nation, our people, and our military, in order for Sri Lanka to regain her due position as a strong democracy among the community of nations.”

Even if there are many options available in the precise way by which reconciliation and accountability are to be achieved, there is widespread consensus throughout the Island that reconciliation and accountability are non-negotiable goals. In a two day debate in Parliament the two main political parties – the UNP and SLFP – the parties representing the minority communities and other political parties all emphasized the need for reconciliation and accountability.

In fact, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently said that “our whole approach is reconciliation and accountability. We are not talking about accountability without reconciliation or reconciliation without accountability.”

This is because all Sri Lankans across the island, both in the North and the South, have suffered at the hands of those who have abused the power of the gun. I was recently told the story of a mother still living in an IDP camp here in Jaffna. Her story could be a metaphor for the immense suffering our country has endured during the last several decades.

This mother’s husband, who was not rich or educated but motivated by deprivation, discrimination and indignity took up arms with the LTTE to fight for what he considered freedom and was killed in battle.

The mother’s eldest son then took up arms in an attempt to avenge his father’s death. With this double loss, the mother’s heart was broken and she suffered in silence for many years, struggling to provide for her two remaining sons.

As the war drew to a close, the LTTE forcibly recruited both those sons – both under 15. One of them was summarily executed by the LTTE for disobeying orders. No one knows what happened to the remaining son. There are many similar stories too in the South, of deprivation, discrimination and indignity leading to violence and suffering. In fact, this was one of the reasons for me entering politics in the late 1980s when I was convenor of the Mother’s Front Movement – representing the thousands of mothers whose children had been killed or disappeared. Even today, there are many mothers of soldiers who are still looking for their children or trying to find out when, where and how they died.

In the last year, the government has taken significant steps to address these grievances. For example, tor the first time in over six decades, the national anthem was sung in Sri Lanka’s two national languages as they are found in the Constitution. Over 3,300 acres of land in the North and East have been released. After a careful and systematic review by the relevant authorities, the Government de-proscribed 8 diaspora organisations and 269 individuals. Sri Lanka also signed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances which will help Sri Lanka’s ‘white van culture’ from ever re-emerging. 39 prisoners held without charge have been released, and we plan to release or charge the remaining prisoners very soon. And in order to expedite the process of releasing those again whom there are no charged or pressing charges the Cabinet has already approved the creation of a special court.

We have re-instated civilian administration in the North and East and the military has reverted to their peacetime professional duties. In addition, as the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law is restored those responsible for the atrocities at Viswamadu and Mirusuvil have been brought to book. In fact, by weeding out the undisciplined few, the good name and professional reputation of the security forces, which was tarnished over the years, can be restored. Protecting the good name of the armed forces as a whole by punishing the wrong doers is not a new concept to us. We remember the Manamperi incident in Kataragama and the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy murder in the 90’s, when the Government of the day protected the good name of the army by punishing the few miscreants.

We are starting this process of reconciliation not to appease international pressure or to keep the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid happy as some may think. We are embarking on this difficult journey because we owe it to the people of our nation to forge a new future where all citizens will be treated with equal dignity and respect so that the country can be truly united and move forward. In order for all Sri Lankans to move forward together, we must come to terms with the shortcomings of the past, we must all commit ourselves to ensure that the horrors and tragedies of the past is never again allowed to happen and the politics of extremism is not allowed to raise its ugly head ever again neither in the North nor in the South.

But the short-term ad hoc measures outlined above are insufficient. So the government is also laying the ground for long term stability, reconciliation and peace through the development and adoption of a new constitution and the four reconciliation mechanisms namely the Office of Missing Persons, the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission, the Judicial Mechanism and the Office of Reparations.

The government wants to design mechanisms in a way that truly reflects the needs and aspirations of our citizens and especially the victims of the senseless war. We want these mechanism to last until they fulfil the purpose for which they were created.

The consultations for the new constitution have already begun. And today, I am very pleased to announce that we are starting the process of consultations on the design of the four reconciliation mechanisms.

We have appointed eleven independent eminent citizens to the Consultation Task Force to lead the consultations process that will happen both through written consultations and in face-to-face meetings in all 25 districts.

The Consultation Task Force will review and analyse the people’s input from across the island and will present the Government with a report that will also be made public, which will be used to make the final decision on the shape and form of the reconciliation mechanisms.

So on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, I urge victims on both sides of the divide, religious leaders whose guidance is always appreciated, members of the public, the security forces, civil society, the public service, business-people, professionals to participate and contribute their ideas and experiences into the design of these mechanisms so that we can build a Sri Lanka that is truly reconciled and at peace and a Sri Lanka where equality, justice and freedom are a reality for all citizens.

I am aware that there are many here today who still have fears and doubts. But I can assure you that the National Unity Government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe is committed to ensuring the successful completion on this process. While President Sirisena is leading the All Party Committee on Constitutional Reform to get the ideas and input of all political parties, I have met the Defence Secretary, the Chief of Defence Staff, (both of whom are here today) the Tri Service Commanders and the IGP, the heads of intelligence agencies, the commanders of the security forces and the police DIGs in charge of the North and some of those responsible for security in the East. I have also met the Governors of the North and East. They have all assured me of their fullest cooperation in ensuring that there are no hindrances in ensuring this consultation process takes place and that the security of all those participating will be ensured.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of dealing with the past in order to move forward and build a united, peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka. We cannot forget the tears of mothers still grieving for their missing sons thirty years later in Point Dondra and nor can we forget the mother in Point Pedro who is grieving for her LTTE combatant son killed in a senseless and brutal war.

But these mothers and wives are not only crying for their lost loved ones, they are also crying for our country and the many opportunities we have lost. At Independence in 1948, we were set to become the brightest and the best in Asia. Instead, what was for many centuries known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean became known as its teardrop.

Last year, a historic year for Sri Lanka, saw two major elections which were both victories for moderates, in the North and in the South, and which gave the country hope that it could once again become that pearl. Today bankrupt politicians, as well as the ghosts of extremism, are again trying to stir up the people’s passions resorting, as all scoundrels do, to whipping up racism. At this critical juncture, all moderates must unite so that Sri Lanka can at last have the future it truly deserves as a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country with peace and prosperity. Allow me to conclude by quoting from my speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last September,

“Therefore, I say to the sceptics: don’t judge us by the broken promises, experiences and u-turns of the past. Let us design, define and create our future by our hopes and aspirations, and not be held back by the fears and prejudices of the past. Let us not be afraid to dream. Let us not be afraid to engage in meaningful dialogue aimed at finding solutions to problems as opposed to pointing fingers, heaping blame and scoring political points at the expense of future generations.”

* Speech given today at the launch of the Consultations on Reconciliation Mechanisms in Jaffna

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Latest comments

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    Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

    RE: Let Us Design, Define & Create Our Future

    Yes, Let Us Design, Define & Create Our Future.

    Yes, Let Us Say that Common Sense, Intelligence and Reason are virtues we subscribe to Design, Define & Create Our Future.

    Let Us Say that we do NOT subscribe to Stupidity as a Virtue, as some like the Wahhabies and their Clones and Sinhala ‘Buddhists” subscribe to and believe in.

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    Mr Samaraweera is full of nice words, but behind him sits a government that is dragging its feet at best and at worst just interested in papering over the cracks. The Krishanthy case is an awful example – hardly any commanding officers were investigated and it didn’t stop the rot. If it had thousands of other rapes would have been prevented. The Foreign minister is still just ‘selling’ his policies as opposed to finding genuine solutions. Neither he nor the new government deserve trust at this juncture. They have promoted officers who are tainted by allegations of war crimes and continue to ignore colonisation of land and deny reports of continuing torture. They certainly haven’t earnt trust in any sense.

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    Hon Mangala Samaraweera

    You said: ‘Today bankrupt politicians, as well as the ghosts of extremism, are again trying to stir up the people’s passions resorting, as all scoundrels do, to whipping up racism’. This must be rooted out by bringing in structural changes to the conduct of politics. The new constitution must statutorily pave the way to weed out the despicable elements from entering the parliament.

    Democracy is not only for the cronies, anti-socials, thieves, murderers etc.

    Politics must be a profession and not a open field for Kaivaru, Kassippu Karayo’s and for any dick tom and harry. Those elected to the parliament must fear of scrutiny and must be evolved into responsible politics.

    Standards must be established for one to enter the parliament. Those contesting must have established credentials. Educational standards, in particular in political science or something equivalent must filter through the party mechanisms.

    To be frank, much of the MP’s in the parliament are not worthy persons to decide the future of Sri Lanka. Cronies, rabid racists, down right mankolla karayas are sitting in judgement as elected members.

    Our people must be educated to elect good caliber politicians.

    I hope the revision or amendment to the constitution will open the way for good elected representatives in the future. Those enter the parliament without basic standards must be made to undertake courses appropriately in politico-social science, economics, human rights, law etc., to broaden their attitude and thinking.

    We had enough of Cyril Mathew’s, Gamini Dissanayake’s, Wimal Weerawanse’s, Mervin Silva’s, Gamanpillai’s, Dinesh Goonewardene’s, Mahinda Rajapakse’s etc., etc.

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      and the murderous Gothabayas etc.

      I agree with you Mr.Jeyadevan. The cowardice and the hypocracy of the political class, democracy is precisely what we are not going to get. In the case of Tamils, they will always a second class citizens in Sri Lanka.

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    It is not the way you want Mr.Samaraweera but the way
    the Tamil people want. Nothing has been done yet.

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    Hon. Minister

    Bringing a new constitution would not solve the existing problems. It is the impartial implementation / interpretation of each and every provisions as stated will only bring relief.

    What is the guarantee that Interpretation on racist line as it happened in upcountry tamils’ cases ( section 29 of the first constitution ) and Kodeeswaran language case, will not happen in the future.

    If you are honest and keen to bring reconciliation please as a first step start with the implementation of Tamil language special provision act that was brought nearly five decades ago. Don’t you know that your government departments still send letters in Sinhala language, without a Tamil translation, to Tamils and making their life difficult. During Chandrika’s period she excused herself by telling that there are no Tamil type writers, typists and Tamil translators. Is this the position even now?

    Minister please answer to me.

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    Mangala,
    “Accountability” and also “Responsibility” are becoming meaningless things in our recent culture. Without these in our minds or brains, “reconciliation” has no meaning.
    When somebody farted in this country, we put the blame on others, we say India, West, USA or NGO are “responsible” for those acts and our third grade journalists confirm to masses that we are not accountable for those actions, unfortunately masses agree.. When the youth in South and North took arms against the Gov, responsibility goes to us, masses, we are accountable to find solutions for OUR problems. Unless we find ways to change this mindset, there is less chance of succeeding in “Reconciliation”… because “Reconciliation” should come through your heart…

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    Minister MS is doing his best even but the task is difficult.But will he get support of his ministry officials ?We hear that many officials are still with the Rajapaksa people, but making MS feel that they help him

    Example,Head of the UN Section of the Foreign Ministry is a known agent of the Rajapaksa clan.Her brother, a Gota man,still holds an influential place in Defence Ministry. She wrote Sajin’s letters even for his company work.For this sajin promised send her to Geneva as ambassador. So how can government work its policies with such people in high positions.? The cheif the Consular Section in the ministry is known Namal R man having helped him to get millions of dollars from Gaddafi when he was Ambassador in Libya.The head of the Overseas Adminstration section is known Gota man. He was sent from Australia by gota and sajin as ambassador to Nigeria for the Avante Garde deal of Senadhipathy after ASP Liyanage left.

    MS aim of working hard for sri lanka is very good, but we hope he gets a group of neutral officials. Otherwise, big chance that he will be not given good advise. Minister can check and he will see.

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    I think the ONLY thing that Tamils want is:

    Tamils governing Tamils in I hope Northern and Eastern Province which I will call NE region.

    Let that be. Then there has to be a Sinhala region which is going to be the South-Western Region (SW-region).

    We have to come to an arrangement with the NE-region representatives as to what needs to be done with the Sinhalese living there. At the same time we have to deal with Tamils in the South-Western region. INCLUDING THE SO CALLED INDIAN-TAMILS.

    As far as I am concerned If your Father and Mother are born in Sri Lanka YOU ARE Sri Lankan therefore, ALL Tamils in the Nuwara Eliya etc etc are SRI LANKAN Tamils. So they would need to be taking up residency in North-East Province . They would be able carry on working in the estates if they wish so otherwise there has to be be some arrangement.

    ALL the Sinhala people in NE province would have to be relocated to the South West Region and found suitable land to reside in.

    Trincomalee would have to be shared between the 2 regions where NE and the SW has shares . The boundaries may have to be re-drawn there.

    Ampara district would have to be given to the SW region.

    After that see what happens. …….

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      sinhala_voice,

      The Scots demanded greater devolution and they got it; did all those scots live out side of Scotland move back to scotland? You can cite the language issue; this is why there is a need to make SL a trilingual country! People can live anywhere they want but power is devolved in such a way that the Tamils are suitably empowered. Since independence, we have witnessed the majoritarian hegemony and this disparity needs to rectified; it is democracy.

      Your analysis is totally clueless and comical!

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    No wonder Batalanada Ranil has appointed cousin Ratwatte to keep an eye on this dude.

    As for his future , I thought first thing he did in his Yahapalana Foreign Minister job which the Elite , Anglicans , Vellasas and the Wahabis, gave him, was to sign the Same SEX Marriage Bill at the the UN.

  • 0
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    Ohhh, his dream is same sex marriage.

    No one Sihale Banned gal kepilla.

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    Mr Sumanesekera,

    I read your great comments with lots of interest.But occasionally you slip and this comment ,I am sorry to say, is one.Its too early to judge Mangala Samaraweera’s performance as FM.But so far he has done exceptionally well, never hesitating to say and do things a professional politician would not even dare to think, let alone do.He is surely a good Sinhala Buddhist just as you and I are but no body could accuse the man as been racist. And that adds to his been a good Sinhala Buddhist.He has shown more than flashes of statesmanship.His speeches are not the usual babble but very meaningful .
    On the whole the Minister’s performance has been very very good.He is facing an uphill task just as Laksman Kadirgamar did although the two were presented with 2 wholly different tasks.However. the degree and immensity of the challenges are identical. If Samaraweera does proceed in this manner, one day history will place him on par with Kadirgamar, if not a notch higher.Here we must recall that LK was vilified by Tamils just as much Samarweera is been harshly dealt with by some of the Sinhalese.Kadir had a relatively freer hand in the job,an advantage denied to MS .Yet he has managed to be on the top of the job.

    But I suspect that Samaraweera will one day be vindicated just as much as LK was.Alas it’s sad that we honor heroes only when they are no more.Kadirgamar is a good example ;in his case he was disowned not only by Tamils but also Sinhalese.Dont forget we denied him the well deserved PM’post only to shed a Mahaweli full of artificial tears when he was killed.

    By the way , I have not met MS or LK. I have always kept clear of politicians…. even the good ones!So these are just the random observations of an octanagerian.

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      Mr Senanayake
      “If Samaraweera does proceed in this manner, one day history will place him on par with Kadirgamar, if not a notch higher.”

      We should get his portrait up in Caroline Randell room at Saint Martin’s School of Arts, preferably close to the ceiling.

      Ah, we shouldn’t forget his Sri Lankabhimanya award also.

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    Mr Sumanesekera,

    I read your great comments with lots of interest.But occasionally you slip and this comment ,I am sorry to say, is one.Its too early to judge Mangala Samaraweera’s performance as FM.But so far he has done exceptionally well, never hesitating to say and do things a professional politician would not even dare to think, let alone do.He is surely a good Sinhala Buddhist just as you and I are but no body could accuse the man as been racist. And that adds to his been a good Sinhala Buddhist.He has shown more than flashes of statesmanship.His speeches are not the usual babble but very meaningful .
    On the whole the Minister’s performance has been very very good.He is facing an uphill task just as Laksman Kadirgamar did although the two were presented with 2 wholly different tasks.However. the degree and immensity of the challenges are identical. If Samaraweera does proceed in this manner, one day history will place him on par with Kadirgamar, if not a notch higher.Here we must recall that LK was vilified by Tamils just as much Samarweera is been harshly dealt with by some of the Sinhalese.Kadir had a relatively freer hand in the job,an advantage denied to MS .Yet he has managed to be on the top of the job.

    But I suspect that Samaraweera will one day be vindicated just as much as LK was.Alas it’s sad that we honor heroes only when they are no more.Kadirgamar is a good exaimple ;in his case he was disowned not only by Tamils but also Sinhalese.Dont forget we denied him the well deserved PM’post only to shed a Mahaweli full of artificial tears when he was killed.

    By the way , I have not met MS or LK. I have always kept clear of politicians…. even the good ones!So these are just the random observations of an octanagerian.

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    Mr Sumanesekera,

    I read your great comments with lots of interest.But occasionally you slip and this comment ,I am sorry to say, is one.Its too early to judge Mangala Samaraweera’s performance as FM.But so far he has done exceptionally well, never hesitating to say and do things a professional politician would not even dare to think, let alone do.He is surely a good Sinhala Buddhist just as you and I are but no body could accuse the man as been racist. And that adds to his been a good Sinhala Buddhist.He has shown more than flashes of statesmanship.His speeches are not the usual babble but very meaningful .
    On the whole the Minister’s performance has been very very good.He is facing an uphill task just as Laksman Kadirgamar did although the two were presented with 2 wholly different tasks.However. the degree and immensity of the challenges are identical. If Samaraweera does proceed in this manner, one day history will place him on par with Kadirgamar, if not a notch higher.Here we must recall that LK was vilified by Tamils just as much Samarweera is been harshly dealt with by some of the Sinhalese.Kadir had a relatively freer hand in the job,an advantage denied to MS .Yet he has managed to be on the top of the job.Mangala has to manage the foreign policy of a President and PM who are fundamentally different in their approaches; a situation that LK did not face.

    But I suspect that Samaraweera will one day be vindicated just as much as LK was.Alas it’s sad that we honor heroes only when they are no more.Kadirgamar is a good exaimple ;in his case he was disowned not only by Tamils but also Sinhalese.Dont forget we denied him the well deserved PM’post only to shed a Mahaweli full of artificial tears when he was killed.

    By the way , I have not met MS or LK. I have always kept clear of politicians…. even the good ones!So these are just the random observations of an octanagerian.

  • 0
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    Mangala do you think that the armed forces are going to investigate themselves objectively?

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    Dear Mr B Senanayaka,

    Thank you for your response.

    “Samaraweera Good Sinhaala Buddhiist like You & Me”

    I respectfully agree to disagree Sir..

    A fellow who gives ammunition to the Sinhala Buddhist bashers by interpreting Mahavansa’s chronicles literally, is not helping the great majority of the inhabitant population. who happen to be Sinhala Buddhists.

    They are the worst affected sect of the population when it comes Money, Housing,Jobs, Health Care and Education.

    And they are being pushed more and more in to the scrap heap, to give the Elite the reins.

    Buddhists haven’t nor has been fighting wars in part of the world.

    But Samraweera says we are War Criminals.

    It is the people who believe in God who have been killing each other then, and even now.

    But they don’t do War Crimes, only Elimination of Humans..Weird isn’t it..

    Yet people like Samraweera portrays us as evil who come from a Lion, simply because he cant get his beloved friends in the West to come and jail our soldiers and give the Diasporians their wishes.

    He in fact wants to be Santa Claus for the West.

    Fair enough but leave the Sinhala Buddhists alone.

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    I think people at the first instance,should understand for whom they are addressing at if they are human beings.[Edited out]

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    How can we Design, Define & Create Our Future while giving too much room for the West to implement its strategy?
    We should not trust the West blindly. The West was facilitating the brutal civil war indirectly for decades. We shouldn’t give too much room to play their game in the name of democracy and human rights. Especially, Tamils are lining up to get funds from the West in the name of development projects, even though the West fooled Tamils in the name of Eelam. Recently, I was asked to write a project proposal to the Western country by a well known organisation in Jaffna. I have spoken to the so called “Tamil leaders” and saw their resumes. Their resumes just little better than Emil Kanthan’s. Nevertheless, limited to political knowledge and international affairs. The West can spin them with little fingers. Giving grants through the Western Embassies and NGOs all are expanding the Western soft power. But Tamil leaders don’t have the knowledge to understand the Western games.

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