19 September, 2018

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Letter To President Sirisena From Diaspora

By Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Dear President Sirisena,

I write to you as a member of the Sri Lankan diaspora; a multi-ethnic and multi-faceted community identifying as Sri Lankan but living outside the country. At the outset, let me join many others in congratulating and wishing you the very best on beginning your term as the 6th President of Sri Lanka.

As President, I recognize neither you nor your Government owe any obligations to me, a member of the diaspora, especially since you are likely deluged with so many requests and suggestions from your own constituents so early in your presidency. I am also acutely aware that many if not most Sri Lankans have strong reservations about the Diaspora, arising in part from the continuing support in certain segments of the Diaspora for the goals and objectives of the LTTE.

I nevertheless write to ask you to consider implementing measures that lead to a more constructive relationship between the people of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Diaspora. As you are likely to aware, the global Sri Lankan Diaspora consists of all Sri Lankan communities; there are Tamils living outside Sri Lanka who identify as being Sri Lankan and not Tamil . Even with respect to the self-identified Tamil Diaspora, few generalizations can be made. Your election amply demonstrates these differences: Tamil Diaspora organizations such as the Global Tamil Forum encouraged the Sri Lankan Tamil population to vote in this election as Tamils “still have the good of the country and of all peoples at heart and wish the triumph of democracy and rule of law” while other Tamil Diaspora activists urged the Tamil population to boycott.

I write to offer you some measures you may consider adopting with respect to the Diaspora when appropriate; measures based out of my own professional experience and the conversations, public and otherwise, which I have been a part of that have been occurring within and between the Sri Lankan and Tamil communities over the last five years.

Ministry of Diaspora Relations

Your Excellency, my first suggestion to you is to establish a Ministry of Diaspora Relations dedicated to fostering a constructive relationship with the Sri Lankan Diaspora. This Ministry ought to have the expertise to coordinate a variety of aspects of the relationship between the Sri Lankan government and its Diaspora such as processing dual citizenship applications, offering favourable investment opportunities to members of the Diaspora, developing academic and exchange opportunities and facilitating legitimate charity and fundraising events that contribute to the lives and well-being of their ancestral communities.

Maithripala Dalanda Maligava 01 11 2015This idea is not a novel one: both Bangladesh and India having a Ministry of Diaspora Relations. India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs may best be adapted to the Sri Lankan context, offering exchange programs and other initiatives designed to increase the engagement of the Diaspora with the lives of Sri Lankan citizens. If Your Excellency is truly concerned about the national security implications of giving the Diaspora citizenship carte blanche, then you may be interested in the limited form of citizenship offered by both Canada (temporary limitations) and India (permanent limitations) for a period of time.

A Ministry of Diaspora Relations will play a critical role in reversing the migration of young Sri Lankan professionals to other countries; a “brain drain” that has become all too common over the past four years. An effective Ministry will facilitate knowledge transfer from educated professionals in the Diaspora to local Sri Lankan professionals, catalyzing local entrepreneurship and business communities leading to increasing job growth. The Ministry of Diaspora Relations would also be responsible for engaging with the so-called ‘hostile diaspora groups’ constructively and address their concerns as recommended by the LLRC (See Recommendations of LLRC Report below, 9.261-9.263). I will specifically highlight the work of the Canadian Tamil Congress whose members have the competence and the talent to play integral roles in rebuilding communities in the North and North East of Sri Lanka.

In the long term such a Ministry will likely persuading members of the Sri Lankan diaspora to stay for extended periods of time in the communities that their mothers, fathers and ancestors once called home.

Begin Implementation of the LLRC Recommendations

Your Excellency should also consider the substantive implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (“Commission”); the Commission emphasized the Government bears the responsibility of moving the reconciliation process, an objective which should be “continuous and broad based” (Para 9.183).

Implementation of the recommendations of the Report (English, Sinhala, Tamil) will generate considerable goodwill in the Diaspora and international community, some of which are outlined below with paragraph of Report included in (parantheses):

  • Phase out the involvement of the security forces in civilian activities and use of private lands by Security Forces (9.171)
  • Phase out the presence of the military in the Northern Province and ensure that the Northern Province reverts to civilian administration to ensure people enjoy the benefits of peace (9.227)
  • Begin a good-faith effort for devlolution (9.230 – 9.237)
  • Make the learning of each other’s language a compulsory part of the school curriculum (9.243).
  • All Government offices should have Tamil-speaking officers at all times. Police Stations should have bi-lingual officers on a 24-hour basis (9.247)
  • National anthem should be sung simultaneously in two languages to the same tune. (9.278)
  • A separate event should be set apart on the National Day (4 February) to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and pledge the collective commitment to ensure that there should never be such blood-letting in the country again. (9.284-285)

Demilitarization in the North and North East/Psychosocial Programs

In line with other recommendations of the LLRC Report, I urge your Excellency to consider making plans over the medium term to replace military professionals in the North and North East with psycho-social professionals to assist in the recovery of war affected communities throughout the island. Anecdotally speaking, I have personally heard many stories of deep psychological trauma that civilians in various regions of the North and North East have undergone, all of whom in my non-professional opinion require professional assistance. Given the duration of the conflict and the communities the conflict expected, it is reasonable to assume that the same psychological trauma is present in other areas of the country. Provisions need to be made to obtain professional care for these victims, particularly in populations in the North and North East of Sri Lanka who bore the brunt of the conflict.

Expecting the drastic reduction in the military presence in communities in the North and North East of Sri Lanka may not be politically feasible in the short term, given the current calls for you to not do away with post-war security measures. Notwithstanding, I strongly hope there will soon come a time in your Presidency when Your Excellency will enact policies to ensure Sri Lankan civilians of Tamil descent in the North and North East will be as free from the military as their counterparts in other areas of the country.

Release the LLRC Report in State Media

Again I recognize that you are (and indeed ought to be) preoccupied with the need of your constituents. But in time I hope you will consider implementing some of these proposals. I recognize these suggestions may not be practical or feasible at the moment, given the demands and pressures exerted by Sinhalese nationalists. In response to these pressures, ensure that the Sri Lankan people are aware of recommendations of the LLRC by asking State Media to release the LLRC Report in all official languages on a serialized basis. Know that there are groups in the Sri Lankan Diaspora – and even in the Tamil Diaspora – that may be able to assist in the substantive implementation of the LLRC Recommendations, if that assistance is at all needed.

In conclusion, please know your demonstrated courage and humility during this election has been incredibly inspirational and has instilled in many a Sri Lankan a great hope for reform. I hope you continue to set an example for all Sri Lankans to emulate to the world and to each other for the duration of your presidency.

May the Blessed Triple Gem continue to give you strength and bless you and your loved ones.

Romesh Hettiarachchi is a lawyer and mediator in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached @romesh_h.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    7

    A Sri Lankan citizens who opts to live outside his/her country of birth and becomes a citizen of the adopted country has no right to be part of the land he/she deserted. Visit relatives/ spend holidays in Sri Lanka ? certainly and nothing more – you are a pseudo Lankan.

    • 5
      0

      I think the real reason you’re venting yourself at him and his kind is because they’re doing something that doesn’t fit with your worldview. I take it you’re a Rajapakse supporter, which means that you view people like him as people that shoudln’t care: the fact that he does seems to get under your skin precisely because of that. the nerve of the guy to care about his motherland! I;m assuming you also believe that all Tamils always ONLY think about Eelam, all Muslims only think about jihad ALWAYS, all Christians ONLY think about bringing the country under Vatican control, and that ALL women ONLY think about men, cooking, and children.

      Your ideas are about 50 years behind the rest of the world. Thank the fates your kind will pass from this world and my children don’t have to grow up with parasites of your ilk poisoning their minds in the guise of “protecting race and faith”.

    • 0
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      L Perera, you have not understood the reasons why people ‘desert’ their own Country.

      Some leave when they fear for their Lives, because they do not agree to go along with Illegal/uneconomic Political Ventures.

      Some leave because the Education System does not give their children a good start in Life; whereas Politicians children are sent abroad for Higher Education.

      How do they get the Foreign Exchange, when our children do not?

      And the list goes on and on!

  • 2
    3

    Well said sir. One thing he missed out was reinstatement of LTTE.

    • 2
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      I wish to put paid to the myth that the Tamil diaspora supported the LTTE. I know a significant portion of the Tamils in UK and every one of them detested the LTTE because they were not only intimidated by them and was the cause for their fleeing to UK in the first place but also they were paying extortion for the LTTE letting them live in peace. They were unjustly persecuted by the Sri Lankan heirarchy. I am sure it is the same in the other Western countries the Tamil people fled to in the last 30 years. Do not be taken in by the new groups cropping up like mushrooms trying to keep the extortion racket going among other things. It has been driven home to me time and time again that the Tamil people are individuals who could speak for themselves and need no groups to speak for them in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

  • 5
    2

    Good and thoughtful suggestion RH!
    Every diaspora have part of their soul in Srilanka. If India can approve voting rights, why can’t we share the input for the development of our country. ? we can share all the good management , process and governance happening around the world and make SL better Place..
    Some creative, fresh and practical ideas can come from diaspora. There are some people always have negative response to any good suggestion. Please ignore them. Their responses are based on feelings, lack of political will and knowledge and narrow vision towards future of this country.
    In order to progress on this approach, RH should develop a web based discussion and input from diaspora and put forward recommendation to President MS.

  • 5
    3

    A well balanced & excellent article Romesh.

    Let us keep pressing for change to create a better Sri Lanka.

    Shelton Peiris

  • 2
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    Excellency President
    Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
    Congratulation
    “Right person has come to the right place at right time”
    His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena now people come to you or write to you regarding the various reason and try to force you to implement the 100 days program. It is not so easy to implement such program during the proposed period because you have just came to power and the country has been corrupted by early rulers. Such a corrupted country cannot be corrected within a short period like 100 days. It will take some days to reestablish the country. I ensure that this country will be transformed very soon as a genuine democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka because you are a most senior politician ,most experienced person true Buddhist who love this country and its people . Therefore you need not to be hurry about 100 days since they are not thinking about past thousand days we spent in the dark.
    Theruwan Saranai
    God bless you

  • 6
    1

    If anyone is interested specially the Diaspora, that Sri lanka should prosper, please come back to Sri Lanka and sweat with the people living in Sri lanka to build up the country. It is easy to wait and see from abroad and then decide to come only if the country is doing well. Sri Lanka does not need any contact ministry for the diaspora. It is the duty of the Sri Lankans living abroad to contact the people of Sri Lanka and offer their help in any way.

  • 4
    8

    Romesh Hettiarachchi

    I am not sure what to make of your recommendation and I would like you to clarify the following.
    1)From your name it is obvious that you belong to the Sinhala Diaspora headed by Sam Chicken.

    Your objective was to undermine the work of Tamil Diaspora and Sam Chicken Owner gave hundreds and thousands of pounds to Gotha for the War effort and it therefore goes without saying that to kill and maim Tamils.

    But The Tamil Diaspora just like the Jewish Diaspora was set up to promote and preserve Tamil rights.

    Where were you when the Sri Lankan army with money supplied by you lot shelling innocent civilians who were herded into Sae Heavens.

    How can there be a fusion between Tamil & Sinhala Diaspora before you admit your role and apologise.

    Once you clarify the above I will respond in full.

    • 5
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      @ kali’Tamil Diaspora just like the Jewish Diaspora was set up to promote and preserve Tamil rights’ YES GO TELL THAT TO THE ‘ PALESTINE PEOPLE’ UNDER A BRUTAL OCCUPATION

      • 3
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        Shiva

        What is your point mate

        Why dont you be my messenger and go and convey that message to the suffering Palestinians. But more importantly to the Arab World who collectively have more power ( oil power) than the Jewish and the Tamil Diaspora put together. Dont be too clever.

  • 1
    2

    I have very little time for people like Romesh to write at length. it appears he has become spokesman for GTF.We have our own leaders of the Tamil community like Mr Sumanthiran who has very moderate views as many others in TNA.
    So thank you, spare your breath on these matters.

  • 1
    2

    Let Me tell you a True story about OUR Sri Lankan Disapora.. After the Tsunami.. These Diaspora Hoilday Makers were the first to FIGHT TO GET A FLIGHT OUT OF SRI LANKA.. WHile European Origin Tourist Stayed Behind to Help us Bury the Dead and Transport food.. Its was this Same SRi Lankan Daispora that sent us Good from Overseas.. Such as Canned Tin food the sell by date was late 90’s.. Moth eaten Winter JAckets… To Sri Lanka.. It Tooks more time to sort the Shit Of the Diaspora at the Air Port Terminal.. I Know many Sri Lankan Diaspora Who Take action rather than Write Bogus Letters. (many on 1 year Visa system).. OUR Sri Lankan diaspora like these Letter writers are paracites.. They will eat the Cake there, and once we Sri Lankans do all the hard work here come and eat the cake here as well. The diaspora love to take photos of their lives outside the country and send it here to be put on Magz’s and papers.. You know the paracite type.. SO Now these Paracites want US Lankan Tax Payers to Pay for this ministery so we can inform the paracite Diaspora.. When we Locals Have broken are BAcks to buid this nation for them just to come Suck everything for free.

  • 0
    6

    Dear Romesh
    Few things;
    1. You seem mixed up with the Diaspora and Sri Lankan Expatriates. In general feeling is so called diaspora is more towards to the LTTE Tamil terrorists and vigorously working to divide the Island – Sri Lanka – The majority of Sri Lankan expatriates are professionals who are l working in outside the Country and go back one day to Sri Lanka where are diaspora holders of foreign passports.

    2. GTF and other organisations that you stated are a very common fact that they are front organizations of LTTE Tamil terrorists. So please do not try to hide the facts and to paint a different picture for these pro-LTTE terrorists organizations and individuals.

    3. LLRC is not the bible – it is a just a set of proposals made by the panel. It is up to the government and decision makers to select what is good for the country looking at the big picture not at micro level as you proposed. You have picked up the most stringent proposals made by the LLRC which would lead to imbalance in the society if implemented.

    4. I do not think that nationalistic force in Sri Lanka which is over 15 million Sri Lankans would allow Ranil and his pro-federal group to carry away the country as they think.

    We support for a good governance but not for the promoting separatism in Sri Lanka under cover of so call reconciliation.

    Mohotti

    • 0
      1

      What are the llrc recommendations that you would implement?

      • 0
        0

        Tell that sadist economic refugee in the west or middle east with his begging bowl loud and clear.

        Sattakaya Natta,

        Sevura Hatao!

        colonial shit bucket= sihala buddhist= werewolf mahawamse.

        thoppi karaya soorya sihala ulu/olu =1/2 round spanish missionary tiles.

        Where is your DNA Mohotti north hindia mughal??,

  • 0
    1

    You are correct about the beginnings of the Aluthgama riots. It is only the beginning of the new Wahabist extremist violence and their hopes of overpowering every one else in Sri Lanka. They will use the Tamils, like they did by buying Wellawatta off them. They elected Maithripala as a step in their longer term strategy. The want a weak president in power, held in check by their croud (Hakim, bathurdee, Mustafa, Hasim) so that they can get on with tightening the economic and politcal grip around Sri Lanka. It took 30 years for the Sinhala leaders to slay the Tamil Tiger they had held by the tail since the 1950s. The Muslim leech will be much more difficult to shake off. Mark our words!

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