Time is up for mature debates on the exclusive dealings involving the new government of President Maithiripala Sirisena/ Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Though wider debates and expressions of discontents are taking place in the Tamil electronic and broadcasting media, the English media is taking a blind approach of rejuvenation from such polarising engagement.
The pulses of the cross section of the expatriate Tamils in the UK is seemingly detesting over the secrecy and exclusivity bestowed in the dealings with the GTF. Since the cosy relationship started, the GTF has become headstrong and an underdog within the wider Tamil community and its very survival to extend its relationship further will come under formidable pressures.
GTF is the present day manifestation of the LTTE’s one man World Federation of Tamils (WFT) that changed its name to International Federation of Tamils (IFT) in the late 1990’s. Initial attempts to take over the WTF by the LTTE’s manipulative international fund manager in the early 1990’s was not successful. Both WFT and IFT were in existence for few years managed by two fractions until the LTTE’s international head was booted out of the LTTE by Pirabakaran. Official WTF adopted the IFT name in the late 1990’s. IFT went through a name sake change to Global Tamil Forum (GTF) during the peak of the blitz on the LTTE fundraising efforts in 2007/08 by the British security establishment.
The name change took place in parallel, with the active LTTE front- the United Tamil Organisation (UTO) too. UTO changed its name to British Tamil Association (BTA) with the proscription of the LTTE in the UK in 2000 and then the name changed further to British Tamil Forum (BTF) with the end of the LTTE’s arms struggle. Following the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, some efforts were made to give semblance of democracy or organisational structure for the BTF.
The Tansnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) founded with blessing of the LTTE’s arms procurer Selvarasa Pathmanathan (KP) is the only LTTE linked organisation that exercised some experience of overt democracy by holding its inaugural general elections in 2010. Despite the all-round effort of vote rigging by the very hard core LTTE activists/hoodlums, the election proved reasonably successful but the distasteful experience of holding the first election prevented the GTF from holding any further public elections fearing all out dishonesty by the hard-core trouble making LTTE activists.
The new government in Sri Lanka was all out to have some influence over the hard-core LTTE activists in the UK to avoid mass protests and campaigns experienced in the Mahinda Rajapakse era. Secret meetings arranged by a German NGO – Berghof Foundation, facilitated engagements with the GTF, BTF, TGT and a pro LTTE Norwegian Tamil organisation. No efforts were made by this NGO to engage the wider Tamil political campaign groups. German NGO’s effort, as claimed, found the way for the GTF to engage exclusively with the government and the TNA at the expense of other organisations.
TGT’s very agenda of a separate state of Tamil Eelam excluded them from further engagement on the German NGO effort. BTF walked out, as it was outside their scope of being a agitation/campaigning group. This paved the way for the elusive five men GTF to wholly engage with the government and the TNA to dictate their terms on behalf of the wider Tamil Diaspora.
It is essential to know how GTF came to dominance. As stated, GTF was initially a name sake organisation of the BTF to do its international business. All the present five member activists were initially members of the BTF. Family feud between GTF spokesman Suren Surendran and present BTF head Root Ravi led to the expulsion (by compulsions) of Suren Surendran, Fr Emanuel, Sen Kandiah and others from the BTF. Weakened Surendran & Co., clung on to the GTF and progressed on their five men wagon.
Suren Surendran is detested for his enfeebling methodologies and he solely progressed with the help of Fr. Emanuel to make far reaching contacts and also consolidated his contacts already established through the BTF. For instance, a meeting arranged with the late South African Radhakrishna Lutchmana “Roy” Padayachie, who was the Minister of Public Service and of the Republic of South Africa by the TNA UK branch, was a bonanza for Suren Surendran. With that first contact, he was able to strengthen his ties with him further.
Suren Surendran is a very divisive figure who had played the role of segmenting the Tamil Diaspora to promote and progress his version of the pro LTTE agenda. Divisiveness is such that he enjoys exclusivity to deal with issues himself without furthering and reaching the broader Tamil opinions. ‘Global’, a broader term is used for Suren Surendran’s self-centric parochial agenda. Exclusivity enjoyed by determinedly avoiding to engage with the other opinions backed by unexplained financial resources of the GTF gave an edge to Suren Surendran.
There is widespread belief that GTF is funded by a country. It is presumed that either Switzerland or South Africa is funding them to bull horse their way forward, undermining all other Tamil voices of the Diaspora. There needs greater clarity of the organizational structure of the GTF and resources at its disposal in the wider public interest.
The meeting held in Singapore recently with the engagement of the government of Sri Lanka and the TNA was an effort of the GTF without any wider consensus to deal with the issues needing broader participation. The secrecy in which this meeting was held was exposed in the media and still the answers are not forthcoming as to why such silence is required for the meeting with a club few men with the misleading grandiose global name.
GTF is not backed by any other Tamil organisations including the BTF or TGT. Engagement with the BTF, TGT and other groups confirm the extent of the deep down frustration across the Tamil Diaspora over the exclusivity enjoyed by a club of few belonging to the GTF.
The discussion meeting facilitated by the newly formed Non Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka held on 9th October was attended by some leading voices in the Tamil Diaspora in the UK and there were expressions of deep frustration over the government-TNA’s exclusive engagement with the GTF. Whilst the TNA’s stand on the involvement with the government was seen as a step in the right direction, exclusively dealing with the GTF came under heavy criticism.
GTF that attempts to sit on moral high grounds will not attempt to make public statements to bring an end to the culture of hate mongering and anti-activities by the hard-core LTTE clans that the government is trying to outmanoeuvre with the help of the LTTE fronts. The peaceful wider diaspora of over 80 per cent are held at ransom by these elements that the GTF would like to sustain for their own glorification and long term survival.