Vision & Mission

Vision: A peaceful and just country in which freedom, human and democratic rights of all people are assured.

Mission:To work in partnership with different target groups to educate, mobilize and advocate to build a society of rights conscious citizens and a political culture that enables a political solution to the ethnic conflict and equal opportunities to all.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Day after day the news that invariably grabs the media headlines is the effort of the Tamil Diaspora to put the Sri Lankan government into more and more difficulty in the international arena on the issue of war crimes.  Scarcely a day passes without an account of a big event in which leading politicians in foreign countries get together with the Tamil Diaspora to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government.  The most recent such event was an Indian television show that pitted Indian intellectuals and human rights activists, mostly based in Tamil Nadu state in debate with the army spokesman General Ubaya Medawala. Others who featured in the debate included retired Indian army officers, and former Indian and British Foreign Ministers, including David Miliband who has written against the Sri Lankan government’s stance on the last phase of the war.

The matter that was debated on Indian television was the Channel 4 video, for which the government has categorically blamed the Tamil Diaspora.  This creates an impression that the Tamil Diaspora in an active and powerful force abroad.   The high degree of prominence given in the local media about the activities of the Tamil Diaspora and the threats posed by it, have created an image of a public enemy that threatens the country.  The more successful that the Tamil Diaspora is in discrediting the government internationally, the more public support that the government is able to mobilize internally, as it presents itself to be unfairly victimized by some sections of the international community.

There is a perverse sense in which both the Tamil Diaspora and the Sri Lankan government reinforce and strengthen each other as enemies.  The Tamil Diaspora leaders who are engaged in anti Sri Lanka activism abroad, continue to find a relevant role in their society that enables them to address the larger society in their countries.  The LTTE no longer exists as a military power to give the hope of achieving an independent state of Tamil Eelam. But the determination of the Tamil Diaspora to bring the charge of war crimes against the Sri Lankan government gives them a continued purpose.  At the same time, the Sri Lankan government is able to use the international threat posed by the Tamil Diaspora to justify its own restrictions on democratic freedoms on the ground of national security considerations.


It is unfortunate that while the government and Tamil Diaspora duel on the issue of war crimes, the plight of the survivors of the war living in the former war zones does not receive equivalent attention by either party.   The energies expended by the Tamil Diaspora on bringing the Sri Lankan government to international justice does not carry over to easing the desperate struggle of the war victims to get on with their lives with even their basic needs satisfied.  The plight of these people can be illustrated by the fact that, at the present time, most of them would not ask for political rights, and only for food, clothing, shelter and education for their children.  This is in accordance with the basic needs theory of Abraham Maslow who argued that basic needs have to be satisfied first, before people ask for higher level needs, including political rights.  Although the government has ensured the resettlement of most of the war victims in their original places of residence, they have not been provided with adequate resources to restart their war destroyed lives.

There are many factors that would appear to have delayed the recovery process of the war affected people.  One is the shortage of resources and the misapplication of the country’s limited resources.  The government is cash strapped due to its priorities and unable to grant long promised salary increases to government sector employees, including university teachers who have been on strike for several weeks. Although this is no excuse for failing to cater to the most needy section of the country’s population, the government has apportioned little or no resources to channel to the war destroyed areas.

At the same time, the government has strictly limited non governmental agencies, both local and international, from going into the war destroyed areas to help the people. This is on account of its mistrust that non governmental initiatives will aim at stirring up trouble among the people and put various anti national ideas into their heads. Any non governmental group, whether NGO or ordinary people, who wish to provide resources directly to the war victims living in the north of the country, cannot do so without obstacles.  Instead they have to go through a complicated and time consuming process of getting governmental permission even to do good works for those who desperately need help.  


At a recent meeting with a section of the Tamil Diaspora in Europe they expressed the sentiment that they really wanted to support the war victims and war destroyed areas of the country with their financial resources and technical expertise.  The main point they wished to stress was that the Tamil Diaspora is not a monolithic one, with one opinion. On the contrary it is a plural society based in different countries and containing within itself a whole range of ideas, just as is the case with the different ethnic communities in Sri Lanka itself.  There are some who want above all to punish the Sri Lankan government leaders for what happened in the war, but there are others who want to help those who have been the victims of the war.

The group I met with was a group that was opposite to the stereotype of an anti Sri Lanka Diaspora. They wished to focus on the future as their contribution to the country of their birth.  They said they were about as large in numbers as those who were extreme in their Tamil nationalism, though not as well organized.  However, they also complained that when they tried to provide assistance to Sri Lanka, they encountered many obstacles put in their path by the government.  They referred to the need to get special approval for any project by the Presidential Task Force for the North, which has been criticized in the past for not having any Tamil members on it.  The government only partially rectified this problem by appointing two Tamil government servants to this regulatory body. 

Today, and especially in the Vanni and eastern districts there is a category of people that is especially weak and marginalized.  They have relatively few of their family or relatives living abroad to supply them with economic resources at regular intervals, as is the case with those living in Jaffna or Colombo.  As most of them have no access to personal resources, they are in need of official or organizational assistance.  At the present time, the official assistance they are receiving is very meager.  The war victims need much more if they are to rebuild their lives.  But two years after the end of the war, they continue to be left in the lurch.

The Tamil Diaspora would be one important source of economic and human resources for the empowerment of the war victims.  They have the resources and the motivation. But for them to be mobilized into action on a large scale, as opposed to a small scale, the enmity between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Diaspora needs to end, which is something still in the indeterminate future.  On the other hand, even small scale support by the Tamil Diaspora will be better than nothing for the war victims and needs to be explored by the liberal minded elements on both parties.

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