Human Race Health and Planet Survival – Global Issues

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (on screen) addresses the general debate of the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly. Credit: UN photo/Loey Felipe
  • Opinion by Neville de Silva (London)
  • Inter Press Service

Understandably, the President is drawing the world’s attention to the current pandemic plaguing the people of Sri Lanka, as well as the populations of most of the other countries that make up the UN family that have struggled with COVID-19 for the past two years. to overcome, that has nearly brought some nations to their knees.

As we know, some countries have dealt with the spreading virus more effectively and efficiently than others because they relied on the right professional advice and had the right people in the places instead of dilettantes with inflated egos.

The immediacy of the pandemic with its day-to-day impact on people’s health and livelihoods is seen as pressing political and health issues, in contrast to the dangers surrounding our planet, which to many seem miles away, while others still treat it with great doses of skepticism. .

President Rajapaksa rightly pointed to the dangers to the planet’s survival – as underlined in the recent report of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – posed by human activity and said that Sri Lanka, among other measures, to significantly increase forest cover in the future.

What really matters is whether those on the ground — like some of our politicians and their acolytes who seem to think that saving the planet is someone else’s responsibility, but clearing the forests and damaging our ecosystems for personal gain — are their pay attention to the president’s alarm signals that should have been sounded appropriately at least a decade ago.

But what prompted a swift response was not the call for international action to save the people from the pandemic or the planet from climate change, as President Rajapaksa told the UN, but what he told UN chief Antonio Guterres at their meeting in New York.

While reiterating Sri Lanka’s stance that internal problems should be resolved through domestic mechanisms, the President’s interest sparked the President’s sudden and unexpected willingness to expand the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora scattered across the North and in smaller numbers elsewhere. for discussions, presumably on reconciliation, liability and other outstanding matters.

You would think there would be a wave of enthusiasm from some sections of the Tamil diaspora who had previously expressed an interest in engaging the Sri Lankan government on a range of issues affecting the Tamil community.

But the few responses reported from some Tamil organizations seem lukewarm. Yes, the Non-Resident Tamils ​​of Sri Lanka (NRTSL), a UK-based group, welcomed the president’s announcement by saying that “involvement with the diaspora is particularly important at a time when Sri Lanka faces multiple challenges. is confronted”.

However, there was one caveat. The NRTSL supports the “open, transparent and sincere involvement of the Government of Sri Lanka,” said the organization’s president, V. Sivalingam.

The more famous Global Tamil Forum (GTF) called it a “progressive move” and welcomed it. But his spokesman Suren Surenderan questioned what he called President Rajapaksa’s “sudden change of mind”.

Surendiran said President Rajapaksa was due to meet with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in June, but that meeting was postponed with no new date set.

When requests are made by democratically elected representatives of Tamil people in Sri Lanka to meet with the President, they are ‘delayed with lame excuses’, {and} now he has stated from New York that he is with us, the Tamil diaspora , wants to cooperate,” Surendiran said rather disdainfully in a statement.

Although the Tamil diaspora in Sri Lanka is made up of many organizations and groups spread across different continents, there is a studied silence from most of them, a sign that many of them are skeptical about the sincerity of the gesture.

In March this year, after the UN Human Rights Council passed a highly critical resolution on Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa government banned several Tamil diaspora organizations and more than 300 individuals who labeled them as terrorist or terrorist-affiliated. These include Tamil advocacy organizations such as the British Tamil Forum, Global Tamil Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress, Australian Tamil Congress and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee.

Exactly seven years earlier, in March, the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa banned 424 individuals and 16 diaspora organizations.

The problem for the current government is that if it plans to invite Tamil organizations to participate in talks, it would have to lift the existing bans on individuals and groups without which they are unlikely to talk to the government .

As revealed during peace talks at various times between the government and the LTTE, the Tamil groups will most likely push for participation as legitimate organizations uncontaminated by bans. That is certainly one of the most important conditions, if not the most important.

It is also clear that the Tamil diaspora is not a homogeneous whole. It consists of moderate organizations poised to solve the pressing problems within a unitary Sri Lanka, to those at the other end of the spectrum who are still loyal to the LTTE ideology and demand a separate state.

If the government singles out the participants, especially those more inclined to cooperate with the government, it would be seen as an attempt to drive a huge wedge into the Tamil diaspora.

This could lead to the excluded groups strengthening their existing ties to the political forces in their country of residence, including politicians in government, as seen in the UK and Canada, for example, and Tamil councilors in other elected bodies. to increase external pressure on Sri Lanka. .

That is why some Tamil commentators are already labeling this as a “diversion” to reduce international actions against Colombo.

What would be the reactions of powerful sections of the Buddhist monks and the ultra-nationalist Sinhalese Buddhists who were strongly in favor of a Gotabaya presidency?

And across the Palk Strait, there are the approximately 80 million Tamils ​​in Tamil Nadu and an Indian government that is following developments with genuine interest and concern.

Neville de Silva is an accomplished Sri Lankan journalist who was an assistant editor of the Hong Kong Standard and worked for Gemini News Service in London. He later served as Deputy Head of Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London.

Follow IPS News UN Bureau on Instagram

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


Leave a Comment