Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Evolving Role of the Sri Lankan Diaspora

By Sanjeewa Karunaratne

The task of putting our mother nation up-right has just begun. When the eyes of the world are glued to the country for the second phase of the “war,” while some Western countries are trying to block aid in order to feed on our miseries— as they have done so successfully for hundreds of years— an enormous responsibly lies with the Sri Lankan Diaspora.
The intelligent and wealthy diaspora can save our nation from being prey to modern-day imperialism. While this article focuses on the work of Srilankans for Peace, based in Boston, U.S.A. there are others such as Sri Lankans for Unity, which are spearheading the effort to address the needs of the country through their influence with the diaspora.

The effort to spread misinformation about Sri Lanka in the Boston area was begun in early 1970s, a few years before the LTTE was born, by forming an Embassy of Eelam. It flourished for three decades as LTTE propagandists gradually pocketed lawmakers and media in the area. Among hundreds of articles published in Boston Globe about Sri Lanka, none were in support of the war or the government, until recently. For a long time Boston was plagued by uncontested misinformation which may have influenced the foreign relations policy of the Obama Administration.

Srilankans for Peace strived to bridge Sinhala and Tamil communities in the Boston area by engaging in dialogue about the conflict. An initial attempt was to commence this dialogue by screening the movie “No More Tears Sister.” In countering propaganda, group members wrote letters to the Winchester High School Administration when a Tamil student began a hunger strike; Travis Smiley when he hosted a controversial talk with a LTTE propagandist, M.I.A, Oprah Winfrey when M.I.A. attempted to get on her talk show and the Boston Globe and other newspapers whenever controversial articles were published. The group is aggressively following up its discussions with Senators John Kerry, Robert Casey and other member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Group members also participated in peaceful demonstrations condemning the LTTE.

Because of the proactive and aggressive role of the Sri Lankan Diaspora in the Boston area, the spread of misinformation has ceased. The Boston Globe started to publish favorable articles about Sri Lanka. There is a Sri Lankan Temple, Sri Lankan Association, traditional Sri Lankan Drum and Dance Group and, finally, a “Sri Lankan Day” will be held by the Town of Acton in August.

Once the tide was turned, the focus of the group was shifted to helping Sri Lanka stand up on its own feet. A fundraising campaign was unveiled in last June to raise money for the veterans and their families. The first portion of the proceeds, $6100 will be distributed among Project Gratitude, Ranaviru Fund and the National Defence Fund. On another front, a T-shirt campaign has been initiated to help displaced Sri Lankans in the welfare centers as well as the veterans. Twenty percent of all the financial donations to the temple will go to the children of the veterans and displaced Sri Lankans. Group members are also encouraged to invest in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lank had a great civilization which built massive reservoirs, castles and stupas when two-thirds of the world was covered in thick jungles. In recent history, when Sri Lanka gained independence, it had the second best economy in Asia.

Over one million Sri Lankan Diaspora living in almost every country in the world today,—the biggest asset of our nation—have the means to lift the status of our nation once again. The alternative is to witness the way in which rich nations, who feed on poor nations, rewrap the country in their clutches and continue their domination and marginalization to ensure that Sri Lanka will be a “poor”, “developing” or “third world” nation for the next hundred years.

In 2005, almost fifty years after he left Oxford, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar’s portrait was unveiled at the Oxford Union where he served as the president. This was what our former foreign minister, who was instrumental in countering LTTE’s propaganda, famously said in the event,

”….I would like to, if I may, to assume that I could share the honor with the people of my country, Sri Lanka. I had my schooling there, my first university was there, I went to Law College there and by the time I came to Oxford as a postgraduate student, well, I was relatively a matured person. Oxford was the icing on the cake, but the cake was baked at home …”

Let us do what we know is right.

1 comment:

困っています。 said...