Tamil-Canadians urged to invest and support Sri Lanka

Tamil-Canadian business owners from Toronto who visited their Sri Lankan homeland have returned urging fellow community members to invest in the island and support its Government, Inside Toronto reported.

Their appeal — unthinkable during the three decades of Sri Lanka’s civil war — came after March meetings with Sri Lankan leaders who, the investors say, admit the Government was partly responsibility for the war and the suffering it caused.

“They feel the guilt now. They’ve been contributing, and we’ve been contributing,” Kula Sellathurai, co-chairperson of the Canada Sri Lanka Business Convention, told an April 23 news conference in Scarborough.

“They don’t want to see a second generation go through a war.”

The 21 potential investors, on a trade mission with Don Valley East MP Yasmin Ratansi and two other Ontario MPs in the Canada Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group, met Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena.

They left impressed with his candidness, and his willingness to recognize injustices were done to Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority by Governments led by the Sinhalese majority.

The entrepreneurs were candid themselves about the role Greater Toronto’s Tamil diaspora, which during the war became the largest outside Sri Lanka, played in donations supporting the violence.

“We, the diasporas, were the ones that helped fund the war for 35 years,” said Stan Muthulingam, the group’s other co-chairperson, at JC’s Grill House.

The war ended in 2009 as the Government finally crushed the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In Toronto, where protesters had blocked the Gardiner Expressway during the conflict’s final days, calls continued for an independent Tamil state, boycotts of Sri Lankan goods and international sanctions to stop what organizations described as continuing human rights violations and genocide against Tamils.

But Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president who oversaw the final military campaign, was defeated by Sirisena in 2015 and relations with the Toronto diaspora improved significantly.

By visiting the island now, Muthulingam said, “your perspective on the country will change and you will be a changed person.”

Tamils were “pulled down” by past Sinhalese-majority Governments, but Sirisena needs Tamil support and economic development in the island’s war-ravaged north and east to remain in power, said Muthulingam, adding, “we have a duty to strengthen this Government.”

Though postwar reconciliation “has to come from people themselves,” Tamils in the north “need our knowledge,” learned in Canada, about operating businesses, said Sellathurai.

“We can pass it on to these people, and they can improve their life.”

The regime is also offering tax holidays, and long leases on land for foreign investors. It’s interested, for example, in arranging cold storage facilities for farmers, hospital management programs and toll roads, Sellathurai said.

There were decades of mistrust created between Tamils and Sinhalese, but convention chairperson Ganesan Sugumar said he sees the current Government as sincere about rebuilding the north.

“They are not fooling us. They want us to come, they want us to help,” he said.

“As a business community, we can’t talk about the political side, but we can help the region’s people.”

Kim Derry, a former Toronto deputy police chief in Toronto, was part of the trade mission and said Sri Lanka is open for business. People the group met, he insisted, “want to be seen as Sri Lankans,” not as Tamil or Sinhalese.

Though they didn’t meet, the mission’s timing almost matched a March visit to Sri Lanka by Toronto Mayor John Tory, who signed a partnership agreement with Jaffna, the north’s largest city, and visited a memorial at Mullivaikal dedicated to Tamils killed during the final stages of the war.

Tory also donated books to the Jaffna Library, burnt by a mob in 1981.

In February, the Scarborough-based Canadian Tamil Congress hosted a three-day conference on redeveloping Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces at Scarborough’s Centennial College.

That event, concentrating mainly on health care and education, featured several members of the Northern Provincial Council and Sri Lankan MPs.

The Congress and other organizations have pushed for an independent international investigation of possible war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka, and David Poopalapillai, the group’s national spokesperson, said its views haven’t changed.

“We still want the Sri Lankan Government to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.”

The new Government provides a “ray of hope” that justice will be served, but the pace of reform in Sri Lanka is very slow, Poopalapillai said.

The congress, however, supports reconstruction in the island’s north and east. “We want the diaspora to go and invest and lift up the livelihood of the people.”

Spokespersons for the convention, who say their next move will be to formalize their group and start a counterpart in Sri Lanka, believe the political situation there is improving, but the Government fears giving concessions to Tamils before the next election.

Their message is, “Be patient, give us time,” Muthulingam said. (Colombo Gazette)

3 COMMENTS

  1. Tamil Diaspora will never ever invest in North and East unless the government allows funds to reach the NPC & EPC [North & Eastern Provinces] without any interference of the GOSL;

  2. I agree with you Tamils leaders were Colombo centered and enjoyed Ministerial perks and agreed with the ruling parties and joined with them in making bad decisions for the Country all along after independence. I also agree with you before independence the British was impressed with their honesty and hard work, the majority Sinhalese were neglected and Tamils were managing all the machinery including the Air force, Navy, Army and the Police. At that time Sri Lanka was the envy of all the other Countries and the leaders of other Countries pledged their voters to vote for them if they like their Country to be developed like Ceylon. Alas after independence, the majority Governments took control of all Departments, vigorously employed Sinhalese in all departments, drove Tamils out of all provinces with terrible violence. Deprived Tamils in all fronts of employment, Justice, education on one hand and began teaching Mahavamsa, an anti Tamil history saying Tamils don’t belong in Sri Lanka in schools as well. By the 70s the Majoritarian leaders completed taking all powers from Tamils and created the racial divide that got carried out until the 2009 massacre of Tamils. All top decisions are suitably made in favor of Politicians promoting their own ways to embezzle and run down the Country as we all know today. Tamils never had a say in any major decision for the Country. Even today with all the chances the International community gave the Tamils, they are foolish to still listening to the Majoritarian Government leaders.

  3. Tamil diaspora won’t do it, unless the Western Countries ask them to do so. I don’t think that the West is interested to build Sri Lanka and Asia. If they do, where are they going to get skilled people to develop the Western countries?

    I do not agree that the Sri Lankan government should get blamed for Tamils taking arms form India. African American and Singaporeans faced discrimination, but they didn’t kill leaders and innocent people in the name of freedom.

    There was a time Tamils were representing the majority Sinhalese under the British rule. This had been done to divide Sinhalese and Tamils. The British rulers gave wrong ideas to Tamils. This is the reason Tamils never went for a solution, even though they had opportunities to find a solution since the independence. The British love Tamils, because Tamils wholeheartedly follow the foreign powers, no questions asked. The Sri Lankan Tamil political leaders did not demand for federal system or even a separate state under the British ruling; because the British spoiled Tamils by giving too much as minority.

    The Sri Lankan Tamil leaders’ request was granted long time ago by the Sinhalese leaders, but the Tamil leaders weren’t smart enough to accept it. Tamil leaders always look for ways to create disasters not solutions. The federal solution was suggested by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1926. The Kandyan Sinhala leaders recommended a federal arrangement of two units for Sinhalese and one unit comprising the North–East for Tamils in 1927, but the Tamil leaders opposed it .

    Second opportunity came when G G Ponnambalam was the leader; Sinhalese generously agreed for 40:60 solution even though Tamils’ population wasn’t 40% at that time. But Tamil leaders rejected it and wanted 50:50; later on decided to take arms from New Delhi to kill their fellow countrymen. Then the third opportunity came through Indo-Lanka agreement. Again the Tamil leaders rejected the good offer, but decided to listen to the West, and turned their guns towards their fellow Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese and Indians.

    If Tamil leaders have little brain, little love for their people they would have found a solution long time ago. Tamil leaders are the least when it comes to honoring smart people. Tamils don’t know the value of unity, the foreign powers can do wonders among Tamils because of their divisions. Jealousy is eating Tamils. Tamils would do anything to undermine their fellow Tamils, even if they have to join with foreign powers.

    I have been living in Jaffna since August 2015. I have been to many public events. Indian High Commission and the Westerners are the VIPs for those events, but not smart Tamils or Sinhalese. It is clear Tamils have no intention to move forward, other than carrying on their useless path as in the past. Therefore, sharing power with Tamils is sharing power with foreign powers; this will lead to disaster. Literally the government has to be on its knees to please the foreign powers; if it shares power with Tamil leaders.

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