Kadirgamar's divisive scheme stalls

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 September 1997, 12:03 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Foreign minister, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar was in London recently on another official visit. However, apart from his routine meetings with British officials, Mr. Kadirgamar had another objective to accomplish this time. According to a British periodical, the Tamil Guardian, Mr. Kadirgamar had been instructed to meet leaders of London's Tamil expatriate community and cultivate their support. However, things had apparently not gone according to plan.

The September 20 issue of the Tamil Guardian reported that the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London had been tasked to arrange a meeting with Tamil community leaders and Mr. Kadirgamar at a hotel near London's theatre-land on September 12th.

The High commissioner had contacted a trusted Tamil friend of his, Mr. T.V. Arumugam, who is president of a Tamil expatriate organisation called the Standing Committee of Tamils (SCOT).

Mr. Arumugam had used his cultivated influence within the Tamil community and succeeded in mobilising a grand total of 4 individuals for the meeting.

Unfortunately two of these attendees had used the opportunity to ask awkward questions of the Foreign minister, to the extent that the High Commissioner had been forced to intervene to shut them up!

One of the others, whom the Guardian referred to as Mr. B..., had tried to placate the Sri Lankan officials with 'hopeful sounds'. Mr. B... apparently has a 'notorious talent for groveling to [Sri Lankan] government ministers'.

Mr. Kadirgamar's idea, it transpired, was to persuade Tamil expatriates to support the Sri Lankan government's scheme to rebuild the Jaffna library, which had been torched by Sinhala thugs in 1981.

However, one of the Tamils, a Mr. S..., had pointed out that in the light of the Sri Lankan government's current difficulties in keeping its 30,000 troops on the Jaffna peninsula supplied, it was unlikely that the government had any serious intentions about moving cement and construction material to repair the Jaffna library.

Mr. S... felt that, in fact, Mr. Kadirgamar was trying to whip up Tamil expatriate sentiments against the LTTE's blockade on Jaffna, and that the 'library project' was a bait for this purpose.

On hearing what Mr. S..., had to say, the High Commissioner had become considerably irritated and had tried to silence him. The meeting then broke up, leaving Mr. Kadirgamar not in the least bit amused over the outcome.

Mr. B... had apparently left with a cloud over his head, as his 'unparalleled influence' over London's Tamils had not been impressed on the minister.

The London's long established expatriate Tamil community comprises of several generations. There is widespread support for the Tamil Tigers. However, there are also a small minority of Tamils who seek to curry favour with the Sri Lankan government, mainly to protect vested (usually economic) interests in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE's decision to blockade the Sri Lankan army's Jaffna garrison has been supported by the expatriate Tamil community, despite the government's best efforts to promote anti-LTTE sentiment using this issue.

Mr. Kadirgamar is a Tamil (who was born and raised in the Sinhala south), whose appointment as foreign minister was not incidental. He is said to declare that there is no discrimination in Sri Lanka as a Tamil could even aspire to senior roles in government.

However, Mr. Kadirgamar is one of the very few Tamils serving in the pre-dominantly Sinhalese Sri Lankan government in any senior role. The Sri Lankan armed forces are 96% Sinhalese also.


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