Politically active Tamil diaspora youths under British spotlight

[TamilNet, Saturday, 17 October 2009, 19:11 GMT]
Taking a look into the new political activism of the current generation of diaspora Tamil youths, Financial Times, a premier British Daily, said the "ending [of the war] in Sri Lanka was also a beginning," and many youths experienced a political awakening after devoting a lot of time to the protests and some missing a year of their college. "As one generation of the Tamil diaspora sees its struggle for Eelam, an independent homeland, end in failure, their sons and daughters, who have spent their formative years in the west, are taking up the struggle. But they will fight it on their terms, using their strengths, fomenting a BlackBerry revolution," the paper said.

The paper profiled two new generation expatriate Tamils, Bala Muhunthan, 22, a Tamil youth privately educated in Denmark and attending a leading business school in England, and Jan Jananayagam, a second generation Tamil activist who received a computer degree in England and a post-graduate business degree in Paris, and who ran as an independent ­candidate for London in last June’s European parliamentary elections.

Bala Muhunthan
Bala Muhunthan
"Muhunthan, the son of an accountant and a doctor, had responded to the Tigers’ apparent defeat with optimism – seeing it as a second chance. While disappointed to have lost a powerful ally, he now felt free to pursue the non-violent means he had always preferred. He also saw an opportunity to present his ethnic group as something other than terrorists, a label he found frustrating when dealing with fellow students," the paper said.

"You always have to explain: ‘Look, Tamil ­people are suffering," the paper said quoting Muhunthan.

"Muhunthan is one of a group of young ­people who now want to move the separatist struggle into a more diplomatic, PR-friendly – and, they hope, successful – phase. He has recently set up the Tamil Solidarity Movement, a campaigning group that rejects ­violence. The movement hopes to rely on “networking” with MPs and discouraging western companies from investing in Sri Lanka, rather than on chanting in Parliament Square," the article said on Muhunthan's new approach to Tamil activism.

Jan Jananayagam
Jan Jananayagam
"Articulate and driven, Jananayagam confirms the stereotype of the Tamil diaspora: she used to work as a bond trader at the investment bank Credit Suisse and ran her own hedge fund. She is now busy planning for next year’s British general election; she hopes to persuade MPs to show a commitment to the Tamil issue, and the Tamil community to use their ­voting power accordingly," the paper said.

Ms Jananayagam campaigned as a candidate to the European Parliament on not only a two-state solution in Sri Lanka but also on more transparency in derivatives markets.

“I am very positive about the second generation,” Jananayagam says of the Tamil diaspora’s chances of securing more western intervention. “They are so sure of their status in their country – they were born as citizens there – and they will just ring their MPs or senators to ask for these things,” the paper said quoting Jananayagam.

She is now busy planning for next year’s British general election; she hopes to persuade MPs to show a commitment to the Tamil issue, and the Tamil community to use their ­voting power accordingly, the paper said.

While the first generation think there is no more hope, they also recognise that their children’s “new way” presents a ray of hope. “The young ones are passionate about the struggle in a way that has surprised their parents,” an engineer who wanted to remain anonymous told the paper. “And their approach is very different – they want to use democratic and diplomatic means. It’s good. They should not make the mistakes that we did.”


Chronology:


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04.02.09   "Tamils under existential threat"


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