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Indian diaspora influences Sri Lankan Tamils in Britain to demand for Ministry of Overseas Sri Lankans

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New Delhi: Impressed by what India has done for its large diaspora, influential Sri Lankan Tamils have come together in Britain to seek from Colombo a “Ministry of Overseas Sri Lankans”.

The newly formed Non-Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka (NRTSL) also wants special status for the children of the people of Sri Lankan origin “similar to that granted to the overseas citizens of India”.

The NRTSL is the latest Tamil grouping to be formed in Britain, which is home to more than 300,000 Tamils from the island nation and where once pro-LTTE feelings ran high.

“We realise the need for a new group within our community because the present day diaspora activism has new dimensions,” a senior member of the group who did not wish to be identified by name told IANS.

“We are impressed by what the Indian state has done for its diaspora,” he said, “and what the Indian diaspora has achieved.”

Many of those associated with NRTSL are leading professionals in various fields. They have already met and exchanged views with several British and Sri Lankan political leaders.

Besides a “Ministry of Overseas Sri Lankans”, the outfit is demanding a “Department of Overseas Sri Lankans” – to engage with the non-resident Sri Lankans.

“We are inspired by the constructive role played by the Non-Resident Indian organisations and the institutional mechanisms and arrangements created by the Indian state to harness the expatriate resources,” the Tamil source said.

The NRTSL’s founder members feel that the attitudes of extremists from both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities have, to a great extent, stigmatized the term “Tamil diaspora”.

This, they say, is one of the main reasons preventing a positive engagement between the Tamil diaspora and the Sri Lankan state, which is dominated by the Sinhalese community.

For long years when it fought for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam forced most diaspora members to toe its line.

The decimation of the LTTE in May 2009 opened up space within the diaspora community, including in Britain.

But over the years, most Sri Lankans, particularly the Sinhalese, began to view the Tamil diaspora as an extension of pro-LTTE politics.

“We think that the ‘Sri Lankan government-versus-Tamil diaspora’ label is fundamentally flawed,” the Tamil source told IANS. “There is a need to recalibrate the relationship between Sri Lankan communities.”

The new group wants Sri Lanka to grant dual citizenship to overseas Sri Lankans, invite non-residents to invest in Sri Lanka to take part in the task of nation building – a la India.

It desires that overseas Sri Lankans, Tamils included, should get legal rights to buy land, houses, retirement homes and holiday homes as well as to inherit property in Sri Lanka.

Although the NRTSL was formally launched on May 31 in London, its founding leaders have already held meetings with new Sri Lankan President Maitripala Sirisena.

It is also reaching out to members of the Sinhalese and Muslim communities from Sri Lanka living abroad as well as other Tamil groups. (IANS)

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May Survives Through Vote Of No-Confidence

If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?

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Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Wednesday, one day after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against her plan to divorce Britain from the European Union.

Surviving the vote enables May to refocus on getting a Brexit deal through parliament. She has until Monday to offer a new proposal to the House of Commons, but it isn’t clear what she will propose.

Shortly after the 325 to 306 vote allowing May to remain in office, she invited party leaders for Brexit talks Wednesday night.

More talks?

May said before the vote Wednesday that Britain would leave the EU on the March 29 target date, and that the bloc would only consider extending the negotiating period if there were a realistic exit plan.

Aides to the prime minister said she will try to buy more time and return to Brussels to try to cajole EU leaders into a renegotiation.

EU leaders have repeatedly rejected the possibility of renegotiations since the deal was concluded in November, but British officials hope Brussels now may offer enough concessions to secure parliamentary backing on a replayed vote on an amended deal.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, filed a motion of no confidence in the government immediately after the result Tuesday.

Britain would have held a general election had May lost the vote. Most analysts said they expected her to survive the vote, and the minority Northern Ireland party she relies on to keep her minority government in office had said it would back the government.

Tuesday’s vote was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers — including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative Party — refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.

Britain, May
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, talks during a no-confidence debate after Parliament rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

The government’s defeat plunged into greater disarray Britain’s scheduled March 29 exit from the EU. Major questions remain about how and whether it will happen.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that after the British parliament’s rejection of a draft agreement detailing the country’s divorce from the EU, the risk of reaching the deadline with no deal in place is higher than ever.

The vote against the agreement was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers, including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative party, refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.

Just 202 lawmakers backed May’s deal with 432 voting against it. The defeat dwarfed the previous 1924 record when then-Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald lost a vote by 166, triggering the collapse of his government and a general election, which he lost.

After the vote, May said, “The vote tells us nothing” about what the House of Commons would agree to regarding Brexit.

Second referendum

Britain, May
A pro-European demonstrator protests in front of a Leaver campaign board opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Jan. 15, 2019, ahead of lawmakers’ vote on whether to accept British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Later, the plan was soundly defeated. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. VOA

The defeat of May’s plan will give further momentum to a burgeoning campaign in the House of Commons, and among Remainers in the country, for a second referendum, according to analysts. Remainers hope a replayed referendum would reverse the Brexit plebiscite of 2016, which Leavers narrowly won.

The vote on the deal — which originally was due in December but was delayed by the government when it became clear there was insufficient backing for it to pass — also leaves hanging in the balance May’s future as prime minister. Her aides maintained at the end of a day of high political drama that she wouldn’t resign.

“She is the person who has to deliver Brexit,” said British Business Minister Claire Perry, who said May didn’t need to resign.

“There will be other attempts at this. There will be strenuous efforts to improve on the deal,” Perry said.

The sheer scale of the defeat throws into doubt whether even a reshaped Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would secure parliamentary approval in the future, even if the EU is prepared to reopen negotiations.

Britain, May
British Business Minister Claire Perry arrives to attend a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

‘Hopelessly optimistic’

“Her Plan B, more of the same, is hopelessly optimistic,” said commentator Isabel Oakeshott.

Also Read: British Lawmakers Rejects Brexit Deal, PM Faces Vote Of No-Confidence

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted when news of the historic vote broke: “I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening. I urge the UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”

EU President Donald Tusk reflected the frustration of many in Brussels, tweeting: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” (VOA)