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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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Facebook, Zuckerberg Criticized For Allegedly Undermining Democratic Institutions

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

Facebook came under fire on Tuesday from lawmakers from several countries who accused the firm of undermining democratic institutions and lambasted chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for not answering questions on the matter.

Facebook is being investigated by lawmakers in Britain after consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher, drawing attention to the use of data analytics in politics.

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The nameplate of political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, is seen in central London, Britain. VOA

Concerns over the social media giant’s practices, the role of political adverts and possible interference in the 2016 Brexit vote and U.S. elections are among the topics being investigated by British and European regulators.

While Facebook says it complies with EU data protection laws, a special hearing of lawmakers from several countries around the world in London criticized Zuckerberg for declining to appear himself to answer questions on the topic.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like Facebook, where, while we were playing on our phones and apps, our democratic institutions… seem to have been upended by frat-boy billionaires from California,” Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus said.

“So Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear here at Westminster [Britain’s parliament] to me speaks volumes.”

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Avaaz campaigners hold a banner in front of 100 cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

Documents

Richard Allan, the vice president of policy solutions at Facebook who appeared in Zuckerberg’s stead, admitted Facebook had made mistakes but said it had accepted the need to comply with data rules.

“I’m not going to disagree with you that we’ve damaged public trust through some of the actions we’ve taken,” Allan told the hearing.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism from users and lawmakers after it said last year that Russian agents used its platform to spread disinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an accusation Moscow denies.

Allan repeatedly declined to give an example of a person or app banned from Facebook for misuse of data, aside from the GSR app which gathered data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook from app developer Six4Three, which is in a legal dispute with Facebook.

Damian Collins, chair of the culture committee which convened the hearing, said he would not release those documents on Tuesday as he was not in a position to do so, although he has said previously the committee has the legal power to. (VOA)