Suren Surendran’s effort to meet Sonia Gandhi praised

by Rajasingham Jayadevan

(March 24, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) British Tamil Forum (BTF)/Global Tamil Forum(GTF) office bearer Suren Surendran’s brief meeting with the President of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi at the Commonwealth Forum has received the support of the cross section of the Tamil Diaspora community.

In a rare meeting at the Commonwealth Forum that came about with the help of Keith Vass MP, Suren Surendran for the first time was able to get Sonia Gandhi’s views on Sri Lankan Tamils. She had said: ‘We are with the Tamils and I am very concerned about Sri Lanka’ and had gone on to touch on very pertinent issues involving the Tamils.

The press release of the GTF stated:

Mrs. Gandhi said that she is very concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. She said that the Congress lead coalition government has asserted their serious concerns to the Government of Sri Lanka. She said that Tamils from the war torn parts of Sri Lanka must be rehabilitated without further delay.

Replying to evidence of breach of international law and crimes against humanity, Mrs. Gandhi said “I have myself, seen that video and we are very concerned”. When asked whether she would support an international investigation into war crimes alleged to have been committed in Sri Lanka, Mrs. Gandhi very politely said that she cannot comment and asked the members to refer that question to Mr. Kamalesh Sharma – The Commonwealth Secretary General who was flanking Mrs. Gandhi at the reception.

When members told Mrs. Gandhi about the militarised north and the crimes including systematic rape of women by the military, again Mrs. Gandhi said that “I am very very concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. Tamils should have their rights restored and it’s their rights you know. We are with the Tamils, you must know, we are with the Tamils”

Senior GTF members thanked Mrs. Gandhi for taking the time to speak to them and shared with Mrs. Gandhi the willingness of Global Tamil Forum to engage with India in finding a political solution to the longstanding conflict in Sri Lanka

Addressing the 14th Commonwealth lecture, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress Party and Chair of the United Progressive Alliance, discussed the 2011 Commonwealth theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’, on Thursday 17 March in the Ballroom at 8 Northumberland in London.

Mrs Gandhi reminded the Commonwealth that “investing in women is the highest-return venture”, and set out five areas in which women have emerged as ‘agents of change’ in India. These included self-help groups pooling savings and securing loans for local projects; new, elected roles for women in rural self-government; social activism through the establishment of the language of human rights for women; the establishment of local enterprise collectives; and the setting up of village information centres and IT kiosks.

She added that women’s enterprise plays a vital role in regions ravaged by violence and conflict, “a programme in war-torn Afghanistan to train women, especially war widows, to acquire skills, set up food processing enterprises and initiate ecological regeneration”. Within India, these enterprise groups have taken the lead in mediating, peace-building and reconciliation in areas of strife”. - Press Release issued by GTF -

Suren Surendran who came to the limelight with the emergence of the BTF has undertaken some difficult tasks to create more awareness of the situation facing Tamils in Sri Lanka, under military regimentation. His stand post end of the war in Sri Lanka is to strengthen the profile of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, despite undertaking them without wider consensus. He came under criticism for not engaging with the wider views of the Tamils.

His proactive engagement on Tamil issues with the British political and media contacts has given him a rare opportunity to bring to light the situation facing the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. His very rare brief meeting with Sonia Gandhi is the product of his hard work with commitment.

Suren Surendran came under calculated attack for meeting Sonia Gandhi by those who failed in their campaign to hold a demonstration in front of the Commonwealth Office. Some twenty five odd protesters extended their anger on Suren Surendran for meeting Sonia Gandhi and attempted to portray him a traitor to the Tamil cause. The failed campaigners are the residue of the hate mongers in the community and their claim did not impact on the community except for irking for couple days.
Text messages and emails were flying back and forward to tarnish the effort and image of Surendran.

One text message said: ‘Suren Surendran must resign from the GTF & BTF. Tamil are not for sale’

Another said: ‘Suren Surendran must resign from GTF & BTF. Time to shut his mouth’

Third one said: ‘GTF went to meet Sonia Gandhi and then went on to praise the murderer as a great leader’

A lengthy email from a BTF activist who was involved in the anti-Sonia Gandhi demonstration stated: ‘Does the GTF ‘leader’ who was amazed by her gesture?’

According information, even the former Mayoress of Southwark Cllr Elizabeth Mann has taken sides and was sending SMS messages criticising Suren Surendran for the effort. She is said to be aligned to the ROOT Ravi camp in the BTF.

I phoned few of the moderate Tamils who represent the general trend of the Tamil opinion in the UK.

Nada Shan based in Harrow said: ‘What Suren Surendran did was remarkable. Those who criticise him have become nuisance to the Tamil community’.

Siva Sundar based in Barnet said: ‘My god! These people are crazy. You cannot satisfy these people. They are going to be irritants for our people. I have spoken to many of my contacts and all of them are praising what Suren Surendran has done’

Mrs A Bama in Leeds said: ‘I had doubts about Suren’s activities, but I am pleased that he has done a good job’.

Raju in Manchester who had returned from Sri Lanka recently said: ‘It is bad for the Tamil people there. We need India to put things right. Our people are under military/paramilitary dictates and we must work to relieve the pressure from them. Suren has given a kick start by meeting Sonia. It is now for us to enhance the process’.

I responded to the comments of Raj Suthan on number of issues:

He raised: ‘Does the GTF ‘leader’ who was amazed by her gesture?’ and ‘Yes , we are the nation who do not have any shame to forget the things we should not forget and remember the things we should not remember’

I stated: ‘GTF’s Suren Surendran meeting Sonia Gandhi is appropriate and her comments are very welcome. What is there to be amazed when such comments help carry the mantle to resolve the conflict in SL. Your comments reflect you are prejudiced and harping personal hate.

‘As a victim of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, loosing my mother and brother to the random actions of the IPKF,(I will as stated previously), will not forget what had happened to my dear ones but I have forgiven India with the mature sense in the best interest our people’.

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