Diaspora Lanka Report : 28 September to 31 December 2013 – Part 1

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In this edition….
…A three-day “lockdown” workshop produces inspired urban design for Mannar’s town plan
…Visible progress made on the women’s rice mill project
…A community tourism strategy gets the attention of the International Financial Corporation
…Successful overseas volunteer programs in 2013 will generate further ones in 2014

 

The past three months in Sri Lanka have been a mixed bag, of frustration and hampered progress on some of our larger projects and encouraging headway on our more community-level ventures. The political backdrop of this trip was vibrant and at times volatile due to the holding of the Northern Provincial Government elections and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM). The Government was also preoccupied with preparations for the forthcoming return to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March of 2014.

A highlight of this period was having 15 overseas volunteers work alongside local counterparts on a range of projects. Although our town planning initiatives didn’t quite go according to plan, Diaspora Lanka brought out 11 Australian planning professionals who assisted to fast-track the Mannar urban development plan. Two volunteers came from Estonia to work on a community tourism strategy and an English-based activity program, while two further volunteers from Vietnam and Australia focused on establishing an ‘English as a Second Language’ (ESL) program.

Other pleasing developments included the progress made on establishing a rice mill so that women made vulnerable by the war can earn a daily income and the establishment of the Computerizing Mannar Villages initiative for children and youngsters in two more remote areas of Mannar.

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Getting the balance right – David Cameron and foreign relations

Soon after David Cameron had left Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times in England published a satirical piece about his visit. It accused him of behaving like a public school prefect and treating the Sri Lankan President like a fag, a junior schoolboy who was at his beck and call.

Cameron’s was certainly a brilliant performance, full of British bravado. Having decided, correctly in my view, that he would attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, he had to contend with the anger of those who have in effect been running British policy with regard to Sri Lanka, which has been deeply negative about our success in overcoming terrorism in this country. He had therefore to put in an aggressive performance to keep them happy, and this he certainly did.

I do not mean only the extremist members of the diaspora, who have been enormously successful in lobbying British politicians where it matters. Having concentrated their attentions initially on Labour, and obtained brilliant results through David Miliband, they were quick to switch in 2010 when the Conservatives won, while the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry floundered, and did not even bother to appoint a High Commissioner to England for a lengthy period.

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