Thursday 19 October 2017

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

19 October  2017

Diaspora Money & Dual Citizenship

This morning I thought of many relatives – especially from Colombo, because it is Deepavali today and my Colombo memories of Deepavali are stronger than my Jaffna memories of Deepavali. I thought especially about my aunt Mrs Pathma Sanmugarajah who made Indian sweets and served them  to us with her own sweetness. Today, in addition to my parents, I thanked  Pathma aunty also for the sweet memories of those times. Then a Vaddukoddai relative’s expressions came to my mind – ‘that Tamils who emigrated needed to be grateful to Prabhakaran (LTTE Leader).’ Later when I read the Dily Mirror report/article ‘The Myth of Lazy Jaffna Youth’ by Dr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, I felt that the morning’s thought was influenced by that Energy also.
Dr. Kadirgamar introduces the subject matter as follows:
[Not long ago, soon after the war, a common refrain about the Jaffna society was how hard working, thrifty and prudent its people were. But today, one often hears people decrying Jaffna society as having become lazy and spendthrift, landing itself in debt. It is true that Jaffna society is greatly mired in debt, but what are the causes of such indebtedness? How did the narrative around Jaffna youth change so much in the last few years
Both local and international pundits have attributed the said laziness to foreign remittances from the Tamil diaspora. Drawing upon their armchair analyses, they talk endlessly about the Tamil diaspora, with pots of money, channelling their savings to people in Jaffna, making them lazy and complacent. However, a careful look at the flows of remittance in recent years tells another story about how a majority of the Tamil society is struggling to cope with the economic crisis, and about how rural youth are responding to their family needs. ]

Foreign remittances made on the basis of desire – result in frivolous expenditure by the recipient. Not only the Diaspora, but foreign Aid driven by selfishness of the donor also results in disorder. I was also a ‘foreigner’ in the minds of the folks of Thunaivi, within Vaddukoddai district in Northern Sri Lanka. When approached by a leader of the village for ‘donation’  of  a strip of land towards a pathway – so the village folks could access the main road and also get Electricity connections, I said ‘yes’ but as we progressed with the transfer I insisted on those with the need making an official written request addressed to me. That made it a transparent official transaction in the minds of those who said they had the need. Otherwise ‘foreign’ donations are more easily forgotten than local ones where the donor is a visible reminder of the debt. Unless the donee is grateful, it becomes a debt. Section 4 (1) of Kandyan Law Declaration and Amendment Ordinance 39 of 1938, provides as follows:

 [4. Revocation of deeds of gift.
(1) Subject to the provisions and exceptions hereinafter contained, a donor may, during his lifetime and without the consent of the donee or of any other person, cancel or revoke in whole or in part any gift, whether made before or after the commencement of this Ordinance, and such gift and any instrument effecting the same shall thereupon become void and of no effect to the extent set forth in the instrument of cancellation or revocation………….]

While as per my knowledge, Kandyan Law is not applicable to Northern Sri Lankans I learnt from a Northern Lawyer serving us in another matter – that the Sri Lankan law did provide for revocation of Donations – explained as follows by the Government:

A donor is entitled to revoke a donation on account of ingratitude:
(i)             if the donee lays manus impias (impious hands) on the donor.
(ii)             if he does him an atrocious injury
(iii)          if he wilfully causes him great loss of property
(iv)          if he makes an attempt on his life  
(v)            if he does not fulfil the conditions attached to the gift
(vi)          other equally grave causes.

Hence I revoked the Donation as per the law – as interpreted by me. This helped me better preserve the investments we had made to the Common system there. The money value or the possession of the land was not significant to me. Upholding order as per the Truth I knew was very important to me due to my belief that Truth has the highest order of all and that the Truth would protect all who invest in Truth.

Recently when our cottage was stoned because I reported a young guy to the Police and did so after all ‘internal’ procedures failed with that group I was able to ‘recall’ that picture. When I returned from the Police station after the final complaint – and started opening the gate to our cottage, the voice from within me said to connect the problem to the above mentioned leader. I turned around, walked to her home a few meters away and said that back then, I believed her request to be genuine but now I was getting stoned from that very strip of land that I had donated. The lady finally came out and shouted at the folks it their common language and this led to a meeting through which I could voice my grievances as a donor. Now they do not ‘invade’ our space and for the time being, I have decided to use ‘distance-management’ structure   due to the disconnection of those folks (especially by the younger generation), from my group’s heritage– thanks to the war through which the junior castes were rapidly promoted to high positions, usually above civilians.

Dr. Kadirgamar highlights the link  as follows:

[Village societies in the diaspora also have put funds into caste-linked social institutions particularly temples.]

To my mind,  the folks around our temple, were moving towards ‘takeover’ once they could not see me. These are deep seated practices of ‘acquisition’ facilitated by Prescription Ordinance.  One group from overseas sent money for the construction of a cultural hall, as a memorial to their father but the building was built on someone else’s land. But, for their own purposes they have bought in areas dominated by Senior castes. These indicate the mind-structure of that section that makes up a significant proportion of  the Diaspora.  

Dr.Kadirgamar states: The state’s reconstruction policies and the initiatives of donors and NGOs, focused on self-employment and self-generated livelihood programmes, have failed miserably in post-war Jaffna.’

This does not hold true of those whom we trained. The trainees do not follow exactly as expected by us but if we continue to reward them on performance basis – a few eventually succeed on behalf of the whole group. Members of the Diaspora become their clients, instead of their elders. But, towards this, they need global minded elders who would ‘include’ the trainees largely for the sake of the trainees and towards thinking that they are of Equal status to members of the Diaspora who now have more money than they – the locals.
Every member of the Diaspora is effectively a dual citizen. When they take management positions with members of their village in Sri Lanka, it upsets the management structures as Sri Lankans. To the extent they bring foreign systems – they must keep their distance and leave it to the locals to learn as per their example.

Dr.Kadirgamar confirms this problem between the Northern folks and the Government which is still a ‘foreigner’ to the Jaffna Tamil who has been active in Jaffna during war years:
Placing the burden on individuals to generate incomes after devastation by war meant incomes were irregular and eventually led to dispossession. Instead of recognising the failure of such a vision, the youth are blamed instead.’ 

As per my experience, the youth who were within the confines of militant leadership – especially the LTTE, enjoyed the thought that they were heroes. They were accountable only to their leader. Hence their proportionately higher performance relative to the official forces. They were not allowed to be distracted by easy enjoyment of pleasures. During the war – these youth were seen as high performers and they were, due to the above reasons which helped them focus on their target. They are not used to self-employment in their local areas or paid employment outside under those whom their groups dictated to before the end of the war.

Dr. Kathirgamar continues to present  his remedy as follows:
[A more meaningful approach to address both the economic problems in Jaffna and the aspirations of the youth would be investment to create local jobs that provide a regular income.]

This is happening through the private sector – such as Cargills and Jetwing as well as the likes of Airbnb hosts at individual level. Airbnb alone facilitates the sale of accommodation of over 100 units in Jaffna.  Our training caters towards this kind of employment also through  diverse forms training. It is however excruciatingly slow for the individual investor due to trainees being distracted by less disciplined lifestyles. But taken as a whole one would enjoy the exponential growth which to my mind happened due to Service value of all our contributions including those of the likes of Dr. Ahilan Kadirgamar. Every unit of contribution through feeling of ownership goes direct to Energy level – to invoke natural forces forces of exponential value

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