Genesis of Canadian Tamil Congress

I’d like to begin my third video by highlighting that CTC is a registered non-profit member based organization based under Ontario law, operating for over 23 years. Initially established in February 2001, it commenced with five directors, including Abi Manyu Singam, alongside one female director. Over time, the number of directors was expanded to seven in 2010, following a formal amendment to the constitution. Every year since 2009 there has been AGM and elections and six presidents have been chosen by members. Presently, the organization is led by a duly elected President and six directors as of June 2023. CTC is not a Micky Mouse operation! It’s important to clarify those terms like “Founding member” and “lifetime membership” hold no validity within the organization’s structure. The constitution outlines specific guidelines, which the CTC has consistently adhered to, including amendments to its aims and objectives as necessary.

It’s crucial to clarify that the Canadian Tamil Collective, which I’ve referred to as the CT Collective, is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution nor authorized to act in a supervisory capacity. The CTC operates solely as a membership organization, where only members in good standing hold the privilege to participate in member events, attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM), cast votes, and run for office within the organization, subject to specific restrictions and eligibility criteria outlined in the by-laws. In a membership-based organization, decision-making authority ultimately rests with the members themselves. Through the election of the board, members delegate decision-making responsibilities, provided such decisions align with the organization’s constitution. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of how registered organizations are constituted in Ontario.

During the press conference, members of the CT Collective implied that they held authority to collectively demand an apology from CTC and to reform the organization, despite not being members themselves, to my knowledge, since 2009 or even before. This spans almost 15+ years during which they haven’t contributed in any significant capacity, except for Mrio Pushparatnam from 2009 to 2017. They began by asserting that they had met with members, board members, and well-wishers, claiming support for their agenda. However, they didn’t provide specific numbers, making only sweeping general statements.

Turning to the meeting attended by the CTC board with three CT Collective personnel prior to the press meet, initially, there were three members present along with the organization’s former spokesperson, who had been contacted by a different lawyer to organize the gathering. The atmosphere was cordial, and the board listened to the concerns raised. However, the dynamics shifted when three additional individuals, including Mukunthan Paramalingham, a lawyer and friend of Gary Anandasangaree, entered the meeting. This influx led to crosstalk, ultimately the meeting concluding.

Abi Singam, during his introduction of the CT Collective panel at the Press meet, highlighted each person’s involvement and left the impression that they continued to contribute to the growth of the CTC. However, from my perspective as someone who joined CTC in January 2009 and has been active since then, I believe it’s important to provide a more accurate interpretation.

Luxmi Vasan assisted in organizing the 2002 conference but allowed CTC to become dormant or bankrupt in 2003. She briefly engaged in some work through a law firm (CTC was coordinating) when the boats with Tamils arrived in 2009. Abi Singam, while registered as a first of five directors in 2001, also allowed CTC to become dormant or bankrupt in 2003. Neethan Shan, although possibly involved from the organization’s inception in 2001, seemed to withdraw from active participation in CTC once he embarked on his political career in 2003 by becoming a school trustee. Reverend Chandrakanthan, was in 2002, but was absent when CTC went dormant or bankrupt in 2003 and 2004 was brought back as President in 2005 and went out on his own in 2006.

These individuals may have had initial involvement with CTC, but their contributions appeared to diminish over time with periods of inactivity or disengagement from the organization, through no fault of CTC.

Let’s address some of the sweeping statements made during the press meet:

“CTC calls itself ‘Voice of Tamil Canadians’ –  CTC has never said that they are the ‘Voice of the Tamil Canadians’.” Indeed, the CT Collective did identify itself as the “Voice of Tamil Samuham,” as mentioned by Neethan Shan. However, it’s worth noting the distinction between claiming to represent all Tamil Canadians and representing a segment or perspective within the Tamil Canadian community. The recent formation of the CT Collective, asserting to represent the “Voice of Tamil Samuham” alongside individuals in Sri Lanka, raises questions about the legitimacy of such broad representation.

“Genocide – CTC never, ever said others not to use the word in deed or action anywhere publicly.” The CTC has never discouraged others from using the term “genocide” to describe the events in Sri Lanka. Instead, the organization has opted to use internationally accepted terminology, such as “War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity,” especially in contexts involving engagement with politicians, international entities, and country missions. This decision aligns with the need for internationally recognized terminology when addressing such serious matters. A detailed explanation of this stance can be found in my communications, including the first video. This video was sent to Mario on March 3. However, despite a response from Mario on March 4, stating his intent to reply once he addressed urgent work matters, no further response has been received as of March 22.

The word “declaration” – Neethan Shan questioned the use of “declaration” for the Himalayan Declaration, suggesting it typically signifies conclusion. However, terms like “Declaration of War” show it can signify initiation too. The Himalayan Declaration marks the start of discussions, not necessarily a final agreement. Its six statements lay groundwork for further talks, aiming to highlight the importance of the commitments made, even at the early stages.

Not having the word “Tamil” – The absence of the word “Tamil” in the document signed by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and Sangha for Better Sri Lanka (SBSL) was indeed noted as a concern. Neither GTF nor SBSL represent the entire Tamil or Sinhalese populations, respectively. Therefore, the document avoided specifying any particular ethnic group to prevent questions about inclusivity for other ethnic groups like Muslims and Burghers who were not present in Nepal.

To clarify, the Himalayan Declaration (HD) serves as a framework for discussion rather than a legally binding agreement. It outlines agreed-upon points between both parties, aimed at initiating dialogue. The document is accessible on the Global Tamil Forum’s Facebook page for review. Its purpose is to foster a national conversation among religious leaders and other stakeholders, with provisions for additions and deletions as discussions evolve. Before indulging in speculative commentary, it’s crucial for all parties, including the CT Collective, to diligently scrutinize the HD document.

Deviation from advocacy post-2017- Contrary to any notion of inactivity stated by Mario, the CTC has remained active and engaged. Evidence of this can be found in my first and second video/WhatsApp, demonstrating ongoing advocacy efforts. CTC continued to vigorously advocate at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other forums, and campaigned for sanctions, with documented proof available.

Regarding comments about initiatives like “Vasantham” and Morton Beiser’s research contrasting with CTC’s conference by Rev. Chandrakanthan – A CTC’s release on August 15, 2019, clarifies its post-conference actions. CTC representatives, along with IMHO, engaged with the relevant ministry, resulting in IMHO submitting a proposal and securing $540,000 funding in August 2019 for work in Sri Lanka. Additionally, a hospital in Northern Sri Lanka received substantial funding from the Netherlands, partly informed by insights gleaned from the conference’s report. Furthermore, the 28 conference participants benefited significantly from valuable training and gained insights previously inaccessible due to wartime constraints, underscoring the conference’s worth. In CTC’s opinion the conference served its purpose.

CTC has changed – Thank you! The evolution of the CTC stands as a testament to its positive adaptation, unlike companies like Kodak and Xerox, which failed to adjust to changing circumstances, leading to their downfall. In contrast, CTC’s dynamic constitution has undergone changes, particularly in 2009 and 2010, to better facilitate its work in Sri Lanka and Canada. Please watch the video at the end of my first video to see just a few of the work CTC has done.

Even when CT Collective was having the press meet, CTC has remained actively engaged in on-the-ground initiatives in Sri Lanka. This includes the completion of a laboratory and science facility for a Tamil school in the Kurunegala district, benefiting Tamils of Indian origin, and the foundation laying for the Canada-Batticaloa friendship farm in Batticaloa. It’s crucial for CT Collective to understand that alongside these initiatives, CTC has maintained its commitment to advocacy work. This multifaceted approach underscores CTC’s versatility and unwavering dedication to serving the Tamil community.

Tamil people not consulted when HD was started – The assertion that people haven’t been consulted is unfounded, as a national conversation has indeed begun! Starting on February 9, 2024, the first of five planned workshops covering 25 districts commenced in Kurunegala district, involving religious leaders from all faiths and ethnicities. Two more workshops have since been completed in Kandy and Batticaloa. With the momentum gained from these discussions on the ground, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) looks to local leadership and grassroots organizations to continue these conversations. Is there a better way to solve the problem than people to people dialogue between individuals from diverse ethnic and religious background? Isn’t that a good start?

It’s important to note that people aren’t being coerced into participating; rather, they’re engaging in dialogue about finding solutions that benefit them directly, without external dictates from diaspora organizations like CTC, CT Collective or others. This approach emphasizes the importance of empowering local communities to take ownership of their issues and collaborate on effective solutions.

Countries paying for CTC’s trip – It’s important to clarify that CTC did not receive any payment (not one dollar) for either the trip to Nepal or Sri Lanka. Participants’ expenses were fully covered for the trip to Nepal, including return tickets, accommodation, and transportation. However, for the trip to Sri Lanka, only accommodation and internal transportation were covered. All participants had to cover their own expenses for airfare to and from Sri Lanka. This demonstrates the dedication of CTC and GTF members who are committed to addressing issues facing Tamils and others in Sri Lanka, without seeking financial compensation. Their willingness to invest their own time and resources underscores their genuine desire to contribute to finding solutions and making a positive impact on the ground.  The utilization of the Tamil community’s struggles in Sri Lanka is exploited by some Canadian politicians (mostly Tamil), certain legal professionals, and other individuals for their own political or personal advantages.

The conference took place in April 2023, but details were released to the public only in December -This delay was due to a request from SBSL, which requested that all attendees agree to release the information to the President first. Unfortunately, the President’s appointment for the meeting got delayed and finally was scheduled for December 7, 2023. There was no ulterior motive or hidden agenda behind this delay, despite some individuals and CT Collective speculating otherwise.

During the press conference, a woman dressed in blue made a statement insinuating that 90 lakhs were being exchanged with the fund, ultimately getting to the Sri Lankan government. Only she and, perhaps, the CT Collective are privy to the context behind her remark. However, such ambiguous statements should not be left unaddressed. It is imperative that at the next CT Collective meeting, clarity is provided on such matters to prevent the dissemination of unfounded claims. Engaging in sensationalism without verification is detrimental not only to the reputation of all of us, but also to our wider community. We must be cautious not to muddy the waters with unverified statements, as it could have repercussions for all involved.  

by Raj Thavaratnasingham. Former director, two term president (four years) and former advisory council member of the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), as well as coordinator for UNHRC work for nearly fifteen years. I want to clarify that all comments and video represent my own views and perspectives. I take full responsibility for them.

About editor 3046 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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