International Alert launches film series exploring diversity of Sri Lanka’s diaspora

A series of short documentary films exploring the nature of diaspora engagement with Sri Lanka has been released by the independent peacebuilding organisation International Alert. For details visit: www.international-alert.org/diasporadiaries Produced by award-winning film-maker Kannan Arunasalam, ‘Diaspora Diaries’ provide a unique glimpse into the complex relationship of each individual with their country of heritage. They are designed to broaden the debate about the role of diaspora communities in addressing post-war issues in Sri Lanka, and to explore their potential role as peacebuilders, as well as the challenges faced in fulfilling this role. “We’d like these films to be the starting point of a conversation,” Johann Rebert, country manager for Sri Lanka at International Alert, said. “There is no single diaspora opinion or experience, and the series begins to unravel this”. The series features individuals from different communities and ethnic backgrounds, and weaves together their unique approaches, identities and perspectives: Dr Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam is a former Olympian (1952 and 1956) of Tamil heritage who now lives in the US and coaches young athletes in Sri Lanka. He says that sport can heal trauma and provide hope for the young in Sri Lanka. Nikini Jayatunga is a member of Voices for Reconciliation, a cross-ethnic group of second generation British Sri Lankans. Nikini uses culture as a way of bringing people together and talking about conflict. Paul Sathianesan arrived in the UK as a refugee in the 1980s and is now a councillor in the London borough of Newham, which has a large Sri Lankan Tamil population. He feels a responsibility to the youth of Sri Lanka to make sure they have a peaceful future. Amjad Mohamed-Saleem was born in Nigeria to Sri Lankan parents. He now lives in the UK, but previously worked in Sri Lanka as the country director for Muslim Aid, and continues to work on interfaith matters in the country. Akneeswaran Jeganathapillai is a doctor and part a group of British Sri Lankan young professionals, working together with counterparts in Sri Lanka on peace-supporting projects. He says that healthcare provides a way to get people from all communities to work together. Each person featured in this series builds a piece of the picture of the Sri Lankan diaspora. Call for submissions International Alert recognises that many voices are missing and the portraits in this series form only a small part of the narrative. We therefore invite Sri Lanka’s diaspora individuals to contribute to the conversation through written responses and submitting their own video portrait, photo story or written piece to: [email protected] All suitable videos, photo stories and written pieces will be featured on International Alert’s website. For full details visit: http://www.international-alert.org/news/diaspora-diaries-call-submissions Background In May 2009 the war in Sri Lanka ended with a military victory for the government over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The war may be over, but the task of securing a long-term peace is just beginning and diaspora communities have a desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives in Sri Lanka. They are trying to navigate the complex interaction between personal and communal histories, political realities and wanting to improve the lives and prospects of those living on the island. ENDS Notes to editors For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: Ilaria Bianchi Head of Communications T +44 (0)207 627 6858 M +44 (0)7910 255 256 [email protected] About International Alert International Alert is one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organisations, with nearly 30 years of experience laying the foundations for peace. International Alert has been working in Sri Lanka since the 1990s and opened its country office in 2003. Since 2009, Alert has been working with civil society organisations and cross-party MPs in Sri Lanka, alongside the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK, towards strengthening the Sri Lankan diaspora capacity for peace and working with Sri Lankan actors towards shared objectives and outcomes. About the film-maker Kannan Arunasalam uses documentary, photography and multimedia forms of storytelling. His films have been screened at international film festivals and broadcast on Aljazeera. Originally from Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, Kannan Arunasalam grew up in England and returned to Sri Lanka in 2004.