Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America


Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America

The Federation of Tamil Sangams in North America (FeTNA, established 1987) is an umbrella organization of many (but not all) local North American Tamil diaspora organizations. In April 2006, it stated that it represented 42 local organizations, with a combined constituency of about 20,000 Tamil families, mostly Indian American (from Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lankan American.cite news | url=http://www.hindu.com/2006/04/13/stories/2006041315910200.htm | title=FeTNA's 19th annual convention from July 1 | publisher=The Hindu | date=2006-04-13 | accessdate=2006-08-06] However most of the 42 organizations do not acknowledge any relationship with FeTNA on their web-sites.

Activities

Convention

FeTNA organizes an annual North American Tamil convention. Established in 1988, the conventions are held during the 4th of July weekend, in a different city every year.cite web|url=http://www.fetna.org/english/eng-about.htm |title=FeTNA: About Us |accessdate=2006-08-06 |author=Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America] Conventions can attract over two thousand attendees from all over North America.

Invited guests typically include Tamil , , , and from a variety of political parties in India and Sri Lanka.cite news | url=http://www.siliconindia.com/communityevents/communitynews.asp?newsno=20050&newscat=Community-events | title= 2,000 attend Tamil meet in U.S. | publisher=SiliconIndia | date=2003-07-10 | accessdate=2006-08-07] Dead link|date=May 2008cite news | url=http://www.ciindia.com/News/fetna19072006.htm | title=Business and cultural forums mark achievements of community | publisher=South Asian Insider | date=2006-07-14 | accessdate=2006-08-07] Dead link|date=May 2008cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=12349 | title=Gajendrakumar on U.S. visit | publisher=TamilNet | date=2004-07-05 | accessdate=2006-08-07] cite news | url=http://www.rediff.com/us/2000/jul/06us2.htm | title=The grand Tamil reunion | publisher=Rediff | date=2002-07-06 | accessdate=2006-08-07]

The annual conventions were held jointly with the Indian-American Tamil Nadu Foundation until 2002; the two groups have held separate conventions starting in 2003.cite news | url=http://www.ntyo.org/kolangal/president.htm | title=Letter from the President | publisher=Kolangal (National Tamil Youth Association newsletter) | year=2003| date=2002-2003 | accessdate=2006-08-07] Dead link|date=May 2008cite news | url=http://www.ntyo.org/kolangal/tnfvsFetna.htm | title=TNF vs. FeTNA & Where NTYO Fits In | publisher=Kolangal (National Tamil Youth Association newsletter) | year=2004 | date=2004 | accessdate=2006-08-07] Dead link|date=May 2008

upport for Tamil studies

FeTNA sponsors visits from two Tamil scholars to the United States each year; as of 2006, it had sponsored a total of 24 scholars.Dead link|date=May 2008cite news | url=https://www.iexpressusa.com/new/articles/display_news.php?newsid=2567&from=news | title=Glimpses of rich past at FeTNA's Manhattan date | publisher=The Indian Express (North American Edition) | date=2006-08-04 | accessdate=2006-08-07] It has also been involved in the sponsorship of a Tamil Chair at the University of California, Berkeleycite web|url=http://tamil.berkeley.edu/Tamil%20Chair/Background.html |title=Tamil Chair Background |accessdate=2006-08-07 |author=UC Berkeley Center for South Asia Studies] and the Tamil Studies program at the University of Toronto.cite web|url=http://tamilstudies.org/contribute.html |title=TamilStudies.org: Contribute |accessdate=2006-08-07 |author=University of Toronto Tamil Studies Coordinating Committee]

Fundraising for disaster relief work

FeTNA plays an active role in fundraising for disaster relief work in response to crises like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the 2004 Kumbakonam school fire.cite news | url=http://news.ncmonline.com/news/view_article.html?article_id=9e3cba8a9bdfb9dad3a3f97286cbfa36 | title=South Asian Americans Confront Tsunami with Faith and Fundraisers | publisher=India-West | date=2004-12-31 | accessdate=2006-08-07] In June 2005, the group reported that it had raised $37,965.79 for tsunami relief (disbursed through the Tamil Relief Organization, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and Exnora International)cite web|url=http://www.fetna.org/FeTNA%20Tsunami%20Relief%20fund%20update%20060105.doc |title=FeTNA Tsunami Relief fund update 20060105 |accessdate=2006-09-05 | author=Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America|format=Word] and $16,020.43 for victims of the Kumbakonam school fire (disbursed through the Kumbakonam Lions Club).cite web|url=http://www.fetna.org/Web%20Update%20Kumbakonam%20060105.doc |title=Update (6-01-05) - Kumbakonam Fire Relief Fund |accessdate=2006-09-05 | author=Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America|format=MS Word] Dead link|date=May 2008

Organization

The Federation was founded in 1987 by five American Tamil sangams: Ilankai Tamil Sangam, Tamil Association of Delaware Valley, Tamil Sangam of Washington & Baltimore, New York Tamil Sangam and Harrisburg Tamil Sangam.

Ilankai Tamil Sangam, [http://www.sangam.org/] the oldest of the original five member groups, was formed in 1977, its members represent Tamils from Sri Lanka. Ilankai is the Tamil term for Sri Lanka (see Tamil Eelam).

As of July 2006, FeTNA's website links to the websites of the following member organizations. (As of August 2006, the websites of most of the groups do not link back to the FeTNA website, or acknowledge any association with FETNA.)

:Austin Tamil Sangam, Bay Area Tamil Sangam, Bharathi Kalai Mandram, Boston Tamil Association, California Tamil Sangam, Chicago Tamil Sangam, Columbus Tamil Sangam, Connecticut Tamil Sangam, Greater Atlanta Tamil Sangam, Harrisburg Tamil Sangam, Ilankai Tamil Sangam, Metroplex Tamil Sangam, Michigan Tamil Sangam, Minnesota Tamil Association, Missouri Tamil Sangam, National Tamil Youth Organization, New England Tamilsangam, New York Tamil Sangam, New Jersey Tamil Sangam, Seattle Tamil Sangam, South Florida Tamilsangam, Tamil Sangam of Carolina, Tamil Association Colorado, Tamil Association of Greater Delaware Valley, Tamil Sangam of Greater Washington, Tampa Tamil Association, and the Tennessee Tamil Sangam.cite web|url=http://www.fetna.org/ |title=Welcome to FeTNA.org |accessdate=2006-08-06 |author=Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America]

According to the FeTNA website, the cost of membership varies based on the size of constituent sangams. Each sangam appoints delegates to the governing board, with votes proportional to membership. Beside the governing board, the group has a President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Communications Director.cite web|url=http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/LetterToCAStateBoard_FeTNA.pdf |title=FeTNA letter to the California State Board of Education |accessdate=2006-08-06 |author=Thillai Kumaran (FeTNA) |date=2006-02-19 |format=PDF]

Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

Public stances

The Federation publicly sides with the cause of ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils in the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has issued a number of statements calling for an end to Sri Lankan government violence against Tamils, the ability of Tamils to engage in meaningful negotiations with the government, and a peaceful political resolution to the conflict.

* 1995: Passed a resolution at annual convention, asking the US government not to sell arms to Sri Lanka, and calling for the US to pressure the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to find a political resolution to the civil war cite news | url=http://www.sangam.org/TVOICE/tvFall95.htm#ftna | title=The FeTNA Resolution | publisher=Tamil Voice (Newsletter of the Ilankai Tamil Sangam) | year=2005 | date=Fall 1995 | accessdate=2006-08-07]
* 2005: Held the Sri Lankan government accountable for the death of Sri Lankan Tamil journalist Dharmaratnam Sivaram.cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=14790 | title=Govt. of Sri Lanka is accountable for journalist's murder- US Tamils | publisher=TamilNet| date=2005-05-02 | accessdate=2006-08-07]
* 2005: Strongly condemned the murder of Joseph Pararajasingham, a Sri Lankan Tamil Member of Parliamentcite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=16658 | title=US Tamils call for sanctions against SL Government | publisher=TamilNet | date=2005-12-27 | accessdate=2006-08-07]
* 2006: Called for an end to extra-judicial killings by Sri Lankan government forces and paramilitaries.cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=18321 | title=US Tamils call for stop to extra-judicial killings | publisher=TamilNet | date=2006-05-29 | accessdate=2006-08-07]
* 2006: Supported a call for Sri Lanka-LTTE peace meetings, urged world leaders to pressure all parties to stop attacks on civilians, called for Sri Lankan military to withdraw from civilian homes and buildings, and called for sanctions to be initiated unless the Sri Lankan government disarmed paramilitaries cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=16728 | title=Tamil Americans urge Co-chairs to promote "equal partnership for peace" | publisher=TamilNet | date=2006-01-04 | accessdate=2006-08-07]
* 2006: Participated at a protest at the United Nations, condemning Sri Lankan state violence against Tamil civilians, asking for an investigation by the International Criminal Court, and calling for good faith negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and Sri Lankan Tamils cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=18680 | title=US Tamils urge UN action against Sri Lanka | publisher=TamilNet | date=2006-07-01 | accessdate=2006-08-07]

Facts about FeTNA

* FeTNA is a registered and highly ethical American Organization of US-based-citizens of Tamil Origins (Scientists, Professors, Scholars, Doctors, Lawyers, Software Engineers, Accountants etc.,).
* FeTNA strictly follow the laws of the United States Constitution. The US Department of Treasury has granted FETNA the status of a Charitable Organization.
* FeTNA financial statements are audited by the CPA and tax returns are filed regularly by following the instructions of the Internal Revenue Services.
* FeTNA office bearers and directors are elected in a democratic system according to the by-laws of the FeTNA. Once they have completed their term as office, FeTNA is not responsible for their activities.
* Defaming FeTNA by falsely accusing FeTNA of connection with any organization is unacceptable. FeTNA is secular organization mainly focused on the development of language and literature, and foster cultural diversity and development.
* It may be considered against law if someone tries to connection FeTNA with any other organization without written communication to FeTNA Board. Any false or un-proven facts should not be posted about FeTNA without consulting the FeTNA Board, any such effort public, media or on the web will be reported to the appropriate US Authorities.

US civil rights lawsuits

The Federation's stated interest in doing cultural work in the "Tamil Eelam" region of Sri Lanka involved it with high-profile legal challenges against the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) and the USA PATRIOT Act.

In 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designated the LTTE as a "foreign terrorist organization" under the terms of the AEDPA, which, according to "TamilNet", "criminalizes the provision of material support or resources to the lawful and non-violent activities of any foreign organization designated as 'terrorist' by the Secretary of State."cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=1145 | title=US Antiterrorism Law challenged in courts | publisher=TamilNet | date=1998-03-20 | accessdate=2006-08-06] In 1998, FeTNA and seven other organizations joined the Center for Constitutional Rights in challenging the constitutionality of the AEDPA, which would make illegal FeTNA's attempts to do service around Tamil language, arts, and cultural institutions in the LTTE-occupied "Tamil Eelam" region of Sri Lanka. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs.cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=5678 | title=Petition against Antiterrorism Law ruling filed in US Supreme Court | publisher=TamilNet | date=2000-12-24 | accessdate=2006-08-06]

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Humanitarian Law Project took up a similar case challenging the AEDPA and the USA PATRIOT Act in 2003.cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=10034 | title=Cole, Chang lead US Patriot Act challenge by Tamils | publisher=TamilNet | date=2003-10-05 | accessdate=2006-08-06] In March 2004, Judge Audrey Collins enjoined the US Government from enforcing applicable sections of the USA Patriot Act against the plaintiffs; however, FeTNA was not covered by the ruling, because they did not provide the court with adequate details to prove that their proposed actions—doing cultural work in LTTE-occupied parts of Sri Lanka—would actually be in violation of the law.cite news | url=http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=11380 | title=Amended US court ruling protects WTCC, FeTNA | publisher=TamilNet | date=2004-03-04 | accessdate=2006-08-06]

Criticism

Some critics of the LTTE, consider FeTNA overly sympathetic toward or supportive of the group. FeTNA's public statements are primarily critical of human rights abuses attributed to the government of Sri Lanka, rather than those attributed to the LTTE.

A July 2003 "Times of India" article based on a prior article in Sri Lankan paper "The Island" called FeTNA "one of LTTE's front organisations," and referred to the annual FeTNA convention as an LTTE fundraiser.cite news | url=http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/55880.cms | title=Indian cine stars to raise money for LTTE | publisher=The Times of India | date=2003-07-02 | accessdate=2006-08-07] ("The Island" is editorially critical of the LTTE, and some of its Tamil critics point to a 1999 Asian Human Rights Commission statement that called it "a Sri Lankan newspaper well known for its racist propaganda.")cite web|url=http://www.tamilnation.org/indictment/genocide95/gen95113.htm |title=Asian Human Rights Commission says: "Sri Lankan record of gross abuse of human rights is much worse than that of Chile during the rule of Pinochet" |accessdate=2006-08-10 | work=Indictment Against Sri Lanka |publisher=Tamilnation.org | date=2006-02-19 ] The accusation appears not to have been repeated in subsequent media coverage, and mainstream Indian political figures (e.g. Indian President Abdul Kalam) have continued to participate in FeTNA events.

Other political stances

California Hindu textbook controversy

FeTNA was actively involved in the Californian Hindu textbook controversy, in which it joined a number of other groups in successfully petitioning California's Curriculum Commission to reject allegedly revisionist edits to California's textbook curriculum on Hinduism and India, as suggested by the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation. FeTNA raised several specific objections about the proposed textbook revisions, which they felt sidelined the role of South Indian and Dravidian culture (history, language, and religious traditions), and allegedly "whitewashed" caste and gender discrimination in India. "(See main article Californian Hindu textbook controversy for details.)"

Upon rejection by the Board of major proposed edits, a jubilant Thillai Kumaran, then President of FeTNA, dismissed the pending lawsuit by the Hindu organizations. “Threats of legal action are a clear sign of desperation on the part of the Sangh organizations; these organizations are perhaps not aware that the Board deals with dozens of lawsuits at any given time and cannot be cowed by such threats.” [http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/3/prweb357775.htm] . Thillai Kumaran, a concerned parent, mentioned his lower-caste origins during his testimony [http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/living/education/13904600.htm] , mentioned that his son, who attend Middle School in California, did not feel insulted by the textbook's contents on Hinduism.

upport for caste-based reservations in India

In a statement FeTNA has supported caste-based reservation in India to 49.5% of the available seats in institutes of higher education and jobs [http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/caste/reservations/PressRelease_060906.html] . It has been critical of the demonstration again the proposed increased in reserved seats. The Tamil Nadu state of India already reserves 69% seats for specific castes.

References

External links

* [http://www.fetna.org/ Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America]
* [http://www.fetna2006.org/ 2006 FeTNA 19th Annual Tamil Convention, 2006]


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