Tamil Federation vows to promote Language and Heritage

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Two-Day Conference in Wellington sets a new benchmark for unity and action

ANTS Leaders Srinivasan, Vai, Raveen and Rajesh at the meeting on January 7, 2022

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 16, 2022

Promotion of Tamil language and culture, a better understanding of Teo Maori to foster a closer relationship with the Maori people, a day-long Seminar with Maori in their environment in Rotorua later in the year and unifying the Tamil-speaking people in the country are among the priorities of the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangams (ANTS).

Citing the above at a two-day meeting of the Leaders of the Federation at Brentwood Hotel in Wellington on January 7 and January 8, 2022, President Raveen Annamalai said that uniting the Tamil-speaking people and effecting a meaningful integration with Maori is now becoming a possibility with the establishment of ANTS.

President and Executive Committee Members of ANTS with Patron and Advisor in Wellington on January 7, 2022

Projects and Membership

“We are a growing community engaged in developing and implementing our projects that are central to the wellbeing of our community. These projects will serve as a testimony to New Zealand’s legacy as a culturally pluralistic and socially cohesive society. Long-standing and assimilated members of the Tamil community, working with migrants and newcomers of Tamil ethnic background will bespeak our Mission and Vision,” he said.

According to him, ANTS will play an influential role as an important stakeholder in participating, contributing and monitoring on legislation-related issues and other measures.

“These will include by-laws affecting the interests of the ethnic communities,” he said.

Peniel Prabhakaran-Elliot of Rotorua, an emerging scholar in Tamil and Maori spoke at length about the time-honoured relations between the two languages.

ANTS as a meaningful bridge

“ANTS has an opportunity to be a bridge between the indigenous (Maori) and Tamil cultures. We also have an opportunity to understand the Treaty of Waitangi, its importance and relevance to the political, economic and social landscape of New Zealand,” she said.

Peniel said that just as many in the Tamil Diaspora have been fighting for their rights in various countries, Maori are insisting that their rights be heard and recognised.

“Everyone should visit a Marae at least once and appreciate the richness of Maori culture and the passion of the people to preserve their language,” she said.

A separate story about her appears in this Section.

India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi with Mrs Rakhi Pardeshi and guests at the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangams (ANTS) leaders at the dinner in Wellington on January 7, 2022.

About ANTS

ANTS is a national organisation, comprising seven Full Members, including the Wellington Mutamizh Sangam, Auckland Tamil Association, Canterbury Indian Tamil Association, Tamil Sangam Waikato, Dunedin Tamil Society, Tamil Association of New Zealand and Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam Wellington. It has four Associate Members, which are Tauranga Tamil Association, Blenheim Tamil Association, Taranaki Tamil Association, Rotorua Tamil Association.

“Our vision is to encourage member-organisations and other like-minded entities to work together on key projects, share experiences and other valuable information with other communities and become global citizens,” Mr Annamalai said.

The ANTS Executive Committee comprises Raveen Annamalai of Wellington(President), Vai Ravindran of Auckland (Vie-President) Dr Rajesh Katare of Dunedin (Secretary) and Srinivasan Jaganathan of Hamilton (Treasurer). The Executive Committee comprises Dr Damo Dharan of Wellington, Vel Murugan of Auckland and Vijay Nainamalai of Christchurch.

India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi with (from left) Rakhi Pardeshi, Deepa Dass, Vanisa Dhiru, Rakhi Pardeshi, Venkat Raman, Rakesh Naidoo and Durga Dass at the dinner in Wellington on January 7, 2022

Ray Annamalai, former President of Muthtamil Sangam of Auckland is an Advisor, while this Reporter is the Patron.

The opening day heard the expertise of popular legal and financial expert Karuna Muthu, suggestions from Advisor Ravin Annamalai, Patron Venkat Raman and members of the Executive Committee.

Among the speakers at the meeting held on the following day (January 8, 2022) were Raveen Annamalai, Vel Murugan (on Privacy and Data Security), Gopi Dinakaran and Dr Rabindranath.

Later in the evening, on January 7, 2022, Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi and his wife Rakesh Pardeshi felicitated Venkat Raman on his appointment as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in her New Year Honours List. The event was attended by Second Secretary (Press, Information and Culture) Durga Dass and his wife Deepa.

ANTS Vice-President Vai Ravindran with Prabha Ravi at the dinner reception on January 7, 2022

About the Tamil People

The Tamil people are a Dravidian, ethno-linguistic group who trace their ancestry mainly to India’s Southern State of Tamil Nadu, Union Territory (known as Pondicherry) and Sri Lanka.

Tamils constitute 5.9% of the population in India, 15% in Sri Lanka, 10% in Mauritius, 7% in Malaysia and 5% in Singapore.

From the Fourth Century BC, urbanisation and mercantile activity along the Western and Eastern coasts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala  led to the development of four large Tamil Empires, the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas and Pallavas and several smaller states, all of them in conflict.

The Jaffna Kingdom, inhabited by Sri Lankan Tamils, was once one of the strongest Kingdoms of Sri Lanka and controlled much of the North of the Island.

International Relations and Trade

Tamils were noted for their influence on regional trade throughout the Indian Ocean. Artefacts marking the presence of Roman traders show direct trade was active between Rome and Southern India and the Pandyas were recorded as having sent at least two embassies directly to Emperor Augustus in Rome. The Pandyas and Cholas were historically active in Sri Lanka.

The Chola dynasty successfully invaded several areas in southeast Asia, including the powerful Srivijaya and the Malay City-State of Kedah.

Medieval Tamil guilds and trading organisations like the Ayyavole and Manigramam played an important role in Southeast Asian trading networks. Pallava traders and religious leaders travelled to Southeast Asia and played an important role in the cultural Indianisation of the region. Scripts brought by Tamil traders to Southeast Asia, like the Grantha and Pallava scripts, induced the development of many Southeast Asian scripts such as Khmer, Javanese Kawi script, Baybayin and Thai.

Migration of Tamils

Significant Tamil emigration began in the 18th century, when the British colonial government sent many middle-class and poor Tamils as indentured labourers to far-off parts of the Empire, especially Malaya, Burma, South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

At about the same time, many Tamil businessmen migrated to other parts of the British Empire, particularly to Burma and East Africa. Many Tamils still live in these countries, and the Tamil communities in Singapore, Reunion Island, Malaysia, Myanmar and South Africa have retained their original culture, tradition and language.

Many Malaysian children attend Tamil schools, and a significant portion of Tamil children are brought up with Tamil as their first language. In Singapore, Mauritius and Reunion, Tamil students learn Tamil as their second language in school. In Singapore, the government has made Tamil an official language and has introduced compulsory instruction of the language for Tamils. Other Tamil communities, such as those in South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Gyana, Suriname, Jamaica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Pakistan, Martinique, and the Caribbean no longer speak Tamil language as a first language, but still retain a strong Tamil identity. There is a very small Tamil community in Pakistan, having settled since the partition in 1947.

A large emigration also began in the 1980s, as Sri Lankan Tamils sought to escape the ethnic conflict there. They moved to Australia, New Zealand, Europe, North America and Southeast Asia. Today, the largest concentration of Sri Lankan Tamils outside Sri Lanka can be found in Toronto.

Multi-religious dimension

Although Hindus constitute a majority of the population, Tamilians believe in religious tolerance and co-existence, and as such, forge unity not only at religious and social events of various groups, but also get together ‘Non-Religious’ observances such as Pongal and Tamil New Year Day.

Pictures by Sashi Harsha Photography

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