Charleston – USA, July 07 (): The 24th Tamil Convention organized by FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) – the umbrella organization of North America’s Tamil Community concluded this week on July 4th. The three-day event was attended by prominent members of Tamil community from India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and other countries. Movie artists, Politicians and other prominent personalities attended the event at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium at Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
FeTNA conducts the Convention at different locations in North America every year and is generally attended by large number of Tamil Americans of Indian and Sri Lankan origin. The event includes cultural events, competitions, socializing events and networking opportunities for the Tamil and South Asian communities living in North America at large.
The convention started with a reception dinner on the evening of Friday, July 1st at which the donors and sponsors of the event dined with celebrities and distinguished guests. Senior Tamil actor Nassar and Lyricist Na Muthukumar were at the dinner and interacted with the sponsors and supporters of the event. On Saturday July 2nd morning, the auditorium was decorated with displays of artworks and pictures reflecting Tamil culture while the convention was inaugurated.
Dr. Dhandapani Kuppuswamy – Convention Coordinator & Vice President of FeTNA welcomed the attendees. Dr. Pazhani Sundaram – President of FeTNA spoke and officially started the cultural events. Dr Pazhani emphasized the goals and objective of FeTNA and its role in preserving the community heritage and culture among those living in North America. He also emphasized his style of running the organization without meddling with sensitive politics.
Popular lyricist Na Muthukumar presided the Kaviyarangam event that followed where several young and upcoming poets recited their poems and pitched their ideas and imaginations. Na Muthukumar – a native of Kancheepuram, India has penned the lyrics for more than 500 feature film songs and has worked with several popular music composers of the Tamil movie industry. The depth of knowledge and eloquence in Tamil poetry displayed by the participants were remarkable.
Durai Ezhil Vizhian from Madurai, Tamil Nadu gave a speech on the topic of “Unique Tamil is Gorgeous” which was the theme slogan of the Convention this year. Uniqueness denotes the ancient and undiluted form of the language. This form of Tamil requires a level of knowledge and is cherished by Tamil scholars as to be a rich medium of expression that elevates the communication potential of the speaker. The stress here is on the wealth of vocabulary, and syllable pronunciation. Like several other speakers at the event, Durai Ezhil touched upon the massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka and said “even jungle animals have been assigned with huge tracts of land and are preserved properly, while the Tamils of Sri Lanka have been made to live under inhuman conditions with constant fear and at the mercy of Army personnel”.
Rathika Sitsabaiesen – the 29-year-old Canadian MP of Tamil Eelam origin was a star attraction of the event. Rathika in her speech, shared her experience as a student leader, community organizer and Member of Parliament. She stressed the importance of participation at all levels of the respective governments where the Tamil people currently live. She articulated the importance of “Unity” and how the entire Tamil community rallied with her during her recent election campaign in Canada. She added that she will fight tirelessly for women’s rights, social justice and education to all.
Tamil actor Nassar praised Rathika during his speech and said he was “just lost” listening to Rathika’s speech and looking at her accomplishments. He further said “Rathika is the real hero, I am not, even Rajinikanth and Vijay (popular movie stars) are not”.
While the event included a wide variety of events and speeches on different topics around Tamil culture, several speakers highlighted the plight of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka where the massacre of over 40,000 civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces has caused an outcry from the community for attention and action by world nations and leaders. The speakers at this event focused on the need to find a permanent solution and proposed ways and means to establish an independent state for the Tamils in the island.
On Sunday, July 3rd, Noted radio jockey Abdul Jabbar, presided the Debate Forum (Pattimandram) talk show event. Several enthusiastic participants including Prof Punithavathi Eakambaram and John Bendic delighted the audience with their eloquent speech. Dr. S. Palaniappan – President of South Asia Research and Information Institute, spoke about “Present condition of Tamil language”. Popular movie comedian Charlie engaged the audience with his witty speech and mimicry.
Noted International Human Rights activist Karan Parker spoke about the incredible hospitality given by FeTNA organization to her. She said final days of the Sri Lankan war saw more than 50,000 people killed and 300,000 people kept behind barbed wires. While referring to the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts report on accountability in Sri Lanka, she emphasized the term “carnage” used in the document, which she said is a rare usage in a typical UN document. Karen appreciated the resolve of Tamil people in their efforts to highlight the crisis and also called for more participation to bring justice to those killed by the Sri Lankan government.
The Prime Minister of Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), Visvanathan Rudrakumaran spoke on the topic “Protecting Tamil ethnicity” – another theme slogan for the Convention. Rudrakumaran highlighted that all nations are functioning based on “Interest” rather than “Right and Justice”. He said TGTE has to innovate an “interest” for the creation of Tamil Eelam among the powerful nations of the world to counter the fast growth and influence of China in the Indian Ocean. Rudrakumaran pointed the Geneva Convention agreement on Genocide and its rules to define Genocide. He compared the events recorded in the UN Secretary General’s report on Sri Lanka with the Geneva Convention agreement on Genocide. He quoted several references in the UN report on “Systematic attack on civilians”. He stressed the need to prove that “Genocide did indeed” take place in Sri Lanka.
The highlight of the second day was “Thappattam” – a splashing performance by the Sakthi Cultural Group from Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. The event included a concert by a group of young girls who wore traditional ethnic clothing and used traditional music instruments and dance methods. On the last day of the event – Monday, July 4th a literary forum was held with participation from several Tamil pundits.
Other notable events included Tamil Ilakia Vinadi Vinaa (Poetry Quiz) conducted by Naanchil Peter, Seminar by American Tamil Academy (Kalvi Kazhakam) on creating common text books and syllabus across North America, Seminar by United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC ) and World Tamil Organization (WTO ) about their various activities, Orchestra by Innisai Enthal Thirubuvanam Athmanathan, Matrimonial assistance event, Sornam Sankar and Palamai Paysi’s workshop on writing Tamil articles in Weblog and TamilManam.net (a blog aggregation service), Performance by Pudhukai Poobaalam group, Musical events by Sahana Dreams and Devan Ekambaram, Knowledge sharing event by North American Tamil Youth Organization (NTYO) in which members from youth groups shared their experiences and the challenges they face growing in North America and the value of learning Tamil Language and culture.
FeTNA Conventions are popular among most Tamil Americans and several of them travel long distance to participate in the event. The organizers perform meticulous planning and coordination to make the event go smooth. An event this magnitude takes early planning and coordination. The success of the 2011 Convention at Charleston is another feather to FeTNA’s long tradition of being a cheerleader in preserving community spirit.