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Manmohan Singh’s letter to me does not address Tamil issue: President Rajapaksa

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Manmohan Singh’s letter to me does not address Tamil issue: President Rajapaksa
Manmohan Singh’s letter to me does not address Tamil issue: President Rajapaksa

Colombo – President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka on Thursday said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter to him  has not addressed the issue of alleged human rights violations against Sri Lankan Tamils.

Speaking a day before the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here, President Rajapaksa said: “The letter that PM (Manmohan Singh) had sent me, doesn’t address the Tamil’s issue.”

The Sri Lankan Government has of late been criticised by several countries over its human rights record, and for allegedly committing war crimes against the country’s  minority Tamil population, especially at a time when the rebel Liberation Tiggers for Tamil Ealam (LTTE) was at its zenith under the leadership of Vellupillai Prabhakaran.

It maybe recalled that on Sunday, Prime Minister Singh had written a letter to President Rajapaksa informing him of his inability to attend this year’s CHOGM in Colombo.

“The Prime Minister’s letter (to President Rajapaksa) was delivered by the High Commission of India in Colombo. The Prime Minister informs that he is unable to attend personally,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said then.

President Rajapaksa said that he was satisfied that India was being represented at the CHOGM by its External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

“The Foreign Minister of India is here, and I am satisfied,” he said.

On Tuesday, Khurshid had asserted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s absence at the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo does not foreclose India’s legitimate position in multi-lateral fora.

He also said that it is a two-way investment between Sri Lanka and India.

“The Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh will accompany me. The fact that the Prime Minister is not going does not foreclose any legitimate position that we would take in the multi lateral fora,” Khurshid said, while addressing media after the conclusion of the two-day ASEM meet in Gurgaon, Haryana.

“There is a two-way investment between Sri Lanka and India, and tourists between the two countries. It cannot be held hostage to something in which we believe we have a lot more work to do in terms of the expectations of the Indo-Sri Lanka code,” he added.

Khurshid also said that Prime Minister’s decision to skip CHOGM had been taken after factoring in a lot of issues.

“The Prime Minister has taken a considerate call; he factored in a lot of issues, including the importance of his presence in the country at this time. We are after all facing five elections,” Khurshid said.

“There was also a very strong sentiment expressed by our colleagues in parliament from Tamil Nadu. Everything must have been factored in, and after that a decision was taken,” he added.

On Wednesday, Khurshid, while heading towards Colombo for the CHOGM, said people looking forward to a desirable outcome with Sri Lanka on the fishermen issue, are now demanding that New Delhi skip the summit.

Reacting to a resolution passed unanimously by the Tamil Nadu State Assembly, Khurshid said: “I haven’t seen anything about the assembly resolution. I have heard about it. I find it curious, because last night, I had a large delegation of important Tamil Nadu politicians, and concerned people who have asked to get the Sri Lankan Government not only to release fishermen, but also release their boats. These are important livelihood matters.”

“They also urged that I should persuade Sri Lanka to move forward on a date for having the fishermen representation of the two sides to meet in Sri Lanka or India as early as possible. I find it curious that people who do not want us to go and (want us to) boycott the meet, are also saying to us to arrange something for a desirable outcome while we are there,” he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu Assembly in its special meeting adopted a resolution to stop India”s participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Colombo.

The resolution reiterated that India should totally boycott the Commonwealth Heads Summit which is to be held from November 13 to 17 and also the External Affairs Ministers” meeting. The resolution also emphasised that indirectly it meant that Sri Lanka had the support for indulging in acts of violence against the Tamils. It also said the assembly had urged the Centre to take steps to get Sri Lanka suspended from Commonwealth till it took action to ensure that Sri Lankan Tamils were given equal rights on par with Sinhalese and were able to live independently.

“But in total contradiction to these demands, the Centre has announced that an Indian delegation led by External Affairs Minister would attend the CHOGM. The assembly expresses its deep regret to this,” the resolution read.

Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampathan, said that there was no need for him to react to Prime Minister Singh’s decision to skip CHOGM, as it was a matter that only he could decide upon.

However, Sampathan said that he was of the view that India had played a significant role in creating the situation that has existed in Sri Lanka since 1983, but added that New Delhi has also contributed significantly to ensuring that the people of Sri Lanka live their lives with respect and dignity.

“We are extremely unhappy with the current situation.  We have discussed the entire issue. India has played a role in regard to the situation in Sri Lanka from 1983. In the recent years, India has been very active in regard to ensure that the people of the country are able to live with respect and dignity, but still much needs to be done,” Sampathan said.

Sampathan further said that he was extremely disappointed with Sri Lankan Government’s efforts in trying to ensure meaningful progress with regard to issue concerning the country’s Tamil population.

“I am exremely disappointed that the government has not demonstrated any commitment to achieve any meaningful progress with regard to the military resolution, accountability, reservation for Tamilians in institution, independence of judiciary, or with regard to the evolution of an acceptable political solution,” he said.

Earlier this week in India, demonstrators blocked trains in Tamil Nadu, and particularly in state capital Chennai, in protest against the CHOGM Summit, even after it was announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would skip the meet to be held in Colombo.

Many political parties and some ministers within the ruling Congress party were advocating a total boycott of the event over alleged war atrocities of the Sri Lankan Army in its war against the Tamil Tigers. The Sri Lankan government, which defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, is under increasing pressure from the international community to try those responsible for rights abuses during the nearly three-decade-long conflict.

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