DMK pullout from MPs team for Colombo, an embarrassment for UPA
The ruling United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre faced a major embarrassment on Sunday, when its alliance partner, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said it would keep out of a Parliamentary delegation going to Sri Lanka to assess the situation there.
In the absence of MPs from the two major Tamil Nadu political parties, it is not certain any useful purpose will be achieved by the MPs’ visit. Besides, the main reason for the visit that of interacting with the aggrieved Tamils, victims of the war against the LTTE, is unlikely. That is the grouse of DMK and AIADMK boycotting the MPs trip is their agenda includes meeting top leaders like President Mahinda rajapaksa and other government leaders to hear their point of view. Thus the main issues of Sri Lankan Tamils could be pushed to the background.
For the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK, the sentiments of State population is more important than a token visit to Sri Lanka. If the Tamil Nadu MPs return without any specific time-bound assurances from Colombo, they will face the voters’ wrath. The MDMk too has said nothing much will be achieved from the visit. The Tamil Nadu parties apparently feel the MPs’ visit could end up as a “propaganda exercise” by the Sri Lankan government to underline its commitment for welfare steps for Tamils.
The delegation is supposed to assess the resettlement and political process in the war-torn areas there. The visit is aimed at reinforcing India’s commitment towards ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils. The multi-party delegation will now only have representatives from the Congress, BJP, and Left parties will be in Sri Lanka from April 16 to April 21.
The delegation is likely to travel to northern and eastern parts of the country, which bore the maximum brunt of the nearly three decades-old civil war. The MPs, while assessing the process of resettlement of Tamils displaced by the war that ended three years back, will press for an early political solution which involves devolution of powers to the Tamils.
Besides Sushma Swaraj, the delegation will include Congress MPs Sudarshana Natchiappan, Manicka Tagore, M Krishnaswamy and N S V Chithan, and Prahlad Joshi and C P Thakur from the BJP. The CPM will be represented by T K Rangarajan. The leaders will travel to Jaffna and Kilinochchi, and see for themselves the resettlement process taken up after the end of the war.
The MPs will interact with Tamil parties and common people in the war-torn areas and seek feedback from them on the process. The long-awaited visit by the delegation comes close on the heels of India voting against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 23.
Explaining the reasons for the party staying away, DMK chief Karunanidhi has said “There are examples in the past that tell us that such delegations would not serve any useful purpose. Therefore, the DMK will not be part of the delegation”, when asked whether he believed that the visit of the MPs would help improve the lot of the Sri Lankan Tamils. “It is wrong to ask whether the DMK will join the delegation as per plan. It never had any plans to join the team,” Karunanidhi said.
It may be noted that originally the DMK had nominated T.K.S. Elangovan to represent it in the delegation.
The DMK’s main rival in Tamil Nadu, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has already withdrawn the member it had originally planned to send, with Chief Minister and AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa terming the delegation's visit an “eyewash” and doubted whether there would be any genuine interaction between Indian MPs and Sri Lankan Tamils.
Ms. Jayalalithaa had said the itinerary prepared by the External Affairs Ministry provided no opportunity for the team members to interact with Tamils there. She had listed Rajapaksa government’s several improprieties as reasons for pulling out the AIADMK MLA from the team, namely its unwillingness to accept even the mild resolution moved by the US before the UNHRC; failure to stop recurrence of attacks on Tamil Nadu’s fishermen by the Lankan Navy; opposition to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant; its anti-Tamil activities and absence of change in attitude towards Lankan Tamils.
With both the DMK and the AIADMK staying away from the delegation, Tamil Nadu will be represented only by four Congress MPs — E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Manicka Tagore, N.S.V. Chitthan and M. Krishnassamy and CPI(M) member T.K. Rangarajan.
On the Indian MPs’ agenda are meetings with Sri Lankan Parliament’s Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris. The MPs would have a breakfast meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on April 21. The team will inspect the progress made in the various Indian projects in Sri Lanka. India is engaged in improving Sri Lanka’s railway system and the northern port of Kankesanturai, besides building houses for Tamils displaced by the war.
This is the second time a delegation of MPs from India is visiting Sri Lanka after the end of the protracted civil war in 2009. In October 2009, MPs from Tamil Nadu visited camps for the displaced Tamils and interacted with some of them. That delegation comprised only of members of the DMK, the Congress and the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), a composition that drew criticism that it was not a parliamentary delegation but only a UPA team.
Describing the visit of an Indian MPs’ delega¬tion to Sri Lanka, scheduled for April 16-21, as a mere formality aimed at creating an opinion in favour of the island nation, Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday pulled out her party’s representative from the team. “Since I believed that the visit of Indian MPs will be a solace to Lankan Tamils and will help us know the ground realities regarding rehabilitation works there, I deputed AIADMK MP W Rabi Bernard. But the delegation’s agenda gives an impression that the visit is just a formal one and does not give importance to interacting with people affected by the war. On the contrary, much importance is being given to meetings and banquets with Lankan political leaders and officials, including President (Mahinda) Rajapaksa,” the CM had said in a three-page statement.
Jayalalithaa also said the absence of media persons, human rights activists and independent observers had added to her suspicions about the very purpose of the visit. She listed Rajapakse government’s several improprieties as reasons for pulling out the AIADMK MLA from the team, namely its unwillingness to accept even the mild resolution moved by the US before the UNHRC; failure to stop recurrence of attacks on Tamil Nadu’s fishermen by the Lankan Navy; opposition to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant; its anti-Tamil activities and absence of change in attitude towards Lankan Tamils. She had also expressed disappointment that the MPs’ visit does not include discussions with the Lankan President on the rehabilitation and resettling of the Tamils in that nation.
- Asian Tribune –