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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Indian Parliamentary Delegation led by Sushma Swaraj is in Sri Lanka

Vicissitude – means successive or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune ; ups and downs

The tamils in Sri Lanka have faced more downs and the moods and support from across the border has been one of vicissitude.  After India voting in favour of the UN sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 22, there was more ‘blow hot or cold’ – though the resolution was  nowhere near an international investigation that it was sought to portrayed in many quarters.  

Sri Lankan Tamils issue is spoken of in many political platforms but not many could trace its origins and may not know anything about the Donoughmore Commission which suggested creation of Provincial councils in 1928 much before the Nation became independent.   In 1940 the Executive Committee of Local Administration chaired by  S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike considered these proposals which were approved by legislature.  The stamp of approval by the Tamil parties, then who were only seeking federalism, came when in July 1957 S.V.J.Selvanayagam –Bandaranaike pact was signed.  It advocated the creation of a series of regional councils in Sri Lanka as a means to giving a certain level of autonomy to the Tamil people of the country, and was intended to solve the communal disagreements that were occurring in the country at the time.  The act was strongly opposed by certain sections of both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities, and was eventually torn up by Prime Minister Bandaranaike in May 1958. The abandonment of the pact led to tensions between the two communities, resulting in a series of outbreaks of ethnic violence in the country which eventually spiraled  into the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War. Prime Minister Bandaranaike's later attempts to pass legislation similar to the agreement was met by strong opposition, and led to his assassination by a Buddhist monk in 1959.

Now an Indian Parliamentary delegation is at Sri Lanka – it got pruned in size and stature  after what was to be a major embarrassment to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a constituent of the UPA, closer to departure decided to keep out of the delegation.  And a few days earlier, its principal rival, the present ruling party had withdrawn its nominee with Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa terming the proposed visit a mere “eyewash” and expressing the doubt whether there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.  Then on the eve of departure, surprisingly, the TNCC President BN Gnanadesikan also withdrew, albeit citing different reasons.  

This is the second time a delegation of MPs from India are 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. The delegation comprised only members of DMK, Congress and Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), a composition that drew criticism that it was not a parliamentary delegation but only a UPA team.

The 12-member Indian delegation headed by the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj,  is on a six-day visit to the island nation, and it is reported that they  held talks withMinister of External Affairs GL Peiris and Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa.  Newspaper reports state that during the meeting with Basil Rajapaksa, Swaraj said that India respected Sri Lanka's territorial integrity and was looking forward to stronger bilateral ties, the Sri Lankan Economic Development Minister's office said.
Rajapaksa told the Indian team about the progress made on the resettlement of the internally displaced people (IDPs). Sri Lanka was able to resettle 95% of the IDPs, except those who had fled to India and other countries.

While an overseas visit by an Indian Parliamentary delegation normally involves a few courtesy calls, attempts at bonhomie, and a little bit of studying the country, this particular delegation has come to represent India. Two Ministers, the Leader of the Sri Lankan Parliament, 39 MPs, representatives of the main Tamil parties — all had meetings with the delegation, and had extensive discussions on the present situation in Sri Lanka.  The delegation also met representatives of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and Ceylon Workers Congress. The TULF handed over a memorandum which made it clear that a “meaningful devolution which can meet the aspirations of the Tamil people, based on the Indian model only can bring permanent peace and reconciliation among the various communities.” 

On Wednesday, they are scheduled to visit Menik Farm — reported to be a safe haven for Sri Lankan Tamils — where the team will interact with Internally Displaced Persons still in the camp. They will also visit Mullaittivu, hand over Indian government built homes and other benefits, ahead of halting in Jaffna.  At Tamilnadu, MDMK general secretary Vaiko  termed a ‘drama' the Central government's move to send a Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka to assess the rehabilitation and political process there.

Photo Courtesy :  The Hindu

Ms. Swaraj and the delegation visited the Indian Peace-Keeping Force memorial on the outskirts of Colombo and paid floral tributes.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th April 2012.

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