– Submitted by Walter Jayawardhana –
New Delhi: The DMK, which is the ruling Congress’ biggest ally in the UPA, today walked out of the Lok Sabha while External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was speaking, to bring pressure on the government to vote against Sri Lanka on a resolution expected to be moved by the United States when the top human rights body of the UN meets next week in Geneva. The resolution will focus on alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan defence forces as they defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels after a lengthy civil war in 2009.
Here is the Lok Sabha debate in 10 points:
- Senior DMK leader TR Baalu said in his speech, “The government of India should come upright what it is thinking about exactly… there should be a resolution…to see that proper accountability is implemented by the government of Sri Lanka. The guilty should be punished before the International Court of Justice. I request, with a humanitarian approach, to see to it that solace is given to Sri Lankan Tamils. (sic)”
- Mr Khurshid stuck to the government’s stand that it would let Parliament know when it did decide on how to vote on Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said yesterday that India’s position on the resolution will depend on how it is worded. Mr Khurshid said, “We don’t play big brother, everybody in the world are equal partners to India. The courage and strength that India has to tell a friend that it has done wrong… when we see something done wrong, we should together say that it is wrong.” (sic)
- The BJP too walked out during the minster’s reply. The main Opposition party asked the government to “wake up and think about India’s stature.” It also demanded an impartial inquiry into “the genocide” carried out against Sri Lankan Tamils, saying there must be clear commitment from that government that the guilty shall be punished.
- During the debate, former External Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha taunted the government saying, “Foreign policy is not conducted out of fear but with confidence and elan.” Mr Sinha suggested that India should not merely vote against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC, but “take the lead in drafting the resolution and carry it through.”
- Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, who extends external support to the UPA government, said there was confusion over India’s foreign policy and asked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to intervene and make the government explain what it had done to help Sri Lankan Tamils. “Soniaji, why are you silent? You have the control…please ask the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister sitting behind you about the steps taken in this regard,” he said.
- Sougata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, which withdrew support to the UPA government last year over reforms, asked the DMK why it did not pull out of the UPA if it had serious differences with the Congress on the issue.
- M Thambidurai of the AIADMK, which rules Tamil Nadu, also used the opportunity to attack arch rival DMK, asking how the party could remain part of a government which was training Sri Lankan defence personnel, who, he alleged, were killing innocent Tamils in the island nation. This led to a war of words between AIADMK and DMK members.
- Last month, new photos released by UK’s Channel 4 suggested that the 12-year-old son of V Prabhakaran, the head of the Tamil Tigers, had been executed in cold blood in 2009. The Sri Lankan government has said the photos are morphed. They will feature in a documentary that will screen in Geneva during the session of the UN Human Rights Council.
- DMK chief M Karunanidhi says the photos confirm Sri Lankan president M Rajapaksa is a war criminal. The DMK brought up the photographs in Parliament again today, also objecting strongly to President Rajapaksa’s recent visit to India and the famous Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh. Mr Baalu quoted several reports on what he called “horrible stories” on war crimes and compared the Sri Lanka government to that of German dictator Hitler’s regime.
- India voted against Sri Lanka at last year’s session in Geneva after the DMK threatened to quit the Prime Minister’s coalition. That resolution, also sponsored by the US, asked Sri Lanka to assign accountability for massive human rights violations in 2009 in the final months of the war, and implement the findings of an internal inquiry into the war. The Sri Lankan forces have been accused of killing thousands of minority Tamils.