Sri Lanka trip exposes MPs to complexities of Tamil issue

Sri Lanka and India flags

– Submitted by Walter Jayawardhana –

The five-member team of Indian MPs, which interacted with a cross section of political leaders, civil society personalities and government functionaries both in Colombo and Jaffna over the last four days, returned to India on Friday, fully sensitised to the complexities of the Lankan Tamil question.

Given the complexity of the issue, the MPs decided not to speak to the media in Lanka, including resident Indian correspondents. They said that they would rather mull over the issues and speak up only on return to New Delhi.

One of the MPs, who did not want to be identified, said the diversity of inputs and varying orientations of political parties to which the MPs belonged, combined to make the task of speaking with one voice very challenging. There was also a need to avoid discussing Indian issues while being on foreign soil, he pointed out.

Although the tour was organised by the Parliamentary Forum of FICCI, the focus of the visit was political and not business.

In Colombo the MPs met Foreign Minister G L Peiris, Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa; Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa; Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe; and leaders of  TNA and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. In Jaffna, they met the local TNA MPs; leaders of the Tamil National Peoples’ Front (TNPF); and civil society groups, including the Bishop of Mannar. The only dignitary the team did not meet was President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Informal interactions with the MPs revealed they had grasped the key facets of the Tamil problem.

One MP thought that the sincerity of the Rajapaksa government about solving the Tamil question was under test. Another felt that India should look at the issue from a national perspective and not just from the Tamil Nadu point of view.

Another wondered why the Sri Lankan human rights issue had come up in Tamil Nadu in such a big way now, almost four years after the war, and whether the phenomenon was the result of the sudden appearance of the picture of 12 year old Balachandran or some other unknown factor. (New Indian Express)