A team of parliament members from India may soon visit Sri Lanka to see the condition of Tamil-speaking people there, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna informed the Rajya Sabha Thursday.
‘During a recent meeting with Tamil Nadu chief minister in Chennai, the Sri Lankan high commissioner to New Delhi has conveyed the Sri Lankan president’s invitation,’ Krishna informed the house of elders. ‘He has also invited a parliamentary team.’
The minister was responding to a suggestion by Bharatiya Janata Party leader S.S. Ahluwalia that a parliamentary delegation be sent to Sri Lanka. The three-hour-long discussion on the issue saw members expressing concern over the situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Communist Party of India member D. Raja, who initiated the discussion, alleged that the government had betrayed the Sri Lankan Tamils in their time of need. ‘The Government of India betrayed Sri Lankan Tamils at a crucial moment,’ he said.
‘There is a demand for international impartial investigation,’ he added. ‘So far India has not raised this demand. The European Union has come out with a strong statement.’ Raja also said that the May 2009 offensive led to a genocide unparalleled in contemporary history.
DMK member Tiruchi Siva said the Sri Lankan Tamils were living in inhuman conditions, without basic amenities, even after two years.
AIADMK member V. Maitreyan said that the government did not even acknowledge the genocide and a tribute was never paid in Parliament to those who died in the conflict.
Addressing the members’ concern, Krishna said the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils had been raised again and again by Indian government. ‘India has and will continue to reiterate to the government of Sri Lanka to expedite steps toward national reconciliation and investigation of human rights violation,’ he said.
‘We have been encouraged by the structured dialogue mechanism between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil national alliance (but) we are concerned about the recent breakdown and the continuing stalemate. We encourage both parties to resume the discussions,’ he said.
‘The sooner Sri Lanka can come to a political settlement with which all communities feel comfortable, the better it is and government of India will do whatever it can,’ he said.
The minister informed the upper house that aid was being given for rehabilitation and relief operations.
The minister further said that 2.5 lakh family-relief packages, shelter material, and four lakh cement bags had been provided along with $800-million credit for reconstruction of the northern railway line in the island nation.
For renewal of agriculture, special packs have been given, to which the members pointed out that some of the tractors had been given to the non-Tamils there. The minister said the allegations could be ‘looked into’.
On the issue of Indian fishermen, Krishna said none of them were presently in Sri Lankan jails. The minister added that till August 2011, 164 fishermen were arrested and released, none were missing and six had died.
AIADMK member V. Maitreyan said that the figure was wrong, to which the minister said: ‘If you have any question, come to me.’
The minister also said that the comment of Sri Lankan defence secretary against Tamil Nadu chief minister was uncalled for and without justification. ‘We reject them,’ he said.
Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had criticised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for passing a resolution on Sri Lankan Tamils in the state assembly.