The MPs delegation led by Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj kicked off their 5-day visit to Sri Lanka by meeting foreign minister GL Pieris during which they asserted that only a political solution that satisfies the Tamil community would resolve the problem.
The delegation, in which five members are from Tamil Nadu where the Sri Lankan Tamils issue is emotive, also stressed the need for resumption of dialogue between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil National Alliance, an umbrella group of Tamil political parties.
The two sides are at loggerheads over handing over of police and land powers to provinces. The Sri Lankan Government wants a Select Parliamentary Committee to go into the issue, but the TNA is dead opposed to the proposed move.
“The delegation told the foreign minister that the issue has to be resolved through political means. In this context, we stressed the need for implementing 13th Amendment under the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord which envisages devolution of powers to north and eastern provinces,” Congress MP and delegation member Manicka Tagore told PTI.
The delegation, which has members from Congress, BJP, JD(U), SP and BJD, held talks with Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, leaders of TNA and Sri Lankan Muslim Congress.
The Indian parliamentary group also visited the parliament to meet with a delegation from the Sri Lankan side which comprised of government and opposition members.
“The Indian team was able to get a briefing on the progress we have made in the resettlement of IDPs”, deputy speaker Chandima Weerakkody said. “They urged that people in the north and east must be given the solution that they need to be given with the consent of all parties without any delay”, Sajith Premadasa the deputy leader of the main opposition UNP said.
Premadasa said the talks with the Indian team led by Sushma Swaraj had mainly revolved around the north and east issue.
“I emphasised the need to resolve the issue within an united and undivided Sri Lanka. I thanked India for their help extended to Sri Lanka to end the LTTE’s terrorism”, Premadasa whose father the late president Ranasinghe Premadasa was an LTTE victim said.
Congress MP Manicka Tagore said the delegation categorically told Tamil National Alliance chief R Sampanthan that a solution to the grievances of Tamils should be found only within a united Sri Lanka.
Though Sampanthan agreed with the Indian view, he complained that the Sri Lankan Government was “lethargic” in handling the issue. The members also asked the TNA to resume their dialogue with the Government and find a solution to the issue quickly.
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.
The Sri Lankan government has rebuilt houses for the displaced while the work on the 50,000 permanent houses funded by India is progressing. The IDPs are also provided with cash grants, resettlement kits and six months dry food rations which has now been extended for further two years.
Rajapaksa also outlined infrastructure development such as roads, railway lines, harbours and airports and the restoration of livelihoods.