Row over MPs' trip to Lanka

Row over MPs' trip to Lanka

Team does not represent all political parties

The issue has taken an ultra-sensitive hew, as the team has raised new expectations of the Indian efforts to secure a “fair deal” for the Sri Lankan Tamils since the civil strife with the LTTE ended in May this year.

While it is learnt that the team’s visit to the refugee camps — where over 3 lakh war-torn “internally displaced Tamils” (IDTs) are staying —  and to other areas in the island’s north would largely be a “guided tour” led by the government officials, its composition has enraged the Opposition parties.

“Are there no Opposition parties in Parliament?” fumed CPM state secretary N Varadarajan at a party rally in Tiruchirappalli on Friday, after the names of the team members, including those from the DMK, Congress and the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), were announced.

Varadarajan said representatives of all political parties should have been part of the delegation. The CPM rued that the team included only members of the UPA. Other outfits, including the principal Opposition party, the AIADMK, could not find a place.

Barring the Congress, DMK and the CPM, which make a distinction between Colombo’s war on terror and securing political and livelihood rights for the Sri Lankan Tamils, the others took extreme positions like the creation of a ‘Tamil Eelam’ as a solution to the ethnic crisis.  

But “this is not a parliamentary delegation”, asserted DMK leader and team member T K S Elangovan. “It is only a Central government-supported delegation being assisted by the ministry of external affairs in undertaking this five-day tour,” Elangovan said on Saturday.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse had some three months ago invited DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to visit Sri Lanka to “see for himself” the rehabilitation activities undertaken for the Tamils. Karunanidhi had conveyed this to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, besides suggesting that a team of MPs from the state visit Sri Lanka in his (Karunanidhi’s) behalf, Elangovan said.

More recently, a team of DMK MPs met the prime minister as well as Congress president Sonia Gandhi. They demanded that India take up with Sri Lanka measures for rehabilitating IDTs and impress upon Colombo to stop attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. “It was then a decision on the visit was taken,” Elangovan said.

Denying any discrimination in the matter, he said the composition of the delegation was decided by the parliamentary affairs minister, and that it was later cleared by the Speaker.