India to ask Colombo about emergency withdrawal

The government on Thursday told Parliament it would take up with Sri Lanka issues of withdrawal of emergency regulations and probing of allegations of human rights violations against Tamils there, while seeking to pursue a lasting political settlement.

“The government has reiterated, and will continue to reiterate, to the government of Sri Lanka the urgent and imperative need for taking expeditious steps towards genuine national reconciliation, including early return of internally displaced persons to their respective homes, early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas, the reduction and ultimate elimination of high security zones, accountability for missing persons and redressal of humanitarian concerns of affected families,” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said in the Rajya Sabha.

Replying to a short-duration discussion on the problems of Tamils, he said, the government would continue to stress upon, with the Sri Lankan government, the need for a lasting political settlement providing for the harmonious coexistence of all communities there.

Dissatisfied with the reply of the Ministers, members of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam staged a walkout.

On the issue of the United Nations report and concerns expressed by members about atrocities against Tamils, the Minister said India had taken note of the report and also heard Sri Lanka’s response. “We are just waiting for this to come up in any one of the Intergovernmental Bodies before the United Nations, so that India can take a position to express its views on that.”

Mr. Krishna said the government was concerned about the welfare of Tamils and taking steps to resolve the issues. India had provided an $800 million line of credit to Sri Lanka for relief and rehabilitation, including restoration of rail line in northern Sri Lanka and assisting in rehabilitation of Kankesanthurai Harbour and restoration of Duraiappah Stadium.

India also announced help in the construction of 50,000 houses in Sri Lanka and gave 500 tractors and 95,000 agriculture starter packs, he said. Sri Lankan Tamil representatives had said that the steps benefited the resettlement of the people and helped to lower the cost of food production in the areas.

Earlier, initiating the debate, D. Raja (CPI) said the government “betrayed” the Tamils and felt that India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka had “completely failed.” He sought to know why India could not intervene during the crucial final days of the war and save the Tamils there.

V. Maitreyan (AIADMK) said the allegations against the Sri Lankan government fell into the following categories — killing of civilians through widespread shelling; shelling of hospitals; denial of humanitarian assistance; and human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict by those outside the conflict zone. He also expressed shock that the House did not pass a condolence resolution when it met in 2009, days after the war in Sri Lanka ended, the last days of which saw the killing of over 40,000 Tamils.

Initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha, T.R. Baalu of the DMK wondered why Mr. Krishna was remaining silent when the UN report and television channels confirmed “genocide” of Tamils.

Speaker Meira Kumar asked him to show restraint as the issue was sensitive and involved relations with a “friendly country.”

Jaswant Singh of the BJP said the Sri Lankan Tamils were an ethnic class, and Colombo had the responsibility to respect them and treat them as its equal citizens.

M. Thambidurai of the AIADMK accused Sri Lanka of “blackmailing” India to adopt a soft approach to the Tamils issue. He wanted the Centre to take follow-up action on a resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking an economic embargo on Colombo till it gave Tamils their due rights.

Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) said India’s relations with Sri Lanka should not be at the cost of the Tamils.

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