Elected representatives from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are among those who did not make the trip for the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) meet that has opened here.
Though a majority of the 800-plus representatives from over 175 branches were in town since September 7, the meet was declared open by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday.
While it was clear that Tamil Nadu Speaker D. Jaya Kumar will not be attending, the case of Karnataka is curious. Recently, some MLAs from Karnataka were embroiled in a controversy over a tour of Latin America. Last week, a tour of Europe by a second batch of legislators and officials was called off.
The Colombo jaunt appears to have been a casualty to the controversy. Pondicherry followed Tamil Nadu’s lead and has kept away. But the Indian delegation is still the largest with over 50 elected representatives from several States.
The conference will decide CPA’s strategic plan for the next four years.
Mr. Rajapaksa spoke of the lofty principles on which Sri Lankan democracy was founded, how he had protected and nurtured it, and asked them to explore the country and discover how free the people were.
“Your presence in Sri Lanka gives you a good opportunity to see for yourselves the progress of democracy in our country, after the major threat it faced under terrorism. This is important in the context of the barrage of lies being spread about Sri Lanka today. As you will see, there is full freedom of travel to any part of the country. You can also speak to anyone, from government or the opposition and different communities.”
Indirectly hitting out at the U.S. and its allies, he said there was “an unfortunate trend” to “impose democracy on people and states” and “bomb democracy into place with a carpet of destruction”. Mr. Rajapaksa, who once counted Libya’s Qadhafi among his friends, said there were those “who seem to think of regime change as the necessary path to democracy, without seeing the consequences of such action that stare at us today”. Sri Lanka — facing serious charges of human rights abuses in the last stages of the war which, the U.N. says, killed about 40,000 civilians — used the opportunity to flag the issue of use and misuse of human rights. “We are also aware of how human rights can be made a slogan by the worst violators of such rights, to threaten traditional democracies,” said Mr. Rajapaksa.