Sri Lanka’s post-war context requires empowerment along with development, and holding a free and fair election in the north, along with devolution, is central to it — this was the broad message that the Indian delegation conveyed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday, according to BJP leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad, who led the team.
As part of a five-day visit, organised by the New Delhi-based India Foundation and Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo, the delegates met senior leaders in Sri Lanka across political parties in Jaffna and Colombo, including the President, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peris. Meetings with civil society representatives were also organised.
“The Sri Lankan government reaffirmed its commitment to holding Northern Provincial Council elections. The senior leaders told us categorically that the elections will be held in September,” said Mr. Prasad at a select media briefing here.
The delegation emphasised to various leaders that the issue of Tamils in the Northern Province needed respectable resolution with dignity and equality, according to Mr. Prasad. “I also conveyed to the Sri Lankan government that the Tamils issue was not just Tamil Nadu’s concern but a national issue. India-Sri Lankan relations have a bipartisan consensus in India,” he said.
The Indian delegation included Suresh Prabhu (Shiv Sena), Ram Madhav (RSS), journalist and political commentator Swapan Dasgupta, former IFS officer Vivek Katju and advocate and human rights activist Monika Arora.
The delegation also met senior leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), including veteran politician R. Sampanthan. Some of the delegation members observed that they sensed a strong “trust deficit” between the TNA, which has a strong presence in northern Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lankan government. “We urged the TNA to have a dialogue with the government,” one of the members said.
“All parties must get together for an all-inclusive political solution. We cannot import a solution, and it cannot be a Rajapaksa-Sampanthan agreement,” the President told the delegation, according to a release from the President’s office.
The delegation also raised the issue of Indian fishermen being caught by the Sri Lankan Navy periodically with the Sri Lankan President. Mr. Prasad said, “We conveyed that any physical attack on fishermen from India would be unacceptable and regrettable. He told us that there were no such attacks and would not be in future as well,” he said.
The delegation also emphasised to the Sri Lankan government need to implement the 13th Amendment, and the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report.