A multi-party parliamentary delegation that visited Sri Lanka submitted a report today on the condition of ethnic Tamils to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said India will stand “solidly behind” the minority community in their pursuit for a political settlement.
The 13-member delegation, headed by Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, met Dr. Singh at Parliament House for over 45 minutes during which they briefed about their five-day visit to Sri Lanka from April 16 to April 21 and the talks they held with the top leadership besides interaction with the ethnic Tamils there.
At the outset, Ms. Swaraj told Dr. Singh that the umbrella Tamil grouping of Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had told the delegation that they want “dignified rights and living conditions” for the minority community in a “unified” Sri Lanka.
Submitting a report that has in detail their conclusions about the visit, Ms. Swaraj told Dr. Singh that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa needed to persuade the TNA to join a Select Parliamentary Committee to find a solution to “genuine” political grievances of Tamils.
Dr. Singh spoke to every member of the delegation and listened to their views and suggestions, sources said about the meeting during which External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Minister of State in PMO V. Narayanasamy were present.
“The Prime Minister said the visit was timely and came at a crucial period of the bilateral ties,” Congress MP from Tamil Nadu Manicka Tagore, who was part of the delegation, told PTI.
Dr. Singh told the delegation that India was closely working with Sri Lanka and “will stand solidly behind the Tamils,” Mr. Tagore said.
Ms. Swaraj also emphasised that the 13th Amendment that envisages devolution of powers to Tamil-dominated North and East provinces needs to be implemented.
While TNA wants police and land powers to be vested with the provincial government, the Sri Lankan Government is opposed to the suggestion.
Mr. Krishna said the delegation had “a very fruitful and constructive visit” and “served a very useful purpose of conveying the entire country’s concerns about the problems Tamil speaking Sri Lankan citizens in the country (Sri Lanka) are facing.”
He said the government has gone through the report about the visit of the delegation.
“We heard a report about their visit, their impressions, their perceptions about what needs to be done,” he said.
The delegation, which interacted with a cross-section of displaced Tamils and visited war-torn areas during the visit, told Dr. Singh that Sri Lanka should take immediate steps to give back the land taken away from Tamils during the peak of the 30-year-old civil war.
They also emphasised that the powers of Army needed to be reduced in civilian areas and members from the Tamil community inducted into police force.
Emphasising that development was visible in the East, which was taken from the LTTE in 2005, the report said the government should make more efforts to develop the north and conduct immediate elections.
The MPs told the Prime Minister that since there was a shortage of teachers and doctors in Sri Lanka, professionals in those fields should be sent to the country from Tamil Nadu.
They also said journalists from India should visit Sri Lanka to get to know the conditions of Tamils.