In what could be a major embarrassment to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a constituent of the UPA, on Sunday said it would keep out of a Parliamentary delegation going to Sri Lanka to understand the situation there.

“There were examples in the past that tell us that such delegations would not serve any useful purpose. Therefore, the DMK will not be part of the delegation,” DMK president M. Karunanidhi told reporters here, when asked whether he believed that the visit of the MPs would help improve the lot of the Sri Lankan Tamils. “It is wrong to ask whether the DMK will join the delegation as per plan. It never had any plan to join the team,” Mr. Karunanidhi said. Originally, the DMK had nominated T.K.S. Elangovan to represent it in the delegation.

A few days ago, the DMK's principal rival, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), had withdrawn its nominee with Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa terming the proposed visit a mere “eyewash” and expressing the doubt whether there would be any genuine interaction between Indian MPs and Sri Lankan Tamils. Ms. Jayalalithaa had said the itinerary prepared by the External Affairs Ministry provided no opportunity for the team members to interact with Tamils there.

With both the DMK and the AIADMK staying away from the delegation, Tamil Nadu will be represented by four Congress MPs – E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Manick Tagore, N.S.V. Chitthan and M. Krishnasamy – and CPI (M) member T.K. Rangarajan.

The delegation, headed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj (Bharatiya Janata Party), will tour Sri Lanka between April 16 and 21. The team has a hectic schedule and will interact with representatives of the Sri Lankan government as well as political parties representing various sections of the Tamil community.

On the agenda are meetings with Sri Lankan parliament's Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris. The MPs would have a breakfast meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on April 21.

The team will inspect the progress made in various Indian projects in Sri Lanka. India is engaged in improving Sri Lanka's railway system and the northern port of Kankesanturai, besides building houses for Tamils displaced by the war.

This is the second time a delegation of MPs from India are visiting Sri Lanka after the end of the protracted civil war in 2009. In October 2009, MPs from Tamil Nadu visited camps for the displaced Tamils and interacted with some of them. The delegation comprised only members of DMK, Congress and Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), a composition that drew criticism that it was not a parliamentary delegation but only a UPA team.

The TNCC president B.S. Gnyanadesikan on Sunday urged both the AIADMK and the DMK to reconsider their boycott decision.

Vasan expresses concern

Staff Reporter from Hosur writes:

The Union Shipping Minister, G.K. Vasan, on Sunday expressed concern over withdrawal of AIADMK from the parliamentary delegation visit to Sri Lanka, beginning from Monday.

Talking to reporters here, Mr. Vasan said the team would visit the Tamils in Sri Lanka and hear their grievances. “It will see that the Tamils in Sri Lanka will get their due share in authority.”

A ‘drama,' says Vaiko

Staff Reporter from Erode writes:

MDMK general secretary Vaiko has termed a ‘drama' the Central government's move to send a Parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka to assess the rehabilitation and political process there.

The MDMK never had a plan to be the part of the delegation.

The Centre's effort to send a delegation was an eye-wash and it would do no good to the Tamils living in the island nation, Mr. Vaiko told reporters here on Sunday.

If the Centre really wanted to help the Tamils, then it should urge the Sri Lankan government to withdraw the troops and police personnel in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. Then all the Sinhalese settlements, which were forcefully established in the traditional Tamil homeland, should be removed, he said.

The MDMK leader wanted the international community to create a conducive atmosphere to hold a referendum on the question of Tamil Eelam.

Modalities should be worked out so that the Tamil diaspora around the world could participate in the referendum, he said.