Says Sri Lanka must implement its promise on devolution of power

Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan on Friday came out in support of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, saying the Commonwealth countries should consider shifting the venue of their heads of government meeting in November out of Sri Lanka, if there was no change in the attitude of the government there towards the Tamil population.

A few days ago, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi asked India to boycott the meeting.

“It is my personal opinion that the venue should be changed to some other country if the Sri Lankan government failed to implement its promises, including on conferring rights and privileges on Tamils on a par with the Sinhalese and ensured devolution of power,” he said.

Talking to reporters at the TNCC headquarters, Mr. Vasan said the countries that voted against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council should come together and press for it.

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should take part in the conference based on the decision of the Commonwealth countries,” he said.

Asked whether he could make such a demand when he was part of the Union Cabinet, Mr Vasan said he was also a Tamilian and even the Congress in Tamil Nadu could have a similar opinion on the issue. He expressed solidarity with the students in Tamil Nadu, who had been organising protests in support of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

“I respect their feelings. Their protests have created awareness not only in Tamil Nadu, but across the country. But students should take care not to allow their peaceful protests to be hijacked by vested interests,” he said, urging the students to concentrate on their studies as examinations were approaching. Mr. Vasan appreciated the BCCI’s decision not to allow Sri Lankan players to take part IPL matches in Chennai in the wake of the strong opposition.

“Though you cannot link sports with the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, the BCCI conceded to the people’s aspirations in taking a decision. It’s a good decision,” he said.

Mr. Vasan dismissed as “baseless and imaginative” reports that he planned to revive the Tamil Maanila Congress launched by his late father G.K. Moopanar in 1996 after the Congress high-command decided to align with the AIADMK in the run-up to the Assembly polls in the state. “There is an attempt to alienate and weaken the Congress,” he said, pointing out that disciplinary action had been taken against the person who had put up posters in support of reviving the TMC.

Answering a question on the idea of a referendum among Sri Lankan Tamils to ascertain the support for the creation of ‘Tamil Eelam’, he said the Congress could not think on the lines of a regional party, but must take into consideration diplomatic and strategic issues.

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