Sri Lanka should investigate and inquire into rights violations charges through a transparent process, said External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna

In the wake of sharp criticism from members of both Houses of Parliament that it was trying to bail out Colombo at the ongoing 19 session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the government on Wednesday said its stand on the issue would be finalised keeping in mind the implications on the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

Making a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said the government's “objectives, as always, continue to remain the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.”

Noting that several members had raised the issue of a draft resolution initiated by the U.S. at the Geneva conference, Mr. Krishna said any assertion on the issue would also need to examine “whether our actions will actually assist in the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and enhance the current dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil parties, including the Tamil National Alliance.”

Mounting pressure

As agitated members of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as well as those from the key UPA member Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) stepped up pressure for India's support to a resolution at the UNHRC against Sri Lanka, Mr. Krishna pointed out that the issue of rights allegations against Sri Lanka was yet to come up for formal discussion at the 19 session of the UNHRC.

“A view on this issue will be taken as and when the time is finalised for consideration of the draft resolution on Sri Lanka,” he said. He assured both the Houses that the government would keep in mind the views and sentiments of the members.

“As far as our position on the resolution is concerned, we are engaged with all parties in an effort to achieve a forward looking outcome that is based on reconciliation and accountability rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust between the concerned parties,” Mr. Krishna said.

Referring to a concern expressed in various quarters on allegations of rights violations, including as shown in the Channel 4 documentary, he said it was the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government, in the first instance, to investigate and inquire into them through a transparent process.

India's assistance

Stressing that it was a result of India's assistance programme and constructive engagement with the Sri Lankan government that a modicum of normality was beginning to return to the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka, he said there had been progress given the withdrawal of emergency regulations by the government there and the conduct of elections to local bodies in the Northern Province.

The Minister said India had emphasised to Sri Lanka the importance of a “genuine process of reconciliation” to address the grievances of the Tamil community. Pointing to his visit to Sri Lanka in January, he said Colombohad assured India of its commitment in pursuing a political process through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, leading to the full implementation of the 13 Amendment to the Constitution so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation.

“We will remain engaged with them through this process and in the spirit of partnership, encourage them to take forward the dialogue with the elected representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamils,” Mr. Krishna said.

The Sri Lankan authorities had expressed their readiness to receive an all-party delegation of MPs from India. “We are working to undertake such a visit at the earliest,'' the Minister told both the Houses.

Dissatisfied with the Minister's statement, AIADMK members tore copies of the statement in both the Houses.

In the Lok Sabha, they rushed into the well, shouting slogans, which demanded that India support the U.N. resolution and raise the issue of alleged rights violations.

Walkout

DMK members, led by T.R. Baalu, walked out of the Lok Sabha, which was later adjourned for about for about half-an-hour as AIADMK members persisted with their slogan shouting inside the well.

In the Rajya Sabha, CPI leader D. Raja announced that his party members were also staging a walkout but by then the Chair had already adjourned the House for lunch.

The Minister's promise that India is committed to see that Sri Lanka implemented all the major recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) also failed to satisfy the members from the Opposition as well as the DMK.

Wondering how the Minister got the confidence and hope that the Sri Lankan government will deliver justice, DMK member Kanimozhi said, “We cannot accept a statement like this.''

As Mr. Krishna insisted on India's policy of not interfering into the internal matters of a country, she said such arguments were given only when any issue concerning South India came up.

CPI leader D. Raja said the Minister's statement “has not taken note of the ground realities in Sri Lanka.”

He questioned why India should wait for the U.S. or Norway to take up the issue of war crimes against Tamils in that country.

Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said the government had “miserably failed” to persuade Sri Lanka to take action against the war crimes.

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