Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday made a strong appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo during November 15-17.

The DMK too demanded that India boycott the meeting. A resolution to the effect was passed at its executive committee meeting.

In her letter to Dr Singh, the Chief Minister said the Sri Lankan regime, “which continues to deny Tamils their legitimate human rights, equality and democratic freedom,” had “clearly violated” the central credo of the Commonwealth - democracy and human rights. “Nations have been suspended from the Commonwealth for far less,” she pointed out.

In the light of the “fresh, mounting evidence of atrocities” committed by the Sri Lankan military, the conference presented another opportunity to secure for Sri Lankan Tamils equal constitutional rights and a life of dignity. India should play a crucial role, given not only “the deep and widespread sentiment” in Tamil Nadu and at the national level but also the need to establish India as a global leader standing up for democracy and human rights.

She referred to reports that Canada had already indicated that it was likely to boycott the CHOGM. The House of Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs in the UK also urged the British Prime Minister not to attend the CHOGM in Colombo. “Clearly, many important countries across the world, including two G-8 countries, propose to leverage the proposed CHOGM in Sri Lanka and make substantial progress in human rights issues in Sri Lanka,” she stated.

Ms. Jayalalithaa called upon Dr Singh to use the opportunity to demand that the venue for the CHOGM be shifted to another country. “If India takes this diplomatic initiative, there is likely to be broad-based support amongst member countries of the Commonwealth.”

At the very least, India must stay away from the CHOGM to be held in Colombo, she argued. By boycotting the summit and exerting pressure on Sri Lanka to do justice to the “hapless, much exploited” Tamil minorities, “India would also demonstrate its empathy and solidarity with the millions of Tamils, both in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, and assuage the legitimate sense of outrage amongst them” as a result of “Sinhala excesses” against Sri Lankan Tamils, she added.

The DMK resolution said: “It was not in the fitness of things or acceptable to hold the meeting in Colombo.” Already a few countries decided not to participate in the meeting in Colombo, when a few countries take such a decision, the Centre should without any hesitation take a decision in this regard and announce it immediately, the resolution said.

Centre’s response

New Delhi Correspondent writes:

The Centre feels it is to early to respond to the demand by the ruling AIADMK and the DMK.  

“CHOGM is a long way off and the demand at the moment is premature. Moreover, it will all depend on how many member countries feel at that point of time, say sources.

Danger involved

Other sources pointed to the dangers of pushing Sri Lanka into a corner, especially in a situation where Pakistan and China were establishing themselves as steady defence hardware suppliers to Colombo.

They would also like to take advantage of the breach presented by India, in case its ties with Sri Lanka become lukewarm to establish a firmer business footprint.

More In: NEW DELHI | NATIONAL