I favour return of Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka, says former CM of Sri Lanka's Northern Province

Dual citizenship could be offered as an option: Wigneswaran

January 14, 2020 01:05 am | Updated 07:22 am IST - CHENNAI

C.V. Wigneswaran B. VELANKANNI RAJ

C.V. Wigneswaran B. VELANKANNI RAJ

The former Chief Minister of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, C.V. Wigneswaran, on Monday asserted that he was for the return of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India to home soil.

When asked whether his recent call for the granting of dual citizenship to the refugees marked any nuanced shift in position from the one he took about five years ago, when he had urged the refugees to return to Sri Lanka, Mr. Wigneswaran told The Hindu, “I still hold the same view — that they (the refugees) must return to their country because we are running short of Tamils [in Sri Lanka] and the areas where they had been living earlier are being handed over by the government to the Sinhalese.”

As for his suggestion on the question of dual citizenship, the former Chief Minister, who had also served as a judge in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, clarified that he was not “voting for dual citizenship as itself”. But having lived in another country for 30 years, the refugees had developed “various commitments”. In the process of coming back [to Sri Lanka], “if they have problems in India, it is for the purpose that I am suggesting that the dual citizenship be given to them”. He added that the refugees wouldn’t be having “voting rights” in India. “We must keep in mind that these are the people who are citizens of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lankan government is responsible for them,” he said.

‘Long-term visas’

Reiterating that dual citizenship could be offered to the refugees as an option, and that it should be subject to their fulfilling “certain conditions”, Mr Wigneswaran said alternatively, they could be given “long-term visas”. He called for discussions between the governments of the two countries, including senior Tamil officials in the Sri Lankan government, “to find a way to be helpful to those people who are returning”. He wanted New Delhi to help Colombo in creating “infrastructural facilities” that would be beneficial to prospective refugee-returnees.

On his Sunday meeting with film star Rajinikanth, the former CM said the meeting was organised at short notice. “Both of us mutually wanted to meet each other. For much of our 30-minute-long meeting, we discussed matters of spirituality,” he said, adding that there was no “political agenda” behind his visit to Tamil Nadu. Accusing SL politicians of seeking to make Sri Lanka “ultimately a Sinhala Buddhist country”, he said, “The security of India and the security of Tamils in Sri Lanka are inter-related. You have the third party, China, coming into the scene. It helps India to make sure that Tamil-speaking people of the North and the East are given sufficient rights, preferably federal rights, with the merger of the two Provinces.”

Regarding the debate on prioritising the economic development of the region over a political settlement and devolution, Mr. Wigneswaran said, “Economic development must be after granting us political rights. If you do not do that, we will ultimately get integrated with the major community and we will lose individuality.”

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