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Win The Peace

[TOI, Thursday, 15 October 2009 20:22 No Comment]

The significance of the five-day visit to Sri Lanka by a 10-member delegation of parliamentarians from Tamil Nadu goes beyond the nine-page summation the MPs have come out with, on the plight of nearly 2.53 lakh war-displaced Tamils living in pitiable conditions in congested camps ringed by barbed wire. For, the mission marks the first direct attempt by Tamil Nadu to engage the Sri Lankan government at the political level on its decades-old ethnic problem.
Accustomed for decades to viewing Tamil Nadu with suspicion as a cross-shore base for Tamil separatism, the Sri Lankan government would have found it a novel experience to play host to MPs from the state, especially a team that included members who signed their purported resignation letters from Parliament barely a year ago in protest against the continuance of what turned out to be a decisive war. New Delhi has often been charged with ignoring political opinion in Tamil Nadu while devising its approach to Sri Lanka. But the Manmohan Singh government did much to undo this image by arranging for a political team from the state – albeit, to its discredit, comprising only alliance partners – to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The delegation has made an impassioned plea for quick rehabilitation and resettlement of the camp inmates and has reported that the government there intends to resettle 58,000 displaced people in their respective homes within a fortnight, while the remaining, too, would be allowed to go back in phases, subject to progress in ongoing demining operations. In their report, the MPs have packed just enough faith in the Sri Lankan authorities to address the problems of the displaced people in a humanitarian perspective, as well as just enough scepticism to place their sincerity under test until they carry out their promise of early rehabilitation.
Detractors will relish the irony of once-belligerent MPs calling on President Mahinda Rajapaksa – after some of them denounced him as a genocidal annihilator of the Tamil race – and discussing the future of Tamil civilians. Questions, too, are bound to be asked whether the Indian MPs had sought to apply enough pressure on Sri Lanka to find a political settlement that would satisfy Tamil aspirations.

[Full Coverage]

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