AIADMK withdraws representative from team of MPs to Sri Lanka

The AIADMK will not join a 15-member parliamentary delegation scheduled to leave for Sri Lanka on April 16, arguing that the visit may prove an eyewash, its general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said here on Wednesday.

In a statement, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that she had decided to depute Rajya Sabha MP William Rabi Bernard at the request of the Centre, which is sending the delegation to inspect developmental activities taken up there with Indian assistance for resettling and rehabilitating the Tamils displaced by the prolonged strife.

She had agreed to depute a party representative hoping that the visit would help the delegation understand the real situation in Sri Lanka and provide some solace for the Tamils if it were to interact with them.

She was under the impression that the team would be able to identify the flaws in the resettlement and rehabilitation efforts of the Sri Lankan government. However, the itinerary prepared by the External Affairs Ministry provided no opportunity for the team members to interact with the Tamils.

“On the contrary, priority has been accorded only for meetings and banquets with top Sri Lankan leaders, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The itinerary looks as if the tour itself is a formality and that the agenda has been chalked out by the Sri Lankan government to create a favourable impression for it in India. This view is strengthened by the absence of journalists, human rights activists and independent observers in the delegation,” she said.

“I think the visit of this delegation will prove an eyewash, as was the case with the 2009 visit of a parliamentary delegation, in which Kanimozhi, daughter of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi, was also a member, and which enjoyed a banquet with Mr. Rajapaksa and received gifts,” she said.

Ms. Jayalalithaa alleged that Mr. Rajapaksa had not accepted even the “soft resolution” passed by the UNHRC, had failed to stop attacks on Tamil fishermen by his navy and had plans to represent before the International Atomic Energy Agency against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.

As his government continued to indulge in anti-Tamil activities, evinced no change in attitude towards Tamils, and the delegation had not been given an opportunity to discuss the “realities” with Mr. Rajapaksa, the AIADMK had decided to withdraw its representative from the delegation.

Recalling that the Assembly had passed a resolution urging the Centre to press the U.N. to declare those involved in genocide in Sri Lanka as war criminals, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that the House had also called sought economic embargo on Sri Lanka until all those displaced returned to their native place to lead a life of dignity. The Centre did not act on this resolution.

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