20 October, 2020

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India Can Be Against The LTTE But Cannot Afford To Be Against The Tamils

By Hardeep S. Puri

Hardeep S. Puri

Contemporary developments in India’s foreign policy are often based on perceptions and not facts, views divorced from reality and political advocacy based on make-believe. India’s approach to the Sri Lankan issue and the vote in the Human Rights Council (HRC) is a case in point. Variously described as a “new low” in our foreign policy and a departure from our principled stand of not supporting country-specific resolutions, this line of reasoning suggests that New Delhi should ignore and overrule regional sentiment, and refrain from meddling in the affairs of a small neighbour.

But first the perceptions. One, in 1956, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike enacted the Sinhala-Only Act. Sections of the political class in New Delhi welcomed it as a consolidation of anti-imperialist sentiment. Years later, Tamils were reduced to second-class citizens and discrimination against them became systemic and entrenched. The anti-Tamil riots in Colombo following the killing of the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duriappa, by a young Prabhakaran led to the rise of Tamil militancy.

Perception two. Most Sinhalese believe, with good reason, that Tamil militancy, rightly viewed by them as terrorism, would not have succeeded in tearing apart Sri Lanka’s social fabric but for support from across the Palk Straits. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi sought course correction. He committed India to Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity. This fundamental turnaround meant India would not support the break-up of Sri Lanka and would also cooperate in ending support for terrorism. There was, however, one caveat. The Tamil minority should be treated with dignity and as equal citizens of a multicultural, multiple-ethnic and multilingual Sri Lanka.

Resolution was minimalist

What the international community is questioning is not Colombo’s military operation against the LTTE or human rights violations but specific allegations of war crimes during the last 100 days of military operations. Visual documentation, including by triumphant victors on mobile phones has contributed to Sri Lanka’s discomfort. The U.S. resolution at the 19th session of the HRC in March 2012 was a minimalist attempt. It invited Sri Lanka to act on the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Even the assistance to be made available to Colombo would have been provided only with its consent. Instead, Colombo chose to prevaricate. With additional visual documentation being made available, the demand for accountability gained momentum. Having voted in favour of the resolution in March 2012, it was next to impossible for India to change its vote in March 2013, especially in the absence of any credible steps by Sri Lanka towards reconciliation and devolution.

It is both in India’s and Sri Lanka’s interest to get a full and final closure on these allegations. Not to do so will allow the wounds to fester.

Sovereignty has never succeeded in providing a cover against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To suggest that India does not support country-specific resolutions is absurd. Even more, that we have a principled position on this. In any perceived clash between principle and national interest, it is invariably the latter that is invoked and reigns supreme. Following the anti-Tamil riots in Colombo in 1983, New Delhi mustered sufficient courage to spearhead a resolution against Sri Lanka in the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities. We vote in favour of similar resolutions against Israel only because they deal with gross and systematic violations of human rights of Palestinian people in the occupied territories. We have never hesitated to take a position on country-specific resolutions whether on DPRK or Iran, whenever our national interest so demanded.

To dismiss popular sentiment in Tamil Nadu as the machinations of politicians is both a misreading of the situation and a recipe for disaster. Why should Sri Lanka not be held to account for not respecting understandings given bilaterally to India, such as those of April-May 2009?

13th Amendment

India can be against the LTTE but cannot afford to be against the Tamils. The problem both amongst the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and large sections of the Tamil population in India, is that the LTTE successfully manipulated Tamil opinion by projecting itself as the only physical shield against Sinhala repression. We cannot wish away this sentiment. The only safeguard for the Tamils in Sri Lanka is delivery of the promised devolution based on the 13th Amendment.

Both the AIADMK and the DMK, along with the smaller parties in Tamil Nadu are on the same page on the Sri Lanka issue. The problem will continue to fester till Colombo has a genuine change of heart. Recent signals are anything but encouraging. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on March 27, 2013: “Could we afford to have a provincial administration here, which pointed a gun at the national leadership at the drop of a hat? We don’t want to be at the mercy of scheming provincial administrations.” Let alone the 13th Amendment, the Defence Secretary seems to be suggesting the winding up of provincial councils altogether!

Notwithstanding assurances to India, the “Brothers” running Sri Lanka appear to have no intention to move on political reconciliation and devolution. This “majoritarianism” in total disregard of respecting and protecting the rights of minorities is a narrow and calibrated political strategy designed to safeguard Sinhalese parliamentary strength. The recent attacks on the Muslim trading community in the heart of Colombo by fanatic Sinhalese, allegedly led by Buddhist monks are manifestations of similar callous and cynical disregard for the rights of linguistic, religious and cultural minorities. India did the right thing by supporting the resolution on war crimes.

Exaggerated projections of Chinese inroads and influence are a bogey which many of our smaller neighbours periodically try on us. Apart from being practical, the Chinese are also hard headed. They will pursue economic and commercial opportunity irrespective of the way India votes. Support for Sri Lanka up to 2012 did not prevent them from looking for commercial projects there. Many Chinese successes have something to do with our own inability to deliver commercial projects on time.

Sri Lanka is not only India’s closest neighbour but in many respects, culturally and emotionally, closest to us as well. We need to reach out to Colombo and drive home the point that it takes two to tango. Relations between countries are assiduously built, step by step. Unless Colombo treats its Tamil citizens with dignity and respect, New Delhi will continue to have limited options. If New Delhi continues to base its choices on misplaced “perceptions” and does not effectively articulate the reasons for the choices so made, only brickbats will be in the offing.

*Hardeep S. Puri is India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He served as Political Secretary of the Indian High Commission in Colombo Between 1985 to 1989 when the Indo -Lanka Agreement came into force. This article appears in “The Hindu”

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Latest comments

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    Dear Hardeep,

    India’s role cannot be just diminutive to voting against SL on UNHRC resolution, but also bring them to credible path of permanent peace. Because we played a crushing role by the way of IPKF that led to this disastrous situation. Adding to that,

    We liberated Bangaldesh from heinous east pakistan government, then why double standard when it comes to Ealam tamil, and the worst to mention, in the name of supporting war against terrorism, India supported heinous genocidal govt? We need a credible investigation on the role of India in SL war
    If Indira was alive few more years, this situation would not have arrived, is n’t fault of Rajiv immature foreign policy and his aim to seek front seat in SAARC caused this situation, who is to be blamed? It is ourselves, none else.

    At times I feel Indian governments are hypocritic in nature, when it comes to support muslim cause (of course it is welcome move) in Bangaldesh, Iran, or in case of Palestine, India seems to go out of its ring and support them on right table , but when it comes to Ealam why are we dual natured?

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      India burnt its fingers in the invasion of Bangladesh. West Bengal and East Bengal (Bangladesh) are like North Korea and South Korea much closer than Tamils of TN and Tamils of SL. The no of North Indian Jawan’s killed and maimed have never been discussed by SL Tamils.
      It is also a well-known fact that SL Tamils look down upon Indian Tamils.

      Indians don’t forget the lesson of experience to be fooled once again like the invitation of Rajiv and the IPKF then the government of SL arming the LTTE to drive away the Indians.

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    “India can be against the LTTE but cannot afford to be against the Tamils.”

    Mr. Hardeep S Puri has conveniently circumnavigated the fact that front organizations of LTTE operating in the west are still collecting funds and established a Tamil Ealam in exile. So our Defense Secretary is right in saying “Could we afford to have a provincial administration here, which pointed a gun at the national leadership at the drop of a hat? We don’t want to be at the mercy of scheming provincial administrations.”

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      The Professional:

      Looks like you are not a professional after all! Knotting the dog’s head with its tail. Take a deep breath and re-read what he has written. At least you won’t go off tangent.

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        Dear Jansee,

        You are right. I am not a professional political analyst.

        Hardeep Singh Puri retired recently. May be that the pension he is receiving is insufficient to meet ends.

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          The Professional:

          Again displaying UNPROFESSIONAL” tendencies. Hardeep will be a busy man as ever and not everyone would want to live his life just like your commission Minister, Basil Rajapakse.

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    Congratulations: you introduced your argument pointing the distinction of perception and reality, then you justified every Indian move on the base of perception. The outcome is that Indian policy towards Sri Lanka is always the deranged wandering of emotions and instincts.
    A final remark: Indian after the 2013 UNHRC resolution keeps on apologizing with Sri Lanka, almost as you were forced to vote for accountability and justice (by those “emotional”, “deranged” ones in Tamil Nadu).
    Your words are:India doesn’t believe in the investigations, but wants only to placate those hot heads in Tamil Nadu.
    Thank you for the insight.

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      Read the article again and correlate to your words.. the posting by you is totally irrelevant to teh article contention.

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      Another ostrich. With these type of guys, if MR says that the moon is in his hands, that would be the holy truth. Why not read calmly and in a composed manner what the author has written?

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    A fair narrative of the Lanka story from the eyes of an Indian analyst-official with some “feel” about the Lankan confused political landscape. But how did this creep in “The anti-Tamil riots in Colombo following the killing of the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duriappa, by a young Prabhakaran led to the rise of Tamil militancy..” ??? Duriappah was killed, as I recall, in 1975. The anti-Tamil riots took place in
    July 1983.

    But that aside, the essay represents the Indian position reasonably squarely. New Delhi’s position on Tamilnadu is near perfect. And so his comments on the over-emphasised Chinese role in the island. As to country-specific issues, Sri Lanka should be grateful India stepped in with this device and saved them in 2012 – allowing them (GoSL) time to fulfill their assurances to the UNHRC then. But “the Brothers” – to use Mr Puri’s phraseology, are again playing ducks and drakes.

    It certainly takes two to tango. But the Brothers seem to be convinced the Kandyan Devil Dance can be done solo.

    Senguttuvan

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    Nadu Karu, is a full on LTTE supporter according to the Wikileaks from Madras, which were published in the Hindu today.

    He apparently had thoughts of making Tmil Nadu an Eelaam following in the foot steps of VP, but had to change his tune after Rajiv got done.

    Once an enemy of the LTTE as well as Karu is now a great sympathiser of the new LTTE and wants a vote to establish one in Srilanka.

    Seemon and Vaiko now have work cut out to convince the Naduans that they are the real McCoy.

    With the upcominag elections for the center is going to end up in a hung parliament, there is a better than even money chance that JJ may revolt against the center if she can’t get her wish.

    Knowing that Gotabaya will not allow it to be fulfilled, what are the options for JJ and Karu?.

    Could it be President’s rule for Naduans with their own IPKF?..

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      hey! hey! day dream! day dream! India is democracy and any military or autocratic rule or unitary feature needed approval from president and that should be accepted by Supreme court. Moreover, unitary time as per constitution is maximum 6 months, thats all.. Oh you think India is also SL, where Muttal rajapassa can rule over indefinite period!

      You say.,

      “Knowing that Gotabaya will not allow it to be fulfilled, what are the options for JJ and Karu?”

      —Is gotabaya defence secretary of world? And India fears for him? Please come out of day dream..

      Central govt fears for JJ than this gotabaya or koyyapalabaya..

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        Good one Manisekaran. Gotabaya himself had admitted he cannot step into UK or Europe for fear of being dragged into a legal tussle. For now, he can comfort in his coop but it looks like that that too may not last long.

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    India can afford to go against Sri Lanka but not against its own people in TN. India is expecting elections this year and the Sri Lanka Tamil issue is hot on the agenda of indian politics. No party will risk alienating TN sensitivities on this issue.

    The overall impression of the Rajapakse regime has taken a beating with Geneva, Balachandran, BBS and Impeachment issues. Also the pique that the Big Brother has been led up the garden path for several years with empty promises regarding 13A and 13A+++. Suddenly Rajapakse has become an anathema for Delhi and TN.

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    Thank you Sengutthavan for raising this point about anti-Tamil riots and Alfred Thuraipha’s killing.
    I think Amb. Puri wants to hide something embarrassing to India, if his memmory has not failed.it is no longer a secret that what brought out the 1983 riots was the result of RAW training Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups in sophisticated military techniques including the use of claymore mines and and underwater demolitions. RAW’s hand could be seen also in the immediate spread of violence (Friday affair) and the build up of refugees by collecting Indian Tamils from unaffected estate areas through midnight visits.the riots were also used to settle Indian Tamil groups in the Vanni.
    Even my former Estate Tamil servant went to India, not once , but several times, as he came to take leave of me each time, told me he was taking several TV sets and other household goods across for his Indian employer who ran a small printing office.

    Puri, later as High Commissioner Dixit’s political officer, should be very familiar with RAW’s later operations.Dixit had told General Harkirat Singh, the first Commander of IPKF troops, that he should understand that the Indian Govt. operated at several levels. While the IPKF was trying to get the militants to surrender arms, RAW was seen landing arms for some terrorist groups in the Mannar Bay. Harkirat Singh had shown the Video to Dixit and his Naval Attache and both of them had said nothing!These are docmented by him in his book.
    So there was much more to India’s role than what appears on the surface.
    Sri Lankan Tamil issue was important for New Delhi to keep Tamil Nadu engaged and its own separatist agenda under control.Nehru threatened to use military power to crush it once.Then came the border War with China which was good to keep all-India sentiment alive. Now it is pro-SL Tamil sentiment since 1983. With Indian elections around, it is important for main parties to keep Tamil Nadu on the boil on the each group trying to out-do the other. Tamil Nadu vote is crucial to the Congress as much as to its rival, BJP. Puri is right in speaking of national interest over-riding others.

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    I trust the savvy reader who goes as Int’l Watch will agree if a State allows War – soft, hard or whatever you call it – in its plural society many a creature will emerge out of the woodworks. The present clique finds it is to their advantage the fear of returning War conditions is maintained – irrespective of how much the people in the Tamil areas or the country as a whole suffer. As such, there is no chance of the Status Quo being changed. That rabble-rouser Nalin de S –
    today (The Island) discovers a new Enemy – “the Brahmin class in India ” – and insists this class is out to destroy the Island because the latter protects Thervada Buddhism. He identifies Nehru, JJ, the Indian Civil Service and even RAW. Though sheer poppycock he will have his long line of semi-educated Sinhala youth believing the incendiary
    invention.

    If RAW was out to create mischief our own security establishment – under the right political guidance – should have countered this. What was our response? We sidelined able professional diplomats and replaced them with stridently pro-Sinhala Buddhist men like NQ Dias,
    Ministers like RG Senanayake, Cyril Mathew and excarcebated a not-so complicagted issue. And now we have the Brothers MR and GR on the other extreme. RAW came in because Ministers under JRJ’s regime created threats to “India’s security fears” (Panikkar) The negative diplomacy continued since then.

    Separatist Agenda in Tamilnadu? I beg to disagree. She is already within the 5 fastest growing States. No serious political party will
    propose this. By the way, it was not military threat that stopped the separatist tendencies of the DMK in the late 50s/early 60s. It was
    the inclusion of a Clause in the Indian Constitution – that has withstood from then on 5 decades ago.

    It well may well be it is through India alone we can regain our imnmediate salvation – that has evaded us for nearly 4 decades.
    That I suspect is the view of the US and the West – possibly China too.
    China appears to now feel the Rajapakse regime is no longer attractive for “juicy business ventures” as they are economically over-stretched and politically broke. We do not have to go on bended knees to gain that nor sacrifice our sovereignty. It is only good sense and professional diplomacy that can see us through. In paying huge sums to non-performing Lobbyist companies, the regime admits her diplomatic arm has failed them. The fault is not that of the career diplomats. It is because of political interference and the case of square pegs being imposed on round holes.

    Senguttuvan

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      You write beautifully Sir

  • 0
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    Puri the spy… Why not tell the world who you really are ?

    These indian rascals think they can create mayhem around neighbours while denying their covert actions..

    Puri as far as Sl concern you can go to hell.

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    Hardeep Puri was Directly Involved in Indian Operation Against the JR Jayewardena Govt up to July 1987 says Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

    dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/19820

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    Whatever Puri, Dixit , RAW, Indira Gandhi , Rajiv Gandhi and India did , let us not not forget that WE invited trouble through our stupidity and malevolence. If there was no mayhem and murder in our house, there would have been no reason for the neighbour to interfere. We have yet not made up our minds to set our house in order, and thus substantial parts of the world are not only peeping through our windows but are also screening at us to behave sanely.

    Sri Lanka is behaving like one inmate at the Angoda mental asylum, who was swinging a key chain from left to right, instead of the usual right to left. When asked why, he replied, ” I do it this way and all the others do it the other way”. He may have been a rare philosopher who diagnosed his own mental condition, but it was not hard to understand why he was in a mental asylum.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

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    “Whatever Puri, Dixit , RAW, Indira Gandhi , Rajiv Gandhi and India did , let us not not forget that WE invited trouble through our stupidity and malevolence.” (Dr. Rajasingham Narendran)

    When JRJ liberalized the economy in 1977 and established the IPZs the investors came from the West and far East. Not from Chin and India because their economies were not that strong then. The only concern India had then was why its IPZ located close to Mumbai did not attract such investors.

    Iranawila VOC station and leasing of oil tanks in Trincomalee to HK based US company in the 1980s had caused India reviewing its foreign policy on SL. Someone can call it our own stupidity but had JRJ been anti-american, SL might have been a federal state of India. This is what I feel.

    India was compelled to tow the line of USA after the visit of Hilary Clinton to TN and subsequent agitations by TN politicians. India now has problems of its own creation. I also feel that SL having secured the investments in South with Chinese assistance is now seeking security from US. This may be the reason for offering the remaining oil exploratory plots in Mannar basin at the Texas Stock Market.

    I am not a political analyst but I hope a professional politica analyst would enlighten us on the future of Indo-Lanka relations in the background of oil exploration in Mannar basin and ant-SL approach of TN politicians.

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    Here is what my good friends from important cities Calcutta and Moombai said,

    “India is not those idiots in Tamil Nadu, or the Tamils”.

    That is good enough for us inhabitants.

    Wonder whether this Singh backed his Khalistani cousins?.

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      But yet good enough to make center listens to its need. You don’t know internal politics of India. I understand your fear wetting you the night in fear so writing you in denial mode.

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      K.A Sumanasekera

      “India is not those idiots in Tamil Nadu, or the Tamils”.

      When your friends observed as above did you tell them that all inhabitants of this island except my people have very close affinity with Tamilnadu Tamils? Did you also tell them that you share a common gene with the stupid Tamilnadu people?

      What shame you probably didn’t get it did you? They were trying to get at you Sri Lankan inhabitants through your brethren in Tamilnadu. Their observation was aimed at you than your brethren in Tamilnadu.

      Wake up man, wake up.

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      K.A Sumanasekera:

      Looks like you are a frequent visitor of the ghettos in Calcutta. What else can one expect from such a ghetto visitor?

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    Nehru flexing the military muzzle when Taml Nadu separatism first appeared has been adequately discussed by informed Indians themselves.There is no need to re-open that issue. There may be other factors which sealed it off.
    It is true that Tamil Nadu is the fastest growing State in India while others are lagging behind. That was seen from former US State Secretary Hilary Clinton’s visit and the pow pow with Chief Minister Jayalalitha discussing even inter-state- relations matters like Sri Lanka. The emerging situation itself poses a danger of T/N would wanting to dominate politics and administration at New Delhi, thereby weakening the Central rule -already happening – or break away completely, if not for political reasons but for furthering prospects of economic benefits through greater integrationin the region including Sri Laanka and Say ASEAN.
    This is is not a prospect which is outside the long distance radar of the US. Applying the theory of no permanent friendships but permanent interests,the US could be working on a future agenda of a divided India.India was never a single nation country till the British created it on the eve of their departure, even that by dividing it into two, now become three with Bangladesh. Politics is a strange game. Who thought the USSR would break up, or former Yugoslavia would. US policy is to destabilise the rest of the world and to see it triumphing over others.
    The oft repeated view that Sri Lanka is of no strategic importance to the US has to be approached with some caution. It was the existence of a perception of US strategic interest in Sri Lanka which made Mrs Gandhi to statein Lok Sabha that India was threatened from the south as much as from the north and west and later train SL TAmil militant groups in sophisticated warfare.India objected to Iranwla facility being given to VOA,and permitting US warships in Trincomalee even on R/R visits. Objected to the oil storage tanks in Trincomalee being given to any foreign firm having even a distant link with the US. Finally, the Letters Exchanged under the RAjiv-JRJ accord made sure that Sri Lanka abdicate her sovereign rights of deciding on matters regarding the use of Trincomalee harbour and the oil storage facilities.As General Harkirat Singh observes, the training given to SL TAmil mlitants in underwater demolition was intended to attck foreign ships other than Indian entering Trincomalee.
    Can one say that the US has no strategic interest in Sri Lanka? Yes, she might not want to disturb the present status quo but with the long distance prospects of the emergence of a strong south India, the situation might become different. Could not this be the reason why the US is so keen on devolution of power to the north? Like India, the US would like to see a strong North and East Provincial governments emerging which will mean loosening Colombo’s control over these coastal areas and especially, Trincomalee. .

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      International Watch

      Why do you think Trincomalee is important to USA?

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        It is among the few natural harbours with a depth that could accommodate future generations of ships with deep drafts. The other reason could be that the Asian super highway promoted by UNESCAP in 1959 having a direct link to India is to be linked to Trincomallee. The RDA has already developed Mannar Road from Vanni to Asian standards and the other link from Vanni to Trincomallee is being planned.

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    Mr Puri seems to have trapped the Rajapakses to make yet another colossal mistake. The all-powerful Defence Secretary breaks protocol expected of public officials, once again, in crossing swords with Puri. GR’s statement (ughhh) was given prominence in the State media and publications. He could not have done this without getting the nod from Aiya. He uses the opportunity to make the more important suggestion there will be no PC elections in the North. The state uses a friendly media facility today to feature an article where the Writer argues this should not be allowed – making reference to the Sarkaria and Punchchi Commissions on Union-State relationships and some negative references to the federal structure. The point is many of those examples do not apply to Sri Lanka. The Federal arrangement, at any rate, is not entirely free of glitches. The Rajapakses are committed, to many relevant sources other than New Delhi, to allow NP Elections and cannot pull back now even if the Rajapakse Brothers have cause to argue on the issue.

    Things are hotting up in the Tamilnadu and Indian sides. Minister in the PMO Shri Narayanasamy, in an unprecedented move, contradicts Gothabaya’s pugnacious Statement in this morning’s National TV – using strong language. Looks like the regime is upping the ante e.g. the film industry’s tit-for-tat inordinate gathering at Independence Square. The next another noisy demo opposite the IHC office at Kollupitiya lead by screaming yellow-robed monks – a stale feature now??? Indian media speculates Sri Lanka’s anger appears to be more on the rebuff MR supposedly received when no Union VIP was there to receive him in his last visit.

    Senguttuvan

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    We Sinhalese are such smart and strong race. ;)

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    SARDARJI! INDIANS CAN BE WITH THE INDIANS BUT THEY CANT BE WITH THE KASHMIRI INDIANS?

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