9 August, 2020

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Indian Parliamentary Delegation To Colombo – Some Observations

By Col. R. Hariharan –

Col. R. Hariharan

(Here is my response to specific questions raised by media on the Indian parliamentary delegation’s visit to Colombo on April 16, 2016.)

1.     Is this parliamentary delegation on a goodwill visit or fact finding mission to Colombo?
The visit is a reciprocal visit from our parliament after a parliamentary delegation from Sri Lanka visited India. Such delegations are regularly exchanged between many countries; in fact a Sri Lanka parliamentary delegation visited Pakistan in February 2011. So the overall objective of this delegation is also presumably to increase the goodwill between Indian and Sri Lankan parliamentarians.
But viewed in the rather strained situation of Indian vote for UNHCR resolution on Sri Lanka, it has assumed a lot of political overtones both in India and Sri Lanka. Any Indian parliamentarian going to Sri Lanka has to look at the progress made in rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes for Tamils in Sri Lanka for which India has allotted large sums of money. So from that point of view this delegation also has a “fact finding” mission; however, in the present political context it will have enlarged responsibility on understanding the human rights situation also.  And for any real “fact finding” goodwill of Sri Lanka is also needed; so if you want positive outcome, you cannot separate the two objectives as they are complimentary rather than contradictory.
2.    The visit of the delegation became controversial particularly after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa condemned the move and withdrew her representative from the delegation and the DMK also pulled out thereafter. Under such circumstances, do you think goodwill would be increased between the two countries by the delegation’s visit? 
There is no doubt that both countries need to build upon the goodwill already existing at all levels. This requirement has become more urgent after it was eroded both in India and in Sri Lanka after India voted for the UNHCR resolution on Sri Lanka. From this point of view, sending a parliamentary delegation was a laudable initiative to improve the relations.
There is a large Tamil constituency in India which has been concerned at Sri Lanka’s insensitivity and callousness in not responding to international concerns on allegations of human rights violations and war crimes perpetrated against Tamils in Sri Lanka. The ethnic reconciliation process is also making tardy progress.  Actually India’s vote for the UNHCR resolution reflected these concerns; however, Sri Lanka does not seem to be very keen to address these concerns with any urgency.
Moreover, there had been a lot of political grand-standing between the two Dravidian parties over the Sri Lanka Tamil issue ever since allegations of Sri Lankan army war crimes triggered strong emotions in Tamil Nadu. By virtue of DMK’s participation, the ruling coalition in New Delhi has also become target of AIADMK’s barbs on Sri Lanka issue.
The cock fight between the two parties became acute when they smelt blood with India’s vote in the UNHCR; so the dramatic last minute pull out of the AIADMK from the delegation was probably on the cards to increase its impact and embarrassment to the Centre, and the DMK following suite in such eventuality was equally certain.
Under these circumstances, it is doubtful whether the visit of a delegation would add any goodwill unless both countries had planned and prepared for it well in advance. I have my reservations on whether such preparation was done in this case.
I had expected the visit of the delegation to be postponed as the circumstances are not suited to produce best results. But New Delhi appears to have succumbed to other internal and international compulsions.  The delegation is headed by opposition leader Mrs Sushma Swaraj and her views have to be respected as it could generate avoidable polemics. Moreover, already the visit was postponed once due to the recent state elections in the North.
Apart from attending to the sensitivities of Southern Tamil constituency, the government has to keep in view the larger need to firm up its strategic relations with Sri Lanka. So probably it went ahead with the visit to show New Delhi’s solidarity with Sri Lanka despite the hiccups in the post UNHCR period. So we have the visit mired in controversy even before it took off.
One can only hope the delegation uses the opportunity to improve the lot of Tamils there as well as to reinforce India-Sri Lanka ties.
3.    Do you think an opportunity to assess the ground situation in Sri Lanka on the condition of Tamils was lost by the two Dravidian parties boycotting the delegation visiting Sri Lanka?
The visit did offer a valuable opportunity to both AIADMK and DMK to understand the situation in Sri Lanka first hand.  If they had really wanted to improve the lot of Tamils in Sri Lanka, they could have got in touch with Sri Lankan Tamil political and civil society leaders and based on their feedback worked out an itinerary for the delegation to understand the ground situation.  It would have indicated critical areas that required immediate action from both Colombo and New Delhi. And the two parties could  have based their decision to participate in the visit based on the replies from Colombo and New Delhi.
But unfortunately this is not the way most of the political parties conduct themselves in this country. And Tamil Nadu is no exception.  During the last three decades, there is a deadly contest between the two Dravidian stalwarts. Their focus is on proving who is a greater champion of Tamils, rather than who can produce better solutions to peoples’ problems.
Confrontation rather than finding common ground to evolve solutions has become the favoured option. And the coalition politics at national level has further aggravated this race between the two major Tamil Nadu parties.
The Sri Lankan Tamil issue has been a long standing victim of this unproductive, polemical politics. It is being milked now to kindle strong passions and emotions by all regional parties. And even national parties appear to be preparing to join them, if we go by political indicators. So most of the Tamil Nadu political leaders are not prepared to listen to moderate Sri Lankan or Indian Tamil voices and prefer sensational and negative outpourings from sections of Tamil Diaspora. And Sri Lanka’s studied indifference to taking positive action, has helped them further go ahead with this style of politics.
While AIADMK has opted for a confrontational path with Sri Lanka on the Tamil issue, DMK’s confused and reactive responses show it wants to retain its hold in the Centre while trying to maintain an aggressive posture on Sri Lanka.  As a result of this unseemly competition, objectives of both parties are short term and immediate. At present neither party appears to be keen on using goodwill with Sri Lanka to the advantage of Tamils, or avoid provocative posturing and use their political clout to pressurise New Delhi to help Sri Lankan Tamils.
4.     This appears to be a very pessimistic assessment; so what is the way forward?
It is realistic rather than pessimistic assessment. Ideally to resolve this issue, India needs a strong national leadership determined to achieve results. That does not appear to be in the horizon; so we will continue to have a lot of foot dragging on Sri Lanka issue also.
I don’t see either the coalition compulsions or competitive politics of Tamil Nadu ending in the near future, so both the Dravidian parties will continue to wield influence in New Delhi. Ideally, if the Sri Lanka issue ceases to be relevant to state politics as it happened after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination both the parties will lose interest in using it.
The only way for this to happen is for Sri Lanka to proactively take genuine action to respond to the peoples’ concerns. It has to be more systemic than the cosmetic attempts now being made. Then only the Tamil Diaspora’s voices would become more constructive than critical.
So Sri Lanka has a not so visible, but larger, responsibility in this imbroglio. Will Sri Lanka do it? That is another question and a much bigger subject.  (courtesy Hariharan’s Intelligence Blog)
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Latest comments

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    Dear Futuristic Lankans,
    I propose that the Leaders envision a better future for all of the people of our country not only the Tamil speaking voters. I propose to have five (5) federal States with Land & Police powers so that they would compete to be better than each other. The western is Maya Rata, southern is Ruhunu Rata, central is Uda Rata, north-central & east is Raja Rata and the north the ‘Ehalam’ Rata. Think how in fifty years time these five (5) Ratas (States) would compete & cooperate with each other in all activities of development from health to highways and education to trade & business. This happens very well in all the modern and developed countries from the west to Malaysia, Korea, India, China, Australia and Japan.
    We should look beyond our Fears and Doubts …. ancient Teachers taught us remember…..
    Why are we so backward to hung on to a stupid Unitary or centralized system of govt. Many examples can be seen to illustrate that a Unitary system doesn’t work in modern multi-cultural countries, a simple example is how inefficient the Public Bus Transport system in Colombo is sticking on to an ancient centralized system where every bus has to come to Pettah (Colombo 11) to turn, congest, park, shout and transfer its passengers……
    Our young people are more educated than US, let’s be more futuristic and enable our younger generation to live happily in a more enabling atmosphere.

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    Discrimination and pograms against Eelam tamils will continue because of the ‘ mahavamsa mind-set ‘and the Singhalese political leaders will continue the use of racial politics to win votes as well as their traditional dislike for tamils. So the best solution is to create Eelam for tamils so that both sides can compete in building a modern society in their respective countries and benefit from each other as what is happening in Malaysia and Singapore. 65 years of torture and struggle is enough proof that unity is impossible for the two races.

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      Hi Thurai,
      Don’t you know what happened to that man “Velu” who felt that the “Best Solution was Ealam”?

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    Will they get the usual Guided Tour or,will they be allowed to interact with citizens and civic groups without the immediate presence of army,police & state acters/aupporters/sycophants & allowed to get the true picture of what is happening ?
    Or, will their movements & interaction with citizens/civic groups be restricted on grounds of “security”?
    We shall see.

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      Das,
      There wont be a guided tour.Only independent analysts like me will accompany them.Can’t sent them alone because Tamil crooks might rob their jewelery.

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    Hi silva: You have to get the whole wold to protect you. what a shame . better jump in the well.

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    Thurai,
    You day dream that the whole world is at your disposal to realize your pipe dream Ealam?Go on dreaming old boy!As suggested by you i jumped in to my backyard well which is 3FT deep.But nothing happened.How about you taking a swim in the Nandikadal lagoon?

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      Max just a point for clarification. If you remember in 2008 August just before the NCP election where Janaka Perera contested, The MR govt. made a loud pronouncement that possibly on the day of the NCP election the Forces might capture the last stronghold of the LTTE where the LTTE with VP and a civilian population of around three hundred and eighty thousand were holed in Killinochchi. Sarath Fonseka made a boast that he would fire the first shot. However after the NCP election where the MR govt. fraudulently won killing scores of UNP including Dr. and Mrs. Babapulle family, the Forces did not capture Killinochchi the last hold of LTTE and the reason given was the heavy downfall of the Monsoon. But notwithstanding the Monsoon the Forces went on to capture less important places as Mullativu and some small towns till the monsoon settled and in January 2009 after killing Lasantha Wickrematunge the Forces entered Killinochchi and found the LTTE and the civilian population had vacated Killinochchi and had moved to Puthukudiirippu a distance of sixty miles. Now it is difficult to imagine that the Forces were unaware of this exodus? Next the MR govt. was loudly proclaiming that the LTTE were using the civilians as a human shield and not alowing them to leave. However the civilians were wading the lagoon by the thousand per day in Rubber dingies and boats, obviously being shuttled. Now the question is if the LTTE was not allowing the civilians to leave how the civilians left and who provided the civilian population rubber dingies and boats to wade across the lagoon?

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    Ralf, your proposal for 5 states or ratas is indeed an interesting one. But as Mr Thuraisingham observes too many in the majority Sinhala community are hopelessly lost in the fictions of the Mahavamsa mind-set with their opportunistic politicoes milking it for all their worth. Eelam arose out of desperation and polarization. You would think that lesson has been learnt by now. It has not. Instead a vicious form of supremacy reigns in a regime run by goda goondas. God knows what it will take for sanity to prevail.

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    North Korea.. Tried to launch a weather satellite the US condemned it and imposed sanctions.. (rocket launch failed).. Now india Tested a Inter continental ballestic missile that can carry a Nuclear war head… No sanctions not a world from the US.. USa recently imposed a bounty on hafeez saeed wanted by India only and not the USA… but the USA imposed a $10 million bounty… so the question we should ask what else did USA give india for its treacherous vote against Sri-Lankan.. on phoney human rights?????… Nuclear weapons, wanted dead bountys… so much for Human rights.. simple observation

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    If india thinks,by making Sri Lanka give whatever the TNA asks,their problems in Tamil Nadu will cease they are making ostriches of themselves. Sooner New delhi realises that Karuna’s dream is not about Sri Lanka but about Tamil Nadu and that only he can’t say so in the open at the moment,the better. Today he is asking the centre to to request the UN to hold a referandum in the north and once its done what is there to prevent him from asking the same for Tamil Nadu?
    Col.Haraharan is right in one thing and that is that neither DMK nor AIADMK or any other TN party for that matter are concerned with the well being of the Tamil people in the north.

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    If India is content in holding the bucket for the USA for their support to get a seat in the security council as a permanant member, India will never be the power it wants to be but only be a US stooge like the EU.

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