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CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday condemned the invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26.
In a strongly worded statement, Jayalalithaa said, “The sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu and Tamils living in other parts of India and abroad are well known in the matter pertaining to Sri Lankan Tamils. There has been a general election to the Lok Sabha and a new government is to take charge in a few days, but this in no way alters the already existing strained relations between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.”
Stating that the UPA government had ignored the resolutions passed by the assembly, the chief minister said, “We had hoped that the new government would be sympathetic to the cause of Tamils and friendly to the Tamil Nadu. However, even before the new Prime Minister and the new government assume office, this unfortunate move of inviting the Sri Lankan President to attend the swearing-in ceremony has deeply upset the people of Tamil Nadu and wounded their sentiments all over again. This is tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of the already deeply injured Tamil psyche.”
The whole country and indeed the entire world was aware of the various resolutions passed in the Tamil Nadu assembly during the last three years with regard to the war crimes, ethnic pogrom and genocide perpetrated against the Sri Lankan Tamil people by the Sri Lankan army under the Rajapaksa government during the final stages of the civil war, she said.
“We demanded an economic embargo on Sri Lanka and urged that India should take the lead in bringing a resolution in the United Nations for those accused of war crimes and genocide to be brought before the International Court of Justice and that they should be made to face trial. But the previous central government chose to ignore the resolutions passed by the assembly by not taking any action and thereby trampled on the sentiments of the Tamils,” Jayalalithaa said.
Rajapaksa has confirmed that he would attend the oath taking ceremony.
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The decision to invite the Lankan president has also not gone down well among BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies.
MDMK chief Vaiko had condemned the decision to invite Rajapaksa. Vaiko said Congress was decimated in the recent elections in Tamil Nadu as it took several anti-Tamil measures and also supported the Lankan army in the ethnic war.
BJP’s other alliance partners in Tamil Nadu, including PMK and DMDK, are also upset with the Rajapaksa participation.
“Even for the swearing-in of the NDA government in 1998 and 1999, and the Manmohan Singh government in 2004 and 2009, the Lankan President was not invited. BJP should take this into consideration,” Vaiko said.
Vaiko made an appeal to Modi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and NDA leaders not to permit Rajapaksa to participate in the ceremony. “The news that an invitation has been sent to Rajapaksa has come as a jolt,” Vaiko said in a statement.
Justifying the invite, Tamil Nadu BJP leader Pon Radhakrishan said the alliance partners and other TN parties should understand the need to have a friendly neigbhour. “This will not change our commitment towards the cause of Lankan Tamils. Rajapaksa may be facing charges of war crime but he is the head of a nation. The leaders should not always look at issues through coloured glasses,” he said.
When contacted, Sri Lankan high commissioner to India Prasad Kariawasam told TOI, “Our President will attend the swearing-in ceremony of India’s new government. He was invited by PM-designate Narendra Modi.” When asked about Vaiko’s opposition, Kariawasam said it’s an internal issue of India and he doesn’t want to comment.