‘Eelam merchants’ stay mum on Narendra Modi’s Sri Lanka visit

The Tamil parties fell silent yet again as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka on May 12 — his second trip to the island nation in two years, to reinforce the traditional connect between the two nations. His two-day visit to Sri Lanka to attend the biggest Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ as its chief guest at Colombo from May 12 to 14, and not visiting the Tamil areas saw no strong opposition in Tamil Nadu

Modi’s second visit comes at a time when China is trying to make inroads in the island nation. “Sri Lankan Minister Mano Ganesan feles Indian origin Tamils feel assured and confident under President Maithripala’s government but will the Eelam Tamils here agree?” asks BJP national secretary H. Raja.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka is expected to further strengthen New Delhi-Colombo ties. Bilateral ties have been on an upswing, especially after Maithripala Sririsena was elected Sri Lanka’s president in January 2015 defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa whose pro-China tilt was watched with disquiet by South Block.

DMK working president M K Stalin asked Modi to use his influence to secure the release of fishermen in Lankan prison along with their boats.

MDMK chief Vaiko, the vociferous supporter of LTTE is in prison and other smaller parties are silent.

Congress party on Friday while drawing upon the ongoing tussle between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu over fishermen being detained said the issues needed to ‘properly handled’. “The chronic issues of fishermen being detained by the Sri Lankan authorities, presence of Tamilians in the island and other such issues need to be properly handled. I hope the Prime Minister has been briefed well by the Ministry of External Affairs prior to his meetings with the leaders there,” said Congress leader Tom Vadakkan

“The NDA government recently sponsored a resolution in support of Tamils in UNHCR and in Sri Lanka itself, the Tamil National Alliance under R Sampanthan is the opposition party. Thus the rights of Tamils are being safeguarded better than before,” south Asia military specialist Col (retd) R Hariharan told TOI.

Some say that most Tamil parties did not protest during this visit has Modi is not signing any big MoUs and the other reason is many of the fringe outfits must be apprehensive of action by intelligence agencies and income tax if they raise their voice against Modi, a blackmailing style Mahinda used in Sri Lanka during his ruling time thus many of these outfits are silent.

BJP state secretary K.T. Raghavan said “even during his earlier visit (to Jaffna) there has been no protest. He is instrumental in a way for the betterment of Lankan Tamils. After he became Prime Minister he has taken steps to restore dignity and lifestyle of the Sri Lankan Tamils. In addition to 4,000 houses he has announced additional 10,000 houses in up country areas where Indian Tamils live in Sri Lanka. These are positive developments.” Those in TN are aware that due to PM’s initiative, the presence of army in northern province has minimised. “As against the killing of 700 Indian fishermen during UPA I and II regimes, the NDA rule has not seen the slaying of Indian fishermen but for a single incident,” Mr Raghavan added.

Hailing the visit, Union Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan said Mr Modi’s trip would brighten the lives of the Indian Tamils there.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has little foothold in Tamil Nadu and has been long devising plans to grow in the state.

In the past, AIADMK government under J Jayalalithaa passed a resolution in the Tamil Nadu assembly condemning the proposed visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting in Sri Lanka. Finally due to intense pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu, Singh cancelled his visit to the island nation.

Prime Minister Modi also met former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, in an unscheduled meeting in Colombo. Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu told reporters, while briefing them about the Prime Minister’s itinerary over the day, that the meeting was held at Rajapaksa’s request.

President Maithripala Sirisena today questioned the double standards of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa over his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that those who had called for black flag protests during Modi’s Sri Lanka visit suddenly wanted to meet him. The joint opposition has called for a black flag protest during Modi’s visit here to take part in the celebrations marking the UN ‘Vesak Day’, the most important in the Buddhist calendar.

The silence of the nationalist opposition let by Mahinda, shoed their inability to convert their verbal threats to any form of public protest is an indication of their limited power in the country.

Indian government, bound by domestic political compulsions, covertly helped the Sri Lankan army and navy to scour out and destroy the LTTE. In May 2009 alone more than 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan forces which was supported by Indian forces.

Mr. Wickramasinghe blamed the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for “playing the China card against India and India card against China,” adding that Mr. Modi’s visit was a “goodwill one to restore the ties between the two countries.”

But in remarks that will raise eyebrows in Delhi, Mr. Wickramasinghe told Thanthi TV that Indian politicians might have developed “amnesia” over the fact that India had assisted Mr. Rajapaksa in killing the the LTTE in 2009. “Without the help of India, President Rajapaksa could not have wiped out the LTTE. He got that help and he agreed to give concessions even beyond the 13th amendment … But he did not do so …,” the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said.


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