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Lanka resolution: Uproar in parliament, India undecided

Tuesday March 13, 2012 08:17:09 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: The allegations of "war crimes" during Sri Lanka's bloody civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Tuesday triggered a massive uproar in parliament, with the government indicating that it has not made up its mind on the UN resolution on the issue.

Two key Tamil Nadu parties -- DMK and AIADMK -- came together in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to vociferously ask the Indian government to vote against Sri Lanka on a US-sponsored resolution before the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Geneva on war crimes.

Seeking to pacify the MPs from Tamil Nadu, the government informed parliament that no date had yet been finalised for the debate at the international forum on the war crimes resolution. "Our traditional stand has been that we have never supported any country-specific resolution at the UNHCHR," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha.

Mukherjee also said no date had been fixed for the resolution against Sri Lanka moved by France, Norway and the US.

He said India's stand can be decided in due course, adding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already written two letters to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi on the ssue.

"If members want further clarification, I will request the External Affairs Minister to make a brief statement," Mukherjee, who is also the Leader of the Lok Sabha, said.

Government sources indicated that India is in touch with various countries, including Sri Lanka, over this contentious issue. Dilip Sinha, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry, is in Geneva and is engaged in discussions with other stakeholders. Much will depend on the wording of the resolution, said the sources.

The sources said that given the sensitivity of the resolution and its ramifications on India's relations with Sri Lanka, it will weigh in carefully before deciding a stand on it.

Last week, Krishna had said that India would take a final call on its stand on the US-backed resolution after taking into account overall relations between India and Lanka, besides the sentiments prevailing in Tamil Nadu.

In his letter to Karunanidhi, the prime minister said India attaches "high priority" to the safety, prosperity and well-being of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

He also said that New Delhi has been consistent in drawing Colombo's attention for a political settlement since the end of the internal conflict three years ago.

"We are engaged with all parties in an effort to achieve an outcome that is forward-looking and that ensures that rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust between concerned parties, a way forward is found on issues related to accountability and reconciliation."

Manmohan Singh said the Indian government's objective remains the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.

In the Rajya Sabha, agitated members from the DMK and AIADMK, supported by opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India, forced adjournment for day on the issue.

The government tried to placate the agitated members with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal saying a statement will be made by Krishna Wednesday, but this assurance did not cut ice with a belligerent opposition.

Bansal said India's "meticulous adherence (to) and respect for human rights is respected the world over. I have got the views of members here and would not like to comment excepting that at this time we do not know what is the resolution before the council."

BJP's S.S. Ahluwalia and Venkaiah Naidu backed the demand of the DMK and AIADMK members. "It is a sensitive issue and we cannot (close) our eyes and ears as atrocities are being committed," Naidu said.

"The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (J. Jayalalithaa) has raised this issue with the prime minister. We want an answer from the prime minister... Will they (India) support the UN resolution?" said V. Maitreyan of AIADMK.

DMK MP Tiruchi Siva urged the government to back the resolution.

In the Lok Sabha, as soon as the house convened, DMK member T.R. Baalu demanded that the government support the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka in UNHCHR. Baalu was backed by his party colleagues and members from the AIADMK and the CPI.





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President Pratibha Patil (in white sari) being ceremonially escorted for her address to a joint sitting of parliament on the opening day of the budget session on Monday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is at left. Vice President Hamid Ansari is at the right, while Lok Sabha speaker is second from right.

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