|Foreign Minister acknowledges India’s support to safeguard Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial|
|Tuesday, 21 October 2008 09:45|
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, making a statement in Parliament today (21st October 2008),stated that India has made its position on defeating terrorism very clear, and if there is a country that has helped Sri Lanka to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is India. The Minister was responding to statements by Parliamentarians Vijitha Herath(JVP), Wimal Weerawansa (National Freedom Front)and Joseph Michael Perera (UNP) on the floor of the House.
Minister Bogollagama commenced his statement, by referring to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s telephone call to Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh last Saturday ,18th October at 1.00 p.m, during which he briefed the Indian leader on Sri Lanka’s present course of action to defeat terrorism, disarm the LTTE and restore peace in the North. An important matter which was discussed was the issue of civilians displaced due to the conflict. The Minister said that Sri Lanka has a long history of effectively and efficiently dealing with internally displaced persons (IDPs). For the last 15 to 16 years, the Government has looked after Muslims in the IDP camps in Puttalam District. Even after the A9 route was blocked, the Government ensured that the 600,000 people in the Jaffna peninsula are being provided with food and essential supplies by sea. Sri Lanka has also earned international praise for the exemplary manner in which the Government took care of the safety and well being of all civilians during the Eastern Province clearing operations last year.
The Minister speaking further said that President Rajapaksa had assured the Indian Prime Minister that the Government of Sri Lanka is taking all measures for the welfare and the safety of the civilians displaced, particularly in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts. He highlighted the strong bonds of friendship and trust that the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration has forged with India, as a manisfestation of the longstanding and historical ties between Sri Lanka & India. He emphasized that India and Sri Lanka are maintaining a sustained and cordial dialogue at a very high political level. Referring to the various protests in Tamil Nadu, ostensibly in solidarity with Tamils, Minister Bogollagama said that in a democracy, there is space for protest. There is room to express divergent views and opinions. In this regard, he pointed out to the demonstration in Rameshwaram yesterday. On this occasion, the action of the Tamil Nadu Police clearly demonstrated to the LTTE activists and sympathizers that India regards the LTTE as a terrorist organization which is banned in the country. This was manifested by the Tamil Nadu Police removing the LTTE flags that were displayed.
The Minister responded to four questions raised by Parliamentarian, Vijitha Herath, as follows.
1. Q- What are the pressures exerted by the Indian Government on the Sri Lankan Government to stop the military operation against terrorism?
A-There has been no such pressure
2. Q- What is the action taken by the Sri Lankan Government regarding such pressures?
A- Does not arise.
3. Q- What is a Sri Lankan Government position regarding the pressures exerted by India on Sri Lanka’s political independence?
A- Does not arise
4. Q- Is the Government prepared to succumb to Indian pressure and implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and enhance the powers to the Provincial Councils?
A- We are awaiting the proposals of the All Party Representatives Committee in this regard.
The Minister categorically emphasized that the Government has not faced any kind of external pressure from any quarter regarding the operations by the security forces to defeat terrorism and disarm the LTTE. In response to a question by Parliamentarian, Ravi Karunanayake, the Minister said “it is important at this stage that I address in English because I spoke in Sinhala and the Hon. Member seems to have not understood what I said. So now the answer to that is “no” again. No interference, no influence, no dictation from any country in the world to Sri Lanka’s agenda in countering terrorism”. Member Karunanayake thanked Minister Bogollagama for his comprehensive reply.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
21st October 2008