Wednesday, June 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt firm on Lanka unity
No censorship on opinion: George

CHENNAI, June 6 (PTI) — Defence Minister George Fernandes today sought to downplay NDA partner and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s idea of a possible division of Sri Lanka, saying individual parties might have different views, but the government remained committed to Sri Lanka’s unity.

Answering questions from mediapersons at the airport and after a function here, he said what mattered was ‘‘discipline’’ among coalition partners in ‘action’.

‘‘They may articulate their views. As a government, we have a programme, but there has been no decision that parties in the coalition should not articulate their views,’’ he said.

‘‘What the National Democratic Alliance expects is discipline in action, but there is no censorship on opinion.’’

Asked to react to Mr Karunanidhi’s suggestion that Sri Lanka could agree to a Czech-Slovak model separation, Mr Fernandes declined to comment, saying it was a ‘‘point of view’’.

‘‘Karunanidhi is the Chief Minister and leader of a large party. I don’t believe he needs any kind of advice,’’ he said. Parties, he said, catered to different constituencies, ‘‘but as a government, we have to act together.’’

The Defence Minister reiterated the government’s stand that it was ready to provide humanitarian aid, if ‘both sides to the conflict’ asked for it.

NEW DELHI: Meanwhile, a day after Colombo reacted strongly to NDA ally DMK’s suggestion that Sri Lanka should be split on the Czech model to resolve its ethnic conflict, the Centre today maintained that its position on upholding the territorial integrity of that country ‘‘is consistent, well-known and unchanged’’.

New Delhi has consistently held that it was committed to the maintenance of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka which it described as a friendly neighbouring country.

‘‘The position of the government of India on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is consistent, well-known and unchanged,’’ a Foreign Office spokesman said.

The BJP today brushed aside Colombo’s remarks that any attempt to partition Sri Lanka, as suggested by DMK chief M. Karunanadhi, would result in the ‘‘balkanisation’’ of India saying ‘‘India was strong enough to face any eventuality.’’

BJP Vice-President J.P. Mathur said ‘‘not a single part of India is going to break away. We have had the experience of partition and seen that there was no peace between the two countries (India and Pakistan).’’



Karunanidhi sticks to stand

CHENNAI, June 6 (PTI) — Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi today launched a scathing attack on the critics of his suggestion for a Czech model solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife saying those who talked of the country’s unity and integrity did so from their “air-conditioned comfort” without understanding the ground realities.

Stating that his suggestion was based on a “humanitarian approach and was not rooted in “linguistic chauvinism”, the DMK leader said people would understand it better if they came out of their “ivory tower” and took note of ground realities in Sri Lanka.

“There ought to be a distinction between those who talked of Sri Lanka’s unity sitting in air-conditioned comfort and poring over a world map, and those who understood the ground realities,” Mr Karunanidhi, whose DMK party is a constituent in the ruling NDA at the Centre, said in a five-page statement.

Mr Karunanidhi asked his “hasty critics” to consider his stand as one that strengthened Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s position that the crisis should be solved peacefully and that the island government should shed its policies against ‘Eelam’, a separate state for Tamils.

“There is nothing wrong in my raising the question as to what sort of political solution should be found in Sri Lanka; whether it envisages a quasi-federal or conferdrational set-up or will it involve the Czech-Slovak type separation,” he said defending his suggestion.

Asserting that he mooted the idea for lasting peace in the country, Mr Karunanidhi said: “Nobody will oppose it if Tamils in Sri Lanka are given all rights and considered equal to Sinhala-speaking citizens. However, talking in terms of temporary solutions without conferring rights on Tamils amounts to postponing the problem.”

Referring to reports of large-scale desertions from the Sri Lankan army, he said: “The troops lacked motivation and seemed to relish the prospect of quitting the forces and taking up peaceful employment.

“In such a situation, whenever that government faced some danger, sending some mercenary force as a temporary step can never be the proper course of action or a permanent solution.”

Tracing the history of Sinhala-Tamil relations since Sri Lanka’s independence, the DMK chief said there should be some sort of political resolution of the conflict that had ‘exacerbated mutual bitterness’ over the past 25 years.

“Please select one of the avenues available and stop the war. Stop making refugees of the people and creating hardship to Tamil Nadu and let there be peace in India’s backyard. This is my appeal,” he said.

“It may seem bitter, but for all the anger and hostility created over the last quarter century, this is the most efficacious medicine that will be a permanent cure.’

Mr Karunanidhi said if the two sides agreed to any form of political settlement and went in for either separation or a quasi-federal or confederal set-up, there would be no danger to India, Tamil Nadu or South Asia.


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