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Let’s tackle terror in democratic way: PM
Urges visiting Commonwealth speakers, presiding officers to give suggestions
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
From the forum of the 20th Commonwealth Speakers’ Conference today, India denounced the growth of extremist ideologies and called for sustained international cooperation to tackle the threat of terrorism.

Inaugurating the conference in the capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said no quarter could be given to extremist forces and that terrorism needed to be eliminated in ways that “did not undermine the democratic foundations”.

Describing the growth of regional parties as a challenge for governance and conduct of parliamentary democracy, he said: “Though the aspirations of smaller parties may often be anchored in narrow considerations, they carry great weight for their constituents. In the end, democracy must respond to everyday concerns of the common man and Parliament should be the forum to address such concerns.” The remark was in obvious reference to the growing influence of sub-regional parties in coalition politics and Parliament.

But the strongest message the Prime Minister sent out today was against terrorism, as he urged the 46 visiting speakers and presiding officers (nine of them women) to “give insight into ways to tackle terrorism”. Among attending nations is Pakistan, which continues to draw India’s ire for its failure to bring to justice the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. While 14 countries did not respond to India’s invites for the biennial conference, eight, including Cyprus, absented themselves.

Presiding officers from 42 Commonwealth nations were present (some in traditional speaker robes) as Singh listed the challenges before the speaker in times of coalition politics. Interestingly, his reference came with praises for Meira Kumar, the first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha, who, he said, “Sheathed the proverbial iron fist beneath a velvet voice.”

A humbled Meira, who had earlier in her opening address admitted to the challenges of a Speaker’s evolving role, smiled, so did Sylvia Heal, woman deputy Speaker of the UK House of Commons who shared the dais with Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Peter Miliken.

A grand affair, the inaugural at Vigyan Bhavan (also attended by BJP senior leader LK Advani and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj) saw the Prime Minister setting the pitch for the conference, which will discuss the speaker’s role as a mediator and administrator of Parliament and use of technology in disseminating information on parliamentary proceedings.

The forum also saw India voicing the aspirations of developing nations on climate change, as the Prime Minister mentioned how smaller states were bearing the brunt of climate change, in contributing which they did little. “Issues relating to climate change required a collective and cooperative approach based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility,” he said.

For its part, India shared with the participants today its dream of economic growth, with Singh saying, “If India’s experiment to attain economic salvation within a democratic polity succeeds and we are able to banish poverty in a generation, it will answer the question of whether a democracy can sustain rapid economic development.”

On the front of democracy, too, the host had a lot to flaunt, including the fact that it has over one million elected women representatives in its local bodies and 70 per cent voters below 35 years. Both found generous references in the Prime Minister’s speech, which also made promises of greater political representation for women.



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