M A I N   N E W S

Tamils will get their due, says Rajapaksa
Lanka backs India’s case for inclusion in an expanded UNSC
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Seven pacts signed

  • Both nations agree to mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.
  • Sin MoU on sentenced prisoners.
  • Would be renewing SDP schemes.
  • Will set up women’s trade facilitation centres and community learning centres.
  • Cultural exchange programme to be restarted.
  • Electricity grids to be interconnected.
  • Treaty on Talaimannar-Madhu railway line.

New Delhi, June 9
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today sought to cool down tempers in India over the plight of Tamils in his island nation by promising to quickly resettle displaced Tamils and expedite a political solution to the ethnic issue.

The two countries also signed seven agreements, including a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and an MOU on sentenced prisoners, after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Rajapaksa.

Briefing reporters on the Sri Lankan leader’s engagements, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the two countries announced a major initiative to undertake a programme of construction of 50,000 houses for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka with India’s assistance.

India would also be taking up several projects for the reconstruction of the North and the East, including rebuilding of railway infrastructure, rehabilitation of Kankesanthurai harbour and Palaly Airport, construction of a cultural centre in Jaffna and several vocational training centres, renovation of the Duraiappaj stadium and rehabilitation of war widows.

The two countries also decided to resume the ferry services between Colombo and Tuticoran and between Thalaimannar and Rameswaram. India would also establish consulates general in Jaffna and Hambantota. India would also assist the island country in setting up a thermal power plant at Trincomalee.

At their one-on-one meeting which was followed by delegation-level talks, the Indian PM and the Sri Lankan President also discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, including the proposed comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), as well as international issues. Sri Lanka supported India’s case for inclusion in an expanded UN Security Council as well as its candidature for a non-permanent seat for the 2011-2012 term.

The PM told the Lankan leader that Sri Lanka’s emergence from decades of conflict offered a historic opportunity to spearhead an era of reconciliation where all communities could come together to realise a political settlement. He said a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th amendment, would create the necessary conditions for the purpose.

Sources said the Sri Lankan President was quite receptive to the PM’s observation. He reassured the Indian leader about Colombo's plan to expeditiously resettle the displaced Tamils who continue to live in refugee camps. He also briefed Singh about steps taken by his government to forge a consensus on a political solution to the ethnic conflict revolving around devolution of powers to the minorities.

‘’The meeting went off very well…our relationship with Sri Lanka is as much an affair of the heart as of the head,’’ the sources added.

The five other agreements, signed after the talks between the two sides, were: renewal of MoU on SDP schemes, MoU on setting up of a women’s trade facilitation centre and community learning centre, renewal of cultural exchange programme, MoU on interconnection of electricity grids and MoU on Talaimannar-Madhu railway line.

The Sri Lankan leader, who is on his fist visit to India after his re-election in January, held a series of meetings during the course of the day, including a significant one with a DMK-Congress delegation from Tamil Nadu, which expressed concern over the sufferings faced by Tamils displaced due to the war against the LTTE.

The delegation, led by DMK leader TR Balu, reminded Rajapaksa of his promise to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons (IDPs) by December 2009 and pointed out that more than 50,000 were still living in camps.





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