Claiming that he had been misquoted as saying some parliamentarians from Tamil Nadu should be investigated for supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lankan High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam apologised for causing misgivings which led to the issue being raised in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday.
A little after Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K. Rehman Khan told agitated members led by Tiruchi Siva (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) that the Ministry of External Affairs was looking into the matter, Mr. Kariyawasam was called to the South Block and informed of the concerns of the government due to his purported remarks.
“The report has on some instances misquoted and on some instances taken out of context. It is very unfortunate that the headline says something like that and naturally the government of India, the Ministry of External Affairs has expressed concerns about the tone and the content. I am very sorry about that because that is not what I meant. I have a lot of respect for the Tamil Nadu Parliamentarians,” Mr. Kariyawasam clarified.
He said Colombo was probing the role of groups backing the LTTE and this had nothing to do with Indian MPs.
Terming the statement a “gross violation of all accepted diplomatic norms,” the Communist Party of India (CPI) wanted the government to take serious note of its tenor and register a strong protest with Sri Lanka.
Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, CPI MP D. Raja said only by asking Sri Lanka to call back its envoy, could India show that it was a power and could stand up to any challenge in the world. Taking part in the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's Address to the joint session of Parliament, he said the government cannot let down the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils.
The CPI's Lok Sabha member from Tenkasi P. Lingam in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also sought Mr. Kariyawasam's recall.
The Sri Lankan High Commissioner landed himself in a controversy at a time when there is furious lobbying by human rights groups worldwide and the Tamil diaspora for arraigning Colombo before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
On the other hand, Sinhala-dominated parties have taken to the streets in the island nation claiming the intention is to try Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, “who has brought peace to the nation,” for war crimes. They allege that overseas supporters of the militarily defeated LTTE are out to extract revenge against Colombo by presenting one side of the brutal conflict. The end-game between September 2008 and May 2009 is the focus of Sri Lankan and UN reports which form the basis of the resolution before the UNHRC.
If External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's statement in Parliament on Wednesday is any indication, India does not fully concur with the resolution that will come up for vote late next week.
Asked by MPs from Tamil Nadu to clarify India's stand on the resolution, Mr. Krishna said, “We are engaged with all parties in an effort to achieve a forward-looking outcome that is based on reconciliation and accountability rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust between the concerned parties.”