In a letter, accessed by this correspondent exclusively for the Hindustan Times, chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province CV Wigneswaran on Friday declined the invitation of president Mahinda Rajapaksa to accompany him to PM-designate Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi on Monday, stating that he would otherwise be “guilty of facilitating tokenism”.
Rajapaksa’s invite was aimed at countering the vociferous criticism stemming from a rare consensus between Tamil Nadu political leaders Vaiko, Karunanidhi and CM Jayalalithaa, of New Delhi’s invitation to the Sri Lankan president along with dignitaries of other neighbouring countries.
TN leaders continue to allege ill-treatment of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority by Colombo, even after the end of the 26-year civil war in 2009.
“Acceptance would indicate that there exists a strong co-operative spirit prevailing between the Centre (Colombo) and the (Northern) Province, when, in fact, the Peoples of the North are engulfed in a climate of fear on account of the continued presence of the Military while the activities of the Northern Provincial Council have been stultified,” Wigneswaran wrote.
The former chief justice of Sri Lanka, however, struck a more conciliatory tone by acknowledging Rajapaksa’s invitation as an “auspicious sign that the historic election of Shri Narendra Modi has revived in the Government of Sri Lanka a sense of co-operation and partnership towards the Northern Province. Given the untold hardships of the Peoples of the Northern Province and the strictures on the functioning of the Northern Provincial Council, this is indeed welcome.”
Tremendous progress has been made to rehabilitate tens of thousands of displaced Tamils and rapidly develop the devastated North and Northeast after the civil war.
Wigneswaran himself had come to power in an election held for the first time in decades, and declared free and fair by international observers last September.
The letter ended with an appeal to Rajapaksa, that “the spirit of partnership and goodwill expressed by your kind invitation would nevertheless continue to ensure that the electoral mandate of the Northern Province would be fulfilled and the fundamental rights of its Peoples are preserved.”
Padma Rao Sundarji is a senior freelance foreign correspondent based in New Delhi