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India meddling in Sri Lanka affairs, says JVP

A leader of Sri Lanka's third largest political party asserts that India is again interfering in the country's affairs by forcing Colombo to devolve powers to minorities.
IANS | By MR Narayan Swamy, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2008 03:21 PM IST

A leader of Sri Lanka's third largest political party asserts that India is again interfering in the country's affairs by forcing Colombo to devolve powers to minorities.

Vijitha Herath of the Sinhala-Marxist Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) also said in an interview here that India's backing for a power sharing formula amounted to giving ideological backing to the Tamil Tigers.

"Indian ideas on devolution are indirect support to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) ideology," Herath told IANS shortly before returning home.

Herath, who is also secretary of the JVP's international affairs department, came to India to attend a meeting of the All India Forward Bloc at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

He praised his country's military for waging war against the LTTE. He was furious over what he said were appeals by India and the West to ask Sri Lanka again and again to go for a political solution to the ethnic conflict that has left some 70,000 people dead since 1983.

Herath, 39, argued that the LTTE needed to be defeated militarily before any political solution could be thought of. He argued that India could help Colombo militarily but it had no right to hector the country over a political solution.

After referring to the training of Tamil militants in the 1980s in India and the later Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka, the JVP said: "Now also the Indian government is trying to interfere in our internal matters.

"India wants Sri Lanka to give powers over land and police to provincial assemblies that were set up in line with the India-Sri Lanka accord of 1987. This is interference.

"If the Indian suggestion is implemented, the chief minister of the provincial council in the (war-hit) northeast may try to use the police force to create a separate state.

"Some Indian officers, but not all, are trying to mislead politicians in Delhi on this subject," he added, without taking names.

The JVP is a well-knit Sinhalese nationalist party with Marxist moorings that has carried out two armed insurrections in the 1970s and 1980s that left thousands dead.

It is now the third largest party in the 225-seat parliament, with 37 MPs. Though it supported Mahinda Rajapaksa when he became president in 2005, it is now in the opposition.

Asked about evidence that India meddled in Sri Lankan affairs, Herath said: "There are logical reasons to assume this. And as an experienced political party, we can understand this... There is a hidden hand.

"Not only India, but no country has a right to interfere in our problem. We don't have a problem if they have a dialogue with Sri Lanka as a neighbouring country.

"India must support us to defeat the LTTE militarily and ideologically. That's India's duty."

Does it mean that without outside support the LTTE cannot be defeated?

"If India and other countries support Sri Lanka, the LTTE can be defeated easily. Otherwise it will still be possible but it will become somewhat difficult."

Asked about the JVP's threats to call for a boycott of Indian goods if New Delhi continued to press for devolution of powers, he said his party would not take such a step.

"But we want to stress the idea of a boycott. It is something we learnt from Mahatma Gandhi."

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