Sri Lanka's TNA leaders in Delhi for talks



New Delhi: Leaders of Sri Lanka's Tamil National Alliance arrived on Wednesday for talks with the top leadership here as part of India's continuing engagement with the government and political parties of that country over the process of reconciliation and meaningful devolution.

A seven-member delegation headed by TNA Parliamentary Party leader R Sampanthan will be here till Saturday during which they will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and apprise them about the current situation.

"The visit is part of our continuing engagement with the government and political parties in Sri Lanka in regard to the process of reconciliation and meaningful devolution through which Sri Lanka seeks to secure for all its citizens a future marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect," MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

The delegation, which is here on an invitation from Krishna, will exchange views with National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, besides meeting Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. Akbaruddin said India has been involved in a substantial manner in rehabilitation and resettlement efforts of Internally Displaced Persons and the reconstruction process in Northern Sri Lanka.

"It has been widely acknowledged that our assistance in Sri Lanka in the areas of housing, de-mining, education, public health and connectivity has helped restore a degree of normalcy in the area," he added.

The high-level visit has raised hopes in Sri Lanka that India would nudge TNA to join the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee to thrash out a political solution to the conflict that ended in 2009.

The TNA has been opposed to joining the PSC, saying there was no clarity on the agenda. However, the government holds that bilateral talks with the TNA falls short of inclusivity of all stakeholders in attempts to achieve a lasting solution.

The TNA had given clear hints in the past week that it would seek India's intervention in the process to find a political solution. Party MP Suresh Premachandran had last week said that the TNA would consider joining the PSC if India sets the agenda for such a forum.

The delegation consists of MPs Mavai S Senathirajah, K Premachandran, P Selvarasa, A Vinayagamoorthy, A Adaikkalanathan and M A Sumanthiran. A TNA delegation had also visited India in July, 2010.

Emerging as a powerful minority Sri Lankan Tamil political alliance in Sri Lanka, TNA secured a landslide victory in northern Sri Lanka in 2010 parliamentary polls.

The TNA, which handed over its proposals for a political solution to Sri Lankan government last year during its series of talks with the ruling party, has been asking for total devolution of powers to the provinces and transfer of 'extensive financial and fiscal powers' to the provinces including land and police powers.

Talks between the government and the TNA have been deadlocked at the moment given the differences of opinion between the two sides on the participation in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee.

PTI