PM flays Sri Lanka, mum on Geneva meet

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 08, 2013 14:20 hrs

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday launched a veiled attack on Sri Lanka, saying Tamils there must get "dignity and self respect", but kept mum on the upcoming UN human rights meet in Geneva.

In a rare public criticism, Manmohan Singh told parliament that India was "worried" about Sri Lankan Tamils and wants them to live with "dignity and self respect".

"There are problems in Sri Lanka; we have been worried about the fate of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka," Manmohan Singh said in the Rajya Sabha as part of a larger debate.

"It has been our effort to plead with the government of Sri Lanka that there must be political reconciliation, that without national reconciliation (the) situation cannot remain calm."

In a clear reference to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main Tamil grouping in Sri Lanka, Manmohan Singh asked Colombo to take the initiative to talk to the "Tamil top leadership".

Several rounds of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the TNA have failed to resolve the impasse on the political roadmap in that country since the Tamil Tigers were vanquished in May 2009.

"It has been our effort to work with the leadership in Sri Lanka and to ensure that Tamil people (there) do get a chance to live a life of dignity and self respect as equal citizens of the country."

The prime minister, however, made no reference to the meeting due this month in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council where the US has piloted a resolution pulling up human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

The resolution, being debated by UNHCR member countries, also flays Sri Lanka for not devolving powers to the Tamil minority and for not embracing a political resolution to its ethnic problem.

Opposition MPs have been pressing India to reveal its stand on Geneva.

The prime minister's comments follow widespread allegations of rights abuses in Sri Lanka during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in 2009 and since then.

Indian officials also say that Sri Lanka has failed to honour the commitments made by its leaders to India to go for a political resolution of the long running ethnic conflict after the LTTE's defeat.

The Manmohan Singh government is under intense pressure from political foes and one ally to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN meet in Geneva -- a la last year.

But in his speech Friday, Manmohan Singh made no reference to the Geneva meet or to allegations that the 12-year-old son of the slain Tamil Tigers chief V. Prabhakaran was killed in cold blood by the military.

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