BY S VENKAT NARAYANOur Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, April 25: Leader of the Opposition in Indian Parliament’s lower house Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday evening and briefed him about last week’s visit to Sri Lanka by an all-party team of 12 MPs.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai were present during the meeting.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday that during her meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, she discussed devolution of powers to provinces, as envisaged in the 13th Amendment to the island nation’s Constitution.
Ms Swaraj, who led an all-party parliamentary delegation to the island-nation for a first-hand assessment on the post-war situation in the country, said she urged Rajapaksa to hold ‘negotiations with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to resolve the grievances of Tamils.
"TNA wants a negotiated settlement. Its members say they are proud Sri Lankans. They are against violence and stand for an undivided Sri Lanka. So, we asked the government: What is the hitch? We made a fervent appeal to both parties — the Tamils and the government — for settling the issues," Ms. Swaraj said.
Rajapaksa told the delegation that he could only request the TNA and not force them to be part of the Parliamentary Select Committee which had been tasked to work out a solution acceptable to all stakeholders.
Ms Swaraj said the delegation also discussed the demand of the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern provinces for withdrawal of the Army.
"They (security personnel) come to birthday parties uninvited or enter temples," Tamils complained to the visiting Indian parliamentarians.
She said Sri Lankan leaders raised the issue of India voting in favour of the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 22. They are upset with New Delhi for voting for the resolution.
Ms Swaraj and her colleagues pointed out to their hosts that the UNHRC resolution only talks about the need for the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations of a commission appointed by its President himself.
She said there was "nothing extraordinary in the UNHRC resolution. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is "their own baby." So they should go by its recommendations. "But they had no answer."
Asked for her impressions about the visit, she said: "I would say I am satisfied with our visit."
"The rehabilitation efforts are good, and ahead of schedule," she added.