Confusion in Tamil Nadu over Sri Lanka ‘ceasefire’

January 31st, 2009 - 1:13 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 30 (IANS) Conflicting reports of a “ceasefire” in Sri Lanka created confusion in political circles in Tamil Nadu Friday.State Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan read out a letter from External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the assembly claiming a 48-hour ceasefire had been called in Sri Lanka to help civilians move to safer places following India’s insistence during the minister’s recent visit to the island nation.

However, in the evening, a report from Colombo denied any “ceasefire”.

“No one spoke about a ceasefire and there is no ceasefire at present,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe was quoted as saying in Colombo.

“As the president of this country, Mahinda Rajapaksa has urged the LTTE to release innocent civilians it was holding hostage in the Mullaitheevu district within the next 48 hours,” Samarasinghe told reporters.

A senior DMK minister said: “We only know what Pranab Mukherjee said in his letter quoted in the assembly today. Other contradictions are matters to be clarified by our central government.”

Congress leaders were equally nonplussed.

“While we do not know what the Lankan minister is supposed to have said, our newspapers have clearly indicated the existence of a ceasefire in Sri Lanka and our (External Affairs Minister) Pranab Mukherjee has been quoted clearly in the matter in the assembly today,” a Congress legislator said.

“But, if what the Lankan minister said is true, it amounts to challenging India,” the legislator added.

Spokesmen of both the parties, however, maintained that regardless of the polemics, the facilitation accorded to Tamil civilians to reach safer places in the war-torn northern Sri Lanka amounted to a ceasefire.

On Oct 26 last year, Pranab Mukherjee had said India would not press for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka when MPs from Tamil Nadu had threatened to quit enmasse over alleged killings of Tamil civilians in the island.

“We are not demanding a ceasefire nor will we be a party to it,” Mukherjee had then said.

“India’s proactive measures - the aftermath of chief minister Kalaignar’s efforts to alleviate the sufferings of innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka have succeeded through a ceasefire,” Anbazhagan said earlier in the day at the state assembly.

In separate statements, ruling DMK leaders and Tamil Nadu Congress unit President K.V. Thangkabalu decried attempts by a misguided few to spread divisive tendencies in India.

Several demonstrations were held in Tamil Nadu Friday with protesters alleging India had “collued” with Sri Lanka’s military push against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that had left over 1,000 dead during the last 10 days.

A 26-year old man had committed self-immolation Thursday triggering attacks on a Lankan bank here. The diplomatic mission here is under heavy police protection.

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