Karunanidhi, Chidambaram slam Sri Lanka for humanitarian crisis (Lead)

April 23rd, 2009 - 7:28 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Chennai, April 23 (IANS) Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday blamed Sri Lanka for its humanitarian crisis as a ruling DMK-sponsored shutdown to press for ceasefire in the war-torn island brought life to a standstill in Tamil Nadu.
“Our shutdown is only to press for (a) Tamil victory and a permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka,” Karunanidhi said in a poem circulated among reporters.

Obliquely blaming the opposition AIADMK leader Jayalalitha as “(one of the few) obstacles and betrayers of the Tamil cause”, Karunanidhi called upon India to help Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

“Former prime ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi had accorded training to militant groups in forests and hills. But manipulation by Sri Lanka due to its divide and rule policy unfortunately triggered fratricidal conflicts resulting in (Tamil) cause’s loss,” Karunanidhi said.

Chidambaram, speaking to reporters after filing his nomination in Sivaganga constituency, blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealem (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government saying that “both failed to heed India’s requests for peace” resulting in the island’s humanitarian crisis.

Sivaganga is some 350 km south of here.

Chidambaram accused Sri Lanka of ignoring the humanitarian side and opting for a military solution.

“Colombo has erred more on this issue. It ought to realise that its army will not solve the problem. The justified solution can only be through according the Tamils (in Sri Lanka) the inalienable rights to live honourably, peacefully and as equals within a federal set up,” Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram refused to respond to questions on Karunanidhi’s demand to snap diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka and some organisations’ calls to allow LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran to seek political asylum in India.

Meanwhile, the dawn-to-dusk shutdown called by the DMK virtually crippled life in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The strike was near total with all establishments remaining closed. Since the government had indirectly sponsored the “voluntary shutdown”, all public transport remained off the roads.

Reports said life was also hit in many cities including Tiruchirappalli, Coimbatore, Salem, Erode, Madurai, Tuticorin, Tirupur and Villupuram.

While some government officials did report for work for election duty, most public and private sector workers were absent due to paucity of transport, according to police officials.

State Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta said arrangements had been made to ensure that candidates were able to file nominations for the Lok Sabha elections despite the shutdown.

An airport official said nine outgoing domestic flights had been cancelled, but the airlines had agreed to accommodate stranded passengers in the evening flights.

With the usually clogged arterial road Anna Salai devoid of traffic, young boys merrily played cricket there.

D. Masilamani, a 13-year-old and one of the players, and his mates had a general idea about the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka but doubted if the strike would have an impact on the situation.

“We are emotional and all that. But the fighting is happening some 1,000 km away. We are not (even) too bothered what happens in the next street,” said S.K. Muruga Das, a young player.

M. Bhupathy Rajan, 40, who runs an outlet selling electronic knick-knacks in Puducherry, was worried about a day’s business lost.

“I will end up losing Rs.2,500 in profits because vacationing crowds usually throng Puducherry this time of the year. All of us are angry about Tamil suffering in Sri Lanka, but should our governments not do something more useful than calling for shutdowns?”

A visiting non-resident Indian doctor found the apathy confusing.

“While Tamils in the US and Canada are demonstrating noisily against the Sri Lankan government’s military attacks, the general apathy here is confusing,” T.P. Ramakrishnan, a general practitioner on a private visit from Pennsylvania, told IANS.

Police sources said that apart from odd demonstration by a few lawyers, the situation was overall peaceful.

Colombo has refused to halt its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers. More than 100,000 grieving and fatigued Tamil civilians have fled the war zone, creating a huge humanitarian crisis.

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