Reaffirming his government’s stand on repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Tuesday lashed out at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi for criticising the State for not participating in a meeting convened by Centre on this issue.Mr. Panneerselvam sought to know what was wrong in his government’s stand that the meeting, where India and Sri Lanka discussed the matter on January 30, 2015, should be held only after the goodwill and rehabilitation efforts of the Maithiripala Sirisena-led government were implemented.
“Neutral observers will accept that such a decision was taken because of our concern for the refugees here,” he said.Quoting the reported remarks of Sri Lankan MP Seenithamby Yogeswaran that the situation in the northeast was not “conducive” for Tamils to live and that the new government was making efforts to change that and settle them there and then address the refugee issue, the Chief Minister said this echoed his government’s stand. “Our stand is that Tamils living in camps in Sri Lanka should be rehabilitated first and only after that the meeting about repatriation of refugees should have been held,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Panneerselvam had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking deferment of the January 30 meeting, saying it was premature since the situation was not conducive for repatriation of Tamil refugees. Mr. Karunanidhi had criticised the move, saying a wonderful opportunity to speak on the status of Sri Lankan Tamils in the light of change of regime in the island nation was lost.
Mr. Panneerselvam criticised Mr. Karunanidhi on Sri Lankan Tamils issue, saying the previous UPA regime, in which the DMK was a key constituent, had helped Colombo with military equipment and expertise to face the rebel LTTE in ethnic clash that saw heavy Tamil civilian casualties.“It is condemnable that Karunanidhi, who has not done anything for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, has issued a statement in favour of the refugees,” he said.
The ruling AIADMK has been delivering various welfare measures for Sri Lankan refugees in the State, with his predecessor Jayalalithaa expanding government schemes to benefit them, he said.While the Centre had allocated Rs. 37.30 crore for them in 2013-14, the State government had spent Rs. 111 crore for their welfare, he said.