Rights’ for Sinhalese, Muslims under JM
By Frances Bulathsinghala
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentary Group
leader and TULF Secretary General R. Sampandan informed Indian External
Affairs Minister, K. Natwar Singh that the Muslims as well as the
Sinhalese would be given 'equal rights' in the event of the Joint
Mechanism with the LTTE being implemented.
Sampandan told The Sunday Times yesterday that during a discussion
between TNA members and the Indian External Affairs Minister last
Friday, the TNA had highlighted that they were 'deeply concerned'
in addressing the concerns of the north-east residing Muslims.
Natwar Singh was pleased with our response. We told him that we
considered the Muslims as our brothers and that we wanted the Joint
Mechanism to address concerns regarding the Muslims", said
also told him that we are pleased with the bilateral agreement signed
between India and Sri Lanka and that we would want India to play
a strong role in the country's peace process", he added but
refused to comment on the proposed Defence Pact with India.
and Sri Lanka, entering into a bilateral agreement to primarily
boost the industries and education sectors, hinted that a Defence
Pact was on the cards, with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar
confirming that the UPFA government would accept New Delhi's help
for Air Defence.
will certainly accept the defence assistance but we cannot say at
present when it would take the form of an agreement", Minister
Kadirgamar told journalists.
Indian stand is that it would support a peaceful solution to the
country's ethnic issue as long as it is acceptable to all communities
within a framework of a united country", Minister Natwar Singh
told the media soon after signing the bilateral agreement. India
and Sri Lanka signed two agreements relating to educational programmes
and grass roots development projects in terms of infrastructure.
other areas of cooperation would be in the field of Tourism and
Aviation cooperation where luxury cruises between the two countries
would be initiated. Mr. Natwar Singh left the country yesterday
after talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe and members of other political parties including
the TNA and the SLMC.
sources said the Indian Minister had reiterated the UNP stand that
the Joint Mechanism agreement would have to be within the limits
of the Oslo and Tokyo declarations.