Sri Lankan foreign minister G L Peiris’s visit to India presents New Delhi an opportunity to communicate its serious concerns over recent developments in the island nation, such as the move to dilute provisions of the 13th Amendment ahead of crucial provincial polls, the ongoing crackdown of its security forces on dissent and continuing repression of the minorities. Peiris is scheduled to meet prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, when he will hand over a formal invitation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November. He will also call on external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.
A three-day visit by Sri Lanka’s main Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe also starts from Monday. The visits come ahead of Sri Lanka’s much-awaited provincial council election in Tamil-dominated northern areas to be held on September 21 after a gap of 25 years. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has threatened to dilute its provisions. India must take a firm stand and press Colombo to honour its repeated promises to go for a 13th amendment plus formula.
Sri Lankan authorities have continued to dither on past promises at the Human Rights Council or pay heed to the serious concerns raised by the international community. With CHOGM around the corner, the world’s eyes remain on the government’s human rights record. As it signalled at the UN Human Rights Council in March, India must press Colombo for an “independent and credible investigation” into thousands of cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings during and after the 2009 war. These violations also figure in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. A permanent solution to the conflict between Indian and Sri Lankan fisherfolk is another issue that New Delhi must take up with Colombo. Efforts to work out a new joint-fishing agreement between the two countries should be stepped up to create an amicable atmosphere for sharing the marine wealth.