Indian Minister wants CHOGM out of Lanka

Close on the heels of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa urging urging India to stay away from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meet to be held in Colombo later this year, senior Congress leader and Union Shipping Minister G K Vasan today said the meeting should be shifted out of the island nation, India’s News Today reported.

Stating that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and Leaders’ Retreat from 15 to 17 November this year should not be held in Colombo, Vasan told reporters that the Sri Lankan government should on its own come forward to shift the meeting out of the Island Nation.

‘If the Lankan government did not do so, all the 25 nations which had voted in favour of the US Resolution against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC meeting at Geneva last week, should take steps to shift the meeting out of Colombo”, he added.

News Today said that Vasan’s insistence that the meeting should not be held in Colombo and moved out to another country comes at a time when political parties in Tamilnadu, especially Jayalalithaa, had been urging the Indian Government to boycott the CHOGM in the wake of growing agitations by the student community over the last couple of weeks.

While claiming that efforts were being made to isolate the Congress party on the Lankan Tamils issue, especially in the wake of the students stir, Vasan said the Tamilnadu Congress Committee (TNCC) would always respect the sentiments of the student community and the demands put forth by them on the issue.

Stating that the students stir had created a major awareness among the people on the Lankan Tamils issue, he said no efforts should be made to demean the agitation.

Jayalalithaa was the first to raise the demand when she urged the Prime Minister that India should stay away from the CHOGM to exert pressure on Sri Lanka to do justice by its hapless, much exploited Tamil Minorities.

In her 28 March letter to Manmohan, the AIADMK leader said any high level participation or engagement from the Indian side in the CHOGM would not only embolden the Sri Lankan regime but also incense public opinion and sentiment in Tamilnadu on this very sensitive issue.

Jayalalithaa had also stated that there was still time to consider even an alternative venue to hold the event and urged the Prime Minister to use this opportunity to ask that the venue for the CHOGM be shifted to another country.

‘If India takes this diplomatic initiative there is likely to be broad based support amongst member countries of the Commonwealth’, she had said.