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Indian High Commissioner visits North-East ahead of crucial UNHRC vote

Gopal Baglay, the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, made a trip to the North-East, the traditional Tamil homeland, ahead of a crucial vote on Sri Lanka at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council Session (UNHRC) in Geneva. 

During his visit, Mr. Baglay conferred with parliamentarians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) in Jaffna on Saturday, 13th March. 

The High Commissioner reportedly "reiterated India's consistent support for development & meaningful devolution in a united SriLanka to promote #progress,#peace,#equality,#justice and #Respect for all citizens," according to an official Facebook post.

In his discussions with the High Commissioner, TNPF leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam said he urged India to make a significant contribution to ensure accountability for Sri Lanka’s genocide against Tamils. He also emphasised to the High Commissioner that India must encourage an independent international investigation into the crimes perpetrated. 

Speaking to the Indian envoy regarding the Indo- Sri Lanka Peace Accords, Ponnambalam said whilst the TNPF respects the Accords, it does not see the 13th Amendment, which grew out of the agreement, as a solution to the crisis. 

Ponnambalam expressed his party’s opposition to the Sri Lankan government’s move to grant islands outlying the Jaffna peninsula to Chinese energy firms. 

“The Tamil nation would always be a protection for India’s security considerations. We are not opposed to India’s interests. We are, therefore, against granting areas in the North-East to powers inimical to India’s interests as tools in the geo-political game.” 

On the same day, High Commissioner Baglay met with a delegation of the TNA in Jaffna and discussed vital issues related to the development of the North-East. 

TNA’s delegation included current MPs M.A. Sumanthiran, Selvam Adaikalanathan, Siddharthan, Siritharan, Charles Nirmalanathan and former MP Mavai Senathirajah.

MP Selvam Adaiklanathan said that TNA spoke to the Indian emissary regarding the Talaimannar - Rameswaram shipping service and that Mr. Baglay assured them that actions to actualise the shipping lane would be expedited.  

Baglay also met with the former Chief Minister of the Northern Province and TMK leader C V Wigneswaran.

A couple of days earlier, on Thursday, the High Commissioner laid the foundation stone to the construction of a pilgrims’ residence in the Madu Church, Mannar.

The Indian also laid the foundation to the construction of a residential complex, with a 300 million rupees grant from India, which is planned to be constructed in a large scale with 144 houses as a multi-floor complex. 

Following the ceremony, Mr. Baglay spoke to the press and said development projects form an important component of India-Sri Lanka friendship and “our plans have impacted people’s lives directly.” 

“We are maintaining a very close relationship with the Sri Lankan government. In addition to constructing houses, we have also made contributions to the health sector. For instance, we have provided ambulance vehicles (to Sri Lanka).”

Later on, Mr. Baglay offered prayers at the Mannar Thiruketheeswaram temple on the occasion of the Saivite religious festival Sivarathri.

He supervised the carving of granite statues in the temple which is being carried out with grants from the Indian government.

The Indian envoy later visited the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna and offered prayers. 

As the vote on Sri Lanka is only a week away at the UNHRC, Tamil political parties and people are expecting India to vote against Colombo and in favour of ensuring justice and accountability for the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils.

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