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Jaya protests Lanka ‘salt in wounds’

Chennai, May 22: Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa today said Narendra Modi had “wounded” Tamil sentiments all over again by inviting the Sri Lankan President to his swearing-in ceremony.

“The new Prime Minister has deeply upset the people of Tamil Nadu and wounded their sentiments all over again by the unfortunate move of inviting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the swearing-in ceremony of the new government,” the AIADMK chief said in a statement.

Jayalalithaa, whose party swept the Lok Sabha elections in her state, said the change in government in Delhi had “in no way altered the already existing strained relations between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka”. So the invite was “tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of the already deeply injured Tamil psyche”.

The statement, however, gave no hint whether she would boycott the swearing-in. Rajapaksa has confirmed he will attend it.

Jayalalithaa said the “entire world was aware of the various resolutions passed in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly during the last three years, with regard to the war crimes, ethnic pogrom and genocide perpetrated against the Sri Lankan Tamil people by the Sri Lankan Army under the Rajapaksa government”.

The statement recalled the demand for an “economic embargo” on Lanka, which had been ignored by the previous government.

“It is with a deep sense of anguish that we point this out to the new government to be formed at the Centre. It would have been better if this ill advised move had been avoided in keeping in mind the relations between the new central government and the Tamil Nadu government,” Jayalalithaa concluded.

The statement revealed a sense of unhappiness rather than anger, which used to be the tone of her communications with the UPA governments, indicating that she does not want to burn the bridge with the BJP regime.

But by suggesting that the invite to Rajapaksa had put Centre-state relations with Tamil Nadu on the wrong foot, she appeared to hint that Modi had already jeopardised his promise to have good relations with her government when he had phoned her early this week to congratulate her on her party’s massive win.

Jayalalithaa had even banned IPL matches in Chennai if they featured Lankan players or umpires. So her strong opposition to Rajapaksa’s participation comes as no surprise.

On Wednesday, BJP ally Vaiko was the first to condemn the invite to Rajapaksa and today the DMK echoed the view.

State BJP leaders said they should have been consulted before sending the invite. “Of course it is a diplomatic initiative covering all Saarc countries, so Delhi could not have been selective in choosing the invitees. Instead, they could have indicated to Colombo to depute a minister rather than Rajapaksa himself turning up, since he is viewed as the common villain by Tamils and evokes extreme feeling among people here,” said a senior BJP functionary.

But in Delhi, the BJP countered the criticism by saying the occasion should be seen as a “celebration of democracy”.

“This is essentially an attempt to participate in a joyful celebration of democracy and the invite should be seen in that context,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said. “We would certainly like to have our neighbours participate in this happy occasion,” she said.

Asked about objections raised by some of the allies, Sitharaman said: “I am sure they will understand the reason behind this invite.”