Sri Lankans protest India’s alleged intervention
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A group of Sri Lankans on Monday urged neighboring India not to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs by criticizing Colombo’s plans to withdraw rights from provincial councils set up to share power with ethnic minority Tamils.
About 100 protesters from the Federation of National Organizations, which is made up of nationalistic groups, staged a silent protest in front of the Indian embassy in the capital Colombo and urged India not to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.
The protest came after top Indian politicians criticized the Sri Lankan government’s plan to withdraw certain powers from provincial councils set up to share control with Tamils.
In 1987, Sri Lanka and it more powerful neighbor signed an agreement that led to amendments to Sri Lanka’s constitution allowing for the setting up of the provincial councils to devolve power as an effort to end Tamil militancy.
However, the Tamil Tiger rebels who were beginning what was to be an unsuccessful civil war for a separate state for Tamils rejected the offer, saying the powers were inadequate.
Following that, an Indian peacekeeping force sent to Sri Lanka to help implement the agreement ended up fighting the Tamil rebels before withdrawing in 1990.
New Delhi has been reluctant to get directly involved in Sri Lanka politics since that disastrous military intervention which left more than 1,000 Indian troops dead, but it has a major interest in the dispute because southern India is home to 60 million Tamils.
The Sri Lankan government promised to allow a greater degree of autonomy to Tamil majority regions in the island’s north after the government forces militarily defeated the Tamil rebels in May 2009 to end a nearly three-decade civil war.
However, Sri Lankan government backtracked on that recently, announcing that it will scrap land and police powers given to the provincial councils.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed ‘‘dismay’’ at Sri Lanka’s plan when he met a group of opposition Tamil lawmakers from Sri Lanka last month.