Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted today that India is always committed to ensure that Tamils in Sri Lanka whom he referred to as ‘our brothers and sisters’ live with equality, justice, peace and dignity.
Addressing a meeting in Chennai, he said his government had taken care of the welfare and aspirations of ‘Tamil brothers and sisters’ in Sri Lanka.
The Indian Prime Minister’s remarks came at a time when bilateral ties hit an all-time low following the Sri Lankan government’s decision to renege from the commitment by the previous government to develop the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port with India.
Sri Lanka offered to develop to the western terminal with India, instead. However, India still persists with its demand that the ECT should be developed in an equity sharing arrangement with them.
The extracts of Mr. Modi’s remarks were shared with the local media by the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
“It is my honour to have been the only Indian PM to visit Jaffna. Through development works we are ensuring welfare of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community. The resources given by our Government for Tamils have been much more than in the past. The projects include: Fifty thousand houses for displaced Tamils in North-Eastern Sri Lanka. Four thousand houses in the plantation areas. On the health side, we financed a free ambulance service which is widely used by the Tamil community. A hospital has been built in Dickoya. To boost connectivity, the railway network to Jaffna and to Mannar is being re-built .Flights have been established from Chennai to Jaffna. I feel happy to share that India has built the Jaffna Cultural Centre which we hope to open soon. The issue of Tamil rights has also been taken up by us consistently with Sri Lankan leaders. We are always committed to ensuring that they live with equality, justice peace and dignity,” Mr. Modi said.
Commenting on the fisheries issue, he said, “The problem faced by our fishermen is long-standing. I do not wish to go into the history of the problem. But let me assure you that my Government will always protect their rightful interests. We have ensured early release whenever fishermen are apprehended in Sri Lanka. More than sixteen hundred fishermen have been released during our tenure. Currently, there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody. Similarly, three hundred and thirteen boats have also been released and we are working for the return of the rest of the boats,”.