Monday, November 29, 1999

India faces flak in Sri Lanka; seen as a bully

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Colombo, June 15 -- Mahinda Rajapaksa recently said India should benignly look out for Sri Lanka like its little sister. But not many here currently seem to share that tender emotion; India is being looked upon more as a big bully. India is currently receiving much flak from political parties and the media here over a bilateral business pact, for planning to talk to minority parties directly and - editorials I'm sure are on way - for triggering the Sunday earthquake off the Nicobar coast that rattled parts of Sri Lanka. The critics included Weemal Weerawansa of the National Freedom Party, constituent of the Rajapaksa-led ruling coalition and close ally. Weerawansa - whose anti-India rhetoric is as sharp as his carefully maintained beard - said India wanted to colonise Sri Lanka through the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The tirade was cleverly timed; on that day his boss was signing pacts, excluding CEPA, with the coloniser in New Delhi. The Marxists, Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna, continued its polemic against India. "India wants to subject Sri Lanka to its political, economic and cultural expansionism," chief Tilvin Silva told The Sunday Leader newspaper. Then, the main opposition party, United National Party's Ravi Karunanayake, said India was arming groups to foment disturbance in Lanka; his response to reports that India planned to directly talk to Tamil and Muslim minority parties about a political solution. Newspapers picked up the political ferment. In its June 6 editorial, The Sunday Times - an established English weekly newspaper - said: "Indians are still fingering their southern neighbour.'beware Mahinda' when you go to India and they throw these laddus, boondi jelabis and gulab jamuns at you." "The fact of the matter is that if not for India's "substantial and generous assistance" to the LTTE and the entire northern insurgency in Sri Lanka, these internally displaced persons would not have been in such a pathetic plight in the first place," was ST's reaction to India's assistance for the displaced after Rajapaksa returned.

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