COLOMBO: The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has sternly warned Sri Lanka against sidelining India to favour China.
Speaking in Parliament on Friday, the TNA’s group leader R Sampanthan said that sidelining India will adversely affect the reconciliation process and peace in the island and the region. The tilt towards China is not in the interest of Lanka’s economy and political independence either, he argued.
Sampanthan accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa of pursuing a “deliberate and pre-determined programme to undermine Indian interests and thereby isolate India, so as to free itself from obligations and commitments made to India not only in the interest of reconciliation, peace and harmony in Sri Lanka, but also in the region.”
He asked if a situation is sought to be created in which “India will not be able to play any role in Sri Lanka in keeping with India’s role in the past three decades and consistent with India’s historical, geographical and cultural links with Sri Lanka.”
Sampanthan pointed out that while one third of development funds given by India (US$ 1.3 billion) are in the form of grants, only 2 per cent of the funds given by China (S$ 2.18 billion) are grants.
The TNA parliamentarian also pointed to the possibility of China’s converting its loans into equity and taking control of the projects funded by it, thus abridging Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
However, Sajin Vaas Gunawardene, ruling party member and monitoring MP for the Foreign Ministry, said that while India is helping Lanka develop the Northern Province, China is helping the development of the South.
Lanka will welcome greater Indian assistance, he said.
Meanwhile, with the opposition parties vociferously seeking the abolition of the Presidential system or its dilution, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in Kandy on Friday that the Presidential system is necessary to prevent the revival of the LTTE.
Besides, it would also help check fissiparous tendencies triggered by devolution of power under the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment, which devolves powers to the provincial councils, was introduced following the India-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987.
Rajapaksa, however, said that the Parliamentary Select Committee is considering the abolition of the Presidential system.