CHENNAI: Condemning the Narendra Modi Government’s decision to deny visas to the UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Friday alleged that the island nation’s security personnel in plain clothes were in Chennai tracking Tamil refugees who had fled to India during the war.
“There are a few cases in which we have rescued refugees from the Sri Lankan security personnel. We don’t know whether they are here with the support of the Indian government,” said V Suresh, PUCL national general secretary.
Addressing a press conference, here he criticised the visa refusal to the UN probe team to visit India to meet eye witnesses and victims of the war between Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE. He questioned the studied silence of the Centre on this issue, despite AIADMK MP, M Thambudurai raising it the Lok Sabha.
The Centre’s silence has prompted everyone to believe that New Delhi has indeed refused visas to the UN team, he added.
“Modi wants to become a big leader. But, he has to follow the rules of the game to attain that status... Globally India’s image has been lowered by this act,” said Kavitha Srivastava, national secretary of PUCL.
Those denied visas were not some obscure officials, but three distinguished experts including a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, former president of Finland, a judge from New Zealand and the former president of Pakistan’s human rights commission, she pointed out.
Recalling that it was Sushma Swaraj, now the External Affairs Minister, who led a Parliamentary team to Sri Lanka in 2012, the PUCL said it was her ministry that had refused visas to the UN team. “It is only because more Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are here that the UN team had planned to come here to investigate. India’s decision is strengthening Sri Lanka’s stand on the war,” said Saraswathi, President, PUCL Tamil Nadu.
The organisation urged the government to grant unconditional visas to the UN team to visit India to meet refugees and investigate allegations of war crimes. Besides giving the team free access, PUCL urged the authorities to ensure privacy and appropriate witness protection to Lankan Tamils refugees willing to provide evidence to the investigation team.