CHENNAI: The flippant article posted on an official Sri Lankan Defence Department website on Friday brought political outfits from across the spectrum together to speak out in one voice on an otherwise contentious issue.
Political leaders raged through the day not only at the tone of the article over the row surrounding the frequent arrest of Tamil Nadu’s fishermen, but also against the less-than-tactful portrayal of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Even as Jayalalithaa acted in her official capacity to write a strongly-worded letter to Modi on the matter and stated that she would not climb down from her position on the retrieval of Katchatheevu Island, her arch rivals queued up to battle the slight to the Chief Minister.
DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan spoke out in favour of the Chief Minister and demanded that the Sri Lankan government apologise. “Jayalalithaa is the Chief Minister and speaks on behalf of Tamils. No matter what our political differences are with her, we cannot condone anyone speaking like this about the Chief Minister of an Indian State,” he said. His party patriarch M Karunanidhi issued a statement in the evening, after the Sri Lankan apology, reflecting a similar point of view. A DMK ally, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), too issued a statement later in the day.
Congress leaders BS Gnanadesikan and GK Vasan both issued statements, but while Gnanadesikan condemned the article and the slight to the Chief Minister, Vasan made no reference to it at all. Instead, his statement asked the Centre to find a permanent solution to the fishermen issue.
PMK founder S Ramadoss issued a strong statement condemning the article. “We may even defend the publication of an article criticising Jayalalithaa’s actions in the name of the freedom of speech. But we cannot allow such a view to be endorsed by the website of a department of the Sri Lankan government, much worse, one controlled by the Sri Lankan president’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapakse,” said Ramadoss. He demanded that the Centre force an apology from Sri Lanka, and break diplomatic ties in the face of a refusal.
MDMK chief Vaiko was the harshest critic of the day. “What the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi are not merely letters, but a bid to wipe the tears off the faces of Sri Lankan Tamils and defend the livelihood of Tamil fishermen,” he said. “These are letters that reflect the sentiments of 7.5 crore Tamilians. The Centre should immediately break off diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka,” he said.