COLOMBO: Cutting across ethnic and party divisions, Sri Lankan leaders have welcomed the appointment of Sushma Swaraj as India’s External Affairs Minister.
Deputy Minister of External Affairs, Neomal Perera, told Express on Tuesday, that having interacted with Swaraj when she came here as head of an all-party parliamentary delegation in April 2012, he could say that she has a “vast knowledge” of international relations and will do a “fantastic job” as Foreign Minister. “She has both character and charisma and will bring credit not only to India, but to the South Asian region as a whole,” Perera said.
R Sampanthan, leader of Tamil National Alliance (TNA). said that Swaraj is “adequately equipped” to handle the portfolio.
However, the TNA, has had a grouse against Swaraj. She had asked them to participate in the Lankan Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on finding a political solution to the Tamil question, even after it was explained to her that the exercise would be futile.
Rauff Hakeem, leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Justice Minister, described the appointment as a “source of optimism”, and said: “Swaraj has hands-on experience as regards Lanka. She will play a positive role in India-Lanka relations.” The SLMC was pleased when in 2012, Swaraj asked it to convince the TNA to participate in the PSC.
R Yogarajan, United National Party (UNP) MP, described Swaraj’s appointment as a “great thing” and said that under her, the Foreign Ministry would stand firm on India’s policy on the ethnic question in Lanka.
“When she met Lankan MPs in parliament in 2012, the ruling party’s spokesman Nimal Sripala de Silva could not stand up to her contentions,” Yogarajan recalled.
Swaraj had called upon the Lankan government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC); go beyond the 13 Amendment in devolving power to the provinces; and remove the army from civilian duties in Tamil areas.
Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a Buddhist-nationalistic party, said Swaraj had built “good relations” with government leaders during her visit to Lanka.