With tensions between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu reaching new heights following the return of 184 Sri Lankan pilgrims who were attacked during a visit to the Velankanni Church, the Sri Lankan government seems to be mixing diplomatic speak with anger and veiled threats.
On the one hand, the country’s deputy External Affairs Minister, Neomal Perera, told the Daily Mirror newspaper that the matter could be discussed in a cordial manner without the need to create diplomatic discord.
“We have a close relationship with (High commissioner)Mr Kantha and therefore this type of matter can be discussed over the phone and resolved”, Seneviratne told the newspaper, adding that they would inform the Indian central government that they would seek its protection and assurance for the safety of those Sri Lankans who travel to South India.
On the other hand however, powerful Sri Lankan Minister Wimal Weerawansa addressed a media conference and issued a not-so-veiled threat, asking what would happen if Sri Lankans chose to treat thousands of Tamil Nadu citizens who regularly visited Sri Lanka in a similar manner.
According to the Ceylon Today newspaper, Weerawansa said that if the situation continued, “resentment among Sri Lankans will grow and they might begin victimizing Indians who are on Sri Lankan ground as well”.
Not stopping there, Weeranwansa had added that it was South India that extended the utmost support to train and fund the LTTE, and were now not tolerant of innocent Sri Lankans who were visiting that area.
He also said that the recent events in Tamil Nadu highlighted the “politically and racially motivated foolish actions” of its government.
Weerawansa urged the Indian Central Government to take measures against politicians who were creating problems, and to establish harmony between the two countries before the issues grew larger.
The response is interesting, because even though Weerawansa has a reputation for being a provocative politician who was most recently in the news for leading a siege of the UN headquarters in Colombo ahead of a UNHRC resolution against the country, it is unlikely that he would have made the comment without at least indirect sanction from the government.
The government, seems to be taking advantage of his ‘loose cannon’ reputation to let its anger with the incident be known to India, even while making an ‘official’ response that speaks of ‘excellent relations’.
There has been no official response to Weerawanse’s outburst by either India or Sri Lanka, but it will be interesting to see if there are any more such comments in the days to come.