Meera Srinivasan, Dennis S.Jesudasan
A video-recorded message by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin was not telecast at the ‘Naam 200’ event in Colombo on Thursday due to reported objection from the Government of India over its “last minute” inclusion. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had addressed the event in person.
However, Mr. Stalin’s video message was circulated to the local media by the organisers. A transcript of his address was released in Tamil Nadu by the Department of Information and Public Relations.
The ‘Naam 200’ event was organised by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development Jeevan Thondaman to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Indian-origin or Malaiyaha Tamils in the island nation from southern India, mainly Tamil Nadu.
A Colombo-based official source said: “Since the Finance Minister was the main guest, New Delhi needed to clear the agenda. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s recording arrived barely two hours before the event, and, hence, could not be obtained.”
In Chennai, a government source privy to the development told The Hindu that Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu was invited for the event and his travel was approved by the Chief Minister. However, clearance from the Centre did not come through until the eve of the day of the scheduled event.
The event was scheduled to commence the following morning. “The clearance from the Centre eventually came through late that night but by that time, the flight ticket was cancelled as it appeared unlikely that the permission would be granted,” the source said.
Another source said after this development, the organisers had on the day of the event requested for a message from the Chief Minister. His video message was sent. The organisers subsequently shared video clips of local Tamil visual media in Sri Lanka telecasting Mr. Stalin’s message in their news bulletin.
Asked why Mr. Stalin’s speech was not played at the event, Sri Lankan authorities declined to comment on record. Incidentally, Colombo-based The Morning newspaper, in its Sunday political column, said the Government of India raised “objections” to the “last-minute” inclusion of the Chief Minister’s speech. Local organisers were unable to play the recording since New Delhi did not approve the “revised agenda” of the event, according to the column.
Speakers, who addressed the packed Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo, included Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, AIADMK MLA Pon Jayaseelan, former national secretary of BJP Ram Madhav, and BJP Tamil Nadu president K. Annamalai.
Mr. Jayaseelan, who hails from the central Badulla district of Sri Lanka, recalled his journey from the island nation to India in 1978, as a six-year-old boy, as part of the repatriation pact between the two governments. “I have come back here after some 45 years, that too as a proud elected representative from Tamil Nadu,” he told the gathering.
In July, Mr. Thondaman, who was part of President Wickremesinghe’s delegation to New Delhi, met Mr. Stalin in Chennai. “I conveyed to the Chief Minister our commemoration of the 200th year of Indian Origin Tamils’ arrival in Sri Lanka….As much as the Sri Lankan government has a responsibility towards our community, the governments of India and Tamil Nadu, too, owe a duty of care to us,” he had told The Hindu in an interview soon after.