Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has thanked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin for his initiative to provide humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka, which is in the grip of a grave economic crisis.
In a letter dated May 4, 2022 and addressed to Mr. Stalin, Mr. Rajapaksa said the passage of a resolution to send food, essential items and live-saving drugs was indicative of the Chief Minister’s “good intentions”. “I wish to thank you and the Tamil Nadu government on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka, for viewing the country’s crisis from a humanitarian standpoint, rather than as a problem concerning another country,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
On April 29, the Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously adopted a motion to send relief material worth ₹123 crore to the people of Sri Lanka. The support would entail 40,000 tonnes of rice, over 100 life-saving drugs and 500 tonnes of milk powder for children.
Mr. Stalin’s gesture, and Mr. Rajapaksa’s response, come despite known hostilities between Tamil Nadu and the Rajapaksa administration, which has been accused of committing grave war crimes against the island nation’s Tamils in the final stages of a civil war.
Significantly, it was Sri Lanka’s Tamil politicians who had requested Mr. Stalin to consider extending help to all Sri Lankans, and not just Tamils living in the north, east and the central hill country, as was earlier proposed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
Taking their request on board, Mr. Stalin told the House recently: “Sri Lankan Tamil leaders and Tamil organisations made a request that we send support for all Sri Lankans, because people of all ethnicities are suffering in this crisis. When I heard that, I was moved. I could not control my emotions. This is the culture of Tamilians.” Invoking celebrated poet Subramaniya Bharathiyar, he said, “ Pagaivanukku arulvai nannenje [Bless your enemy, oh kind heart].”
Sri Lanka is reeling from the impact of an acute economic downturn, resulting in severe shortages of food, medicines, cooking gas and fuel. Long and regular power cuts have disrupted normal life, while citizens struggle to afford essentials amid skyrocketing prices. The Government of India has extended support totalling $3 billion since January.
While some other bilateral partners and international agencies, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have promised support to Colombo, Tamil Nadu’s assistance is the first instance of a State government taking the initiative to help the cash-strapped country. On March 31, Mr. Stalin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and conveyed his intention to help Sri Lanka and sought the Centre’s permission for the same.