T.N. CM’s video address not telecast in Sri Lanka; report hints at GoI’s objection

T.N. CM’s video address not telecast in Sri Lanka; report hints at GoI’s objection

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin

A video-recorded message by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin could not be telecast at the ‘Naam 200’ event held in Colombo on Friday 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 event was organised by Sri Lankan Minister Jeevan Thondaiman, along with the Sri Lankan government, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Indian-origin Tamils in the island nation from Chennai.

A Colombo-based official source said, “Since the Finance Minister was the main guest, the Government of India needed to clear the agenda. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s recording arrived barely two hours before the event, and hence couldn’t be accommodated.”

In Chennai, a government source privy to the development told The Hindu that State Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu was invited for the event and his travel was approved by the Chief Minister. However, the clearance for the same from the Centre did not come through until Thursday night. 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 sent video clips of local Tamil visual media in Sri Lanka telecasting Mr. Stalin’s message in their news bulletin.

When 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, at the nearly four hour-long event, 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 TN state president K. Annamalai.

Mr. Jayaseelan, who hails from the central Badulla district of Sri Lanka, recalled his journey form the island nation to India in 1978, as a six-year-old boy, as part of the repatriation agreement 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 journalists back then.

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