India protests over Lankan armychiefs comments

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 10 2008, 05:41am hrs
India formally lodged a protest with Sri Lanka on Tuesday as the controversy surrounding remarks made by Sri Lankan army chief General Sarath Fonseka denigrating Tamil Nadu political leaders got hotter with angry reactions, especially from MDMK chief Vaiko who demanded an unconditional apology from Colombo on the issue.

Taking strong objection to General Fonsekas comments decribing Tamil Nadu politicians as political jokers, the Vaiko not only shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but also said his party would hold protests outside the Sri Lankan high commission here from December 10.

In a democracy, Army generals do not make such criticism about leaders of a foreign country. This is an unprecedented humiliation for the Indian government and its people by the chief of the Sri Lankan army, he said in the letter, while demanding an apology from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for the remarks.

Fonsekas remarks came days after the UPA government agreed to send external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to Sri Lanka to press for a ceasefire between the forces and LTTE and resumption of dialogue.

New Delhi took up the matter almost immediately on Tuesday, lodging a protest and expressing regret over the derogatory remarks by the Sri Lankan army chief. According to the official spokesman in the ministry of external affairs Vishnu Prakash, Indias High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Alok Prasad took up the matter strongly with Sri Lankas defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The defence secretary of Sri Lanka promised to look into the matter and conveyed regrets should any such comment have been made, Prakash told the mediapersons. Fonseka had said that the Indian government would never influence Sri Lanka to restore the ceasefire with the LTTE and it would not listen to the political jokers of Tamil Nadu whose survival depends on the LTTE.