In a blistering attack on DMK in the Assembly, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today accused the M Karunanidhi-led party of doing “nothing” to prevent the ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, as she vowed to make all legal efforts to retrieve the islet.
After DMK member K Ponmudi referred to Jayalalithaa’s 1991 assurance that Katchatheevu would be retrieved and sought to know the “action taken”, a fierce debate ensued involving him, her and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin.
Claiming that DMK does not have any locus standi to speak on the issue, she said Katchatheevu, an islet in the Palk Straits, was ceded to Sri Lanka through agreements, in 1974 and 1976, with the neighbouring nation by the Centre while DMK president M Karunanidhi was the state’s chief minister.
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“What was he (Karunanidhi) doing then? Did he take any steps to prevent it or did he hold agitations?,” Jayalalithaa asked, as she maintained that there was no change in her stance that Katchatheevu should be retrieved.
“Yes I spoke of it (in 1991), conscious of the powers of a state government. I had said that I will take steps through the central government and had not said anything insane. I had not said that I would lead a battalion to retrieve Katchatheevu,” Jayalalithaa said.
Stating that she had consistently been making all efforts that could be made by a state government, Jayalalithaa asked why DMK had not taken any steps on the issue though it was part of various regimes at the Centre.
Recalling that when DMK was in power both at the Centre as well as the state and when Karunanidhi had even stated that the previous Manmohan Singh government was “steered” by his advice, she wondered why no action was taken to retrieve Katchatheevu, which is at the centre of the dispute over fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Palk Strait.
Jayalalithaa said why the DMK member was asking her on “what action was taken on Katchatheevu,” when it had not done anything over it.
She likened the arch rival party to ‘Rip Van Winkle’, an easygoing character from a an English short story who goes on a slumber for 20 years, for “sleeping” over the issue and raising it now in the House.
She recalled how as the Leader of Opposition she had petitioned Supreme Court against ceding of Katchatheevu in 2008 and wanted to know why the then DMK government did not implead itself in the case, adding “is this the way to retrieve Katchatheevu?”
When the apex court wanted the state government to file its counter-affidavit in 2008, Karunanidhi, as chief minister, had said it would be considered after “seeing the stand of the Centre in court.”
“After my party was voted to power in 2011, I took efforts to get Tamil Nadu government’s Revenue Department impleaded in the case,” she said.
“For sure, I will succeed in the petition, some day I will succeed in that petition (Katchatheevu), till then you all should do well and see it, it is my prayer to the Almighty,” she said.