New Delhi, Aug 18: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris Sunday said his country would “very much like” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November in Colombo even as Tamil Nadu parties have urged India not to participate in the event.
Peiris, who arrived here Sunday to invite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the event, said Sri Lanka would “like to have Indian presence at the highest level” for the Nov 15-17 event.
He is to meet the prime minister Monday to hand over the invite and also hold discussions with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Addressing a press conference at the Sri Lankan High Commission here, Peiris said there has been “unprecedented economic development” in the Northern Province where elections are due Sep 21.
He said 296,000 people have been resettled in the province, including with access to livelihood, as well as 11,700 “ex combatants” of the erstwhile Tamil Tigers, including a few hundred children, too rehabilitated and provided vocational training.
Peiris described the level of development, including rebuilding of schools bombed during the war with the LTTE, of hospitals and health centres as “no mean achievement” of the government in the four years since the war ended.
The “watershed elections” being held in the Northern Province would be “free and fair”, he asserted.
The Sri Lankan government has invited India’s Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath besides observers from SAARC countries and from the Commonwealth to oversee the election. Peiris said the poll would ensure “total openness” and transparency.
He also said that Sri Lanka has appointed a parliament select committee to go into proposed changes in the country’s constitution, and it was “not confined to the 13th Amendment but a whole range of constitutional issues engaging the public”.
DMK chief M. Karunanidhi on Saturday warned of rail blockades and black flags on houses and commercial establishments across Tamil Nadu if Manmohan Singh did not declare that India would not participate in the CHOGM in Colombo.
The DMK had walked out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue in March.
The 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution, carried out with Indian backing in 1987, aims to ensure autonomy to provinces and by extension to the Tamils in the island’s north and east.