Aug 18, New Delhi: Sri Lanka's external Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said today that Sri Lanka hopes India will participate at the highest level in the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Colombo in November.
India's central government is under increasing pressure from the Tamil Nadu pro-Eelam Tamil parties to boycott the event as a protest to Sri Lanka's alleged marginalization of Tamils and the alleged attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy on Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Noting that India is the largest democracy in the world and CHOGM is being held in South Asia for the first time in 24 years, Minister Peiris said India's presence at the summit is crucial.
"We hope the PM will be there," the Minister said addressing a media conference at the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi.
Responding to the call for boycotting the event, the Minister said it's India's decision.
"It's up to India to decide but we will like participation of India at the highest level," Minister Peiris said.
The Minister will deliver the official invitation requesting the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's participation at the summit to the PM on Monday.
Speaking of the Indian fishermen's issue the Sri Lankan Minister said the invasion of Indian fishermen into the Sri Lankan waters has become a critical political issue.
The Minister explained that thousands of Indian fishermen in 400-500 boats poach in the Sri Lankan waters day after day taking the resources away and damaging the marine life. He said the invading fishermen come so close, as close as 700 meters, to the Sri Lanka's shore.
He said there should be a stringent measure to effectively deter the Indian fishermen and his government has decided to prosecute the fishermen arrested for poaching in the island's waters and slap fines on them.
"There is very strong pressure on the government to take action to preserve the livelihood of our fishermen," the Minister said.
Peiris told the media that UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay will be visiting the island next week to review Sri Lanka's post-war progress ahead of the 24th UNHRC session in September.
Commenting on the upcoming Northern Provincial Council, to be held for the first time on September 21, the Sri Lankan Minister said the government has invited India's Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath as observer.
Besides the Indian election official, Sri Lanka's Election Secretariat has also invited observers from SAARC countries and from the Commonwealth to monitor the polls to ensure transparency and total openness.
On the issues of the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka's Constitution and power devolution the Minister said a parliamentary select committee has been appointed to study the issue and achieve a solution applicable to all communities. He said it's a pity that the major Tamil party Tamil National Alliance has decided not to participate in it.