DMK's Privilege Breach Move against Minister Fails, TN Govt Says Lankan Tamils May Get OCI Status

File photo of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at a camp in Tamil Nadu.

File photo of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at a camp in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Culture Minister K Pandiarajan said the AIADMK government, led by K Palaniswami, was committed to the welfare of Lankan Tamils and OCI status would help them do business and get job opportunities.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: February 18, 2020, 10:19 PM IST
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Chennai: Sri Lankan Tamils in India should be bestowed a category of citizenship which will help them do business and get job opportunities, the Tamil Nadu government said on Tuesday.

There is a good scope for them to be given the Overseas Citizen of India status, the government informed the Assembly.

Tamil Culture Minister K Pandiarajan, replying to a question of breach of privilege against him in the Assembly on the issue of citizenship to Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, said the government was committed to the welfare of Lankan Tamils.

DMK legislator Thangam Thennarasu wanted Speaker P Dhanapal to initiate action against Pandiarajan for breach of privilege for "misleading," the House and giving "wrong information," over dual citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

The main opposition party had all along been batting for Indian citizenship for Lankan Tamils. The DMK MLA, who is also a former minister, said dual citizenship was not possible at all and there was no provision in law to implement it.

Still, the minister mislead the House in his remarks made last month with an intention to thwart Indian citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamils, he alleged and sought action.

Explaining the government's stand, Pandiarajan, cited Governor Banwarilal Purohit's address to the House last month in which the state had said that Centre will be urged to provide dual citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

While DMK's stand was that citizenship should be given to those living in and outside of refugee camps, former chief minister late J Jayalalithaa stood for dual citizenship and she had made the demand to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, he said.

'Amma' had said giving Indian citizenship for them after they lose their Sri Lankan citizenship will preclude the opportunity to retrieve their assets in the island nation, he recalled.

Tamils should hence be bestowed a category of citizenship which will help them do business in India and get job opportunities, he said apparently indicating that such a move would also help them retain their rights in the island nation.

"There are two classifications and one is dual citizenship under which people could vote in both the countries and another is Overseas Citizen of India category," he said, adding there was a "good chance for them to be bestowed with OCI (status)."

Though under OCI, a beneficiary cannot vote in elections they could still buy properties and get job opportunities in private sector, he noted.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said recently two lakh Sri Lankan Tamils have been given the OCI status since 1984 and there was no impediment in more people getting it, he said.

The former chief minister of the Northern Province in Sri Lanka, CV Wigneswaran has endorsed the stand of Tamil Nadu government as "very appropriate."

Till civil disturbances broke out in 1983 in Sri Lanka, India had given citizenship to 4,51,432 people from the island nation, he said, adding this has been quoted by Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament.

"There are only 59,000 people in camps now of the about one lakh refugees who came here and the number of refugee camps have fallen to 107 from 113." Of the remaining 40,000 people, 10,000 persons went to Lanka through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and others had gone to several other countries, he noted.

Stressing the distinction between a repatriate and a refugee, he said a recent court directive has made it clear that the Centre was the competent authority to classify refugees and repatriates. Chief Minister K Palaniswami has taken up this issue of classification with the Home Minister, he said.

After Pandiarajan's explanation, when Dhanapal ruled that there was no breach of privilege in the minister's remarks, DMK members led by Deputy leader Duraimurugan staged a walkout.

On January 8, the minister had told the House that "dual citizenship for Tamil refugees is possible." To facilitate dual citizenship for Tamil refugees from the island nation, the Central government should go in for a treaty with Sri Lanka, he had said.

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