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Chennai cops pass on Devananda file to Delhi

Jun 11, 2010: CHENNAI: A day after TOI reported the "proclaimed offender" status of Sri Lankan minister Douglas Devananda, who is visiting India as part of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s delegation, the Chennai police confirmed the details of the case to their counterparts and passed on details of criminal cases pending against him in Tamil Nadu.

Devananda said he was ready to face any legal action though he claimed amnesty under the Indo-Sri Lankan accord of 1987. "We have sent a message to Delhi police. We are awaiting a reply," Chennai police commissioner T Rajendran said.

Sources in the ministry of external affairs said Devananda was not on any watch list of visitors with criminal records. "However, now, in view of all this, he is likely to be put on a watch list," a source said, referring to the TOI report on Thursday that Devananda was a proclaimed offender in connection with a murder in Chennai in November 1986.

"If there is anything legal, I am prepared to face it," Devananda told reporters in Delhi. When contacted by TOI, he said he was surprised by the furore because he was given to understand that he enjoyed amnesty under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987. He said he had made several visits to Delhi and Chennai since he was elected an MP in 1994 and subsequently became a minister for traditional industries and small enterprises development, representing the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) in the Rajapaksa cabinet. "I have been coming to India for political, official and medical reasons for years," Devananda told TOI from Shimla, where the visiting delegation was on Friday.

Devananda has been charged with murder, attempt to murder and rioting in the 1986 case following the death of a person in gunfire by the separatist Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) at Choolaimedu in Chennai. The minister also faces a couple of cases for kidnapping and criminal intimidation dating back to the years when he spearheaded the militant pro-Tamil movement along with others.

Devananda said his understanding was that the general amnesty conferred on militants who laid down arms as part of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987 covered these cases also. "My advocate, the late N T Vanamamalai, also believed so," the 52-year-old militant-turned-politician said.

Devananda referred to clause 2.11 of the accord which said the Sri Lankan president would grant amnesty to all militants who surrendered their arms. The clause says, "The Government of Sri Lanka will make special efforts to rehabilitate militant youth with a view to bringing them back into the mainstream of national life. India will co-operate in the process." Devananda said he was informed by his legal counsel that the treaty would ensure "that India would not pursue cases against former militants on its soil."

The visiting minister recalled that he had met former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and AB Vajpayee, besides Tamil Nadu leaders like late MG Ramachandran and M Karunanidhi. "The late Vazhapadi K Ramamurthi took me to Rajiv Gandhi just as he was leaving for a Commonwealth summit meeting in 1987. He spoke to me at the airport and asked me to keep in touch with the then foreign secretary (KPS Menon)," Devananda recalled.

The minister’s other visits to New Delhi included one to participate in a leadership summit in November 2004 which was also addressed by then Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga. A few days earlier, Devananda had spoken at a conference on India’s Sri Lanka policy at the Habitat Centre in the capital. He had been part of presidential delegations, including to the United Nations, he said.(TOI)

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