Blake’s visit creates
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian
Affairs Robert O Blake is expected to visit Sri Lanka on
Monday. Blake is no stranger to Sri Lanka having served his
stint as the US Ambassador here and paid visits to this
country several times earlier.
However, the US Assistant Secretary’s visit this time round
has created an unprecedented stir in political circles here
with political observers attaching much significance to it
given several international events round the corner where
Sri Lanka is expected to face threats to her image.
Coincides with UNHRC sessions
Incidentally, Blake’s visit to Sri Lanka coincides with the
start of the United Nations Human Rights Council session in
Geneva on September 12.
Earlier, US States Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
said in a press release that Assistant Secretary of State
Blake will visit India as well for talks on bilateral and
regional matters. She said in the release: “In Sri Lanka, he
intends to meet with government officials, civil society
representatives, university students and political leaders.”
Blake was earlier scheduled to come here on a three-day
visit beginning August 29 and the visit had to be postponed
due to the Hurricane Irene that struck the US east coast.
The US a few weeks earlier had warned Sri Lankan government
that an international inquiry could be launched against it
if it did not take adequate steps for ‘a credible to probe
into charges of humanitarian crimes committed during the war
on the LTTE.’
The US is pressing for a `credible probe’ because Blake
himself had said that the LLRC is not adequately equipped to
inquire into alleged war crimes.
Hillary’s visit to Tamil Nadu
According to some political sources, the timing of US
Assistant Secretary Blake’s visit to coincide with the UNHRC
sessions and the UN General Assembly sessions round the
corner is suspect in the eyes of certain people given the US
stand on the alleged war crimes committed by the security
forces during the last phase of the Eelam War Four.
Suspicions among the people here about the stand of the US
in regard to allegations on human rights violations and war
crimes Sri Lanka is facing, gained strength when US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with Tamil
Nadu Chief Minister Jeyalalithaa following a visit to
Chennai last August. In fact, US Secretary of State Clinton
was on a two-day visit to New Delhi for what was described
as the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue when she undertook the
brief visit to Chennai where she met the Chief Minister.
However, many ordinary people in Sri Lanka had thought that
the US high official had arrived in India especially for
talks with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
A comment posted on a popular website by a Sri Lankan
regarding Clinton’s visit to Tamil Nadu is a pointer to the
suspicions entertained by the some sections of the people
here. The writer said that Hillary Clinton’s visit to Tamil
Nadu ‘has an undertone of ulterior motives”. He had added:
“It was indeed to prepare the ground for sinister plans of
the US State Department underway to further destabilise Sri
GL in Jordan
Press reports said that Blake is due to meet External
Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris on Monday. However, Prof. Peiris
at the moment is in Jordan holding talks with King of Jordan
Abdullah II and Prof. Peiris’ counterpart in that country
Nasser Judeh on Sri Lanka’s post-war situation. Reports also
said that Minister Peiris will join the Sri Lankan
delegation to UNHRC sessions from Jordan.
Government came in for praise from various quarters when it
lifted the State of Emergency which had been in operation
continuously for about six years. The EU and some countries
in the West hailed the lifting of the Emergency as a step
towards restoring the normalcy and strengthening democracy
in the country. Opposition leader Ranil Wickrmesinghe too
commended the government in Parliament. However, the
Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill that was presented
in Parliament by Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem took the
shine off the good act of doing away with the Emergency. The
Bill sought to hold a suspect in custody for 48 hours
without being produced before a magistrate instead 24 hours
under the normal law.
Govt. withdraws Bill
The government decided to withdraw the piece of legislation
when the Opposition challenged its validity.
This law was enacted in 2007 as a temporary provision valid
for only two years to enable Police officers to hold
suspects in custody beyond the 24 hour limit pending
completion of preliminary inquiries in certain cases. This
law had to be extended with approval from Parliament. It had
lapsed when the government to failed to get the
parliamentary approval in 2009.
The opposition argued that the proposed the provisions have
no legal validity as the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment)
Bill embodying them is now a dead letter. However, it is a
happy augury that the government has now decided to
re-introduce an amended Bill following a consensus reached
at a meeting of party leaders. Addressing the weekly Cabinet
news briefing on Friday that Minister Lakshman Yapa
Abeywardena said that the government is ready to accommodate
suggestions and amendments by the Opposition.
A delegation for Geneva
A five-member delegation headed by Plantations Minister and
government’s special peace envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe left
for Geneva on Thursday to attend the 18th session of the
United Nations Human Rights Council. The other members of
the delegation are Prof. G.L.Peiris, Nimal Siripala de
Silva, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and government MP
supervising the External Affairs Ministry Sajin de Vaas
Gunawardena. Minister G.L.Peiris will join the delegation
from Jordan where he is now on an official visit.
Prior to the sessions, Sri Lankan delegates will meet the
President and member nations of the UNHRC and other members
of the UNO as well as representatives of civil society
organisations to brief them on the development programmes,
and resettlement, rehabilitation and reconciliation efforts
underway in the country. Delegation head Minister
Samarasinghe said: “We hope to brief the international
community of the post war development in the country in
general and the giant strides underway to develop and
restore normal life in the war torn North and East. By
lifting the Emergency we have sent out a message to the
world that we are not stuck in one place.”
The delegation is also planning to stage a show of the
documentary `Lies Agreed Upon’ for the international
community. This documentary is the government’s response to
the Channel 4 video `Sri Lanka Killing Fields’.
Minister Samarasinghe said that the UNHRC session would
provide them with an ideal forum to combat misinformation
against Sri Lanka and to enlighten misinformed and misguided
sections of the international community.
AI strikes again
The human rights outfit Amnesty International has struck
another blow at Sri Lankan government on the eve of the UN
Human Rights Council sessions, by releasing a report saying
that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
appointed by the President to inquire into the war-related
matters is fundamentally flawed and provides no
accountability for alleged atrocities committed by the
security forces during the final phase of the war on
terrorism. The report titled `When will they get justice?’
says that the LLRC has failed to properly pursue allegations
of war crimes and crimes against humanity leveled against
both government forces and the LTTE.
Amnesty International’s Asia pacific Director Sam Zarifi has
charged that the Sri Lankan government has for almost two
years used the LLRC as its trump card in lobbying against an
independent international organisation.
Government delegation to Geneva sessions will, no doubt,
respond to criticisms by the Amnesty International and other
human rights outfits.
Battle for Colombo MC
With the local government polls only less than one month
away, electioneering in areas where contests are on, is fast
gathering momentum, according to reports. However, incidents
of election-related violence are sporadic, according to the
Police. Attention of politicians, party activists as well as
the ordinary people are so much focussed on the battle for
Colombo, everyone appears to have forgotten that there are
22 other local bodies at stake.
Many observers say that there is a marked change in the
style of electioneering in Colombo by almost all political
parties in the fray at this poll and it is a change for the
better. Electioneering-related noisy, rowdy scenes usually
staged by party activists are almost absent and Mayoral
candidates appear to be trying to reach the good sense of
voters without resorting to histrionic, pyrotechnics and
mud-slinging at rivals.
UPFA’s Mayoral candidate Milinda Moragoda says that he
believes in a clean campaign. The theme of his campaign is
`Colombo the Centre of Excellence’. Moragoda has grand plans
for the city which he wants to make `the economic hub of
He launched his 12-point policy statement at a ceremony
held at Mahaweli Centre last week. This programme also
includes `a 100-day crash programme’.
UNP candidate A.J.M. Muzammil has taken up the cause of
shanty dwellers and holds out the promise to provide them
with better housing and rise against any attempt to displace
them in the name of development. He says that he has planned
to address over 150 meetings in Colombo. Jeyalalithaa being
The situation in geopolitics that has arisen due to the
extremist Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu pushing
Chief Minister Jeyalalithaa towards an uncompromising stance
against Sri Lanka figured prominently at the deliberations
at the Cabinet meeting held last week with President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in the chair. These pro-LTTE political leaders
like Nedumaran, Vaiko, Seeman and Tirumavalan do not command
a significant clout in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly.
However, Jeyalalithaa has been compelled to dance according
to the tune set by these leaders as they together threw
their weight behind her bid to become the Chief Minister. Of
late, the Indian Marxist political parties CP (I) and CP (M)
have begun echoing the anti-Sri Lanka cry of the Tamil Nadu
political leaders. These two Communist parties together hold
about 20 seats in Indian Lok Sabha.
The CP (I) leaders too had taken Sri Lankan government to
task during the recent debate on Sri Lanka in the Indian
DEW turns troubleshooter
During the discussion at the Cabinet meeting President
Rajapaksa said: “People like Vaiko and Nedumaran have always
been backing the Tigers. However, the Indian Communist
parties harbouring misconceptions about us is a matter we
should set right.”
Turning to Minister DEW Gunasekera the President added: “You
are a leader of the Communist party in Sri Lanka. Can’t you
explain things to the two Communist parties in India?”
Minister Gunasekera readily agreed to take up the `trouble-
shooting’ mission and the President asked him to visit India
following week itself. “Meet Indian PM Manmohan Singh as
well to keep him posted on the latest developments here,”
President Rajapaksa told the Minister.
Incidentally, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris is
currently visiting a number of countries including South
Korea, United Kingdom and Switzerland.Deputy Minister Neomal
Perera is also on a visit to several Latin American
countries to lobby their support for Sri Lanka in the event
of any move against the country is made at the upcoming UN
General Assembly sessions.
Given the absence of both External Affairs Minister and his
Deputy from the country, President Rajapaksa appointed DEW
Gunasekera as the acting External Affairs Minister which
position would facilitate the mission he is to carry out in
Minister Gunasekera soon after getting the assignment
from the President lost no time collecting necessary data to
hold a brief for the government at the meetings with the
Indian political leaders. He obtained the statistical data
relating to the resettlement of the war-displaced people in
the North and East and the release of LTTE suspects after
being rehabilitated. He also made a study of the measures
taken by the government to strengthen the civil
administration in the North and the extent of relief
resulting from the lifting of the Emergency law.
The Minister had also collected much information about `the
devious plans’ being worked out by some countries in the
West in a bid to destabilise the country.
DEW meets Indian CP leaders
Armed with facts and figures in support of his brief for the
government, DEW Gunasekera left for New Delhi as acting
External Affairs Minister last Wednesday afternoon.
Minister Gunasekera on Thursday called on General Secretary
of the CP (I) D. Raja at the party headquarters in New
Delhi, not as the acting External Affairs Minister, but in
his capacity as the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Communist
party. Raja had asked Minister Gunasekera how come that
they, as a Communist party, are backing the chauvinist
government in Sri Lanka. The Minister had explained that the
government had never been racialist and those in India
should come to terms with the ground realities in Sri Lanka.
The Minister had also pointed out that it is unfair to
accept as credible the charge made by the Tamil Diaspora
that the people in the North are being persecuted by the
Minister Gunasekera later met General Secretary of the CP
(M) Prakash Karat and briefed him on the situation here.
The Minister on the Thursday night held talks with the
politburo members of both CP(I) and CP(M) at a joint
conference The two Indian Communist parties functioning as
two separate political entities normally do not sit at the
same table together for a discussion. But as a gesture of
goodwill towards Minister Gunasekera they accepted the
latter’s invitation to talk with him at the same table.
The participants of the conference had discussed the role
that the Communist parties in Asian countries should play in
the context of the current global geopolitical imperatives.
Minister Gunasekera had later explained to them the measures
taken by the government to provide immediate relief to the
people in the North and East in the post-war situation.
DEW slams West
Minister Gunasekera after making a reference to` the
political agenda being pursued by the powerful countries in
West like the United States and Great Britain,’ explained
that these powers in the West have turned against Sri Lanka
for defeating terrorism without heeding their calls for a
ceasefire. He charged that the countries in the West are
trying to destabilise the Sri Lankan government out of
Minister Gunasekera the following day (Friday) called on
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and handed him a
message from President Rajapaksa. He also briefed the Indian
Prime Minister on the measures taken by the Sri Lankan
government to solve the pressing problems of the Tamils in
the North-East and on the progress made in resettling the
war-displaced in their original homes.
Minister Dew Gunasekera returned to the island on Friday
afternoon following his successful three day visit.
Incidentally, Dew Gunasekera is the first non-SLFP Minister
to have been appointed as acting External Affairs Minister
of an SLFP-led government in the country. He is also the
first non-SLFP Minister to have been chosen for a special
goodwill mission by a head of State of a SLFP-led