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Govt. accuses US of making war crimes case against SL – Island

[MISC, Sunday, 13 September 2009 07:53 No Comment]

The government yesterday said that the US was rapidly making a case of war crimes against Sri Lanka on the basis of the conduct of her armed forces, police as well as the political leadership during the recently concluded war.

Ministerial and Defence sources told The Sunday Island that former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Robert Blake, now based at the State Department was behind the move.

They accused Dr. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council and Dr. Pakyasothi Saravanamuttu of the Center for Policy Alternatives of being party to the US move.

Sources alleged that the US State Department recently arranged for them to visit Washington where they engaged in Sri Lanka bashing.

According to the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington, the NGO officials were critical of the Sri Lankan government not only during the war but the post-LTTE period as well.

Defence sources said that Messrs Perera and Saravanamuttu had spoken in support of the ongoing investigation ordered by the US Foreign Relations Committee. The embassy said that what they basically said was what Blake wanted them to say.

Dr. Jehan Perera denied the allegations, emphasizing that they were not in anyway involved in any anti-Sri Lankan campaign. Responding to The Sunday Island queries, Perera said that they visited Washington on an invitation of the US Institute of Peace for a hearing on the situation in Sri Lanka.

He said that the Sri Lankan mission, too, was represented at the hearing and he in fact, met with Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya and explained his position. "There was absolutely nothing clandestine about the visit," he said.

Asked whether they had a meeting with Blake, Perera said that they were invited to the State Department where they met Blake on the day before the hearing at the US Institute of Peace.

Perera said that it was unfortunate that the government simply paints anyone black if he or she took a different point of view. He said that during his recent visit to Washington, he essentially focused on two issues – one was the Sri Lankan government’s practice of looking at every issue, including that of the IDPs, from a security angle.

Therefore Sri Lanka was unlikely to succeed in meeting the challenging task of peace building in a post-LTTE scenario, he said adding that the US should support Sri Lankan projects on a case-by-case basis.

He said that projects beneficial to the civilians should be supported and the Sri Lankan government, in turn, should deviate from its war mentality as the LTTE was no longer an issue.

Defence Ministry source said that Perera had conveniently forgotten that as the US Institute of Peace was a federal institution set up and fully funded by the Congress. It could not deviate from the overall objectives of its donor as in the case of any other recipient of overseas funding in any part of the world.

Perera said that while returning to Colombo, Saravanamuttu was briefly detained at the Bandaranaike International Airport though there was no attempt to question him. He acknowledged that this could have been prompted by their visit to Washington.

He also said that as the US Foreign Relations Committee had ordered an investigation into the situation here several months before their recent visit to Washington, it would be unreasonable to blame him or Saravanamuttu for causing an inquiry.

Perera said that he believed that the investigation report was initially to come out in April or May. But it would be out soon and the government would find it in an embarrassing situation unless it made an overall change in its style in what he called a post-LTTE era.

Ministerial sources said that the likes of Perera could not understand the ways and means of the LTTE or other terrorist organizations fighting US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[Full Coverage]

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