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Colombo steps up fight against defamation

[Hindu, Thursday, 23 December 2010 09:48 No Comment]

Sri Lanka has stepped up efforts to counter the propaganda war unleashed by the Tamil diaspora about the condition of their brethren on the island and allegations of war crimes.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared on Tuesday that the battle against LTTE elements abroad would continue. The same day, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris invited U.S. Ambassador Patricia Butenis to meet him in the context of news reports that several United States Senators and Members of Congress had written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Addressing officer-cadets at a passing-out parade at the Sri Lanka Military Academy in Diyatalawa, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “We have already started the war against them in the international sphere and are committed to continuing it.”

Quoting him, The Daily Mirror newspaper said on Wednesday that the defeated terrorist elements had encamped in several countries and their latest strategy was to defame the country by accusing war heroes of crimes during the decisive phase that decimated the LTTE.

Three events in the recent past have once again brought to focus the closing stages of the war against the separatist Tigers that was comprehensively won by Sri Lanka: First, the forced cancellation of the President’s address at Oxford; second, the letter of several elected representatives in the United States to Ms. Clinton; and third, the timing of the announcement of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s three-member panel to advise him on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s address to the Oxford Union was abruptly cancelled on December 1 owing to security fears and “expected protests” by U.K.-based Tamil groups. Mr. Rajapaksa described Oxford as “the home of free speech” and had issued a statement regretting the decision of the Union. On December 18, in letters to Ms. Clinton, 17 Senators and 30 members of the House of Representatives called for the U.S. to seek a U.N. role in investigating last year’s decimation of Tamil Tiger insurgency.

On the visit of the U.N. panel, the Sri Lankan Foreign Office said on Saturday: “The Government of Sri Lanka has the responsibility to facilitate those desirous of presenting representations, as set out in the mandate of the [LLR] Commission. Accordingly, in the event of the Panel of the Secretary-General wishing to present representations to the Commission, the Ministry of External Affairs will make the arrangements that are necessary to enable the Panel to do so. This position has already been conveyed through diplomatic channels, to the United Nations in New York.”

In his meeting with Ms. Butenis, Mr. Peiris referred to the allegations of war crimes in the WikiLeaks cables. He said that he was constrained, however, to point out that the purported cables did contain glaring instances of allegations, totally unwarranted by the ground reality, being conveyed to Washington. As examples, the Minister cited the claims of children being sold into slavery, with the boys made to work in camps and the girls pushed into prostitution rings.

When contacted by The Hindu, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, declined comment on the meeting.

The Minister emphasised that conveying such mendacious stories clearly fabricated to denigrate Sri Lanka, was totally negative to the objective of diplomacy, which is for building bridges and promoting understanding.

The Minister said that greater circumspection would be appropriate in such cases in future, a release from the Sri Lankan External Affairs Ministry said.

On the letter of some Senators and Congressmen to Ms. Clinton, Mr. Peiris pointed out that the text of the letter as carried by the media, appeared among other matters, to assert that the effort of the government of Sri Lanka through the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) lacked mandate and broad scope.

[Full Coverage]

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