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Ministers clash over top UN post
By Ayesha R. Rafiq
The controversy surrounding Sri Lanka's nominee for a prestigious UN post -- the special rapporteur for the independence of judges and lawyers -- took a new twist with a row in cabinet over whom they should support.

After a heated debate, and the cabinet unable to resolve the issue, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will now sit down with Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando to decide on how to handle the matter.

The move comes in the wake of the UNF government nominating two candidates -- former (1970-77) Justice Ministry secretary Nihal Jayawickrama and former Bar Association president Desmond Fernando for the job.

Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had raised the issue of Sri Lanka nominating two persons for the UN post following press reports on the confusion that had arisen and the difficulty ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam in Geneva had been placed in.

Ambassador Kariyawasam is vice chairman of the extended bureau of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, which picks the UN special rapporteur after an elaborate selection process.

Mr. Samarasinghe, who is also president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Human Rights Committee said that as the cabinet could not resolve the issue, Education Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku suggested the matter be resolved by the Premier and the Foreign Minister.

Mr. Kodituwakku told The Sunday Times the cabinet seemed to favour the nomination of Desmond Fernando, whose candidature is being backed by the International Bar Association (IBA) of which he was a one-time president.

Foreign Minister Fernando, however, told The Sunday Times that the Prime Minister had yet to speak to him on the matter and as far as he was concerned, both nominations would go to Geneva and both candidates "will have to run their own race".

Desmond Fernando had last week forwarded his application for the post to the Foreign Ministry and it has been received by Mr. Kariyawasam.

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