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War of words over alleged war crimes

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's move to appoint a panel of experts to advise him on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka has sparked a war of words between a blog site covering the world body and the Sri Lanka's Permanent Mission in New York.

On May 10, Mathew Lee of Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Martin Nesirsky why a panel was not named 66 days after Mr. Ban had made the announcement.

He also wanted him to clarify reports that the proposed panel would be named only after Ban's political advisor Lynn Pascoe was allowed by the Government to visit Sri Lanka.

Mr. Nesirsky replied: "Wheels are still in motion."
Mr. Lee asked "if the Sri Lankan Government has put the brakes on UN's wheels?"
Mr. Nesirsky retorted, "Ask the Government of Sri Lanka."

Barely an hour later, Mr. Lee says, he received a letter from Bandula Jayasekera, Sri Lanka's new Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN. According to Lee, this is what Mr. Jayasekera had said:

"This refers to the question posed by you to Mr. Martin Nesirsky, Spokesperson for UNSG at the UN daily noon briefing held on May 7, 2010. 'In the last 24 hours the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has said that anyone who would seek to testify about war crimes by the Sri Lankan Government should be put to death. It's a capital offence and its treason'.

"We have inquired into this matter and Mr. Rajapaksa has not, I repeat not, made such a statement.
Your question is not based on fact, and is patently mischievous, misleading and incorrect.

"We kindly request you to reproduce this letter for the sake of fair play. As a man of integrity, in the media, you should not mislead the people who read your blog.

You should not abuse the position of blogging privilege. I sincerely hope you would uphold the ethics of blogging."

Mr. Lee was quick to point out that the remarks attributed to Defence Secretary Rajapaksa had appeared in a morning daily in Sri Lanka and reported by news agencies. He contended that it also appeared in official web portals of the Government.

What Lt. Col. (retd.) Rajapaksa had said is different to Mr. Lee's reported claim. He declared, "anyone seeking to undermine Sri Lanka's sovereignty should be treated as traitor regardless of his or her position…."

Mr. Lee has added a footnote: "When Bandula Jayasekera arrived at the UN as Palitha Kohona's deputy, Kohona threw a reception in Sri Lanka's high rise apartment. Bandula Jayasekera told Inner City Press that he used to be a journalist, is now a "new school diplomat" and that he would let it all hang out.
Apparently he is, with his call to "not to abuse the position of blogging privilege. Or what?"

Ministers told: Mind your attire and attitude

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had some strong words of advice to his Ministers at last Wednesday's Cabinet meeting. Seeing one of them in a short sleeve shirt, he asserted that Ministers should wear proper attire for Cabinet meetings.

He said they should be dressed formally since the Cabinet was an important forum. A second warning was for Ministers to guard their tongue. He said some of the Ministers who walked into their new Ministries had begun criticising their predecessors.

This was a bad practice, he said, and warned that he would take a serious view of such matters.
He said Ministers should always be conscious of collective Cabinet responsibility.

What's wrong Dulles?

A much-talked-of person in UPFA circles these days is Dullas Allahapperuma, the new Minister of Youth Affairs. His absence from Parliament and at last Wednesday's weekly Cabinet meeting had added to it. When he was sworn in as Minister, Mr. Allahapperuma had a meeting with staff of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB). It was on the understanding that he would inherit that organisation.

However, in the allocation of subjects, this important institution has been assigned to the Ministry of External Affairs. The official reason given for his absence is that he is "sick". Asked if he was "sick of politics", an aide of his asked me to go to hell.

No nudes are good nudes

Another Keyt painting, this time a nude, was found shoved under the bed of a former prudish Sri Lankan ambassador who had no tolerance for naked subjects, however artistic they may be.

A visiting Sri Lankan president, who was told about it, was horrified and ordered the painting returned to Sri Lanka.

And it now hangs in the official president's residence in Colombo..Or does it? Government owned paintings are known to have found their way from the President's office to Sootheby's auction room in London in the past, haven't they?

No laughing matter, CID comes in

The comedy of errors at the opening of the Police Academy, as revealed in these columns last week, has had its sequel. Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya has called in CID detectives to investigate how the string of embarrassing errors occurred.

When the chief guest, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, was speaking, his voice echoed loudly on the public address system. So much so, he asked that the system be switched off. A DIG fainted. The national anthem was played when senior officers and invitees were serving short eats on their plates.
Some had to stand to attention with one plate in hand and their mouths full.

Mystery of the missing painting

A priceless George Keyt painting, which for long adorned the living room of an ambassadorial residence in a Western capital, has gone missing.

Before the current ambassador moved in more than a year ago, the palatial multi-million dollar residence underwent major renovations.

The speculation is that someone -- either working at the embassy or a total outsider -- walked away with the painting from the residence which was virtually empty since the former ambassador had moved to temporary quarters in the neighbourhood.

Since there is a relentless search going on, whoever has the painting is unlikely to hang it in his or her living room. But most likely Keyt may continue to live underground -- permanently. So far, no monetary rewards have been offered for its return.

All work and some play

After attending to business in Parliament at the last sessions, some newly elected members ended the day with a game of soft ball cricket. It was in the grounds opposite the Parliament complex.

Among the players were Namal Rajapaksa, Duminda Silva and Uditha Lokubandara. Making up a playing eleven were their phalanx of security officers.

G15 going with the wind

And so, H.E. wings his way for the G15 summit in Iran, but he will be among only five other Heads of State to attend -- Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

After the last summit in 2006 in Havana where the chair was passed on to Iran, there was no agreement as to who would be the next chairman of the G 15. It took four years for Iran to hold the next summit.

It was the turn of the Latinos to host the next summit, but they refused suggesting it was a wasteful extravagance. The G15 matters are coordinated by the PRs in Geneva.

According to reliable Geneva sources, the G15 PRs have been seriously discussing the ways of winding up the Group!! This is true.

No tangible work has been done since the last summit; there is little nothing that can be done in the future as well. Are they discussing the winding up of the Group?

More questions on piano diplomat

Former Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama had ordered an inquiry into the case of a diplomat who smuggled in a piano, an antique clock and a painting from Japan. The one-time diplomat had resolved the issue with his former landlord by agreeing to ship the painting and the antique clock, both items of sentimental value. However, the matter has not ended there. The diplomat in question has not paid Customs duty nor declared the items when he returned to Sri Lanka at the end of his term.

Kandy's Cader to join UPFA cadres

United National Party's number one winner in the Kandy district has ruffled many a feather not only in his own party but also in UPFA circles.

Last week, pandals erected in some parts of Kandy to honour the appointment of D.M. Jayaratne as Prime Minister bore two portraits - one of Mr. Jayaratne and the other of A.R.M. Cader. XLittle wonder he is likely to join UPFA ranks. It began soon after Mr. Cader voted for the extension of the State of Emergency in Parliament.

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War of words over alleged war crimes


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