London talks not on India: President
President Mahinda Rajapaksa scoffed at news reports
that he had come to London to seek Prime Minister Tony Blair's help
to get India to give his government a sympathetic ear."I have
good relations with India. I have always talked directly with the
Indian Prime Minister and with India," the President told The
Sunday Times shortly before leaving for Colombo on Friday night.
President Rajapaksa was surprised that anybody
should think that he had to seek third party assistance to discuss
matters with neighbouring India.
He was referring to reports that Norway's special
envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer had told a Norwegian radio station that
Rajapaksa's meeting with Mr. Blair was "presumably an attempt
to secure India's support in favour of Sri Lanka's policy"
on the on-going conflict.
It is true, however, that terrorism and related
issues figured prominently in the more-than-an-hour-long talks President
Mahinda Rajapaksa had with Prime Minister Blair at Chequers, the
premier's country residence. It seemed a natural enough subject
for the two leaders to talk about since both Sri Lanka and Britain
are victims of terrorism with Colombo trying to neutralise the LTTE
and bring it to the negotiating table and Britain in the throes
of a major investigation into an alleged terrorist conspiracy that
targeted transatlantic flights out of London.
President Rajapaksa told The Sunday Times that
he briefed the British prime minister on the situation in Sri Lanka.
"We also discussed international and other
issues but I don't wish to go into them now," he said.
Though the president would not be drawn into it,
The Sunday Times understands that fund raising in Britain by the
LTTE and pro-Tiger front organisations figured in the discussions.
This was particularly relevant in the context of the on-going investigations
in the US and Canada about alleged attempts by the LTTE or its supporters
to buy sophisticated weaponry and bribe officials to gain access
to intelligence reports.
One of those arrested in the US in connection
with these inquiries is a London-based Tamil doctor.
Asked about the Non-Aligned summit to be held
for the second time in Havana, possibly as a tribute to Cuban President
Fidel Castro, President Rajapaksa said he would attend the summit
and thereafter the UN General Assembly sessions starting later this
Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene
Khan who met President Rajapakse is believed to have expressed concerns
about human rights violations and civilian casualties in the military
clashes that began last month.
Allegations by the former SLMM Chief Ulf Henriccson
that the Sri Lankan armed forces were responsible for the killing
of 17 aid workers have been dismissed as without foundation by two
prominent lawyers in a critique of Henriccson's statement.
Whether this piece of legal analysis was available
to the Amnesty International's chief before she called on the president
is not immediately known.
Later the reception held by High Commissioner
Kshenuka Senewiratne for the visiting president on Friday evening
was attended by Sri Lankans of all communities and representatives
of various Sri Lankan organisations in Britain. Among the unusually
large number of Sri Lankan Tamils present was TULF president V.
Anandasangaree on a visit to London.