President orders status-quo-ante on Palestine
Foreign Ministry officials were yesterday maintaining a diplomatic mum when The Sunday Times approached them to check information with regard to a controversy over Sri Lanka’s policy on Palestine, following its diplomats at the UN absenting themselves last month on a crucial resolution against Israel.
The Sunday Times learns that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given instructions to the Foreign Ministry that Sri Lanka should maintain its pro-Palestinian policy defined by former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike who in her 1976 address to the Non-Aligned summit in Colombo equated Zionism with racism and backed the Palestinian freedom struggle.
Sri Lanka was absent at the time of voting when Qatar last month presented a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Israel’s excesses in the Gaza Strip. The resolution was backed by other SAARC nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and even the European Union, which is usually soft on Israel.
A top Foreign Ministry official when asked whether the Foreign Ministry received specific instructions from the President refused to be quoted but said the President instructing the Foreign Ministry officials was a “continuous process”.
Palestinian Ambassador Anwar Alagha told The Sunday Times last night the President Rajapaksa, a one-time president of the Sri Lanka-Palestine Solidarity Committee, had personally assured him on Friday that there would be no change in the government's policy on Palestine.
"He has assured that the mistake will not occur again," Dr. Alagha said referring to the UN incident which was first reported in The Sunday Times of November 26.
The President met the envoy in the presence of a few Foreign Ministry officials.
Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam was quoted as saying in the state media yesterday that Sri Lanka continued to strongly support the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their right to an independent state.