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Kohona's role corners Lanka

Did UN officials in New York trap Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative in a ploy to embarrass Sri Lanka by asking him to serve as head of a three-member Special Committee on Israel's alleged human rights abuses in occupied territories?

This has become the talking point in the corridors of the External Affairs Ministry after reports that Dr. Palitha Kohona did not consult Colombo before taking over the appointment.

External Affairs Ministry officials say this has caused a dichotomous situation. On the one hand, Sri Lanka is strongly objecting to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointing a three-member panel to advise him on accountability issues during the final stages of the campaign to defeat militarily the Tiger guerrillas. The move is widely seen as a prelude to the appointment of a Commission to probe alleged war crimes and human rights violations by troops and Tiger guerrillas.

On the other hand, they say, the Sri Lanka Government had allowed its Permanent Representative at the UN to serve in a three-member Committee. A UN statement last week said Dr. Kohona had declared, "the testimonials that we have heard attest to a failure to address the long-standing pattern of serious human rights violations." He called upon Israel to end human rights violations in the occupied territories of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights, "after hearing from dozens of witnesses during a recent visit to the region."

Senior Government Ministers have argued that Ban's move in appointing a panel to advise him on Sri Lanka was interference in the internal affairs of the country. They have vehemently opposed the move and declared that no visas would be given for any member of the panel to visit Sri Lanka.

Officials say Dr. Kohona had taken up the position that his experience with the Special Committee would enable him to advise the Government on issues relating to the panel of experts. Others, however, said he went on a 13-day trip to Cairo, Amman and Damascus as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative at the UN. He and the two Committee members heard testimony from witnesses from across the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Will they call Fonseka?

United Nations official spokesman Martin Nesirky dodged a question about General Sarath Fonseka when he spoke to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

A journalist asked: I want to ask this, whether in its definition of concerned officials, the UN has included Sarath Fonseka, who was the General in charge during the final stage of the conflict, and who has alleged that orders were given to kill surrendering fighters and to shell civilians. So, he is an official, presumably, and has said that he would like to testify or to make his evidence known. Will this panel be speaking to him as a concerned official?

Nesirky: The mandate is such that some of the precise details on who and how will still need to be worked out. However, the aim is for this panel, as I have said, to co-operate with the concerned officials. There is a timeframe set once the work has started, to complete that within four months.

Top cop on hospital mat

A gazetted Police officer in the central hills has come under scrutiny after he entered hospital reportedly after an accident. Police say that his son, who had allegedly driven a Police scout car, had met with an accident an hour earlier and admitted himself to hospital. They are checking to see whether the papa followed just to say he was there when the son met with the accident.

Security First at Ranil's meeting

The United Professional Group (UPG), a body of pro-United National Party professionals, met at the Capri Club this week to hear their leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The meeting was under way when someone spotted a person whom he claimed was an "intruder". He said he was a journalist from a TV station located a short distance away from Galle Road. The Opposition Leader's security details moved him out from the meeting room, frisked him and summoned the Kollupitiya Police. When they checked him, he was found to hold the identity card of a TV station in the outskirts of Colombo.

He was arrested, produced before a Magistrate and later bailed out. Police say they will file charges against him for trespass. Is the young journalist not a professional? Or has he "trespassed" by producing a different identity card? Media organisations are yet to react.

Wife behind the transfers

Two female police officers in the hills received their transfer orders to a remote station yesterday. It came within hours after the wife of a top police official complained they were not helpful to her.

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