President to visit UN despite probe

Tight security amidst fears of protests by Fonseka supporters
By Our Diplomatic Editor

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will lead the Sri Lanka delegation to the United Nations next month.
Some of Sri Lanka’s leaders in the business and industry sector will accompany him. They are to hold talks with their counterparts in the United States to promote trade and investment in Sri Lanka. Mr. Rajapaksa will also make private visits to Mexico and Germany during this tour.

Mr. Rajapaksa will take part in both the high level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as the sessions of the UN General Assembly.
A slot has been reserved for him to address the MDG on September 22. More than 150 world leaders are expected to speak at this three-day summit meeting. This summit is to spill over to the UN General Assembly sessions which begin on Thursday September 23. President Rajapaksa is listed as the seventh speaker on the opening day after Brazil, the United States, Switzerland, Malawi, Pakistan and Costa Rica.

At the General Assembly sessions, President Rajapaksa, External Affairs Ministry sources said, would spell out matters relating to last year’s military defeat of Tiger guerrillas. “This is intended particularly to address issues which a UN panel on Sri Lanka is trying to probe,” a source said.

He said security during President Rajapaksa’s visit would be tight. According to reports reaching the Ministry, there are indications of protests and demonstrations outside the UN – not by Tamil expatriates or LTTE supporters but a group of Sinhala expatriates who are supportive of former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka. However, a similar protest campaign last month in Los Angeles failed to assemble more than 15 participants.

The Ministry has advised the Sri Lanka mission to the United Nations to closely monitor the security situation and be very selective of the audience – both for a public reception and a visit to New York Buddhist Vihara – primarily to avoid any political confrontations or embarrassments.

As expected, President Rajapaksa has decided to skip the public lecture at New York’s Asia Society next month. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris has stepped in to address the Society on Monday September 17 at 6.30 p.m. The topic is expected to be post-conflict Sri Lanka.

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