Columns - Political Column

All set for the big battle for Colombo

  • Shanty dwellers become VIPs - very important pollsters
  • Both sides express confidence, but outcome crucial for UNP
By Our Political Editor

If one were to go by the names of places, it is truly global. Candidates for Saturday's elections to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) have traversed through not only "Korea," but also "Bosnia," "Serbia," and "Croatia" during their polls campaigns.

These are all shanties. Until the recent months "Korea" has been the only name used for slums that stand cheek by jowl with modern day structures in the City of Colombo. The name was introduced by leftist politicians in the 1950s after they likened them to the disease prone slums then in Korea. That new names have been added to the lexicon and more like Libya, Syria and Yemen may soon follow, is proof that television has not only invaded the shanties but influenced the inhabitants there too. Hardly one built with corrugated boards, wood from packing crates and zinc or flattened tar barrel sheets stands without an antenna jutting out from the roof. Like the rich, the poor are also enjoying their daily diet of TV.

For more than one reason, the shanty dwellers have become VIPs -- not very important persons but very important pollsters. Their votes could become the decisive factor. The Colombo Municipal Council and 22 other local councils go to polls on Saturday October 8. Both the ruling party and opposition candidates are making pious promises to the shanty dwellers that they would not be evicted as the City of Colombo assumes a beautiful face and a new reputation. The gloss and shine reflect the transformation in the north where Tiger guerrillas were militarily defeated more than two years ago.

Other Municipal Councils to which elections are to be held are Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, Moratuwa, Gampaha, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Kalmunai, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Badulla and Ratnapura. Besides the Kolonnawa Urban Council, five Pradeshiya Sabhas will also go to polls next Saturday. They are Kotikawatte-Mulleriyawa, Kundasale, Kandy Gravets-Gangawatte Korale, Suriyawewa and Hambantota. Of the country's 14.5 million voters, 1.5 million are eligible to cast their votes for the 23 local councils at 1,167 polling stations. A total of 6,488 candidates are vying for 420 seats.

Ranil and Muzammil go ‘tuk’ ‘tuk’. Pic courtesy Daily Mirror

There is little or no doubt that history may repeat itself, like the last local polls on July 23 this year. The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won 45 seats ceding 20 in the north to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)/Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). That election saw a total rout for the country's main opposition United National Party (UNP) which failed to secure control of even a single local authority. In the previous first phase of the local polls on March 17, The UPFA won control of 205 local authorities (including two contesting as the National Congress), the TNA 12, the UNP nine, the SLMC four and a UPFA-backed independent group one. There was no overall control in the three other local authorities but the UPFA was the largest group in two and the Up Country People's Front (UCPF) in one. With the impending polls for 23 local councils, all in Sinhala majority areas, the question is how many the UNP or other opposition parties will be able to gain control. That indeed will be the test of strength and popularity of the UNP whose standing in the eyes of the public has hit a very low ebb.

In this respect, of greater significance is the outcome of polls to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). For President Mahinda Rajapaksa's administration, it is a test of popularity and strength too, just over two years after the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas. The metropolis, most literate among all electoral districts, forms the epicentre of development activity, political and economic power. Unlike the previous Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) dominated governments which tended to gain state control, President Rajapaksa, creditable enough, has successfully coaxed a previously suspicious and reluctant private sector to become the engine of economic growth. Some in the sector may complain there is still no level playing field and only the select few were the beneficiaries. Yet, they were from the private sector and that has indeed led to a marked shift and raised greater expectations of further growth and development.

Significant enough, these robust key players were mostly captains of commerce and industry who traditionally backed the United National Party (UNP). Some of their vast empires had grown during the tenure of UNP governments that introduced and promoted a free market economy. They were now finding opportunities flowing unprecedentedly under Rajapaksa's rule. They had not only replaced state agencies in many areas to develop the infrastructure but were also building on that foundation with new projects.
Corruption -- not to be condoned-- has also grown to gigantic proportions. But losing a few millions to gain multi millions has become more a sign of encouragement than a deterrent. So they give in large measure to get returns in larger measures. The competition is growing. Mega projects in the City of Colombo are on the increase. So are the smaller outlets offering Sri Lankans a rival for their daily rice and curry -- pastas, burritos and all forms of coffee in a country famed for its best teas. Even if the west is a dirty word after allegations of war crimes against the government, lifestyles are moving in that direction. The City of Colombo has become the beacon.

Though dogged by many problems outside the shores of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is conscious of this factor and needs Colombo to be his stable launching pad. Within hours of his arrival after addressing the UN General Assembly in New York last Tuesday, he telephoned the UPFA Mayoral candidate Milinda Moragoda. It was to find out how the campaign was going. He was to later speak to several ministers and parliamentarians on the need to ensure Moragoda's victory. Rajapaksa's delegation to the UN included an official team of 72 and another unofficial team of 20 members totalling 92. There were five cabinet ministers -- G.L. Peiris, Maithripala Sirisena, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Nimal Siripala de Silva and Duminda Dissanayake. Some senior ministers were conspicuous by their absence in Morgoda's campaign. They included Basil Rajapaksa (who was busy in the Gampaha District) and Wimal Weerawansa (who was touring Anuradhapura, Ampara and Batticaloa Districts).

In all previous elections to the CMC, there were no guessing games on which political party would win. It was foregone conclusion that it would be the UNP and no one with a modicum of political knowledge challenged it. The opposition party then had its largest support base. However, it has become different this time with the question being asked "Can the UNP win the Colombo Municipal Council?" A loss for the UNP is fraught with great danger for a party that is in tatters and is riddled with a simmering leadership crisis. Fears that votes of Muslims and Tamils, traditionally part of the UNP vote base, would go to other candidates from their communities also weigh in. Another factor is a new trend that has been exhibited in the previous two phases of the local polls. A larger section of UNP voters have stayed away from polling stations to protest the crisis within the party and join the clamour for a leadership change.

In a bid to ensure the UNP's mayoral candidate, A.J.M. Muzammil wins, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, even took a bumpy ride in a three-wheeler taxi this week with his party candidate. That was to show that the party backed those taxi owners. The latter are livid with a private company that has introduced a taxi service using the world's cheapest car, Nano. The ride came at a time when the tuk-tuk owners were quarrelling among themselves. In Boralesgamuwa, they had placed a banner thanking a local politician for his help. He had halted a move by some three-wheeler taxis with metres fixed on them from operating in the area. The non-metered ones, as is well known, used the face of the passenger as their meter and fixed charges at their will.

The internecine battles within the UNP seem to be wrapped in a moratorium until the local polls are over. Yet, there were frictions. Sections claimed that the so-called reformist group was not "doing its best" for the party's campaign. Though it is bound to erupt again after the polls, a poor performance by the party at next Saturday's polls, particularly a loss of the CMC, is sure to exacerbate it.

Wickremesinghe is conscious of this reality and has been fully immersed in the CMC campaign undertaking no foreign trips during this period. He has also been closely monitoring the party's campaign and directing party seniors to move in to address various rallies and take part in campaigns. Though a frontliner in the conduct of UNP's foreign relations, Wickremesinghe even stayed away for the second time, from meeting another US emissary due to polls work. It was a dinner cum discussion at Jefferson House, the US Ambassador's residence at Horton Place, with visiting Congressman Steven Chabot. He is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. It was only in July that the House Foreign Relations Committee decided to ban aid to Sri Lanka. The move is yet to become law. Chabot's visit is significant both in this regard and for any course of action the Committee may take towards Sri Lanka.

The UPFA was represented by Minister A.H.M. Fowzie and parliamentarian Wasantha Senanayake (President, Sri Lanka - US Parliamentary Association), the UNP by deputy leader, Karu Jayasuriya and Mangala Samaraweera and the TNA by Rajavarothayam Sampanthan. As two aides of Congressman Chabot took notes, Sampanthan complained about "harassment" faced by the Tamil community and their desire to "live as equal citizens in Sri Lanka." Samaraweera, who introduced himself as the first Foreign Minister of the Rajapaksa administration, said the UNP would not stand in the way if the UPFA government agreed on a set of proposals to address Tamil grievances.

The present models available for such proposals, he said, were the enforcement of remaining provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the draft Constitution of 2000 and the report of the All Party Conference (APRC). The remarks seemed to indicate that the UNP would serve in the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee if the TNA took part. Associated with Congressman Chabot was US Ambassador Patricia Butenis. Earlier, Wickremesinghe skipped the UNP delegation that met Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary in the State Department. He was away in Kandy taking part in local poll events.
A UNP victory at CMC may see Wickremesinghe wielding a much stronger clout against his adversaries. Close aides say he may even consider disciplinary action against rebels within the party if they resume any campaign against the leadership. "It is not a cake walk. All the fundamentals for a UNP victory are there. We have to work hard. It is up to our candidates to work hard," said Karu Jayasuriya, deputy leader and head of the UNP Campaign Management Committee. He said all party members including parliamentarians have campaigned together for the party candidates under Wickremesinghe's leadership. "We have together battled many odds during the polls campaign where the force of the state machinery has been heavily used against us," he said.

UPFA stalwart, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who was once the party's Borella organiser, told the Sunday Times, "We are confident of winning all local councils this time. We are focusing on Colombo because we have some competition only in Colombo. In the other local authorities we do not have a problem. We are sure the people will take the correct decision. How can a local authority work without the blessings of the central government? If the UNP is elected in Colombo they will tell the people that there is no money to carry out the work. There is no use of another party, other than the ruling party winning a local council. Even in Colombo the best of the UNP members are today with the UPFA and we are confident of winning Colombo too along with all other 22 local bodies. Another factor in Colombo is that the President has assured that no houses will be demolished. This too is turning in favour of the government."

Moragoda has promised "a new city and a new life in Colombo in 100 days." He has offered a 12 point programme of work, the highlight of which is a Right to Information mechanism. "I will empower citizens to peruse any documents with the CMC with regard to tenders, the granting of stalls and other matters," he told the Sunday Times. If elected, he proposed to move a resolution in the CMC to give effect to this. Asked whether he was hopeful of winning, Moragoda, a minister of both the UNP and later the UPFA governments, was cautiously optimistic. "Let us wait and see how things turn up," he said. He avoided making a forecast.

However, Muzammil lost no time in saying he was confident of victory. "Our track record shows we have not lost. We are sure we will win," he told the Sunday Times. One of the major concerns for Muzammil, a member of the Western Provincial Council and a leading Muslim politician, was the fear entertained by shanty dwellers in most parts of the City. "They are living in absolute fear they would be ejected. There are 65,000 houses in 1600 gardens," he said. He added that during his visits to these areas, it was sad to hear many dwellers express fears that they would be evicted no sooner the polls are over. Interviews with the two main candidates appear elsewhere in this newspaper.

Also drawing considerable attention are the elections to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya Municipal Councils, both of which were held by the UNP. The ruling party and UNP factions both expressed hopes of convincing victories. Besides the UPFA and the UNP, other parties contesting the CMC are Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Democratic People's Front, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Democratic Unity Alliance, Patriotic National Front and the Janasetha Peramuna.

The dawn of next Sunday will signal a new era for either the UPFA or the UNP in the City of Colombo. The outcome of polls for the other 22 local authorities is also of importance. A nation waits with baited breath to see whether the UPFA will continue to grow from strength to strength or leave room for at least a paltry, democratic opposition. Either way, the UPFA will remain emboldened as the two main opposition parties, the UNP and the JVP are in the throes of serious internal crises that have torn them apart.

Police hunt for dissident leader as JVP crisis deepens

The crisis within the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) deepened as Police launched a countrywide manhunt for the extremist group leader, Premakumar Gunaratnam, better known in party circles as Kumara.

Detectives of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) want to question him for allegedly using a false passport to travel to Australia and then return to Sri Lanka using the same travel document. They also want to interview him about matters relating to his escape from Welikade jail in 1989 from which time Police lost track of his whereabouts. This is after he was arrested together with others for attacking the Army Camp in Pallekele during the JVP armed rebellion in 1987. Later the case against those involved was withdrawn due to technical reasons but Kumara who escaped together with his colleagues was never found. Nor did the search for him continue then.

‘STOP PRESS’: Lanka newspaper printing came to a halt after the police raid

On Wednesday, a team of CID detectives, armed with a warrant from courts, searched the apartment occupied by Ajith Kumara, Galle District MP for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), the joint front with former General and war hero Sarath Fonseka with the JVP being the predominant partner. They conducted a thorough search of the premises and seized a computer and other documentation.

The move, the Sunday Times learnt, followed revelations made to the Police by Kamal Rajapaksa, a staunch backer of the JVP's now moderate old guard that he had seen Kumara at the apartment located in the MP's hostel in Madiwela. He had claimed that he has met Kumara at the MP's hostel and also saw large bundles of Sri Lankan currency stacked in the same apartment. However, neither Kumara nor such money was found at the premises by CID detectives. Ajith Kumara is known to be backing the extremist group. There was speculation yesterday that another JVP MP wanted to join him.

As revealed in these columns last week, four members of the extremist group had visited a house in Madiwela run by the JVP. Venura Herath, Managing Director of the Lanka newspaper, had been living there with his cook, Kamal.

A clash had broken out between four members of the extremist group and Kamal. The cook alleged that he was assaulted by Herath and the others. When Police arrived, the latter accused Kamal of stealing Rs 900,000. The two of them together with one from the group of four attackers were arrested. They were later remanded till October 7. Police are still on the lookout for the other three.

Attempts to publish another issue of the Lanka newspaper at the printing presses of another newspaper group failed on Thursday night. Police obtained a search warrant and seized some 20,400 copies of the paper and took into custody four persons including Lanka Editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte. They were later released on police bail. This followed a complaint made by two Fast Publishers Ltd directors Lal Tennekoon and Liyanaratchchige Don Dharmasena that the newspaper was being printed without their authority. Together with the assistance of a lawyer, the two directors failed in their attempt earlier to get the printers to stop publishing the newspaper. An executive of the management had over ruled their request prompting the directors and their lawyer to go to the Ratmalana Police. Attempts by the extremist group backed by another lawyer to have the police accept their position proved futile. Although Lanka newspaper is now not in publication until the legal wrangle is resolved, the extremist group now controls the JVP's Sinhala and English websites.

The internecine battles are now in the open. Pubudu Jagoda who styles himself as the spokesperson for the extremists gave a lecture at the New Town Hall last Wednesday. The title was 'Second Innings of New Liberalism and Challenges to the left.'

He said, "Some in Sri Lanka have got fed up of the Left policies. There is no use of them. There are some who hold extreme left policies, but they work differently. There is no use of them. We need a true left movement in the country. We should work to establish this true left movement. We should fulfil that responsibility. The oppressed should unite for this purpose. There is a belief that this could be done. Jagoda claimed he was speaking as a JVPer. He had earlier called for disciplinary action against his party leaders.

However, barely 100 metres away, at the National Library, JVP's trade union leader and the man now in charge of security at their party headquarters, K.D. Lalkantha flayed Jagoda for his remarks.

Addressing a seminar organized by the National Trade Union Centre demanding a pay hike for state and private sector employees in the 2012 budget, he said neither the Central Working Committee nor the Political Committee has given permission to Jagoda, to conduct seminars or hold news conferences. Whoever wants to go against the party constitution will face disciplinary action. The JVP does not let petty issues to turn into a crisis as it will cause hindrance to the party's objectives. We do not keep those who create internal problems within the party, he said.

Lal Kantha also denied claims that the party has an invisible leader. "Pubudu Jagoda recently stated at a press conference that disciplinary action would be taken against Somawansa Amerasinghe, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Tilvin Silva. But disciplinary action is not taken at news conferences. He is completely unaware about the party Constitution. He said that the party policy is to agree with the majority but the minority can raise their concerns and issues within the party and not out of the party.

The headquarters of the JVP remained under the control of the now moderate old guard. However, five of the staffers, backing the extremists are continuing to remain there but they are not getting their meals. Only those who are loyal to the old guard are now entitled to meals whilst the others go out to obtain food but return to remain at the headquarters. "When we were in jail for the sake of the party, we were fed there," lamented one of them. Motorcycles given to members of the extremist group have been withdrawn. Those who had obtained loans have also been told to pay back immediately.

Fears of a crackdown by security authorities have prompted both sides to declare emphatically that there would be no recourse to violence by them. The old guard, in a bid to allay fears created at the grassroots level by the extremists, has declared that the JVP will hereafter have no truck with any other political party or grouping. This has raised an all important question about the future of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), the front from which the JVP MPs are represented in Parliament. Since the internecine battles coming into the public domain, no JVP parliamentarian has so far visited former General Sarath Fonseka in jail. The only exceptions are DNA parliamentarians former Sri Lanka cricket captain, Arjuna Ranatunga and Jayantha Ketagoda, who succeeded Fonseka in Parliament. The extremists declared recently that one of the blunders made by the old guard is to back Fonseka's candidature at last year's presidential elections.

The Sunday Times has in the past two weeks revealed exclusively details related to the internecine battles between the moderate old guards and the extremists led by Kumara. More details of how the divide came about are now emerging.

Priyantha Liyanage, a staffer attached to the Lanka newspaper had in July this year met Venerable Dambara Amila Thera, a leading member of the JVP Bhikku front. A conversation had ensued about the future of the party. Liyanage had allegedly told Ven. Amila that "we must capture power." The Thera had asked him "how do you capture power?" Giving details, Liyanage had said "inney nayakayo hari nehe" (present leaders are not good) and asked the Thera to join them in the effort.

Ven. Amila had conveyed this to Godahewage Kularatne, a leading member of the politburo. He in turn had conveyed it to Kumara who had then remarked "Asokaya vadey naala" (meaning Asoka had messed it up). Thereafter, Kularatne had also briefed JVP leader, Somawansa Amerasinghe of these developments. The JVP leader had summoned an urgent meeting of the Central Committee without giving reasons. There, he had called upon Kularatne to tell members what transpired. At first Kularatne had related his encounter with Ven. Amila. When he stopped at that, Amerasinghe had asked him to tell the other part of the story, the fact that he had told Kumara and his response that "Asokaya vadey Naala." There were also accusations that Asoka was responsible for the leaks to newspapers. That was how the Central Committee decided to suspend Asoka.

At that same Central Committee meeting, Kumara and Amerasinghe had a heated verbal exchange. This was after Amerasinghe said a conspiracy had been hatched to capture power in the party and it had come to light due to the utterances made by Lanka journalist Liyanage to Ven Amila. Kumara charged that Amerasinghe was conspiring with Minister Wimal Weerawansa to divide the JVP.

The CC also appointed what was called a Pareekshana Kamituwa (a committee of inquiry) to probe the alleged conspiracy. It was headed by Vijitha Herath (DNA MP for Gampaha District) and included Waruna Deepthi Rajapaksa. The evidence of members who testified before the Committee were tape recorded. The inquiry committee, JVP sources said, did establish that an attempt was under way by the extremists to capture power. That group of extremists, it noted, was headed by Kumara.

Kumara has continued to play a game of hide and seek. JVP sources said one man who maintained regular contact with him was Pubudu Jagoda, who is the self-styled spokesperson for the extremist group. Last Monday, Jagoda not only briefed several media groups but even some members of the intelligence community. However, he carefully avoided any mention of his leader, Kumara.

This week saw some confusion in the ranks of the extremists. This is due to perceived fears that the government was backing the old guard. The claims were based on the Police hunt for their leader, Kumara and the stoppage of the printing of Lanka newspaper which they tried to gain control.

The extremists insist there is no way they would seek recourse to an armed struggle. However, one of the extremist group members gave a short glimpse of their programme of action when he said they want to build opinion in their favour amongst grassroots level cadres. If there could be a spring in West Asia, why cannot we have one in Sri Lanka, he asked. But that batting order in a second innings by flowering extremists like Pubudu Herath to goad more youth into a vain campaign is bound to fail. The reason -- the cadres, be it pro old guard or otherwise, are better informed today. Most have profited from the lessons of the past, know the present and are aware that the future does not lie in a Sri Lankan summer within the four walls of a prison. Yet, the political threat to the now moderate old guard remains.

Shavendra Silva's immunity: Lanka awaits response from US, UN

On Friday September 23, Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Major General Shavendra de Silva, occupied a seat assigned to the Republic of Timor-Leste at the hall of the United Nations General Assembly.

Shavendra de Silva

There was no room for him in the seats assigned to the Sri Lanka delegation. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was addressing the UNGA that morning and the seats were filled with ministers and VIP officials from Colombo who were visiting New York.

With that over, Major General de Silva joined President Rajapaksa and some members of his entourage for a late lunch at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York's Central Park. With the lunch over, conversations continued.

Around 4.20 p.m. whilst Maj. Gen. de Silva was with President Rajapaksa and his entourage, something else was happening at his apartment in downtown Manhattan. A caller knocked at the door and it was opened by a member of his staff. This is how it played out.

Caller: (with a long drawn American accent): I am looking for Shavendra de Silva.
Staffer: (with the door half open): "Yes."
Caller: "Are you he?
Staffer: (Struggles to express himself in English): "…….he is in … United Nations office…….
Caller: "Do you work for him? Who are you?"
Staffer: "Pradip Kumara"
Caller: (Inaudible to him says) "I am sorry"
Staffer: "Pradip Kumara"
Caller: "You know Shavendra?"
Staffer: (unable to discern what the caller is saying) "I don't know"
Caller: "I see. Do you work for him?"
Staffer: Silence
Caller: Are you employed by Shavendra? Is there anyone else at home? Are you the only person here? Are you doing something for Shavendra?
Staffer: "No ! No !!" (Points his hand at the direction of the caller) "You will office…office…"
Caller: (pointing to documents in his hand): "This is for him. This is a legal document."

The staffer is then asked to spell his name again. Thereafter the caller leaves behind a set of documents with him. It was Friday night in New York when Maj. Gen. Silva returned to his apartment and realised it was a summons for a civil action against him in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. It was night time in the US and very early hours of the morning in Sri Lanka. So he promptly consulted President Rajapaksa and his officials. Telephone lines began humming between New York and Colombo.

The summons was served by Carlo Vogel on Pradip Kumara. It requires that Maj. Gen. Silva responds within 21 days (not counting the day he received it) with an answer to the plaintiff to the complaint made. The complaint relates to alleged war crimes committed by Maj. Gen. Silva when he served as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army's 58 Division during the final stages of the separatist war in May 2009. Signed by Ruby J. Krajick, Clerk of the Court, the summons says, "if you fail to respond, judgement by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. You must also file answer or motion with the court."

An Al Jazeera television crew recorded the delivery of the summons. In addition, a private detective used a hidden camera both to tape record and film the episode. The pro-Tiger guerrilla lobby responsible for initiating the Court action through the American University Washington College of Law's UNROW Human Rights Clinic has distributed the recorded tape and an accompanying unclear video. The same recording has also been made by the Al Jazeera crew.

Though Maj. Gen. Silva said at first that he would face the charges, even ignoring diplomatic immunity, there appears to be re-thinking on the matter.

An External Affairs Ministry statement on Tuesday said: "The Ministry is of the view that Ambassador Shavendra Silva as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York enjoys diplomatic immunities and privileges accorded under the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations as well as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Therefore, Ambassador Shavendra Silva is protected by the relevant international treaties on diplomatic relations, immunities and privileges and accepted diplomatic practices.

"Consequently, it would be the responsibility of the host nation and the United Nations to ensure that Ambassador Shavendra Silva's ability to conduct his duties as a diplomat of Sri Lanka is not hindered in any way by such disruptive activities. The Ministry of External Affairs will take all necessary measures to ensure that Ambassador Shavendra Silva's ability to conduct his duties as a diplomat of the Government of Sri Lanka is protected."

With the shift in focus, it is not immediately clear whether Maj. Gen. de Silva will respond to the summons stating that he is entitled to diplomatic immunity or ignore it altogether. An External Affairs Ministry source said yesterday that the government was consulting legal opinion in the US. "This is whilst we await a response to representations made both to the US government and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon," the source added.

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