In support of UN Resolution on Terrorism
Commonwealth to unveil ‘action plan on terrorism’

From Shamindra Ferdinando in Coolum, Brisbane
In President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s absence Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando will represent Sri Lanka at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) at Coolum, Brishane, where Commonwealth leaders were expected to discuss a gamut of issues including cross-border terrorism and ways and means they could effectively tackle terrorism.

Minister Fernando who represented Sri Lanka at the ministerial level Commonwealth Committee on Terrorism established after AI Queda attacks on US targets last September said that their report would be submitted to the heads of state.

"The Committee met on January 29 and agreed on a Commonwealth Action Plan which will help member states comply with their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution on terrorism adopted after the AI Queda attacks." Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon said in an addendum to his report which was to be released at the CHOGM in Brisbane last October. But the Brisbane summit was put off and re-scheduled for Coolum apparently for security reasons following the AI Queda attacks. McKinnon said that they would continue to promote co-operation among the member states in areas such as extradition and mutual legal assistance. "Such co-operation is necessary for criminal investigation and prosecution against terrorism to succeed." he said in his report.

Responding to questions, Minister Fernando on Friday morning said that he would be representing the government in President Kumaratunga’s absence. Fernando said that he would be having several key bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of several Commonwealth countries during the four-day meeting beginning today.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner here retired Major General Janaka Perera and Deputy High Commissioner Asela Weerakoon were also present at the minister’s suite situated within the high security area adjoining the Media Centre. It was the suite reserved for head of Sri Lanka’s delegation.

The Island in its Friday’s issue, speculated on the possibility of President Kumaratunga keeping away from CHOGM. The president was earlier scheduled to arrive here along with a presidential media group. "The eleventh-hour cancellation came after all arrangements were here." One source said expressing the belief that President Kumaratunga decided to skip the Coolum summit where Commonwealth leaders were to discuss ways of battling cross-border terrorism. "Many countries see terrorism as an important agenda item for the summit", an Asian journalist said while expressing the belief the Sri Lankan president should not have ignored the opportunity to brief Commonwealth leaders of the ongoing Norwegian facilitated peace effort.

Responding to questions, Minister Fernando said he did not fly to Indonesian tourist island Bali on his way to Brisbane to attend a two-day conference on people’s smuggling. Interior Minister John Amaratunga was there, he said, MP Lal Gamage who represented the Foreign Ministry had accompanied Amaratunga.

The conference was co hosted by Indonesia and Australia to discuss ways and means of the countries in the region could work together to combat movement illegal immigrants.

Minister Fernando did not rule out the possibility of the issue of the illegal immigrants being discussed on the sidelines of the summit.

An undisclosed number of Sri Lankans were in detention camps for illegally entering Australia.