Israeli military hardware for SL whenever need arises - Ambassador

By Kesara Abeywardena
The Israli Ambassador for Colombo David Matnai who is stationed in Bangkok yesterday said that the Israel government would continue to support Sri Lanka on military matters including supplies if and when the need arose as it had been in the past. Ambassador Matnai who is on a visit to Colombo also dismissed allegations made by a former Mossad agent in a book that they had trained LTTE cadres. "The government of Israel will never do something like that and there is no truth in those allegations. These were made by a person who fell out with Mossad," he said.

Recalling his experience in Sri Lanka Ambassador Matnai who is to retire from diplomatic service shortly had his first appointment in the foreign service in Sri Lanka in 1965. A perilous incident happened to him in Sri Lanka in 1984 while he was in charge of the Israeli interest section here. The room he was staying at Hotel Lanka Oberoi was bombed by the LTTE and he narrowly escaped. It was later found out that the LTTE had some connections certain fundamentalist sections in the Palastinian Liberation Organisation.

The government of Israel wishes "very much" to have a presence in Sri Lanka and is exploring means to open an office here, he said.

Sri Lanka resumed diplomatic relations with Israel last year after the Israel interest section that operated from the American Embassy was closed down in 1989 following protests from certain sections of the Muslim community. However military needs drove Sri Lanka to resume relations with Israel last year and the Israel Ambassador in Thailand was appointed as the ambassador for Sri Lanka as well. A Sri Lankan ambassador was also appointed to Tel Aviv.

Ambassador Matnai said that co-operation between the two countries have begun at a civilian level and two Israeli experts had visited Colombo to explore areas in assisting Sri Lanka on matters concerning agriculture, co-operatives and water management. "Israel has much to offer to Sri Lanka. Although this is a country that receives five times the rains received by Israel there are many problems concerning water management and there are even power cuts." He said that 30 scholarships were awarded for Sri Lankans on the agriculture sector by the government of Israel.

On investment from Israel in Sri Lanka he said that there is potential that can be explored and there would be positive results in the future.

Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations with Israel as far back as in 1958. However relations were suspended in 1970 to be resumed in 1984. According to Ambassador Matnai Israelis were responsible for introducing the tube well technology to Sri Lanka.