UN Law Commission: Karannagoda praised, western media criticized for post-Fukushima ‘conduct’


By Shamindra Ferdinando

A Japanese member of the UN Law Commission, Shinya Murase, has paid a glowing tribute to newly appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador to Japan Admiral (Rtd) Wasantha Karannagoda for taking over the diplomatic mission in spite of radiation fears caused by the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear facility, on March 11, 2011.

Addressing the International Law Commission recently, regarding ways and means to tackle natural disasters in the aftermath of the Fukushima tragedy, Murase said that expression of solidarity could be as equally precious as material and financial support. Although Admiral Karannagoda hadn’t been named, Murase left no doubt as to which country he was referring to.

Former Navy Commander Karannagoda succeeded career diplomat Asela Weerakoon. The government is under heavy Opposition fire for appointing retired and serving military officers as heads of missions as well as to lesser diplomatic positions. External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris strongly defended the government decision in this regard in a response to a query raised by the Chief Opposition Whip, John Amaratunga in Parliament.

During his illustrious career, Admiral Karannagoda supervised the destruction of eight LTTE ships on the high seas during eelam war IV causing the rapid collapse of the enemy’s firepower.

Karannagoda’s action brought honour to Sri Lanka before national cricketer Kumar Sangakkara took advantage of the annual Sir Colin Cowdrey lecture to praise Sri Lanka’s military victory over LTTE terrorism in May 2009. Government sources told The Island that such praise couldn’t have come at a better time as a section of the international community targets the country on the human rights front.

While emphasizing the importance of international cooperation to tackle natural disasters, Murase told the UN Law Commission: "Just to mention one example without naming the country, there was a new Ambassador from a small Island country in Asia who had been appointed to serve in Japan from March. When the earthquake hit Japan, he was advised that he could postpone his assignment until the situation in Japan normalized. However, he arrived in Tokyo on schedule, because he thought it important to show his and his country’s solidarity with the Japanese people. His country itself was hit by a devastating tsunami in 2004. His arrival in Tokyo coincided with the week in March when so many embassy staff members of other countries were fleeing the city for fear of radioactive contamination (which, incidentally, had been largely exaggerated in the Western media). The mass exodus of foreign diplomats and business people had left the feeling among the Japanese, that they had been abandoned."

Murase went onto say: "But this ambassador was different. Right after his arrival, he visited the evacuation centers in the affected area with his fellow countrymen, cooking and serving hot food that was much appreciated by the evacuees who had been living under freezing temperatures without heat. His government donated the victims a huge amount of money for this small country, as well as 3 million bags of tea produced in his country. Furthermore, he led some 15 military personnel from his country to clean-up the debris in the tsunami-stricken area. These actions went well beyond his basic diplomatic duties, but his efforts were immensely appreciated."

Murase said Japan had received assistance from 161 countries and 43 international organizations following the tragedy. "We received immense quantities of relief supplies, substantial monetary donations, and hands-on assistance of a great number of relief teams from a great many countries, regions, and organizations, for all of which we are truly grateful. The Japanese people will never forget that the world stood by us when we were most in need."

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