GL summons UK HC over disputing President’s claimsMay 28, 2012, 10:03 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando
External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday summoned British High Commissioner John Rankin to the ministry to protest against the UK envoy contradicting President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Victory Day speech.
A British High Commission spokesperson yesterday afternoon said that the HC had further comments on this issue.
Ministry sources told The Island that Prof. Peiris had expressed displeasure over Rankin disputing President Rajapaksa’s claim of scaling down of the military presence and the non-involvement of the military in civil administration in the Northern Province since the conclusion of the conflict in May, 2009.
In his video, ‘Ask the High Commissioner’, Rankin challenged President Rajapaksa’s
statement pertaining to troop deployment in the Northern Province in his address to the nation on May 19, on the third anniversary of Sri Lanka’s war victory over the LTTE.
Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe told The Island that since the conclusion of the conflict there had been a steady reduction in the military presence in the Jaffna peninsula. He revealed that at the time he took over the peninsula on December 7, 2009, there had been 27,000 troops, though today there were only 15,600. "There are three Divisions deployed across the peninsula and the Jaffna islands. The 51 Division is deployed in the Jaffna sector, 52 Division in Vadamaratchchy and 55 Division at Elephant Pass. Don’t forget, at the time eelam war IV erupted, the Jaffna peninsula had the largest single concentration of armed forces and police numbering close to 50,000."
Rankin, in his video presentation, discussed the human rights situation in Sri Lanka with reference to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report as well as the recently launched UK Human Rights Report. Categorising Sri Lanka as one of the 28 countries accused of major human rights violations, Rankin stressed the need for freedom of expression, minority rights, women’s rights while condemning the country for continuing abductions and disappearances.
Commenting on the President’s assertion that the armed forces couldn’t be moved out of the Northern and Eastern Province due to the continued anti-Sri Lanka operations undertaken by the Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE rump abroad, Rankin said that the LTTE was no longer engaged in terrorist activity. He described the absence of terrorism as a good thing, while reminding the GoSL that the LTTE remained a proscribed organisation in many parts of the world, including in the UK.
HC Rankin said that President Rajapaksa had, in his Victory Day speech, declared that the military was no longer involved in civil administration in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. Recognising Sri Lanka’s right to maintain normal military bases throughout the country, like in the UK, he alleged that the military deployment in the Northern and Eastern Province was very much different compared to other parts of the country. Rankin alleged that the government was maintaining a very heavy military presence in the Northern region.
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