Rapp "pompous,’’ US messaging methods "grotesque’’

GL meets US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice

Friday’s meeting between External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and Ambassador Stephen. J. Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, had seen both sides take up adversarial positions which diplomats believed would seriously damage future avenues of cooperation and engagement.

Colombo had indicated that Rapp appeared to have pre-judged the issues and had a closed mind on the matters under discussion and seems to have accepted unverified information provided by interested parties as correct.

``This visit seems to have been undertaken by Rapp from a position of pre-judgment seeking aspects justifying the objectives he is seeking,’’ one source said.

The visiting ambassador who traveled to the north and talked to people there said he had been briefed on incidents by people who had witnessed them. Based on such testimony, Rapp had said he was ``convinced’’ that the 40,000 figure of those who died was accurate.

His claim that as a prosecutor, he could judge credibility of testimony was seen as ``pompous’’ by the Sri Lanka side.

Well informed sources said that the matter of the Twitter picture and caption posted by the US Embassy here describing the St. Anthany’s (sic) ground being ``the site of the Jan. 2009 killing of hundreds of families by army shelling’’ had also come up at the Peiris – Rapp meeting.

Although Colombo had not summoned the US ambassador over the posting, a call on the ministry of the US Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) with a visiting delegation had been used by Mr. K. Amunugama, Secretary to the External Affairs Ministry, to raise this matter.

The DCM had told Amunugama that the Twitter posting was a result of the Embassy’s belief that as a result of various adverse press articles as well as the anti-Rapp demonstration outside the Embassy perceived to have been organized by a government minister, they had to give out a public message.

They also wanted to convey reports received from people in the area as credible and that Rapp wanted to highlight the need for a Witness Protection Bill. The mild-mannered Peiris, credible sources said, had categorized this manner of working as ``grotesque.’’

A Victim and Witness Protection Bill was ready and was likely to be presented to a Cabinet Sub-Committee as early as this week and Anti-hate speech legislation was also being prepared for cabinet consideration, Rapp was told during the meeting.

He was further briefed that non-summary proceedings on the killing of five strudents on the Trincomalee beach had begun last September and the next hearing was set for March 6.

Peiris has also said that the census of the disappeared was being done by the Department of Census and Statistics. Enumerators were public servants including university and school teachers and village officials like grama niladaris.

The minister had rejected allegations on attacks on places of religious worship by sections of the international community as misunderstandings and distortions with interested people sometimes calling prayer rooms as places of religious worship.

The Defence Ministry and the ICRC have reached common understanding on processing complaints of missing persons and the findings would be presented to Commissioner of Inquiries and Disappearances.

Other matters covered included return of land acquired during the war – approximately 19,200 acres of private land 2,500 acres of state land had been returned. Peiris said that the LTTe had engaged in a massive land grab during the conflict and given such land to Mahaveer families. The lack of documents to prove ownership and competing claims was a problem but a fourth Land Commission will be set up in the next few weeks, Peiris said.

He made the further point that 12,000 ex-combatants have been released and outlined progress of post-conflict development to urge that the focus on Sri Lanka and the contemplated US action (Geneva resolution etc.) was not commensurate with the issues at hand.

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