External Affairs Minister briefs envoys

gl    External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris, briefed Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Colombo, making a rebuttal to some the criticisms by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay at the conclusion of her visit.

Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga also presented to the Ambassadors and High Commissioners an overall survey of the current implementation of recommendations contained in the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the External Affairs Ministry said.

Peiris meanwhile commented on the election campaigns for the Provincial Council elections in the Central, North Western and Northern Provinces, and remarked that there had been hardly any serious incidents involving violence against candidates of Opposition parties. Complaints have generally related to disputes among candidates of government parties in respect of preference votes. This is largely due to the lack of a vigorous campaign by Opposition parties, the Minister said.

The government’s approach to the conduct of the elections has been one of total transparency and visibility, the Minister said. Although this has not been the practice in the past for Provincial Council elections, the Elections Commissioner decided to invite observers on this occasion from a number of foreign countries, he said. There are 5 observers from India, 5 from Pakistan, 3 from Bangladesh, 2 from Nepal, 2 from the Maldives, and 1 each for Afghanistan and Bhutan, he said. The South Asian group of observers will be led by Mr. N. Gopalaswami, former Chief of the Elections Commission of India.

In addition, there are several observers from Commonwealth countries, Prof. Peiris said. These are the former Vice-President of Kenya (Chairman), the former Elections Officer from the State of Victoria in Australia, the former Chief Elections Commissioner of Bangladesh and the Secretary of the Caribbean Association of Local Authorities from St. Lucia. These arrangements have been finalised by the Elections Commissioner.

The Minister brought to the notice of Ambassadors and High Commissioners some disturbing features of the manifesto issued by the Tamil National Alliance, in particular, the reference to self-determination.

Prof. Peiris, commenting on the preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Meeting in November, expressed satisfaction with the progress being made. He said that the advance team, representative of members of Commonwealth countries, which had visited Sri Lanka recently, had declared themselves pleased with the arrangements already made. The government is in regular touch with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London regarding logistics, he said.

On the Business Forum to be held on the sidelines of the main event, the Minister said that the responses, including from Heads of State and Government, were uniformly encouraging. The emphasis at this event will be on Sri Lanka, as a developing hub for shipping, aviation, energy, commerce and knowledge based activity. He said that proposals for major projects, especially for infrastructure in the public sector, were being developed by the Board of Investment, in association with other government institutions. It is the government’s aim to have the necessary approvals in respect of land, electricity, water and other requirements finalised before the event is held, Minister Peiris said.

 

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