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President Sirisena Revokes Foreign Ministry Order Suspending Brig.Priyankara Fernando as Foreign Ministry Secretary Had Not Followed Due Procedure of Consulting President Prior to Taking Action Against Minister Counsellor at London Mission.

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The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday revoked a Foreign Ministry order suspending and recalling Brig.Priyanka Fernando, Defense Counselor at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London on the grounds that the Foreign Secretary had not followed due procedure and consulted the President before taking action, sources in the Presidential Secretariat said.

“Brig.Fernando was suspended and recalled without first conducting an inquiry and also before consulting the President,” the source said.

“The Defense Secretary had also felt that the due process had been followed. He apologized to the President. And when punitive action was contemplated, the Defense Secretary told the Foreign Secretary about his objection. And yet, the army officer was suspended and recalled,” the source added.

The source however denied that the suspension, recall and revocation had anything to do with the upcoming Local Bodies elections.

While the minority Tamils, who accuse the Lankan armed forces of committing war crimes, want errant army officers to be punished, the majority Sinhalese are averse to any punitive action as they consider army men to be patriots.

Tamil Separatists‘ Demand

The separatist Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) today urged UK Government not to allow Sri Lankan Brigadier Priyanka Fernando from Leaving to Face War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide charges in UK.

Brigadier Priyanka Fernando is currently in UK, having until yesterday served as the military attaché of the Sri Lankan High Commission to UK.

“There are several reports published identifying his regiment, Gemunu Watch Battalion of the 59th Division, as responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the final months of the war in 2009. According to the UN and other organizations, 59th Division was the frontline fighting force that committed numerous war crimes including repeated attacks on hospitals, food distribution centers and civilians” TGTE said.

According to UN Internal Review Report on Sri Lanka around 70 thousand Tamils were killed in six months in 2009 and Tamil women were sexually assaulted by Sri Lankan Security Forces.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his statement to the UN Human rights Council on March 2017 urged countries around the world to initiate legal actions under Universal Jurisdiction to hold those responsible for committing international crimes in Sri Lanka.

As the country that co-sponsored a Resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on accountability for the above mentioned killings in Sri Lanka and as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, UK can be expected to take strong steps to bring those involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity to face justice.

“An alleged war criminal in your soil is the best opportunity for UK take actions. We strongly urge you not to allow Sri Lankan Brigadier Priyanka Fernando from leaving UK and initiate actions under universal jurisdiction” TGTE said.


British MPs Support Protesters

Ryan and McDonagh, the Vice Chair and Senior Vice Chair of the Tamil All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), also said in their letter to Boris Johnson MP that the conduct of Brigadier Fernando – Sri Lanka’s Defence Attaché to the UK – was “inappropriate, unacceptable and threatening […] from someone who is serving in an official capacity as a guest of this country.”

A video which went viral on the social media showed Brig.Fernando running a finger across his neck to indicate that the necks of those who oppose Sri Lanka will be cut.
Brig.Priyanka Fernando shown running his finger across his neck in the video which went viral

Lanka Promptly Suspends Erring Diplomat

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on Tuesday susp ended the Minister Counsellor (Defence) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London after a video of him making a threatening gesture to protesting crowds outside the High Commission went viral.

Brigadier Priyanka Fernando was seen making a throat cutting gesture to a group of largely Tamil diaspora protestors outside Sri Lanka’s High Commission on Sunday, which was Independence Day.

Authorities in Sri Lanka have taken serious note of videos being circulated on social and web-based media of an alleged incident involving the Minister Counsellor (Defence) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London behaving in an offensive manner, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“In this connection, instructions have been sent to Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London on 6 February 2018, to suspend the Minister Counselor (Defence) from work, with immediate effect. Authorities in Sri Lanka, including the Sri Lanka Army, will initiate inquiries on the incident immediately,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, British Labour politicians Joan Ryan MP and Siobhain McDonagh MP have called on the Foreign Secretary to “withdraw Brigadier Priyanka Fernando’s diplomatic papers and expel him” from the UK.

Ryan and McDonagh, the Vice Chair and Senior Vice Chair of the Tamil All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), also said in their letter to Boris Johnson MP that the conduct of Brigadier Fernando – Sri Lanka’s Defence Attaché to the UK – was “inappropriate, unacceptable and threatening […] from someone who is serving in an official capacity as a guest of this country.”

A video which had gone viral showed Brig.Fernando running a finger across his neck apparently suggesting that the necks of those who oppose Sri Lanka will be severed.

Prompted By Electoral Need?

Some political observers, however, saw a domestic political need behind the Sri Lankan government’s prompt action. Sri Lanka is to go for crucial local bodies elections on February 10 and the Tamil vote is important for all parties, particularly the ruling United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which is an ally of the UNP.

The Tamils of the North and East of Sri Lanka are already dissatisfied with these parties for their inability to solve the ethnic issue politically. A new liberal constitution is yet to see the light day and transitional justice mechanisms are yet to be established despite promises to the international community and the Tamil population to have them functioning on a priority basis.

Courtesy:NewsIn.Asia

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