By Shamindra Ferdinando
An irate President Maithripala Sirisena has rescinded government decision to suspend Brigadier Priyankara Fernando, Minister Counselor (Defence) attached to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London following allegations that he acted in a threatening manner during a protest staged by some pro-LTTE groups outside the Sri Lankan High Commission in London on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day.
President Sirisena has lambasted government authorities for taking disciplinary action against the officer. Well informed sources told The Island that the President had pointed out that he should have been consulted before the Foreign Ministry announced the Minister Counsellor’s removal.
The Foreign Ministry has issued the following statement: “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.
In this connection, instructions have been sent to Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London today, 6 February 2018, to suspend the Minister Counsellor (Defence) from work, with immediate effect. Authorities in Sri Lanka including the Sri Lanka Army will initiate inquiries on the incident immediately.”
The protest had been organized by a group called Tamil Solidarity active in the UK. In a petition to UK government, the group demanded that Brig. Fernando be removed for threatening protesting Tamils.
Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told Local Government polls campaign rally at Panadura that people really appreciated President Sirisena’s swift intervention. Samarasinghe declared that President Sirisena’s move recognized the sacrifices made by the armed forces against terrorism.
Former Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, told The Island that Foreign Ministry had acted swiftly against a senior officer on the basis of social media reportage of some gestures made by him whereas it turned a blind eye to vital information provided by Lord Naseby in defence of Sri Lankan armed forces.
UNP MP Rajapakse said he immediately wrote to President Sirisena seeking his intervention to reinstate the officer.
The UNPer flayed the foreign ministry for bending backwards to appease Western powers and Tamil diaspora.
Responding to a query, Rajapakse said that extremist Diaspora elements had caused unnecessary trouble outside the Sri Lankan High Commission at a time Sri Lanka celebrated her 70th anniversary of independence from the UK with the participation of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and the Countess of Wessex. The royal couple represented Queen Elizabeth II.
“The UK should take tangible measures to stop extremist nonsense,” the MP said, recalling massive protests directed at former President Rajapaksa when he visited the UK several years ago.