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 SL changes top envoy as UN panel finalises report

SL changes top envoy as UN panel finalises report

2011 Jan 17

In the wake of the UN-Sri Lanka spat over the appointment of a panel to advise UN Secretary General Ban-ki moon over the so-called accountability issues (read war crimes), the government will move the country’s top representative in New York to London.

Sources say Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona will end his stint in New York ahead of his term. Kohona succeeded veteran career diplomat, H. M .G. S. Palihakkara, a few months after the conclusion of the war in May 2009.

Responding to a query by The Island, sources said that London would be a tough station due to the heavy presence of the British Tamil Forum (BTF) and Global Tamil Forum (GTF), which represent the LTTE interests. The two groups spearheaded a campaign last December to force the Oxford Union to cancel a lecture by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The government is feeling the need for a major diplomatic effort in New York as the UN inquiry gathers momentum. Sources say some government bigwigs are unhappy with what an insider called the performance of the Sri Lanka mission in New York vis-a-vis theUNSG’s panel.

Speculation is that a non-career diplomat will succeed Kohona.

The UN on Friday (Jan. 14) extended the term of the UN Panel of Experts until the end of February. The Panel came into being shortly after Kohona took over. During the war, Kohona played an important role in spearheading the diplomatic efforts aimed at supporting the military offensive.

Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General told media in New York, "The Sri Lanka panel has been granted an extension until the end of February."It was earlier scheduled to submit its final report to the UN Chief this month and the UN Chief was to decide if he wanted the contents of the report to be made public.

The panel, headed by Indonesia’s former attorney general, Marzuki Darusman with Yazmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner, a lawyer from the United States as its other key members, commenced its work in September last year after a meeting with the UN Secretary-General.

Former Ambassador in Japan, Jayantha Palipane, recalled last September after Japan fingerprinted the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and made him wait for about half an hour and processed through normal passenger channel instead of the VIP lounge at Narita airport, is expected to take over the SL mission in Doha.

Four senior officials based at the External Affairs Ministry, T. R. Ravindran, C. Wijeratne, Asoka Giriyagama and Ranjith Gunaratne will take over missions in the Middle East. Sources said that the forthcoming appointments were their first overseas postings as heads of missions. Another senior official based at the External Affairs Ministry, A. Azis is tipped to be Sri Lanka’s top envoy to Vienna.

Meanwhile, The Island learns that Additional Secretary to the External Affairs Ministry Ranjith Uyangoda has been asked to take over the mission in Berlin in spite of his being earlier chosen as the Ambassador to Beijing. Sources said that Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, who is also ending his stint prematurely, has successfully campaigned for the assignment in China.

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