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'Where are Sharma's manners?' queries Mangy

2013 Jul 19

UNP MP says C’Wealth Secretary General has failed to acknowledge his missive

Vows to use any means to get democracy and basic freedoms restored in Lanka

Says ‘Flying Fish’ does not insult soldiers, Defence Ministry does

Claims ruling administration is trying to showcase democracy to C’wealth while crushing dissent at home

By Dharisha Bastians

Opposition Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera yesterday reacted strongly to the lack of a response from the Commonwealth Secretariat to his letter highlighting the deteriorating democratic standards in Sri Lanka three months before it is scheduled to take leadership of the international grouping. 

Samaraweera said Sharma was yet to grace him with the courtesy of an acknowledgement to his letter dated 5 July. “I wrote to the Secretary General not only as a concerned citizen, but also as a former Foreign Minister and a senior politician in Sri Lanka. The letter was couriered to Marlborough House in London,” the UNP MP told a media briefing in Colombo.

“It has made me wonder whether courtesy and good manners are no longer considered important Commonwealth values,” he observed, denouncing the Government’s recent moves to showcase progress on democracy and human rights fronts as an attempt to hoodwink the international community. Samaraweera said the Secretariat was yet to acknowledge or respond to a letter by the Leader of the Opposition some months ago.

Responding to allegations by the Government that he was attempting to discredit the country and was pursuing an anti-Sri Lanka agenda with regard to CHOGM 2013, the UNP Parliamentarian said he was willing to lobby anyone including the Commonwealth if it meant the ruling regime could be coerced into restoring democracy in the country. “Not just to Kamalesh Sharma and the Commonwealth, I will go even to the devil if it means the situation in Sri Lanka in terms of democracy and freedom will improve,” he charged.

Reacting to the Government decision to ban the movie ‘Flying Fish’ and the French Film Festival for screening the film, Samaraweera said that it highlighted yet another attempt by the Government to stifle the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. “The Government plays a wholly different tune with the Commonwealth and the international community while crushing dissenting opinion here,” he said. The movie had been banned as a result of hardline Sinhala movements lobbying the Defence Ministry, the UNP Legislator said. Samaraweera charged that there was no scene that insulted the armed forces in the now banned movie. “It is the Defence Ministry that insults our war heroes by turning them into a slave labour force, making them pave the sidewalks and fry shrimp for foreign tourists,” he claimed.

In his letter to Sharma, the UNP MP said that the Sri Lankan Government continued to violate the values of the Commonwealth Charter by regressing on human rights, rule of law and democracy issues. “Emboldened by its apologists in the international community, the regime, continues with arrogance to violate the core values of the Commonwealth Charter… from the daily occurrences it is clear that the Government is unable to mend its ways and that there is a vast discrepancy between the values of the Commonwealth and the values of its incoming Chairman,” Samaraweera said in his letter.

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