Diplomatic community in Sri Lanka was briefed yesterday on a wide range of issues including the current status of the upcoming provincial elections and the Commonwealth summit.
External Affairs Minister Professor G.L. Peiris and the Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga provided a comprehensive briefing at the Ministry to the Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Colombo on current developments.
Commenting on the election campaign for the Provincial Council elections in the Central, North Western and Northern Provinces, the Minister said the campaign has been peaceful and there were hardly any serious incidents involving violence against candidates of Opposition parties. The violence reported was mostly among the same ruling party members, he noted.
The Elections Commissioner has invited international election observers to monitor the election process and accordingly, a team of observers from South Asian countries will be arriving in the country, the Minister informed the diplomats.
The team, led by N. Gopalaswami, former Chief of the Elections Commission of India, will include, 5 observers from India, 5 from Pakistan, 3 from Bangladesh, 2 from Nepal, 2 from the Maldives, and 1 each from Afghanistan and Bhutan.
Elections Commissioner has also finalized arrangements for several observers from Commonwealth countries to arrive in the island, Prof. Peiris said. These observers 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.
The Minister brought to the notice of the diplomats some disturbing features of the manifesto issued by the Tamil National Alliance, in particular, the reference to self-determination.
In a detailed critique of the report released by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay at the conclusion of her visit, Prof. Peiris made a point by point rebutted of some the criticisms by the High Commissioner.
Commenting on the preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Meeting in November, Prof. Peiris said the advance teams that visited the country to observe the arrangements for the summit have expressed satisfaction. 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 Business Forum will focus on Sri Lanka, as a developing hub for shipping, aviation, energy, commerce and knowledge based activity.
Prof. Peiris 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 finalized before the event is held, he added.
Secretary to the President presented an overall survey of the current implementation of recommendations contained in the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to the Ambassadors and High Commissioners.