External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris committed yet another diplomatic faux pas last week when he declared that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II would visit Hambantota for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2013.
Dr. Peiris told a meeting of the Tangalla electorate Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) branch that 53 heads of government would attend this meeting.
Immediately after the statement, the Commonwealth Secretariat in London reacted angrily to Dr. Peiris’ remarks. P.M. Amza, Sri Lanka’s Acting High Commissioner in Britain, was called for a meeting with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Political Director Amitav Banerji. He expressed “serious concern” over Dr. Peiris’ remarks. Mr. Banerji told the Sri Lankan Acting High Commissioner the remarks were “highly unwarranted” when no such matter has been entertained by Buckingham Palace. He has expressed complete surprise at the remarks.
The Sunday Times contacted Mr. Amza on his office landline in London. He was asked about the meeting and the concerns expressed by Mr. Banerji. Mr. Amza listened to a Sunday Times journalist explain Banerji’s remarks. He said “please call me in a little while. I am at a meeting”. Later, calls to his mobile phone were not answered. So was his land telephone where a message was left for Mr. Amza to call back and make his comments. He did not respond.
It was only two months earlier that External Affairs Minister Peiris made a controversial statement in Parliament. He claimed that Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav had requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa to mediate in the internal political crisis in his country. He claimed such a request came when President Rajapaksa met President Yadav in Shanghai on the sidelines of the world trade fair there. However, the Nepali President’s official spokesman strongly denied Dr. Peiris’ claims not once, but twice saying there was no such request made.
In mid last year, Dr. Peiris declared that the UN panel probing alleged ‘war crimes’ in Sri Lanka was “illegal”. However, just last month, he said that the panel would be welcome to testify before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). He added that visas would be issued to the panel’s members for the visit.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma expressed his “distress” at the flooding in the central and eastern areas. In a letter to President Rajapaksa, he said he had appealed to commonwealth countries to help Sri Lanka.