ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40

Bogollagama off to UK for talks

From Neville de Silva in London

Determined to press Sri Lanka's case for bold military action while being open for peace talks with the LTTE, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is due tomorrow for talks with both government and opposition and to address two prestigious international institutions.

In his first visit to London since assuming office as Foreign Minister Mr. Bogollagama is also scheduled to hold talks with Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon.

Mr Bogollagama will meet British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and International Development Minister Hilary Benn who raised hackles last month by accusing the Sri Lankan government of reneging on commitments made on human rights and military spending, among others, when it signed into a debt relief agreement of £41m with the UK.

He will also meet shadow foreign minister and former Tory leader William Hague. During these talks with government and opposition politicians and the Commonwealth chief, the new Foreign Minister is expected to brief them on the military steps the Government has been compelled to take in the face of violent provocations by the LTTE including suicide bombings and arms smuggling.

He is expected to point out that arms smuggling and the pursuit of a violent agenda for political ends have been possible largely because of LTTE fund raising among the Tamil diaspora in western Europe and elsewhere.

There is a general feeling here among sections of the Tamil community and even police officers that Britain has done little to curb open fund raising as recently reported in The Times of London, because of the lack of a resolute policy by the Home OfficeThe minister is expected to urge the British government to take steps to curb this as part of its commitment under treaty obligations. He is likely to push this when he meets Home Office officials.

The diplomatic community and the media here would be able to better grasp Sri Lanka's tougher line against the LTTE when the minister addresses the Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House, and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) which first warned about the LTTE's nascent airpower and later about its possible commercial links with al Qaeda, the radical Islamic organisation believed to be responsible for the 9/11 suicide bombings in the US.

At the Royal Institute Mr. Bogollagama will speak on the peace process and the international community and at the IISS on ‘Sri Lanka's foreign and security policy: the challenge of terrorism.’

Besides these two talks, the world will have a better view of Sri Lanka's policy on these issues when the minister is quizzed on BBC's ‘Hard Talk’ programme.

Breaking new ground, Mr. Bogollagama will also appear on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television which earned the wrath of the George Bush administration during the Iraq war.

On this he will be interviewed by the veteran British broadcaster Sir David Frost, now working for Al-Jazeera.

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