Govt. firmly behind CDS – Foreign Minister-DHS move has serious implications for security and welfare of Sri Lanka
Posted on November 2nd, 2009

Government of Sri Lanka

The President and the Government of Sri Lanka stand firmly behind the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka. We will not allow that high post to be denigrated or made vulnerable, said Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama addressing the media on the moves by the USD Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to question the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who is now in the USA.

The matter under reference has serious implications for the security and welfare of the people of Sri Lanka and the Government of Sri Lanka will under no circumstances, authorize such an illegal act, he added.

According to available facts the objective of the questioning is to use the CDS “as a source against human rights violations done by Secretary/Defence”. The Minister said.

The CDS had traveled to the United States on a diplomatic passport for pre-arranged appointments. Whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his service with the Government of Sri Lanka and in the course of his duties, has the status of privileged information. He has no authority to divulge or share this information with third parties, without the prior approval and consent of the Sri Lanka authorities, the Minister said.

Answering a question from the media as to why the US DHS which has as its mandate the protection of the US from terrorism wishes to obtain information on the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, Minister Bogollagama said is was an interesting matter as to why a department that has its main function to safeguard the US from terrorism, wants to question a person who was largely responsible for defeating terrorism here.

In response to another question whether CDS Gen Sarath Fonseka being a Green Card Holder will be subject to US laws and will be obliged to answer questions put to him by DHS, the Minister said the Green Card was a visa arrangement, and the holding of a green card cannot alter the primary allegiance of the CDS to the Government of Sri Lanka to be subordinated to any other country. Whatever he knows is his capacity as CDS and former Army Commander is privileged, and it is wrong to ask him to reveal it to any others, without the agreement of the Government of Sri Lanka.

The US Ambassador had been given an Aide Memoire on the on the Government’s position, after discussions with her where the position of the Government had been clearly stated.

 

Here is the summary of Foreign Minister Bogollagama’s statement at the media briefing held Nov 1.

I have invited you to meet with me this afternoon, to emphasize in my capacity of Foreign Minister that the President and the Government of Sri Lanka stand firmly behind the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka. We will not allow that high post to be denigrated or made vulnerable.

The facts of the case as available to us are that the CDS General Sarath Fonseka who is at present in the United States, received a letter from the US Department of Homeland Security or DHS, calling him for an interview at 3.00 p.m. on Wednesday 4 November in Oklahoma City, in the State of Oklahoma. Moreover, he has also received a telephone call on 28 October during which a DHS Attorney had stated that the objective of the interview is to use him “as a source against human rights violations done by Secretary/Defence”.

It had been clarified during the telephone conversation that the reference to “Secretary/Defence” relates to Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order of Sri Lanka.

It is pertinent to recall in this regard that Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s duties as Secretary of that Ministry required his dealing with a situation of a grave onslaught that threatened the integrity of Sri Lanka and which was launched by the LTTE, an organization proscribed by several countries including the United States, for its terrorist activities. The allegations therefore leveled against the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary affect the vital interests of the Government of Sri Lanka and have occupied considerable time and attention of the respective Governments, at the highest levels. In fact, the US Ambassador in Colombo has already been briefed of the decision taken by the President of Sri Lanka to appoint a Panel to consider the matters raised in this Report. This decision by the President stems from Sri Lanka’s unbroken commitment as a democratic nation to the Rule of Law, under which allegations are first assessed as to whether they possess any substance meriting further inquiry.

The Chief of Defence Staff is a high level position within the Sri Lanka Government. He traveled to the United States on a diplomatic passport for pre-arranged appointments. Moreover, whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his service with the Government of Sri Lanka and in the course of his duties, has the status of privileged information. He has no authority to divulge or share this information with third parties, without the prior approval and consent of the Sri Lanka authorities.

I have accordingly met earlier this afternoon with H.E. Ms. Patricia Butenis, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, to convey through Her Excellency the message that the Department of Homeland Security should forthwith desist from any endeavor to interview General Fonseka. Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the US Jaliya Wickramasuriya has also made similar representations to the State Department in Washington DC.

Let me reiterate that this position of the Government of Sri Lanka is based on the following two well founded principles.

Firstly, whatever information General Fonseka may have acquired in the exercise of his official duties is privileged by nature. Therefore, it cannot legally be shared with third parties without the prior approval and consent of the Sri Lanka authorities. The matter under reference has serious implications for the security and welfare of the people of Sri Lanka and the Government of Sri Lanka will under no circumstances, authorize such an illegal act.

Secondly, the action taken by the DHS is not needed, since any issues that may be of concern are already being addressed at the highest levels on the part of both the Government of Sri Lanka and that of the United States. You would recall that I have earlier in my remarks to you, already referred to the briefing given to the US Ambassador, concerning the appointment of a Panel by H.E. the President of Sri Lanka.

I wish to emphasize that my conversation a little while ago with Ambassador Butenis was cordial and constructive and in keeping with the long standing relationship that exist between the United States and Sri Lanka.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2019 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress