Sri Lanka rejects Britain’s envoy for humanitarian situation (Lead)

February 13th, 2009 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownColombo, Feb 13 (IANS) Sri Lanka Friday rejected British prime minister’s appointment of a special envoy to Sri Lanka to focus on the situation in the war zone, saying that the move was “quite unnecessary” and “intrusive”.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown Thursday appointed former defence minister Des Browne as his special envoy for Sri Lanka to focus on “the immediate humanitarian situation” in the island’s north.

But the move has virtually resulted in a diplomatic row with its former colony.

“We think it is quite unnecessary (for the British prime minister) to appoint a special envoy for Sri Lanka. We have already expressed our displeasure to the British High Commissioner here,” government spokesman and minister of media Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told reporters here Friday.

The British High Commission in a statement said that Des Browne in this new role “will focus on the immediate humanitarian situation in the north and the government of Sri Lanka’s work to set out a political solution to bring about a lasting end to the conflict”.

But Yapa stressed that Sri Lanka was “fully capable” of handling the issues relating to the war-displaced people as much as it handles its campaign to end terrorism in the island nation.

“We are not a colony any more,” he said, adding that the issue was discussed at length Thursday night at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told IANS that the ruling coalition saw Browne’s appointment as a unilateral gesture and has already decided not to accept him in his new capacity.

“The appointment of a special envoy tantamounts to the intrusion of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and disrespect to its sovereignty. This could lead to major repercussions,” Bogollagama said.

According to the British High Commission statement, Browne would work closely with the government and leaders from all communities here, international agencies and the wider international community.

“I am looking forward to contributing to UK efforts to improve the serious humanitarian situation and liaising with all parties that may have a role to play in taking forward work on a sustainable political solution,” the statement quoted Browne as saying.

His appointment as special envoy for humanitarian situation in the north has come amid mounting international concern over the plight of thousands of civilians trapped in the war-zone.

Browne, 57, who is currently a parliament member for Scotland, has held several ministerial positions in the past, including chief secretary to the treasury, secretary of state for defence and secretary of state for Scotland.

He was the only cabinet minister to have retained his position as secretary of state for defence after Gordon Brown reshuffled the cabinet upon becoming prime minister in June 2007.

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