| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( July 9, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) About a month ago, State media posted a photo of US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison tagged as common candidate of the Opposition. The State owned Dinamina newspaper ran a lead news story stating that there was a battle to become the Opposition's common candidate.

The report said that the name of Ms. Sison was also among the names of contending Opposition common candidates. The entire lead story aimed at ridiculing the US ambassador. The government again clashed with her over USAID funding an NGO project for educating the public.

All are talking about how the Rajapaksa regime gained strength to clash with the US. One of our sources, who is close to the government hierarchy, told us that Singapore is the source of strength. Singapore's Deputy Foreign Minister, who visited Sri Lanka recently, advised the island nation to severely deal with any attempt by the US to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. He said that the US would step back if the government faced the challenge bravely.

The Singapore Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out to the ill-famous incident related to the US diplomat Mason Hendrickson, who was the First Secretary of the US embassy of Singapore in 1988. Singapore urged the US to sack Hendrickson since he interfered with the internal affairs of Singapore. Following is the New York Times report on the incident.

"Singapore seeks removal of US envoy

The Government of Singapore today accused an American diplomat of interfering in its domestic affairs and asked Washington to withdraw the envoy.

The United States said it would comply, but a spokesman at the United States Embassy in Singapore said the embassy rejected the accusation.

Singapore's action, outlined in an official statement tonight, added a twist to what Singaporeans and Western diplomats regard as a growing government campaign to head off opposition to the dominant People's Action Party of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The party is expected to call a general election among the 2.6 million Singaporeans within the year. The party holds all but one seat in Parliament. Until a week ago, Singaporean officials charged that Marxists were trying to subvert the government by encouraging the opposition. Ten people have been detained since mid-April under the country's Internal Security Act in connection with the charges. Eight of the detainees released a statement denying the charges and describing mistreatment under detention.

"Prominent attorney held on Friday

Singapore detained one of the country's most prominent attorneys, Francis T. Seow, a former Solicitor General and a onetime President of the Singapore Law Society, the country's bar association. Seow was in court Friday to seek a writ of habeas corpus to free two of the detainees.
"Seow had taken his case to the international media, charging the government with undermining the legal system with arbitrary detentions. In an interview Wednesday, he said he was considering running as an independent in the next national election.

Hints that accusations against Western nations, foreign reporters and rights groups might be next came on April 29, when Lee's son and possible successor, Lee Hsien Loong, referred at a news conference to a 1950's Central Intelligence agency payment to a Singaporean politician.
On Thursday, the Communications and Information Minister, Yeo Ning Hong, attacked the foreign press in sharp remarks accusing outsiders of orchestrating a campaign to undermine the confidence of Singaporeans in their leaders. Many Singaporeans read foreign English language publications.

Government cites interference

Today, Lee's Government called on Washington to 'put a stop' to American interference and asked that Mason Hendrickson, the First Secretary at the United States Embassy; be withdrawn. In its statement, Singapore said Hendrickson tried to persuade lawyers opposed to the government to run for election and suggested that financing would be available to them.

The spokesman for the United States Embassy in Singapore, Richard Gong, said in a statement that Hendrickson had not acted improperly.

"In meeting with members of the political opposition in Singapore," Gong's statement said, "Hendrickson was doing what American diplomats are expected to do in any country, namely to be in touch with broad spectrum of individuals in order to report accurately developments in the country in question."
Seow, 59-years-old, was charged by Singapore with arranging a meeting between Hendrickson and lawyers known to be critical of the government.

Washington regrets action
The Government said Hendrickson "had no business to arrange meetings with disaffected lawyers in order to attack the Singapore Government and instigate them to stand for elections against the government."

Washington, May 7 (Special to The New York Times) – The State Department said today that Hendrickson performed with distinction in Singapore and that the department regretted that he must be withdrawn.

In a statement, the department said Hendrickson acted properly in Singapore and added: "However, it is established in international law and practice that a government may at any time, and without having to explain its decision, give notice that a foreign diplomat should be withdrawn. The United States will therefore withdraw Hendrickson as requested by the Government of Singapore."

Although US withdrew Hendrickson from his office, US stated that he was an honest officer who performed his duty very well. In retaliation, US expelled Robert Chua, a senior level diplomat of Singapore embassy of USA. The concessions given to the exports of Singapore to US were also withdrawn.

This incident can be the example for the Rajapaksa regime. A similar incident took place in Sri Lanka during President Premadasa's rule. Premadasa government asked UK to call back US ambassador of Britain David Gladston in 1991 charging that he had visited the polling centres of the local government election in 1991. British Government summoned him back. Within a short period, an impeachment motion was filed against Premadasa. The government was in disarray. Soon, President Premadasa was assassinated. Britain sent a new ambassador after a new President was appointed.

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