| by Upul Joseph Fernando
( July 30, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The letter sent by the Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris, citing the reasons for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Chairman of Commonwealth, not attending the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland, exposed a hitherto unknown fact. The reason has been cited as the failure on the part of the British Government in suppressing the agitations by Tamil Diaspora against the Sri Lankan President. Prof. G.L. Peiris has mentioned in his letter that the agitators pelted empty bottles and cans at the motorcade of the Sri Lankan President as he was in England to attend the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's crowning. This was news to many. As soon as the President returned to the home country, Sri Lanka Government thanked the British Police for the safety provided to the President. Local television showed the footage of the President travelling defended by the British Police. The message delivered by the government to the local people was that the British Government had provided security and recognition despite the protests of the Tamil Diaspora.
However, several years later, the same government says that the President's motorcade was attacked with empty bottles and cans. It is cited as the reason for the Sri Lankan President being absent at the Commonwealth Games.
Mahinda is the Chairman of the Commonwealth. This is the first time the Commonwealth Games is held sans the participation of its Chairman. After being appointed as the Chairman of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Day was celebrated in UK. By then, the President had not still met Queen Elizabeth who is the head of the Commonwealth. The Queen did not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Colombo. She was represented by Prince Charles. Mahinda was expected to meet the Queen alongside the Commonwealth Day celebrations. But Britain asked Mahinda not to attend the function because they could not guarantee 100% security, to the Sri Lankan President amidst protests of the Tamil Diaspora activists. Mahinda may be the first Chairman of Commonwealth who did not participate in the Commonwealth Day celebrations.
At that moment, Mahinda did not accuse the UK and stated that he would not participate in the Commonwealth Day as he had another foreign engagement. But this time the government announced that the reason for the President's absence at the Commonwealth Games was the failure of the UK Police to suppress Tamil Diaspora. Yet we have doubts if the UK Government has advised Mahinda unofficially to avoid the tour due to security concerns. He may have directed his External Affairs Minister to accuse the British Government about the past incident of pelting bottles and cans at him.
However, Sri Lanka spent billions of rupees of public money to hold the Commonwealth summit in Colombo, at the cost of hard earned money of the people of this country. Eventually the Chairman of the Commonwealth cannot attend the Commonwealth Day and Commonwealth Games. As the country holding the Chair of Commonwealth, Sri Lanka is highly dejected by this situation. The government could have evaluated all these before taking the costly decision of holding CHOGM here.
On 18 May 2009, the day the war ended, the ruling coalition parties surrounded the British High Commission of Sri Lanka and held a massive protest depicting then Foreign Minister David Miliband as a Tamil Tiger. The mobs threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at the windows of the High Commission office. The government was pretending that it was unaware of these happenings. This is the chance for the Britain for tit for tat.