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Tamara won’t quit Geneva, stage set for new dispute


Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam, has flatly rejected an offer to move her to either Cuba, where she was previously stationed, or Brazil, amidst a simmering dispute over the handling of the US-sponsored resolution at the 19th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Feb-March, 2012.

The resolution was passed by 24 votes––15 against with 8 abstentions.

Sources pointed said that a dispute over SriLanka’s strategy couldn’t have erupted at a worse time, with Sri Lanka’s scheduled UPR (Universal Periodic Review) coming up in November 2012.

The US and its allies, including India, are pushing Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as part of the accountability process envisaged by the UNHRC.

Responding to a query, sources said that Ambassador Kunanayakam, formerly with the UN system, had, in a letter written to the External Affairs Ministry, explained her decision not to accept the the offer made on April 28. The Ambassador has asserted that her transfer could be interpreted by various parties in different ways and none could be beneficial to Sri Lanka’s efforts to thwart the ongoing campaign to pursue an international war crimes inquiry against the government and the military.

Ambassador Kunanayakam moved to Geneva nine months ago, just ahead of the 18th sessions of the UNHRC.

During the 19th UNHRC sessions, Ambassador her performance earned the plaudits of many, though there was criticism, too.

Sources said that the government would have to act decisively to thwart a damaging dispute, which could weaken the country’s defence on the human rights front. External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris is now scheduled to visit Washington for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 18.

The Island learns that the latest squabble has been brought to the notice of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ambassador Kunanayakam is the third to take up the Geneva post within three years.

Sources said that Ambassador Kunanayakam had agreed that she couldn’t give up the Geneva mission in a hurry, though she remained committed to setting up of a fully fledged diplomatic mission in Caracas to cover the entire region.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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