Eye-brows were raised at the US Independence Day celebration in Colombo yesterday when the Sri Lankan government sent notorious paramilitary leader Douglas Devananda to attend the ceremony as its representative.
A government Minister – Devananda who currently holds an outstanding arrest warrant from India in relation to a murder he is accused to have committed in Chennai in the late 80s, had addressed the gathering alongside US Ambassador Michele J. Sison at the event held at the US Embassy in Sri Lanka.
Grave allegations have been levelled against Minister Devananda and his paramilitary group to which includes murder, rape, child trafficking and extortion and yet continues to receive the support of the Sri Lankan government.
This event took place against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sison crossing swords over the Head of USAID being summoned for a meeting with Gotabaya, to which she objected. The US Embassy had informed that the meeting should only take place in the presence of Ambassador Sison as USAID operates under the purview of the US Embassy in Sri Lanka.
The meeting between Gotabaya and the USAID head was due to take place to discuss a programme initiated by the NGO named ‘Election Support through Voter Education (ESVE)’. Gotabhaya in a comment to The Island newspaper had described the project as a ‘ruse to turn people against the government’ and had called it the ‘Operation Regime Change’
“The government would like to know whether the USAID was still going ahead with the project which would further undermine bilateral relations,” Gotabaya had told The Island.