Udaya to use RTI law to seek information about CIA Chief’s clandestine Colombo visit

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The US embassy declined to comment on Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila’s declaration of CIA Director William Joseph Burns top secret visit to Colombo on Feb. 14.

The Island raised this issue with the US embassy spokesperson twice on 15 Feb. and 06 March. On both occasions, the spokesperson stressed that the embassy wouldn’t comment on the issue at hand. She said: “As I mentioned earlier, we do not offer a comment on this topic.”

Colombo District lawmaker Gammanpila yesterday (10) told The Island that he would soon write to the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration, I. S. H. J. Ilukpitiya, about Burns’ visit. He said that in terms of the Right to Information Act, he would ask Illukpitiya whether Burns was among the US delegation that arrived in the country. The Immigration and Emigration comes under the purview of the Public Security Ministry.

Sri Lanka enacted the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2016, during Wickremesinghe tenure as the Premier.Two C 17 Globemaster iii touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on 14 Feb., and departed the following day.

Pointing out that both the US embassy and the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government could have simply contradicted his claim made outside Parliament, the refusal on the part of the US embassy to comment confirmed the accusation. The former Power and Energy Minister said that the Foreign Ministry and Presidential Media Division (PMD), too, evaded the issue at hand.

“Foreign Minister Ali Sabry’s acknowledgement in Parliament that he was not aware of the US delegation’s visit is quite shocking. However, the President’s Counsel could have checked this matter with his officials and briefed Parliament,” lawmaker Gammanpila said.

The government shouldn’t expect the Opposition to forget this issue, MP Gammanpila said, urging the government to admit the truth. The former minister noted that the CIA Chief visited Colombo in the aftermath of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Chief Samant Kumar Goel’s visit.

India’s external intelligence agency’s head held discussions with President Ranil Wickremesinghe. President’s Senior National Security Advisor Sagala Ratnayake and Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Milinda Moragoda participated in the discussions.

Responding to The Island queries, National Freedom Front (NFF) leader and MP Wimal Weerawansa said that the government didn’t respond to issues raised by him in Parliament on 23 Feb., pertaining to the US high profile hush-hush visit. The government and the US embassy acknowledged the visit though they declined either to confirm or deny the CIA Chief’s visit.

The former minister said that the refusal on the part of the government and the US embassy to acknowledge the fact of the CIA Chief’s visit should be examined against the backdrop of United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, flying to Colombo, in March last year, and February this year.

The then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked both Weerawansa and Gammanpila, in early March 2022 after they moved the Supreme Court against th,e controversial Yugadanavi deal with US-based New Fortress Energy, signed on 17 Sept., 2022.

MP Weerawansa said that the government never responded to his disclosure pertaining to the CIA move on State Intelligence Service (SIS). The NFF leader said that the Parliament should be fully briefed on developments, particularly relating to foreign, defence and financial sectors. The former JVPer pointed out that contrary to repeated assurances given by the incumbent government, the Staff Level agreement, between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was yet to be tabled in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa alleged that President Wickremesinghe was pursuing US agenda, regardless of consequences. Those MPs who elected the UNP leader as the 8th President to complete the remainder of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five year- term, too, should be held accountable.The SLPP elected Wickremesinghe. Both Weerawansa and Gammanpila said that foreign policy couldn’t be the prerogative of the executive.


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