Adding fuel to fire over this week`s incident in Batticaloa where a foreign diplomatic delegation came under an LTTE attack, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday claimed the normal protocol was not followed when the trip to the East was undertaken.
Minister Bogollagama, who rushed back to Colombo from China yesterday, said as a result of the attack he had now decided to insist on the implementation of the protocol in future involving aspects like giving prior notice to the Foreign Ministry before visiting areas outside the capital in particular areas of concern.
`Several of these procedures are not practised in its correct context. But now it has given us the need to practise this with greater interest and concern. So it has been re-applied,` Minister Bogollagama told the media at his Ministry after briefing foreign envoys on the Batticaloa incident.
Minister Bogollagama said the visit to Batticaloa was organized by the Ministry of Disaster Management and had received clearance from the Defense Ministry. But he said the diplomatic community had at yesterday`s briefing not raised the issue of security negligence during the visit.
As a result of the incident four foreign missions have also requested extra security to their offices in Colombo,
a move the Foreign Minister claimed was unprecedented and stressed on the need to combat terrorism to the fullest.
But Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the decision to visit Batticaloa, was taken on February 20 at the consultative committee on humanitarian assistance and that Acting Foreign Secretary T.B. Maduwegedara and Media Director Ravinatha Aryasinghe were also present at the meeting.
`One would have certainly expected them to inform their superiors and in fact, Mr. Aryasinghe was also in the helicopter that took the diplomats to Batticaloa,` Minister Samarasinghe said.
The delegation, including a group of Ambassadors and the Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasingha, who undertook the visit to Batticaloa last Tuesday, came under an LTTE mortar attack as their helicopters landed at the Weber stadium.
The Italian Ambassador and a few others including security force personal received injuries from the mortar shrapnel while a few others including US Ambassador Robert O. Blake, who was a notable absentee at yesterdays briefing, sustained minor scratches.Minister Bogollagama, on behalf of the government, expressed regret over the turn of events in Batticaloa when the delegates embarked on the humanitarian mission to assess the resettlement process in the East and called on the international community to once again put pressure on the LTTE to give up terrorism.
`Until such time we see a change in the attitude on the part of the LTTE it is incumbent upon the international community to take effective measures to eliminate fund raising and weapon procurement by the LTTE in foreign countries and to help apprehend those supporting such activity in keeping with international obligations as some States have done in the past,` he said.
The Minister said the LTTE clearly knew of the impending visit by the diplomats to Batticaloa as public notice of the trip had been issued for over a week and added the attack was without a doubt targeted at the delegates in an attempt to create physical harm.
Asked if the trip to Batticaloa should not have taken place in the first place owing to possible security threats Minister Bogollagama said one did not have to go to the North or the East to face the threat of the LTTE as it prevailed even in the South.