Australia under pressure to reject Sri Lankan envoy

A former Sri Lankan Navy chief has reportedly been nominated for the post.

Melbourne: Australia is under pressure to reject Sri Lanka’s choice of naming former Navy chief as its next envoy in Canberra.

Former Sri Lankan Navy chief Thisara Samarasinghe has reportedly been nominated to fill the vacant position of High Commissioner to Australia.

The Foreign Affairs Department, which must decide if it will accept the nomination, sees the appointment as “problematic” for Australia amid calls for a United Nations investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka during civil war against Tamil Tigers, The Age reports.

The issue also threatens to derail Australia’s official co-operation with Sri Lanka on immigration controls and asylum seekers fleeing the aftermath of the long-running civil war.

No specific allegation of war crimes arising from the conflict have been made against Vice-Admiral Samarasinghe, who took over as Chief of the Sri Lankan Navy in July 2009 after the end of the civil war.

Tamil community leaders in Australia have demanded that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd reject the nomination in protest at Sri Lanka’s refusal to allow an international war crimes tribunal.

Plans to send another senior military commander as Sri Lanka’s envoy to Britain were reportedly scotched by Colombo after protests in London.

“It clearly shows that Sri Lanka is slowly becoming a military state. Their diplomatic posts are being taken over by military or former military personnel and I think that’s a very, very worrying sign,” said Sam Pari of the Australian Tamil Congress.

The Foreign Affairs department and the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra both declined to discuss the nomination.