Sri Lanka pays UK firm £3 mn to boost post-war image

The Sri Lankan government hires a group to lobby UK, UN and EU officials.

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2010, 13:34 PM IST

London: The Sri Lankan Government has agreed to pay a top British public relations firm about GBP 3 million a year to enhance the country`s post-war image.

According to a BBC Sinhala news service report, the Bell Pottinger Group was recently hired by Colombo to lobby UK, UN and EU officials.
The government says it employs several public relations firms, will not disclose their names or the amount paid.

Bell Pottinger also refused to give details.

Bell Pottinger - whose motto on its website is "Better reputations, better results" - is believed to be lobbying on Sri Lanka`s behalf in Brussels, following an EU decision to withdraw special tax concessions called GSP Plus.

The European Union decided in July to withdraw Sri Lanka`s preferential trade access to EU markets, saying it had failed to improve its human rights record.

It is thought the firm was also employed in Sri Lanka`s attempts to prevent the UN secretary general appointing an advisory panel on alleged war crimes committed during the civil war.

In the UK, the group`s main focus is countering what the Sri Lankan government says is propaganda by pro-Tamil Tiger groups in the influential Tamil diaspora.

Last week, the firm helped promote the UK visit of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris, who gave the keynote speech at London`s International Institute of Strategic Studies.

ANI