Sri Lanka: UK envoy`s military comments cause stir

John Rankin said that the UK hopes that the military presence in the North and East of Sri Lanka can move to resemble that in other parts.

Updated: May 26, 2012, 13:40 PM IST

Colombo: The British High Commissioner here has stirred a controversy by stating that Sri Lanka was maintaining an inappropriately high military presence in the Tamil-dominated former battle zones of the north and the east.

British envoy John Rankin appears to have caught the wrong attention of officials here over his statement recorded in a High Commission video wherein he had said: "We hope the military presence in the north and east can resemble the level of the military presence in other parts of the country, rather than the very large military presence we continue to have at the moment".

The English language `Daily Mirror` and `The Island` this morning quoted senior External Affairs Ministry officials as saying that comments made by Rankin had been taken note of.

The British envoy`s comments came only a few days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that withdrawal of the troops just to please foreign powers was not possible as there were security needs which warranted military deployment in all parts of the island.

The international community including Rajapaksa`s own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had called for reduction of the military presence in the north as a means of achieving reconciliation.

PTI