Afghan troop deployment report angers Lankan media
Colombo: President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday said he had rejected a US request to send Sri Lankan troops to war-torn Afghanistan but retracted his remarks soon, triggering angry responses on the social media about the government's credibility.
"President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected a call by US to send Sri Lankan troops to Afghanistan," the Government Information Department said in a SMS news alert, which was rebroadcast immediately by almost all local media outlets.
However, hours after presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake retracted the government's claim.
"President Rajapaksa has neither received nor rejected any requests by the US for Lankan troops to be sent to Afghanistan," the spokesman said.
President Rajapakse's own twitter account @PresRajapaksa said, "We ask journalists to please double check facts w/multiple sources (& with prez spokesman for Presidential statements) before publishing." This drew sharp responses from Sri Lankan reporters.
"Are u saying we cant even 'TRUST' what the Govt. Info is saying through its SMS service. Who can we trust?," tweeted Gandhya Senanayake.
"So MR (Mahinda Rajapakse) wants us to verify official Gov info statements as well," tweeted Azzam Ameen. "Journalists blamed not the Govt Info dept who created the blunder."
"How can the government information department make such a blunder... ," said another Sri Lankan reporter.
The information department alert came close on the heels of Rajapaksa slamming the UN move to intervene in the country's internal affairs, terming it as an adverse international move against him and his government.
He found fault with the UN system for acting in violation of the UN Charter.
He was reacting to the US move to bring in the second resolution in as many years against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council.
Last year, the India-backed US sponsored resolution urged the Sri Lankan government to show progress on reconciliation by implementing the recommendations of its own reconciliation commission.
The resolution made it imperative for Sri Lanka to achieve reconciliation with its Tamil minority and the progress of which would come under focus in this year's sessions to be held late this month.
The government blames the pro-LTTE diaspora for influencing the Western governments to act against Sri Lanka due to its animosity over the military action which crushed Tamil rebels in May 2009 after nearly three decades of brutal fighting.
The conflict claimed up to 1,00,000 lives, according to UN estimates, and both sides are accused of war crimes.