Sri Lanka president skips Glasgow Games citing poor security

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s president decided to stay away from the Commonwealth Games despite being chair of the bloc because Colombo was unhappy with Britain`s security arrangements, a minister said Thursday.

Information minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Mahinda Rajapakse wanted to attend the Games in Glasgow but was concerned about being targeted by ethnic Tamil protesters who accuse him of war crimes.

Asked if the government was unhappy with the level of protection offered by the British authorities, Rambukwella said: "Of course. it happened (not enough security) last time also."

Rambukwella said Rajapakse had an "unpleasant experience" when angry Tamils protested outside his hotel in London when he attended Queen Elizabeth II`s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012.

"Security (of the president) is of utmost importance," Rambukwella told reporters in Colombo. "If the president`s security (unit) is concerned about his safety, we take that advice seriously and he won`t go."

Rajapakse`s office previously denied he stayed away because of the threat of demonstrations, saying no visit had been scheduled.

Rajapakse hosted a summit of Commonwealth leaders last November and took over the rotating office-in-chair of the 53-nation bloc. Canada suspended its funding to the Commonwealth for the two years that Rajapakse is in charge over the country`s war crimes allegations.

Sri Lanka is accused of killing at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final stages of the decades-long war between the military and Tamil rebels fighting for a separate homeland.

Sri Lanka denies it killed civilians during the conflict that ended in 2009. Despite the military`s emphatic victory, Colombo maintains that Tamil diaspora groups still pose a serious threat.

Former Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premasdasa was assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber in May 1993 while president Chandrika Kumaratunga was wounded and lost her right eye in a suicide bombing in December 1999.

Tiger rebels have also been blamed for the May 1991 assassination of former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi who ordered Indian troops to disarm Sri Lankan Tamil rebels in 1987.