Sri Lanka did not blackmail Australia with boat people: former FM

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka did not blackmail Australia by encouraging people smuggling, Foreign Minister Gamini Laskshman Pieris said, denying suggestions that Canberra had been cowed by the ousted Rajapaksa regime by a flood of people.

"..[T]o suggest that we blackmailed Australia on the people smuggling issue that is devoid of any truth," Pieris told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association in Colombo.

He said both Australia and New Zealand had helped Sri Lanka with hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in 2013.

Current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly told Australian media that the ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa regime allowed enough boat people to leave the country to secure Australia’s silence on human rights abuses.

"It was being done by people with Rajapaksa connections, but once this deal was done between Australia and the Rajapaksa government, where you looked the other way (on human rights abuses), then secretary of defence got the navy to patrol," The Australian newspaper quoted Wickremesinghe as saying in a February Interview.

"You could not have got anyone out of this country without someone in the security system looking the other way, the police or the navy."

The former President was able to appoint his brother Gotabaya as the secretary to the ministry of defence – who was in charge of the military and border security – due to a systematic breakdown of the public service engineered by Sri Lanka elected rulers from the 1970s.

In addition to alleged human rights abuses during the war, there were also disappearances in the rest of the country feared ‘white vans’ and dozens of suspects were killed by police ‘while attempting to escape’ over the past several years.

Both Pieris’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Wickremesinghe’s United National Party helped destroy a once independent public service by abolishing the institution of permanent secretaries of ministries which given freedom to people by limiting arbitrary actions of elected rulers in free countries in the Commonwealth.

Wickremesinghe himself with newly appointed President Maithripala Sirisena, brought a 19th amendment to the constitution to de-politicize the public service but sections of the current opposition to had partially scuttled the move.

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