Lankan minister slams ?pretty? Indian envoy
India's envoy to Sri Lanka, Nirupama Rao, was the target of an unusually scathing personal attack by the island nation's tourism minister, Anura Bandaranaike, who accused Rao of meddling in her host country's internal affairs.india Updated: Sep 08, 2006 14:05 IST
India's envoy to Sri Lanka, Nirupama Rao, was the target of an unusually scathing personal attack by the island nation's tourism minister, Anura Bandaranaike, who accused Rao of meddling in her host country's internal affairs.
"The pretty Mrs Rao should look after her embassy and we will look after our own internal affairs," the minister told the Sri Lankan parliament on Wednesday.
While New Delhi rejected the charge, South Block officials said the incident would not affect bilateral relations as Colombo appeared to have distanced itself from the remarks.
An unfazed Rao told HT "there was no context to the outburst" and appeared to be "a chimera" Bandaranaike was chasing. "I go about my business and there is no question of interfering with anything," she said. She added the incident would not impact either bilateral relations or her job.
Sri Lanka's government intends to formally disassociate itself from the remarks through a statement in their parliament when it reconvenes on September 27. It will say the comments were Bandaranaike's personal views.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse personally called Rao to assure her that his tourism minister had spoken out of line, and that Colombo had "complete faith" in her handling of bilateral affairs.
"You have our full support," he told Rao. Bandaranaike, in a meandering speech, invoked Napoleon, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Gandhis and former Pakistani envoy Bashir Wali Mohammed.
He spoke of his parents, both former prime ministers, and his sister, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, as having maintained good relations with India, but that Rao should not “meddle” in Sri Lanka. Rejecting the allegations, the external affairs ministry’s spokesperson Navtej Sarna said, “It is not the policy of the government of India and its representative abroad to interfere in the internal affairs of any country.”
Sarna added that Rao, who was his predecessor as spokesperson, “has conducted herself in accordance with the highest professional standards”, and that “her contribution to strengthening bilateral relations was well appreciated by the host government”.
Bandaranaike’s outburst, officials believe, had more to do with internal politics within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Political circles in Colombo saw it as a bid to curry favour with Rajapaksa, who has sidelined Bandaranaike and Kumaratunga.
While the brother has been demoted from senior vice-president to one of many vice-presidents, the sister has lost her position as patron of the party. Rajapaksa was punishing them for not campaigning for him in the December 2005 presidential polls. He also suspected them of building a faction in the SLFP.