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Splurge on SAARC meet irks Lankans

world Updated: Jul 13, 2008 23:20 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The coming 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit to be held in Colombo later this month has run into several controversies.

Questions are being raised in the Sri Lankan parliament about the expenditure involved in holding the summit put at approximately Rs 3 billion (One Indian rupee is equal to Rs 2.70 SLR) and the money that the government has spent to buy bullet-proof luxury cars to be used during the eight-day summit, beginning July 27.

Opposition parties and several newspapers have also raised questions about the government here allowing “thousands of Indian troops” to be stationed in Colombo to protect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit, beginning August 1.

On Sunday, a local English newspaper, Lakbima, quoting unnamed official sources, said more than 1,000 Indian troops would arrive in Colombo on Tuesday. Another 2,000 personnel would be coming in subsequently in an Indian Navy vessel.

The possible presence of a large number of Indian troops during the summit has been the source of steady speculation since a three-member team led by National Security Advisor MK Narayanan visited Colombo and met President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It has been presumed that Rajapaksa agreed to the request made by the delegation for extra security for Singh.

The government though has denied the reports. A senior minister told parliament that when any country’s leader visits another country, he according to diplomatic norms can take a certain number of his own security personnel and that is all that is being allowed.