As international pressure continues to mount on the government on the human rights issue, supported by human rights groups and some western countries, including the United States, the government is using all options available to boost its image both locally and overseas.
Government propaganda has targeted the local voter base while overseas millions of rupees is being spent on US based firms to promote the country among investors and the US Congress.
Propaganda targeting the local audience is being carried out by government ministers and parliamentarians with the unwritten theme being the need to put the country first above all else.
The government claims there is a major conspiracy to remove the ruling party and President Mahinda Rajapaksa from power.
Two top ministers had last week made comments critical of the West and alleged there was a conspiracy backed by the Opposition targeting the government.
Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake, speaking at a rally, said the conspiracy against the government is being hatched both locally and internationally.
He claims some people and groups are being funded in the attempt to remove the government and the President as soon as possible.
Then there was Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, who accused European nations of assisting the LTTE to build its international network.
Minister Yapa told an audience at a rally that Europe always wanted to destroy Asian nations and have more power in the world.
The Minister noted that EU countries kept on attacking President Mahinda Rajapaksa and attempted to place hurdles before the development of the country.
He said Europe, like America, is not happy with the defeat of the LTTE as they could not achieve what they wanted in Sri Lanka.
Now, the Minister noted, these countries are engaged in putting pressure on Sri Lanka through the UN Human Rights Council in order to achieve their goals.
Govt ropes in US PR firm
While the ‘west bashing’ takes place locally, the Central Bank, as was reported in The Sunday Leader last week, signed up Liberty International Group LLC (LIG) to promote Sri Lanka in the US.
The Central Bank, on Wednesday, confirmed through a press statement, that it had signed a deal with the US firm to develop a comprehensive information platform where decision makers in the USA would receive clear and accurate information about conditions in Sri Lanka.
Under the deal, approximately US$ 63,300 is to be paid to Liberty International Group by the Central Bank Monetary Board after the end of each month of the contract period up to July 31, 2015 subject to the satisfactory completion of the monthly deliverables referred to in the contract.
LIG has undertaken to perform the services with the highest standards of professional and ethical competence and integrity, not disclose any proprietary or confidential information relating to the services of this contract without the prior written consent of the Monetary Board except for what is required under the laws of the USA and Sri Lanka, during the term of this contract and after its expiration or disclose any proprietary or confidential information relating to the Services of this Contract without the prior written consent of the Monetary Board.
LIG has also agreed that, during the term of this Contract and for one year thereafter, LIG and any employee or any entity affiliated with LIG, shall not provide information or services for any project resulting from or closely related to the services pursuant to this contract, without the prior written consent of the Monetary Board.
Liberty International Group had made an initial study of the conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka through an extensive fact finding mission spread over 5 days in July 2014, and thereafter expressed its willingness to provide its representation services in order to enable the Central Bank to achieve the objectives while communicating the above key messages in the USA, in keeping with the framework of this contract.
Liberty International Group hopes to plan and execute immediately an ongoing engagement with the US Congress, US Senate and US Governmental Departments to discuss Sri Lanka and also reach out to opinion leaders in think tanks and academia in the USA and engage with the broader Sri Lankan Diaspora, by organizing interactions and meetings as appropriate.
The Central Bank said it launched a robust Communication Programme in the USA with the engagement of the Thompson Advisory Group LLC (TAG), from March 2013 to June 2014, and the subsequent engagement of the Liberty International Group LLC from August 2014 onwards.
The Communication Programme has been fashioned to create and maintain a conducive political and economic environment in the USA to enhance Sri Lanka’s long-term political and economic aspirations, and to develop a comprehensive information platform where decision makers in the USA would receive clear and accurate information about conditions in Sri Lanka so that it would serve to attract a higher volume of private sector investments.
The Communication Programme of the Central Bank has been devised in accordance with the Monetary Law Act’s mandatory objectives of realizing economic and price stability and financial system stability, as well as encouraging and promoting the development of productive resources of Sri Lanka.
Over the past several years, after the end of the conflict, the Central Bank has observed with deep concern, the massive and well funded adverse publicity generated by an organized group of the diaspora, certain sections of the local and international media, and a few local and international non governmental organizations, which, if left unchecked and unchallenged, could have the potential to erode the confidence among international investors and thereby adversely affect the stability of the country’s economy.
In that background, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank decided to engage the services of a professional agency to assist the Central Bank to convey an accurate and realistic position regarding the political and economic conditions in Sri Lanka.
Such effort was considered all the more important since the US investments in Sri Lanka in terms of Government Securities, International Sovereign Bonds, Portfolio Investments, and Direct Investments, are substantial.
According to the Central Bank, the robust communication efforts carried out over the past several months have been helpful to provide a more balanced understanding of the Sri Lankan political and economic conditions among a considerable number of top level US leaders including Senators and Congressmen, Think Tanks, Trade Associations, and the US general public.
The Bank said that as a result, satisfactory results are being achieved, with considerable investments being made by several US investors, particularly in the banking sector, while a more balanced view on Sri Lanka is also being taken by a greater number of US leaders, intellectuals and citizens.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Defence Seminar in Colombo last week, External Affairs Minister, Professor G. L Peiris said the UN-led probe on Sri Lanka is not objective and is a ‘travesty of justice’ and so cannot be assisted by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Professor Peiris noted that the government had no issues with operative Para 2 of the resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by the UN Human Rights Council recently which calls for the strengthening of domestic mechanisms to deal with human rights issues.
He said it was for this reason that President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed leading experts to advice the Missing Persons Commission in its investigations on the war.
However, he said the government opposed operative Para 10 of the Resolution, which calls for an international investigation in Sri Lanka.
Diaspora does their thing
Meanwhile the Tamil diaspora is busy with their campaign to gather support against the government, particularly ahead of a scheduled visit to the US by President Mahinda Rajapaksa next month to address the UN General Assembly.
The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) led by V. Rudrakumaran has written to UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon urging him to publicly censure the Sri Lankan government for denying direct access for the victims of international crimes in the island of Sri Lanka to UN investigators.
The TGTE said it will also be organizing a protest rally outside the UN in New York on September 25 to protest against the Sri Lankan government.
“It is time for the UN Secretary General to publicly censure the Sri Lankan government for denying direct access for the victims of international crimes in the island of Sri Lanka to OISL investigators. As the UN Internal Review Panel Report demonstrates, quiet diplomacy or appeasement does not work with the Sri Lankan government, which is not susceptible to reason. Thus it is time for robust public diplomacy. We urge the Secretary General to use his office as a moral pulpit to galvanize international opinion against the obstinacy of the Sri Lankan government,” the TGTE said.
TGTE has also urged UN member states to raise the Sri Lankan issue in the appropriate forums to safeguard the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations.