The Sri Lankan government on Thursday announced that the letter sent by Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights Rajiva Wijesinghe in response to questions raised by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston, on charges made by the former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about the sequence of events in the last phase of Eelam War IV (May 16 to 19), should be treated as withdrawn.

The letter and its withdrawal have embarrassed the Mahinda Rajapaksa government as the ruling combine and the opposition were building it up as an issue for the January 26 presidential election where the retired General is pitted against President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In his letter Prof. Wijesinghe had argued that since the retired General Fonseka had distanced himself from the comments attributed to him in the December 13 interview to the English weekly Sunday Leader, the questions raised by the U.N. were irrelevant.

“The Secretary had written the letter without consulting the Foreign Office and other relevant authorities in the Government. The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva had been instructed to withhold the letter sent by the Secretary,” a senior official in the Presidential Secretariat told The Hindu.

Indications are that the government does not want to do anything which could allow the former Army Chief portray himself in public as a “victim”. Minister of Mass Media and Information Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told reporters at the weekly Cabinet briefing that the government would not take “political advantage” over the statement of General Fonseka.

He said the government did not wish to penalise any individual without a valid reason and added that the present administration was a democratic entity and urged journalists to ask General Fonseka why he made such a statement. “As a Government we are ready to face the statement of Fonseka because it cannot be ignored,” he noted.

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