American Ambassador Patricia Butenis

Report of the One-Man Panel appointed by One Man to look into allegations of impropriety highlighted by the Daily Mirror which had reported that

Diplomats, representatives of diplomatic missions and Non-Governmental Organization representatives in Colombo met at the United States Ambassador’s residence to discuss the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel Report. 


The meeting was reported to have been held at the invitation of US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis on Thursday but the US Embassy refused to deny or confirm the meeting. 


“As a matter of policy we don’t comment on the Ambassador’s meetings or what is discussed at these meetings,” a US Embassy Official told Daily Mirror. 


National Peace Council Executive Director Jehan Perera confirmed that such a meeting had taken place on the invitation of Ms. Butenis. 


“We discussed the Panel Report and how to make use of it as a constructive instrument for reconciliation instead of one of division and polarization,” he said.


Dr. Perera said those who attended included Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Centre for Policy Alternatives), Sherine Xavier (Home for Human Rights), J.C. Weliamuna (Transparency International), Sudarshana Gunawardena (Rights Now) and Sunila Abeysekera.


The diplomats were from India, Britain, the European Union, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Australia, UN Officials, Japan, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Italy.  

 

In view of repercussions this meeting might have with regard to the ongoing peace process, and various allegations that have been raised about this meeting and other possible interference in Sri Lanka by those responsible to external bodies, the former Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat appointed himself as a one man Panel to advise the media on the possible scope of such a consultation and the motivations of those who had participated.

The Panel’s mandate does not extend to fact-finding or investigation. The Panel analysed information from a variety of sources in order to characterize the extent of the allegations, assess which of the allegations are credible, based on the information at hand, and appraise them in terms of possible consequences. The Panel determined an allegation to be credible if there was a reasonable basis to believe that the underlying act or event occurred.

The Panel followed the principles adopted by the Kiki Darusman Panel, and assumed that it was best to follow the language that has given rise to such excitement in the drawing rooms of Jefferson House. Following Para 152, it may safely be asserted that  – there are many indirect accounts reported that the meeting was organized at the report of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is largely funded by countries represented at the meeting.

To adopt the phraseology of Para 153 – Many photos and video footage depict Dr Saravamumuttu in close association with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who have reportedly been agitating with foreign representatives for regime change in Sri Lanka

Locutions in the same passage suggest that the Daily Mirror report raises a strong inference that intervention of other violence may have been advocated. However, despite efforts by NGO activists to publicize the meeting to create the opinion that diplomats from several countries concurred with their agenda, it is reported that the vast majority of diplomats did not fall in with the aspirations of the initiator of the meeting.

In the context of efforts to stampede opinion, it should also be noted, following Para 214 of the Kiki Darusman Report that ‘credible allegations point to a possible violation of the assumption that members of political parties write their own statements, inasmuch as Dr Saravanamuttu and Bhavani Fonseka may have contributed to a contentious statement issued on publication of the Kiki Darusman report that may adversely affect the Peace Process.

It has also been suggested that input from the American ambassador may have occurred prior to publication of the statement, though this suggestion may have originated with Dr Saravanamuttu who wanted to ensure perceptions of total complicity with his agenda.

The Independent Sri Lankan Panel also notes that the Daily Mirror article indicates that only Non-Governmental Agendas that have been vehemently critical of the Sri Lankan Government were invited for the meeting. Ambassador Butenis may have done this deliberately.

Agencies that have provided Humanitarian Assistance or been involved in Human Rights advocacy without concentrating their fire on government were not invited according to the guest list supplied by Dr Jehan Perera, who seems to have been the principal source of the Mirror article. However it has also been suggested that Dr Vinya Ariyaratne was an exception to the rule. There is a strong inference that he achieved this special status by his message after the Kiki Darusman Panel was constituted, indicating his strong condemnation of a demonstration held outside UN offices, attributed to government by parties seeking to promote hostility between the government and those sections of the international community that have financed those parties.

The failure of Ambassador Butenis to invite anyone from government, or any NGOs not overtly hostile to government, for a meeting supposedly dedicated to reconciliation points to a possible violation of the responsibilities and obligations of diplomats.

Sunday Island 1 May 2011

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