Foreign Ministry unaware of 13 million USD investment by UK in SL

COLOMBO (The Island/ANN) - Foreign Ministry unaware of 13 million USD investment in Sri Lanka made available through high profile Conflict, Security and Stability Fund, aimed at neutralising threats to British interests and preventing conflicts.

Mystery surrounds the UK claim that over 13 million USD in fresh funding had been allocated for the implementation of projects meant to ensure long term stability in Sri Lanka.

The British High Commission in Colombo recently announced that funding had been made available through high profile Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF). According to the CSSF annual report 2018/2019, the fund was aimed at neutralising threats to British interests and to prevent conflicts. CSSF receives what the report called ‘strategic direction’ from the National Security Council (NSC) and reports to the National Security Secretariat.

However, the Foreign Ministry told The Island that it was not aware of the UK project.

In terms of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in operation since 2016, The Island, in the run-up to the Nov 16 presidential poll, sought an explanation from the Foreign Ministry regarding the funding.

The Island: Did the UK discuss its latest three-year project with the Foreign Ministry before the allocation of funds?

FM: According to the available records in the relevant political desk, it was not discussed.

The Island: Did GoSL request for UK funding for specific projects in peace building and dialogue, resettlement, rehabilitation of the war displaced and institutions tasked with protecting the rule of law across the country?

FM: According to the available records in the relevant political desk, such a request has not been channeled through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Island: Can you please name the state institutions and private organizations picked to receive UK funding?

FM: According to available records in the relevant political desk, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not involved in the selection process and therefore does not have the required information.

The Island: Can you explain the selection process (of recipients)?

FM: Does not arise.

The British High Commission on Oct 03, 2019 quoted Minister of State for Commonwealth, UN and South Asia and Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, as having said: "I am delighted to announce the launch of a new phase of our Conflict, Stability and Security Fund in Sri Lanka. It will bring more than £10 million of targeted UK programme funding over the next three years. These funds will support peace building and dialogue; resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced communities; and engagement with institutions tasked with protecting the rule of law across the country. I know that many of these issues are close to your hearts and vital for the future success of Sri Lanka".

The Island: Would it be possible to know when UK launched the CSSF in Sri Lanka?

FM: It was launched in October 2019.

At the time CSSF was launched one-time Attorney General Tilak Marapana, PC, held the foreign ministry portfolio. However, since the change of government in the following month, MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena took over the foreign ministry with Susil Premajayantha as State Minister responsible for the subject.

The Island: What is the status of UK support for CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption)?

FM: The Foreign Ministry has not been informed by the UK Government regarding the status of UK support for CIABOC.

The Island also raised with both the Foreign Ministry and the British High Commission whether during Lord Ahmad’s visit the Foreign Ministry raised Lord Naseby’s disclosure in the House of Lords meant to facilitate Sri Lanka’s efforts to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Both the FM and BHC said that the Lord Naseby’s matter was not discussed at all.

The Island submitted the following questions to the British High Commission, Colombo:(1)Would it be possible to name the state institutions, civil society groups, NGOs and INGOs chosen to receive funding, in accordance with the three-year project funded by the UK. (2) Did GoSL seek funding for specific projects in peace-building and dialogue, resettlement, rehabilitation of the war displaced and institutions tasked with protecting the rule of law (3) During Lord Ahmad’s meetings with political leaders in Colombo was Lord Naseby’s Oct 12, 2017 disclosure pertaining to accountability issues discussed/raised by Sri Lanka (4) the BHC statement quoted Lord Ahmad as having said that he had been delighted to announce the launch of a new phase of their Conflict, Stability and Security Fund in Sri Lanka. Would it be possible to know when UK launched the ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund in Sri Lanka’? (5)What is the status of UK support for CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption? And finally (6) in addition to Sri Lanka, are there any other countries accommodated in the ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’ project?

The British High Commission sent us the following response: Launched in 2015, the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund is an annual cross-government fund designed to support peace and security. It operates in more than 70 countries, including Sri Lanka. The CSSF programme in Sri Lanka is designed to help build stability over the long term, by supporting reconciliation and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. It includes a range of projects on, for example, demining, resettlement and policing. The rule of law element of our programme benefits a range of agencies, and has in the past included English language training for anti-corruption officials including CIABOC staff. Detailed information about the programme is available to the public online at gov.uk.

During his visit in October 2019 Lord Ahmad discussed a range of issues with Sri Lankan counterparts, including UK assistance in the wake of the Easter attacks and the importance of lasting reconciliation. There was no discussion of Lord Naseby.

The British CSSF covers Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

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