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Image By Mr Sudath Silva / Maithripala Sirisena Official (Source Link) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Maithripala Sirisena, Chairman of the Commonwealth, was due to arrive in London yesterday evening to attend the Commonwealth Day celebrations scheduled for Monday.

After the event, he will be attending a multi-faith observance at Westminster Abbey in the afternoon. Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain, Head of London Buddhist Vihara, Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Thero will represent the Buddhist faith on this occasion.

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma will host a reception in the evening at the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House, London, where the visiting Sri Lankan leader is billed to attend. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will also be in attendance.

On Tuesday, President Sirisena will hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at his official residence No. 10, Downing Street. The two leaders will also participate in a photo-shoot.

Cameron has acknowledged the democratic governing style of President Sirisena. In a letter written to the All Party Parliamentary Group of Tamils recently, the British premier said  "I welcome President Sirisena’s early commitment to lead a more democratic and accountable government, including by restoring the independence of the police and judiciary, ensuring electoral reforms, protecting the rights of religious minorities, and guaranteeing media freedoms".

"The new government’s commitments to Parliament are also promising for Tamil communities in the North, including a commitment to devolve powers under the 13th Amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution. I have also noted the replacement of the military governor in the North with a civilian, and welcome the appointment of a Tamil Minister for Resettlement and Reconstruction, together with the new government’s early engagement with Tamil political parties. These are promising early steps."

"I welcome the new President’s commitment to end Sri Lanka’s international isolation, and, therefore, hope that the new government will now work alongside the international community, including at the UN Human Rights Council, to address matters of international concern in order to build Sri Lanka into a peaceful and prosperous nation for all its people".

Sirisena is also expected to meet with SLFP, UNP and JVP members and other Sri Lankans living in the UK on Tuesday evening. He will also be attending the dinner hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace the following night before leaving for Sri Lanka.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting will be held in London on March 12. Minister of External Affairs Mangala Samaraweera was due to attend but due to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka, The Sunday Island reliably learns that Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera will represent Sri Lanka at this meeting.

Meanwhile, some pro-LTTE Tamil groups have oragnised two demonstrations in London against President Sirisena’s visit. The first, organised by the British Tamil Forum, will be opposite the Westminster Abbey at 2 pm on Monday. The second will be held in front of the Commonwealth Secretariat the same evening. The Tamil Youth Organisation, UK, is behind this protest.

However the main pro-LTTE Group, Global Tamil Forum is welcoming President Sirisena to London and looks forward to initiating a dialogue with him.

by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London


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