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 Post subject: Balapatabendi new Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia
 Post Posted: Thu May 05, 2005 9:09 pm 
Kumarasiri Balapatabendi - at last the new Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Australia

From S Nagarajah in Sydney
@- Asian Tribune -

Sydney, 05 May, (Asiantribune.com); The new Sri Lankan High Commissioner designate to Australia Kumarasiri Balapatabendi assumed duties today replacing Major General Janaka Perera who has been posted as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Indonesia.

Mr Balapatabindi functioned as Chairman, Sri Lankan Airlines, and as Senior Advisor to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the time he was appointed as Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner in Canberra . He will be simultaneously accredited as Sri Lanka’s Envoy to New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuvatu.

Besides the immediate need to handle the recent Australian media exposure on tsunami aid piling up in Colombo, the new High Commissioner has before him the task of building up the trust and confidence of all sections of the Sri Lankan community in Australia. Some sections of the Sri Lankan community previously questioned his financial integrity with allegations about his son’s wealth accumulation in Australia and protested his appointment.

The more important task before him is building up the trust of the Sri Lankan Tamil community in Australia. The former High Commissioner Major General Janaka Perera took up his appointment in Canberra in the midst of a frenzied LTTE propaganda alleging that he committed serious human rights violations when he functioned as Commanding Officer of the Sri Lankan Army in the North. LTTE front organisations in Australia bussed in hundreds of its supporters to participate in a protest march held in Canberra.

There was even talk in pro-LTTE media that Major General Janaka Perera would be hauled before international and Australian tribunals for human rights violations, but nothing eventuated. These protests eventually lost momentum and petered out.

However, these antics by LTTE front organisations only galvanized the retired Major General who used all his influence with the Australian government to ensure that LTTE is banned as a terrorist organisation.

He was only expecting to spend his retirement from active military service in peace enjoying the perks as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia. A side effect of LTTE front organisations’ protests was that he was alienated from the Sri Lankan Tamil community and even the anti-LTTE Tamils hesitated to associate with him for fear of being branded as traitors.

Mr Balapatbendi has better rapport with the Sri Lankan Tamils as he once served as the Sri Lankan Government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks with the LTTE initiated by President Chandrika Kumaratinga. It is learnt that he is keen to engage the Tamil community in Australia and has been instructed to do so by the President.

The immediate need of the Sri Lankan Tamil community is the appointment of a Tamil translator and coordinator at the Sydney Consulate. Many Tamils visiting the Sydney Consulate for authentication of documents and for other purposes face many difficulties because of the absence of Tamil speaking officers.

The new High Commissioner will have to pay serious attention to the plight of detainees held at Immigration Detention Centres. About fifteen Sri Lankan detainees, most of them Tamils, are being held for illegal entry and breach of other immigration rules.

Sri Lankan High Commission has only two functioning offices in Australia, the main office in Canberra and the Sydney Consulate. Honorary Consuls have been appointed to the cities of Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide. Of these, the Honorary Consuls in Melbourne and Adelaide are not easily approachable by members of the public and members of the Sri Lankan community in these two major Australian cities find it extremely difficult to transact any business through these honorary officials.

Though the High Commissioner for Australia is simultaneously accredited to New Zealand, there is no full time Sri Lankan consulate or office in any of the New Zealand cities. There is an Honorary Consul in Wellington but none in any other cities. Auckland, a city with a fair concentration of Sri Lankans, needs the services of a Consul. Fiji has an Honorary Consul but no one has yet been appointed in Papua New Guinea and Vanuvattu.

@- Asian Tribune -

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