Sri Lanka to ensure no nation dominates Indian Ocean: Rajapaksa
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said that his country is against any country dominating the Indian Ocean and that it would stay neutral
"As a strategically placed country in the Indian Ocean, it is our priority to ensure that the Indian Ocean is maintained as a zone of peace where no country could gain advantage over any other," he said on Tuesday in a pre-recorded speech to the annual high-level session of the General Assembly. "Sri Lanka is committed to follow a neutral foreign policy with no affiliations to any particular country or power bloc," he said.
Because of the economic importance of its sea lanes to many countries, "powerful countries" should support Indian Ocean's neutrality and protect its valuable marine resources, he said. However, caught in China's debt trap having borrowed huge amounts of money Sri Lanka has surrendered a strategic Indian Ocean port to China.
Unable to pay the interest and repayment on loans from China, Sri Lanka was was forced to hand over to China the Hampanakota port built with loans from Beijing Gotabaya Rajpaksa's brother, Mahinda, got when he was president.
Sri Lanka has been crticised for the killing of thousands of Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009 by the UN's human rights bodies and several western countries, including the United States have called for an investigation into killings by both the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lanka has opposed the investigation.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in his address on Tuesday: "In order to ensure the sustainability and the credibility of the Organization, political witch hunts through questionable motives against member states, need to be halted." He took aim at the Tamil communities in several Western countries that have lobbied for political support to investigate the atrocities.
Referring to the Tamil Tigers, he said, "In spite of its elimination from the Sri Lankan soil, the international network of this terrorist outfit remains, pushing its ruthless ideology and influencing certain capitals to spread its baseless lies and propaganda. We are hopeful that no state will tolerate activities of this international network which continues to espouse and propagate violent ideology under different guises and manifestations."
Rajapaksa faced a lawsuit brought in a California federal court by the daughter of a journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunge, alleging that he was involved in his assassination. The court ruled that as president he had immunity from prosecution, but an appeals court took up an appeal against the ruling but allowed it to be withdrawn so that it can be reinstated when Rajapakse leaves office.