A senior source at the British Foreign Office told The Times Sunday night that there had been disquiet at Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s links to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa since late last year.
Dr Fox sent a senior delegation of British naval officers to the inauguration of Rajapaksa in what the Sri Lankan regime believed was a gesture of support for his second term as President, the paper reports Monday.
Dr Fox then infuriated Foreign Office officials by agreeing to meet Mr Rajapaksa in person the following month, as feared that the Defence Secretary was undermining UK efforts to press the Sri Lankans to allow a UN investigation into alleged war crimes, the paper adds.
Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague turned down requests to see the Sri Lankan President during a visit to the UK only to discover Dr Fox had agreed to see him.
“It’s true we found out pretty late in the day,” the Foreign Office source told The Times.
Although Dr Fox was ordered to explain that the meeting was entirely personal, it was trumpeted by the Sri Lankan regime as a meeting between a head of state and the UK Defence Secretary, the paper noted.
The paper adds that presence of Mr Adam Werritty, whose relationship with Dr Fox is at the centre of a political storm in Britain this weekend, at the meeting with Mr Rajapaksa in London last December, and a subsequent visit by the Defence Secretary to Colombo this summer, has focused attention anew on Dr Fox’s links to the Colombo regime.
While in Opposition Dr Fox visited Sri Lanka five times in three years as a guest of the Rajapaksa government and had to apologise for failing to mention the interest when asking parliamentary questions about the country, the paper pointed out.