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Rajapaksa contradicts US State Department over Pompeo meeting snub

The Sri Lankan prime minister’s office has denied a meeting was scheduled to take place with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, contradicting a US State Department official’s comments just days earlier.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was conspicuously absent from high-level meetings with Pompeo, who met with Sri Lanka’s president and foreign minister. As speculation grew over a potential snub, a government minister claimed that both prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his sibling president Gotabaya Rajapaksa were “opposed” to Pompeo’s trip.

A tweet from Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office yesterday, however, claimed that a meeting with Pompeo was “never scheduled”.

“Given Sec. Pompeo's short visit, meeting with one member of the senior #lka leadership was deemed sufficient,” tweeted the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office.

There has been much speculation about PM @PresRajapaksa not meeting @SecPompeo. To set the record straight: #SriLanka PM was never scheduled to meet Mr. Pompeo. Given Sec. Pompeo's short visit, meeting with one member of the senior #lka leadership was deemed sufficient.

— Anuradha K. Herath (@AnuradhaKHerath) October 30, 2020

Her remarks however directly contradict a briefing from US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean R. Thompson in Washington last week.

“From New Delhi, we’ll travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where the Secretary will meet with President Rajapaksa – Prime Minister Rajapaksa, and Foreign Minister Gunawardena,” stated Thompson.

Thompson added that Pompeo will raise the issue of human rights and justice, adding that Colombo is “at a point to make some choices about where they head”.

The day before Pompeo’s arrival there was also a protest outside the US Embassy in Colombo by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and several Sinhala Buddhist monks.

During his visit, Pompeo met with Gotabaya Rajapaksa and with Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, where he discussed the role of China, trade, accountability for rights abuses and a US travel ban on army commander Shavendra Silva.

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