- Media Minister says only essential overseas assignments were accepted in person
- Opines participation at the UN General Assembly this time will not be disadvantageous to SL
- Insists it is the duty of media to expose malpractice of the State
The Government yesterday justified the prioritised overseas travel schedule of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and claimed there was no misuse of State funds.
“The Premier was invited to Italy by a foreign organisation to attend in person at the G20 interfaith forum. No State funds were misused during Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s visit,” Co-Cabinet Spokesman and Mass Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said at the post-Cabinet meeting media briefing yesterday.
He also justified President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s upcoming visit to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, saying it was important, particularly at a time when Sri Lanka is facing criticism at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. “Attending the UN General Assembly at this time, with a small delegation, will not be disadvantageous to the country,” Alahapperuma added.
The Minister said the two visits were the first foreign assignments undertaken by the State leadership after a long post-pandemic break.
Pointing out that the Government had attended most of the overseas meetings virtually amidst the pandemic, he said only the essential ones were undertaken in person in the recent past.
Stating that it is the responsibility of the Government to attend international meetings without putting an additional burden on the economy, Alahapperuma said it was the duty of the media to expose if there were any malpractices by the State.
He was responding to queries from the media about a photograph circulated on social media showing Prime Minister Rajapaksa and his delegation having a meal in Italy.
The Government came under severe criticism with regard to the overseas visits, especially after Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Jagath Kumara’s comments stating that those who were used to three meals a day may need to cut down to two meals a day given the current financial crisis resulting from the pandemic.