A controversy has erupted over the United States’ denial of a visa to Mr. Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, the chairman of a parliamentary sectoral committee, who was scheduled to attend a workshop for the chairpersons of Sri Lanka’s parliamentary sectoral committees in the US.
Seventeen parliamentary sectoral committee chairpersons had been elected to participate in the workshop. Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, the chairman of the sectoral committee for national security, had offered his opportunity to Major Pradeep Udugoda, a Member of Parliament, who had requested it.
However, the US refused to grant a visa to Major Pradeep Udugoda and proposed to offer the opportunity to a Tamil National Alliance MP instead. This proposal was deemed a violation of parliamentary rules and an insult to the Sri Lankan Parliament.
In response, the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament informed the organizers that Minister Sarath Weerasekera, in his capacity as the chairman of the sectoral committee, would participate. However, the US also denied a visa to Minister Sarath Weerasekera.
The controversy surrounding these visa denials has two key aspects. Firstly, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is known for his active role as a war hero during Sri Lanka’s victory in the civil war and his subsequent leadership of the Civil Defense Force. He has also been an outspoken advocate against war crimes allegations directed at Sri Lanka. Secondly, the US has a strong interest in having a member of the Tamil National Alliance participate in the workshop from the national security department.
This situation suggests that the US is inclined to grant visas for such events to Tamil National Alliance MPs but not to others. Despite not requiring an American visa, Mr. Weerasekera aimed to participate in the workshop but rejected the US proposal to include a separatist member in discussions on national security matters.
Certain media outlets in Sri Lanka, allegedly dependent on American financial sources, have been accused of attempting to downplay the incident and promote a false narrative, fueling the controversy.