Sri Lanka, India vow joint efforts against terror

Indian PM Narendra Modi with Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena during his welcome ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 June 2019

Sri Lanka, India vow joint efforts against terror

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe welcomed the Indian premier at the airport
  • The Indian PM also visited St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, one of the sites of April 21 attacks

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will rise again and “cowardly acts of terror” cannot defeat its spirit, India’s prime minister said on Sunday, as he became the first foreign leader to visit the island after suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people in April.

Narendra Modi was tweeting snippets from his packed itinerary to Sri Lanka, which has been under a state of emergency since terrorists attacked churches and hotels on Easter Sunday on April 21.

His Twitter feed showed him paying his respects at one of the attack sites, St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, and meeting President Maithripala Sirisena. He was welcomed at the airport by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. “India never forgets her friends when they are in need,” Modi said on arrival.

“I am confident Sri Lanka will rise again,” Modi later tweeted. “Cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat the spirit of Sri Lanka. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”

Modi said that he and Sirisena agreed that terrorism was a joint threat that needed “collective and focused” action. “Reiterated India’s commitment to partner with Sri Lanka for a shared, secure and prosperous future,” he added.

Suicide bombers inflicted devastating blasts on multiple sites in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. It was the country’s deadliest violence since the civil war ended in 2009.

Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted and its beaches, restaurants and shops are quiet. Tourism authorities said that visitor arrivals would drop between 30 and 50 percent in the two months after the bombings, Reuters news agency reported.

Namal Rajapaksa, parliamentarian and son of opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, said he was grateful for Modi’s “timely” gesture. “This visit won’t just strengthen bilateral ties but is also deeply significant for improving Sri Lanka’s overall image internationally hereafter,” he tweeted.

Modi, still fresh from his landslide election victory last month, also met members of the Indian community in Colombo and thanked them for burnishing India’s reputation on the world stage.

“It is always a delight to interact with the Indian diaspora. Today India’s position in the world is getting stronger and a large part of that credit goes to the Indian diaspora,” he told them.

Modi described the Sri Lanka visit as “short but immensely fruitful.”


Most overrated? Ex-US defense chief Mattis laughs off Trump insult at charity gala

Updated 9 min 4 sec ago

Most overrated? Ex-US defense chief Mattis laughs off Trump insult at charity gala

  • Trump demeaned Mattis as “the world’s most overrated general" when pressed about his unpopular Syria pullout decision
  • Mattis resigned as defense secretary last December after Trump said he intended to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria
NEW YORK: Former US Defense Secretary James Mattis is laughing off an insult hurled at him by President Donald Trump.
Speaking at a New York charity event Thursday the day after Trump demeaned him as “the world’s most overrated general,” Mattis joked that he took it as a compliment.
“I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the greatest, the world’s most overrated,” he told diners at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
“I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress,” he said. “So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me.”
Trump lashed out at his former defense secretary Wednesday, during a contentious White House meeting with members of Congress.
The meeting was intended to be a bipartisan discussion of Trump’s decision to pull US forces from northern Syria, but it broke up after a testy exchange between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Before the walkout, Trump disparaged Mattis, who had argued as defense secretary that US troops were needed in Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State fighters.
Trump said Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general. You know why? He wasn’t tough enough.”
“I captured Daesh,” Trump went on to say.
Mattis resigned as defense secretary last December after Trump said he intended to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria. In his resignation letter, the retired Marine general told Trump he had “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Since then, he has largely refrained from criticizing the administration publicly, saying he owed the commander in chief “a duty of silence.”
But he did save a zinger for Trump at the laughter-filled gala, saying the “overrated” moniker didn’t bother him.
“I earned my spurs on the battlefield ... and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor,” Mattis joked.
On a serious note, Mattis alluded to Trump’s decision to have US troops stand down in Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces who had been US allies in the fight against the Daesh group. On Thursday, the US and Turkey agreed to a five-day cease-fire that requires the Kurdish fighters to vacate, largely solidifying Turkey’s position in the region.
“We owe a debt to all who fought for liberty, including those who tonight serve in the far corners of our planet, among them the American men and women supporting our Kurdish allies,” Mattis said.
The annual gala draws luminaries from finance and politics. Hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, the benefit is named after a former New York governor who was the first Catholic to receive a major party nomination for president in 1928, before losing the general election.