German diplomat censured for graveside eulogy in Sri Lanka

A German ambassador has been censured by the Sri Lankan government for holding a eulogy for a murdered newspaper editor critical of the island’s government, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

German diplomat censured for graveside eulogy in Sri Lanka
Photo: DPA

Diplomat Jürgen Weerth was officially reprimanded by the Foreign Office in Colombo on Monday for his public remarks about Lasantha Wickrematunge.

“Today is a day when one remains speechless,” Weerth said during the service, according to the AFP news agency. “Maybe we should have spoken before this. Today is too late. Today is a day when humanity lost a major voice of truth. But he will live in his work,” he added.

Though Weerth’s speech angered Sri Lanka’s government, the Foreign Ministry in Germany told The Local the ambassador did not overstep his bounds or make a political statement.

“The eulogy was held in the name of the diplomatic corps,” Elmar Eich, spokesperson of the Foreign Office in Berlin told The Local. “The chosen tone was adequate and it was an appropriate sign of solidarity,” he added.

While some have suggested that Sri Lankan officials may have ordered the murder, the country’s President Mahinda Rajapakse has denied any involvement, news agency AFP reported.

Wickrematunge, the editor of the anti-establishment Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot down by unknown gun men on the way to work last Thursday.


EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.