President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed regret after the Oxford Union cancelled a scheduled speech by him amid security concerns, the President’s office said on Wednesday.
"I am very sorry this has had to be cancelled, but I will continue to seek venues in Britain and elsewhere where I can talk about my future vision for Sri Lanka," the President said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Rajapakse's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, said the Oxford Union had cancelled the talk following pressure from elements supporting Sri Lanka's defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the AFP reported.
A group of Tamils in London had planned a demonstration to coincide with Thursday's event. They also staged a protest when Rajapakse arrived in London on Tuesday.
"This (cancellation) is a decision that has been made unilaterally by the Oxford Union, reportedly as a result of pressure applied by pro-LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) activists," Weeratunga said.
The Oxford Union, which has hosted speakers ranging from Michael Jackson to the Dalai Lama, in a statement defended its cancellation of Rajapakse's talk.
"This decision was not taken lightly and the Union deeply regrets the cancellation," it said. "The Union has a long tradition of hosting prominent speakers and upholding the principles of free speech."