The Director

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Dear Sir,

My attention was drawn yesterday by two people to the following news item which appeared in Lanka News Web.

Governing party parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinghe has intervened and got a scholarship for UNP parliamentarian Buddhika Pathirana through the German NGO Ebert Stiftung.

Buddhika is scheduled to travel overseas on the 10th of May. However, several members of Sajith Premadasa’s group had asked Buddhika to postpone the visit since an article was published in the Lankadeepa newspaper stating that a German NGO had provided funds to Sajith against UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Buddhika received the support and financial support of German NGO Frederic Neumann, which stands for liberal democratic ideals, for several years. However, Buddhika has been introduced to the Ebert Stiftung NGO by Rajiva Wijesinghe.

I was astonished by this, since I have had almost no contact ever with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Indeed, except when recently I was invited to an event at the suggestion of my sister who was speaking, I believe I have never been invited to programmes you have.

I believe Lanka News Web was started by associates of Mr Mangala Samaraweera, who is currently in the United National Party, and it is likely that this news item is part of the ongoing struggle within that party. I believe Mr Buddhika Pathirana is seen as a supporter of Mr Sajith Premadasa for the leadership, which is understandable.

Mr Pathirana had a leading position in the Liberal Youth Leagues which were funded by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung through the Institute for Democracy and Leadership which is headed by Mr Ravi Karunanayake. It is true that the FNS in Sri Lanka, having previously funded the Council for Liberal Democracy, which was associated with the Liberal Party, decided to plump for Mr Ravi Karunanayake a decade or so back.

This is not unusual since the FNS in Sri Lanka is headed now by Ms Sagarica Delgoda, who has been with the organization since it was set up in Sri Lanka to support the politics of Mr Lalith Athulathmudali. In those days, when Dr Chanaka Amaratunga first introduced liberalism as a political philosophy relevant to a Sri Lanka torn between statist socialism and the crony capitalism of the 1977 UNP government, he was denigrated as a rabid socialist by the then head of the FNS, Mr Bischoff, who was in fact doing business in Sri Lanka under Mr Athulathmudali’s patronage.

Though soon enough German liberals realized their mistake, and worked with Dr Amaratunga, after Mr Athulathmudali broke with President Premadasa’s UNP, the FNS reverted to its old approach, regardless of actual liberalism. Though I believe Mr Karunanayake suggested that the UNP would join Liberal International, in fact it joined a Conservative Group, the IDU, in accordance with the predilections of its leader, who Mr Karunanayake continues to support. The FNS continues to fund Mr Karunanayake, in association with Ms Sharmila Perera, who also used to be a conduit for funds in Mr Athulathmudali’s time. The FNS clearly saw nothing wrong with Ms Perera, who is a leading figure in the Institute for Democracy and Leadership, being the Secretary of the political party through which Sarath Fonseka contested the Presidency.

Since Mr Pathirana is now seen as a threat to the monopoly of theoretically liberal funding that those opposed to Mr Sajith Premadasa enjoy, this article is doubtless intended to put him firmly beyond the pale. Similarly, I am now being traduced in the way Dr Amaratunga was nearly three decades back, doubtless to ensure that German liberals will not question the manner in which the FNS in Colombo now uses funds which the German taxpayer assumes are dedicated to promoting liberal thinking.

I am writing to explain all this so that you will have a better picture of the manner in which political funding is used in this country. I believe the representatives of the three foundations and embassy staff meet to discuss such matters, and it will help to ensure better use of German funds if you understand the wider picture.

Meanwhile I would be most grateful if you could confirm to Lanka News Web, or if that is not possible to me, that I have had no dealings with you, that I have neither capacity nor inclination to introduce anyone to you, and that I know nothing whatsoever of scholarships you might have at your disposal.

I ask this not only to clear my name, but on behalf too of Mr Pathirana. I have no idea which is the dirtier association in the minds of those who wish to run him down, me or a Social Democratic Foundation, but it would not do to allow the career of a promising young politician to be damaged by allegations utterly without foundation.

cc. HE Jens Ploetner, German Ambassador