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Presidency 30Though the choice the nation has to make on January 8th is a very serious one, there has certainly been a lot of entertainment to be had during the last few days. This is not all on one side, since it is odd to find many individuals who had little time for each other in the past now working together. My friend Dayan Jayatilleka first decided that the JHU provided the saving graces to the campaign of the common candidate, but then threw in his lot with the President. I assume he thinks there is hope of reform, which is ironic given his deep distrust of the Secretary of Defence. However I can but hope that he will be given control of the Foreign Ministry, given his incisive dissection of its disastrous workings in the last few years. He will certainly put an end to what he diagnosed some time back, that the Foreign Ministry was territory occupied by the Defence Ministry, and the Defence Ministry was territory occupied by Israel. His return to the Rajapaksa fold suggests that the President has begun to see sanity – though, as Dayan has noted, the President is generally sane when you talk to him, it is his capacity to implement his own decisions and follow his instincts that has been in doubt over the last few years.

Dayan’s decision may have also been dictated by his dislike of both Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is another irony that these two have now discovered each other’s virtues. But politics has always brought together people who were on different sides earlier, and this is understandable since we all need to look for good qualities in politicians and hope that these lead to productive synergy. Chandrika reminded me, when we met on the day of the first Press Conference, that I had once told her I wanted to bring her and Mahinda together. I certainly regret that both did not try harder, because had they at least talked to each other, and tried to reach consensus on issues both had been positive about earlier, such as the 13th amendment, Mahinda would not so easily have become the prisoner of the rent seekers and extremists who now dominate him. 

People forging new alliances then, or going back to old ones, is not preposterous. What is preposterous is the excess the government has indulged in, in coping with the surprise it got when Maithripala Sirisena became the common candidate. First it had, as the President indicated, to make sure that no one else crossed over. To do this it employed both carrots and sticks, giving full publicity to the latter effort. This came in the form of the President’s declaration that he had files on everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

Bash-ful 3GL and Sajin meanwhile failed to take things forward in the other area which had been entrusted to them, in that they brought nothing from the negotiations to the PSC. It became such a joke that even representatives of the hardline parties asserted this and said it should be wound up. This made sense for nothing of what we had discussed,the unexceptionable measures which the TNA had accepted in principle, and which could have been fleshed out by the PSC, a second chamber for instance and increased power to local bodies, the elimination as far as possible of the concurrent list, were not discussed by the Committee. Both Vasantha and I had brought these matters up, and it was clear that the more intelligent members of the Committee found them interesting, but there seemed massive resistance to any reforms. But in a context in which Sajin Vas Gunawardena seemed to be calling all the shorts, and given his control of both the Minister of External Affairs and the President’s son, so that the President himself seemed unable to move without his blessing, there was little hope of the regime breaking out of the straitjacket in which it was held.

Namal however, though he would not stand up against Sajin, did seem to have his measure, as was apparent in the brief period in which Tamara Kunanayagam was able to deal direct with the President while she was in Geneva. Her sudden removal was probably due to what she had discovered while she was there, and the realization that her direct link with the President would stymie the various stratagems that were laying the country low.

When she arrived a month before the September 2011 UN Human Rights Council Session, she was informed that Kshenuka had been negotiating with the American ambassador about a resolution to bring Sri Lanka before the Human Rights Council for an Interactive Dialogue. When she contacted the Ministry about this and instructions on how to respond, it was to find that they had no knowledge of such an initiative. However they did not seem to take it seriously, so Tamara called the President direct, and he asked her to fly to Colombo immediately for a briefing.

When she did so, she found the Foreign Ministry totally hostile, and furious that she had come to Sri Lanka without authorization from them. At a meeting where GL and Sajin were present she was given instructions that she should go back immediately, and not meet the President. Fortunately she had a ticket that could not be changed, and the Secretary to the Ministry accepted this position, so she was able to meet the President.
His anger about the acquiescence of Kshenuka in Geneva to what the Americans saw as a precursor to the war crimes resolution they had been contemplating was in marked contrast to the complacence of GL and Sajin. Whereas they had not reacted at all, the President’s instructions were clear, that there should be no negotiations. Tamara accordingly made the Sri Lankan position clear, and had enough support to ensure that the proposed resolution, and a Canadian attempt to bring the Sri Lankan issue to the attention of the Council, were dropped. But the American ambassador told her that they would get Sri Lanka the next time round. Since there was no official record of the discussions Kshenuka had had with them, and neither the President nor the Minister attempted to find out, Tamara had to work in a vacuum – not helped by the fact that Ksenuka and Sajin were in firm control of the Ministry and the delegation that was sent to Geneva, as well as the Mission staff that they took over on arrival, and treated her as an outsider at the next session.

She was able to understand something more of Sajin’s mentality when, after consultation with friendly envoys, she noted that the best hope for Sri Lanka to avoid censure was swift implementation of the LLRC recommendations, which had been published at the end of 2012. But Sajin informed her that the President had no intention of taking these forward. She mentioned this to the President when she was back in Sri Lanka for the 2012 Independence Day celebrations, and cited what Sajin had said, that he knew the President’s mind as though he were inside it, which led Namal to comment that this was exactly the sort of thing Sajin would say. Read the rest of this entry »

Bashful 2I had written about good ambassadors being dismissed well before Dayan having to come back to Sri Lanka to deal with audit queries, though in fact he survived because the President intervened and called a halt to the persecution. Asitha was not so lucky, and Chris Nonis in London told me that he had to put up with constant complaints, even though he was a good communicator and managed to deal with at least some of the propaganda against us, of which England was the main source. But Chris too had his problems, for as he was appointed he had displayed deep animosity to his excellent Deputy, Pakeer Amza, who had had to act as High Commissioner for a long period – given the absurd neglect of this vital position by the Ministry, at a time when Britain got a new government. It is likely that Chris was warned against Amza, who had stood up against Kshenuka and Sajin over the disastrous 2010 visit of the President to Britain.

But the suspicions that had been sowed had a permanent effect. Amza was swiftly transferred, as Deputy to Berlin, which was not commensurate with his abilities, though he was relieved to find a positive ambassador in the person of Sarath Kongahage, himself not a career diplomat. Along with Amza went the Political Officer, a Tamil officer of considerable capacity. So, at a time when relations with the diaspora were of the essence, the London office was without a senior official who was, or even spoke, Tamil. Chris meanwhile had been sent a very capable Ministry official called Lenagala, but he soon fell out with him, and asked for a non-career replacement. He was sent Neville de Silva, who had previously served in Bangkok, a journalist and the brother of the more famous journalist Mervyn de Silva, who was Dayan Jayatilleka’s father. But by then the suspicions Chris had developed were entrenched, and soon Neville too found himself sidelined and soon enough removed.

There was confusion elsewhere too, as has been noted for instance with regard to Canada, another post where good diplomacy was essential, given the influence of the diaspora and what seemed unremitting hostility from the Canadian government. In India there were constant changes to our representative in Chennai, and the Tamil diplomat who had been well thought of was suddenly dismissed. He had got me over in 2012 to talk to academics and journalists, and I gathered then that I was the first such visitor he had had, because the Foreign Ministry treated Tamilnadu with contempt and was then surprised when it expressed vehement criticism which Delhi then had perforce to take up.

But the Foreign Ministry was not the only place where Sajin’s destructive influence reigned. He had also been appointed as Secretary to the Committee to negotiate with the Tamil National Alliance, but he saw himself as a full member of the team, and was treated as such by GL. It should be noted though that GL had no strong principles about this, and he astonished me soon after I joined the team by bringing a young student who was the son of a former student of his (and who happened to be related to me) who he said was interested in politics, and asking if he could sit in on the discussions. The TNA did not object, but I could well understand why they found it difficult to take the negotiations seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.26604602Nearly two months back the Liberal Party wrote to the President urging that he not hold elections in haste, and indicating that he should proceed first with the various reforms he had pledged. We got an acknowledgment, but not a response, though I suspect a call from a close relation urging that I support the President was a consequence of the letter. The refusal to consider issues seriously, while simply providing assurances that things will improve, is not however something that can be accepted ad nauseam. Indeed, while in India I was told by a political scientist who had been fully supportive of our destruction of the Tigers in Sri Lanka, that the President, having promised the Indians that he would implement the 13th Amendment, was heard to say as they were leaving that he had fooled them again.

I refused to believe this, and argued that the President would not have behaved like that. My own view is that he is generally sincere in the commitments he makes, and he did his best on various occasions to promote the LLRC. But unfortunately he imagines he is weaker than he is, and gives in to pressures from others, all of whom have their own agendas. So, following his commitment to the Indians, he did nothing when that was repudiated by a spokesman, and he did not bother when G L Peiris did not respond to a request for clarification sent by the Indian Prime Minister. As Lalith Weeratunge said with regard to the clear commitment to change the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province, he could do nothing because his hands were tied – but this was probably not, initially at any rate, by the President.

It is this failure to move straight, despite what I continue to believe are admirable political instincts, that led the Liberal Party last week to confirm its earlier decision and support Maithripala Sirisena. Though it is argued that the Sirisena candidacy is the result of a foreign conspiracy, it is in fact a continuation of the present regime that will lead to increasing interference in our affairs by the more prejudiced elements in the international community.

And we now have hardly any defences against such incursions that are based on rationality. I think the recent removal of Chris Nonis, following his able defence of the country when dealing with the international media, suggests that those close to the President are determined to destroy our defences. In some cases this may be due simply to jealousy, but I suspect this was stirred up for ulterior motives, the same motives that led to the dismissal of Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayakam.

Underlying all this is the absence of a coherent strategy. Tamara Kunanayakam relates how Sajin Vas Gunawardena had said that the government had no strategy when she asked what was the strategy to deal with the draft resolution against Sri Lanka that the Americans were preparing way back in September. Her staff had told her that this had been shared with Kshenuka Seneviratne on her private email address, but not communicated to Colombo.

Instead of looking into that aberration, the Ministry however was annoyed with Tamara for having found it out, and did not want to think about the matter. It was the President who had told Tamara to come to Colombo to discuss the matter, and been very clear in his instructions, to the effect that Tamara should not negotiate with the Americans, but should instead rally support amongst our usual allies. This Tamara did, and as had happened in 2007, when the British Ambassador had to allow the resolution he had tabled in 2006 to lapse, the American resolution, which the Canadians had tried to bring forward, was not moved.

But before that the Ministry had tried to prevent Tamara seeing the President, and had indeed ordered the Secretary to put her on a flight before the scheduled breakfast meeting with the President. Fortunately the Secretary then, Karunasena Amunugama, was a practical man, and when he found the ticket could not be changed, he had allowed Tamara to stay on. But contrary to the very clear instructions the President had given, which were in line with the strategy we had employed between 2007 and 2009 to defend our interests, Sajin had simply scoffed and said we had no strategy because the President changed it all the time. Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.26351281President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is of the view that our Ministry of External Affairs is a mess. His offer to Mangala Samaraweera to make him Foreign Minister indicates his realization that his greatest blunder is the hash the troika that runs the Ministry has made of our international relations. And he confirmed this to Vasantha Senanayake, when Basil accused him of criticizing the Foreign Minister openly.

He had assured Mangala that he would not inflict Sajin Vas Gunawardena on him as a Monitor, which suggests he realizes what a disaster that particular appointment has been. When it was made, he claimed that at least now letters were being answered. That was a necessity, but the power Sajin exercised led to the Minister then abdicating all authority and handing over decision making to his Monitor.

Despite that the crucial letter sent by the Indian Prime Minister before the vote in Geneva in 2012 lay unanswered. In fairness though, that factor is true of our administration in general, and the requirement that letters be answered in three days has been interpreted to mean that at least three days must lapse before a reply is even thought of. One reason I had high regard for Maithripala Sirisena previously, and said so often in my discussions of my work in the North and East as Advisor on Reconciliation, is that his Ministry usually responded to my transmission of complaints from the public. But most Ministries kept silent, though occasionally there were flurries of activity after I had brought the matter up in COPE.

The prevailing lethargy is bad enough, but with regard to foreign relations it is worse, given that we need to engage actively with all stakeholders, and in particular those who have the capacity to do us harm. In order to do this, however, we need to have clear guidelines available to all government officials as well as our Missions with regard to foreign policy priorities. Officials could then take their own decisions as to how to react to correspondence, instead of waiting for instructions on all issues. Certainly, when there was a Ministry of Human Rights, we dealt promptly with any queries from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and this led to commendation of Sri Lanka’s engagement with that Office, in the reports for instance of the Working Committee on Disappearances. But after the Ministry was abolished, there were no responses as all for several years, and it is only in the last year, following the harsh criticism in resolutions, that we began to engage.

  1. Amongst the principles we should adopt then is ensuring regular engagement with all countries and in particular with the United Nations. Whilst safeguarding our sovereignty, we should respond to concerns with understanding of the issues involved, and should fulfil any commitments we enter into. If this is impossible, we should explain constraints and ensure that our actions and attitudes are understood.
  1. But responses must be based on clear policy guidelines, and these should be laid out. The most important of the guidelines we should follow, given geo-political realities, is ensuring good relations with India. This cannot govern domestic policies, but there should be good and reliable communication with India as regards such policies, with the understanding that any commitments cannot be violated.
  2. Within this framework, or rather a broader framework that also lays down the need for promoting multilateralism, there should be flexibility. Thus we should have regular consultative meetings of senior level Foreign Ministry officials. If these happen each week, there should also be provision, perhaps on a monthly basis, for consultation of officials of relevant Ministries such as Finance and Defence and Trade. Such meetings should be minuted, and decisions / action points notified to relevant officials with provision for feedback.
  1. We also need to build up collegiality within the Ministry. Whilst there are good reasons sometimes for appointment of non-career individuals to Head of Mission posts, all other posts should be reserved for members of the Diplomatic Service. These officials should be required to submit brief regular reports on their activities, which should be based on targets identified by the Ministry, with consultation of the Head of Mission.
  2. But there is also need of a wider professionalism. For this purpose Government should establish at least two high level think tanks. The existing government managed institutions could be upgraded, but they should function independently and have research staff who could produce position papers and suggest responses to international developments. In addition, these think tanks should have a training wing, which develops communication skills in addition to the capacity to analyse. They should also publish journals to which diplomats are expected to contribute.


Colombo Post 30 Nov 2014 –  –

Colombo Telegraph 1 Dec 2014 –

presidency 25When I read of, and hear, the President expressing concerns about an international conspiracy to destabilize his government, and topple him, I feel immensely sad. One reason is that what he fears is not entirely without foundation.

The idea was put to me, quite politely, by the head of the Sri Lanka desk at the UN, who said that, whereas Mahinda Rajapaksa had been a good leader during the War, perhaps someone else was better suited to lead during peacetime. The young man from our Embassy who had accompanied me to that meeting said the same proposition had been put to Nivard Cabraal. Both of us repudiated the idea, and indeed I recall citing Tolstoy in this connection, given the theory he had put forward in War and Peace, about the visionary Alexander having to take over after the practical soldier Kutuzov had won the war. I have no idea what arguments Nivard used, but I have no doubt that he would have shared my conclusions.


… the less polite approach of some Westerners, who put forward Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency

The Tolstoyan imagery was pertinent with regard to the less polite approach of some Westerners, who put forward Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency. This seemed to me rank wickedness, and I believe some European ambassadors shared my view, for they told me – at a farewell lunch I gave the two nicest of them – that they knew what he was like, and could not understand what some of their colleagues were up to.

I am not sure that the Americans, who were foremost in the venture (or at least some of them, for I cannot believe that thoroughly decent people like the then Social Affairs Officer Jeff Anderson were involved) were actually wicked. I have long learnt that one should never attribute to wickedness what can be put down to stupidity. I suspect then that those who still had some values but went along with the idea thought that Sarath Fonseka would split what they saw as the extreme vote, and that this would enable Ranil Wickremesinghe to win.

Ranil's fault

… the whole debacle was Ranil’s fault for having withdrawn.

Ranil however was sharper than them, and withdrew – which is perhaps what prompted Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, at the Christmas Party given by the then Deputy British Head of Mission, to say that the whole debacle was Ranil’s fault for having withdrawn.

Sarath Fonseka lost conclusively – despite Sara’s efforts to suggest the election had been fraudulent – which is why the protests I suspect had been planned never got off the ground. But the American extremists had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, because Mahinda Rajapaksa abandoned his visions, and a new homespun Kutuzov emerged.

For with Fonseka as his principal opponent, Rajapaksa had to cover that flank as it were, so that it was extremists who played the largest role in his campaign, not the fundamentally decent and moderate SLFP leadership. And so they have emerged as the strongest influences on policy in the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Lakbima Newsවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හා විදේශ සේවය පිළිබදව පසුගිය සති දෙක තුළ විශාල ආන්දෝලනයක් ඇතිවිය. ඒ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ අධීක්ෂණ මන්ත්‍රී සජින් ද වාස් ගුණවර්ධන හා බ්‍රිතාන්‍යයේ සිටින ශ්‍රී ලංකා මහ කොමසාරිස් දොස්තර ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස් අතර ඇතිවු ගැටුම නිසාය. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය ගැන වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කරන පාර්ලිමේන්තු මන්ත්‍රී මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ මේ ක්‍රියාදාමය පසුගියදා විවේචනය කළේය. විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය ගැන ඔහු දක්වන අදහස් පිළිබදව මෙන්ම විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය තුළ ඇතිවී තිබෙන තත්ත්වය හමුවේ ලංකාවට ජාත්‍යන්තර බලපෑම් තීරණය වන ආකාරය ගැන මහාචාර්ය රජීව් විජේසිංහ සමග ලක්බිම කළ සම්මුඛ සාකච්ඡාවකි මේ.

ලංකාවේ තානාපති සේවය වෘත්තීයභාවයකින් යුත් තානාපති සේවයක් ලෙස හැඳින්විය හැකිද?
තානාපති සේවයේ දුර්වලතා රැසක් තිබෙනවා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භ වන විට ඔවුන්ට නිසි පුහුණුවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. එහෙත් විදේශ සේවයට හොඳ පිරිසක් එක්වීම නිසා එය සාර්ථකව ඉදිරියට ගියා. ලංකාවේ විදේශ සේවය ආරම්භයේ සිටම හොඳ තානාපතිවරුන් ලෙස කටයුතු කළේ විදේශ සේවය තුළ සිටි තානාපතිවරු නොවෙයි. විදේශ සේවයට පිටින් පත් කළ අය තමයි හොඳම තානාපතිවරු ලෙස කටයුතු කර ඇත්තේ.

ශර්ලි අමරසිංහ, නෙවිල් කනකරත්න, ක්ලෝඩ් කොරයා වගේ නම් රැසක් මට ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න පුළුවන්. 1948 සිට 1980 වෙ තානාපති සේවයෙන් පැමිණි හොඳ තානාපතිවරු සිටියේ එක් අයෙක් දෙන්නෙක් පමණයි. එයට හේතුව වන්නේ විදේශ සේවයට එක්වන අයට නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොලැබිමයි. අපි නිසි පුහුණුවක් නොදීම නිසාත් ලංකාවේ විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තියක්  ස්ථිරව පවත්වාගෙන නොයෑම නිසා විදේශ සේවය තහවුරු වූයේ නැත. ජේ.ආර්.ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා විදේශ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය වෙනස් කරන විට විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශ ‍ලේකම් ධුරයට පැමිණි තිස්ස විජයරත්න ගමේ ළමුන් විදේශ සේවයට බඳවාගත්තා. ඉංග්‍රීසි භාෂාවට වැඩි අවධානයක් යොමු කළේ නැහැ. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවය පසුබැස්සා.
මෙහි වාසිය ලබාගත් ජේ.ආර්. ජයවර්ධන ජනාධිපතිවරයා තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි, තෙවැනි තනතුරු සඳහා දේශපාලන පත්කිරීම් කළා. මේ නිසා තමයි විදේශ සේවය දේශපාලනීකරණය වුණේ. වත්මන් ආණ්ඩුව යටතේත් මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් සිදුවෙනවා. මේ දේශපාලන පත්වීම් නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීය භාවය බිඳවැටුණා. ඒ වගේම දැන් විදේශ අමාත්‍යාංශයේ සිටින සමහර අය ආණ්ඩුවේ ඉහළ අයගේ ඔළුවට දමා ඇත්තේ තමුන්ට පමණක් ඉංග්‍රීසි හැකි බවයි.

Lakbima Sinhalaවිදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ගේ වෘත්තීයභාවය වර්ධනය කිරීමට ඔබ මැදිහත් වුණා. එය ඉදිරියට ගෙන නොගියේ ඇයි?
විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්ට නිවේදන සකස් කිරීම ගැන පුහුණුවක් ලබාදීමට මම සූදානම් වුණා. ඒත් එය ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමට අවස්ථාව විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයා මට ලබාදුන්නේ නැහැ. මේ ගැන මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාගෙන් විමසුවා. එවිට ඔහු කීවේ මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් තවත් මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් දැක්කාම බය වෙනවානේ කියලයි. ඒ කියන්නේ ජනාධිපතිවරයත් විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිවරයාගේ හැසිරීම දන්නවා.

ඔබ මේ කටයුතුවලට මැදිහත්වූයේ නියෝජ්‍ය විදේශ කටයුතු ඇමැතිකම බලා‍පොරොත්තුවෙන් නොවේද?
ජනාධිපතිවරයා බලයට පත්වීමෙන් පසුව විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍ය ධුරයට පත් කිරීමට අයෙක් නැති බව මා සමග පැවැසුවා. ඒ වෙලාවේ මම කීවේ මට නියෝජ්‍ය ඇමැතිකම දෙන්න කියලයි. ඒ වෙලාවේ ජනාධිපතිවරයා හිතුවේ මමත් සාමාන්‍ය අය වගේම තනතුරු ගන්න හදනවා කියලයි. එය එසේ නොවන බව මම ජනාධිපතිවරයාට පෙන්වා දුන්නා. මම ඒ තනතුරු ගැන කතා කළේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශයට කවුරුත් නොමැති බව පැවැසූ නිසයි. එසේ නොමැතිව තනතුරු බලාගෙන නොවෙයි.

විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන්ට තමන්ගේ දක්ෂතා පෙන්විය හැකි තානාපති ධුරයන් ලැබි තිබෙනවාද?
බ්‍රසල්ස්වල පී.එම්. අම්සා, ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම්, චිත්‍රානි වාගීෂ්වරී වගේ දක්ෂ තානාපතිවරුන් විදේශ සේවයට පත්වී සිටිනවා. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින තවත් දක්ෂ නිලධාරීන් තානාපති තනතුරු ලැබෙන තුරු බලා සිටිනවා. ඒ අතරවාරයේ පිටින් තානාපතිවරුන් පමණක් නොව අනෙක් තනතුරු සඳහාද පත් කරනවා. මේ නිසා විදේශ සේවයේ වෘත්තීයභාවය දියුණුවීමට අවස්ථාවක් ලැබුණේ නැහැ. තානාපති කාර්යාලවල දෙවැනි තුන්වැනි තැන්වලට විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කිරීම් කළ යුතු නැහැ. දයාන් ජයතිලක, තමාරා කුගනායගම්, ක්‍රිස් නෝනිස්,  අසිත පෙරේරා, සරත් කෝන්ගහගේ වැනි විදේශ සේවයට බාහිරින් පත් කළ තානාපතිවරු විශිෂ්ට සේවයක් කළා. ඔවුන් තරම් විශිෂ්ට නැතත් නාවලගේ බෙනට් කුරේ වැනි තානාපතිවරු පවා නරක නැහැ. ප්‍රශ්නය තිබෙන්නේ මොවුන්ට සහය දීමට විදේශ සේවයේ දක්ෂ කාර්යමණ්ඩලයක් නොමැති වීමයි. විදේශ සේවයේ සිටින නිලධාරීන්ගේ පරිපාලනය හරිම දුර්වලයි. ප්‍රසාද් කාරියවසම් වරක් මට පැවසුවේ තමන් ජනාධිපතිවරයාට යවන ලියුම් ඔහුට නොලැබෙන බවයි. ඔහු විදේශ සේවයේ තානාපතිවරයෙක් නිසා තමන් යවන ලිපි යැවිය යුත්තේ විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යාංශය හරහායි. Read the rest of this entry »

The folllowing answers were given in an interview with regard to the cancellation of the MOU between the Trincomalee Urban Council and the American Embassy to set up an American Cornet in the UC premises. Unfortunately it was not used, but since the issue needs further exposition, the questions and answers are reproduced here.

1. Do you think the interference of the ministry is warranted?

The Ministry should certainly have an overview of the activities of foreign missions in Sri Lanka. The word interference creates the wrong impression, since the principle should be institutionalized and, if activities occur without the Ministry being informed, then remedial action is necessary. Whether this should have led to the suspension of the MOU is another question, but sadly the Ministry, here as elsewhere, is simply reacting to a situation without understanding and establishing the principles that should govern such situations.

2. What do you think is the motivation for the MoU for Trinco being suspended, given the embassy has already established two centres both in Jaffna and Kandy?

I don’t think you need assume any special motive for the Ministry acting inconsistently.

3.It has been mentioned that the two centres mentioned above are also to be scrutinised, is this scrutiny justified over something that is not written in the constitution? Or do you think it is an obligation for the ministry of external affairs to have been informed?

I am not sure what scrutiny means. Given that I believe there is an obligation for the American Embassy to have informed the Ministry of External Affairs about its activities, the best remedy would have been to call the Ambassador in and explain the situation to her. But the Ministry does not know how to deal with the Americans, which is why it goes round and round without addressing issues direct. Read the rest of this entry »

Once again, following the vote in Geneva, which made clear how influential the United States of America was, and how comparatively friendless we were, there is talk of re-establishing relations with the West. Thankfully this year it has not taken the form of denigration of good relations with others, as happened last year when those elements in the Ministry of External Affairs, which would have been described in the Cold War days as the running dogs of imperialism, danced on the graves of Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayagam.

This was profoundly ironic, for it was those two who had built up our friendships with other countries in the time honoured fashion that had brought us so much respect internationally in the days of Mrs Bandaranaike. At the same time they did this whilst commanding the respect of the West, as numerous cables in Wikileaks make clear. It was no coincidence then that two of our most sympathetic, if not uncritical, interlocutors from the West said to me in astonishment, after the vote, that we had made insufficient use of Tamara, who was clearly our best representative at Geneva.

How did they achieve this moral ascendancy, even while combating the political machinations of the West? It was through a careful understanding of the motivations of the West in persecuting us, and in appreciating that a blanket criticism of those motivations would not be convincing. To build up our support base, they had to respond positively to the arguments the West used to gain support from those who otherwise shared our view of the desired architecture of the world order. Read the rest of this entry »

In discussing, as suggested, recent American moves on Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan reaction, I am struck most of all by the failure of those in theory responsible for foreign policy to understand those moves. After the recent visit by Bob Blake, who had been ambassador here during the conflict period, and had a relatively positive if patronizing approach, I was assured by a senior External Affairs official that relations between Sri Lanka and America were excellent. He claimed that the negative reports in the papers were exaggerated.

Similarly, I was assured by those who claimed to have the ear of both the President and the Americans that there would be no American resolution against us in Geneva this year. Now it is conceivable that the Americans deliberately misled us, but I do not think that was the case. Not only from the pronouncements Blake made, but also from the comments made by both his successors, it was evident that criticism was the order of the day.

Why was this not understood, and why were we lulled into complacency? After all, there were several things we could have done that would have dealt with the more reasonable criticisms that were made, while also ensuring that the Americans would not find it so easy to build up a coalition against us. But we did nothing, and then affected surprise when not just the Americans, but a large majority in the UN Human Rights Council, came down on us like a ton of bricks. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

February 2017
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