Name is mud
Posted on December 20th, 2010

Dr. Tilak Fernando

The Diplomatic Service is generally considered as a prestigious profession where the State supports diplomats’ privileges and self-esteem with the whole idea of supporting its own international status.

Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK was established at 13 Hyde Park Gardens, West London in a plush neighbourhood. Professionals in the calibre of Dr Gamini Corea, Dr Jayantha Dhanapala, Shirley Amarasinghe, Sir Lalitha Rajapaksa, Dr Neville Kankaratne, among many others, have made Sri Lanka proud from this esteemed office in the past.

During that era, activities and the management of the High Commission were quite professional while diplomats’ main task was to interact with other Missions to develop a cordial relationship to promote Sri Lanka in whatever genre that necessitated.

Dr Jayantha Dhanapala

Dr Gamini Corea

Diplomatic staff

Sri Lanka Foreign Service had a history of recruiting diplomatic staff after a special examination. However, seemingly with the passage of time, the quality of service and the calibre of human resources had begun to dwindle due to political interference and solitary decisions made by a few Foreign Ministers which ultimately have exposed such officers as incompetent nincompoops, who have not even had an iota of knowledge of the country’s foreign policy! This is where the Foreign Service jig saw turned into a muddle.

Subsequent to JVP insurrection and ensuing LTTE terrorism, UK experienced an influx of both Sinhala and Tamil political refugees seeking asylum. A new turn of events took place during this phase when quite a number of diplomatic staff abandoned pension rights and their jobs at home to remain in the UK defying their moral and legal obligations for economic and selfish reasons which made Sri Lankan Foreign Service earn a blackmark in the eyes of the British.

Such uncharacteristic behaviour on the part of Sri Lankan diplomats at one time made the Brits to suspend replacements at the High Commission until absconders were sent back home. Naturally a vacuum was thus felt at High Commission activities making room for some to take firm root in London for longer periods.

Diplomatic colleagues

As Minister Sirisena recently pointed out many were interested in having “ƒ”¹…”a good time’ and educating their children’.

Diplomats’ first priority upon arrival in London has been to possess a new duty free vehicle and find Colleges and Universities for their children.

Rather than liaising and intermingling with other nations’ diplomatic colleagues to establish cordial relationships and to familiarize them with Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, educating them on the existed terrorist menace and smear campaigns against Sri Lanka, our diplomats in their lethargy or inadequacy flocked together and entertained themselves with duty free booze and rice and curry sessions to lubricate the gossip machine.

When their contracts terminated while children were studying for “ƒ”¹…”A’ levels or in Universities, they had no option but to take drastic decisions not to return home purely for the sake of their offspring’s education and future.

The reason for creation such an adverse situation was due to Foreign Ministry’s lack of forethought in having sent diplomats and families with grown up children in the first place.

Foreign missions

Minister Sirisena’s salvo that “ƒ”¹…”diplomats attached to foreign missions were not executing their responsibilities as expected and they were having a good time corresponds with the constant criticism by the expatriates in London, after visiting the Mission for official work. Accusations such as the “London staff are unsupportive and are on cloud nine; many of them forget what they are sent here for” do not manifest automatically. Surely, there can’t be smoke without fire!

Diplomats are a privileged group who enjoy special perks from rent allowances to an array of duty free luxuries which they get accustomed to after coming over which make some get disconnected with their own country and culture after some time.

London Diplomats’ inefficiency has been exposed not only with the recent debacle President Rajapaksa had to experience in London, but their failure to act effectively in combating a vigorous smear campaign against Sri Lanka over the years, orchestrated by the LTTE and its supportive Diaspora, operating from the neck of woods, while the patriotic Sinhala expatriate groups and associations took the task unto their shoulders voluntarily and rescued the image of their Motherland to a greater extent.

History cannot be erased off easily and it should reveal how LTTE bastions such as Anton Balasingham and the biased, hardcore British TV journalists were confronted bravely and confidently solo with chronological facts by individuals like Douglas Wickramaratne in London, while the diplomatic voices withdrew to immunity shells. The most unfortunate factor has been the failure to pull up their sock at the hour of need despite the Sri Lanka Government investing colossal sums of money on a prominent PR Advertising company, long time ago, by converting the basement of 13 Hyde Park Gardens into a mini television rehearsal studio to groom and give the necessary confidence to diplomats to face TV camera and tough interviews by hard core British journalists employed by the BBC and Channel 4 alike.

Oxford University

The rot started setting in at the Sri Lanka High Commission as far back as 1978 when an influential female was made as information officer on firm instructions from the very top to help her while the son read a degree in Oxford University. Cronies of certain foreign ministers of yesteryear assigned to the High Commission in London have been exposed noticeably as square pegs kept to scrape about in a round hole!

Incapability could be accepted as a human malfunction but deliberate transgression becomes unpardonable when looking back how a devious exertion was made (not that long ago) to sell the Sri Lanka High Commissioner’s residence at The Avenue, St John’s Wood, by a diplomat which was averted in the nick of time purely with President Rajapaksa’s personal intervention after a collective public outcry.

It indeed is a sad affair that such officials are still allowed to “ƒ”¹…”reign in hell’ from responsible international positions even today.

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One Response to “Name is mud”

  1. AsokaK Says:

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleke should be sent to London immediately instead of Paris.

    He will smash Hard Talk.

    UK will most likely reject him out of fear.

    Remember how he dished it out to Milliband from Geneva- sadly the then spineless HC, Kshenuka S, apologized to UK.

    Snihale Paluwe !

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