Sri Lankan Ambassadors Worldwide with a Novel Experience
Posted on July 18th, 2012

Sarath Wijesinghe- Ambassador to United Arab Emirates –

His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Governmentappoints Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and Consul Generals to present the image of the country on Political, Economical and diplomatic activities which deal with states and intergovernmental organizations in the international arena. The novel experience and training during the rigorous training and exploratory voyage at the workshop organized by the Ministry of External Affairs is of immense value to the Ambassadors attended  in finding a way forward for transformation of the traditional foreign service and policy to be a more proactive, vibrant and Sri Lanka friendly to suit the current challenges and demands due to drastic changes that has taken place in the chemistry of international law and international affairs, which has direct links with International and National political and economic world order. Sri Lanka is growing fast bypassing the status of a developing nation to be  a vibrant fast growing nation on areas of economic, political structure, tourism, investment and as a service HUB of South Asia in line with Dubai the Hub of Middle  East.Today investments are pouring, tourism is booming, in this most beautiful Island which is one of the most stable and peaceful nations on the Globe.

The foreign office in any country is on the main firing line which is the “HUB” that protects and promotes the image and the goodwill of the country for progress and development. Therefore any country has given top priority to foreign policy and foreign relations. In Sri Lanka the foreign policy is clearly defined and laid dawn in “Mainda Chinthana”- the policy document of the government which has slight deviations from the traditional policy structure. It is timely and opportune that President Rajapaksa has masterminded a strategy to pool the resources and experiences of foreign office and the Ambassadors of various walks of life who has sacrificed their professional assignments future plans and commitments to serve the nation away from the motherland looking for new ideas and strategies to counter adverse propaganda and to promote the image of their beloved nation they are expected to protect and promote.

Workshop for Ambassadors is a progressive move in the right direction

 It is indeed complementary and creditable for His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa for having taken steps to restructure and to take proactive steps in order to make changes of the foreign policy and the traditional system of administration of the foreign ministry which has been static since 1949.The Foreign Ministry started by the Minister of Foreign Affairs who at the time was the Prime Minister and also the Defense Minister. External Affairs Ministry (formerly Foreign Ministry) reflects the image of the foreign policy implementation, and acts as the nucleus on which the policies of the entire government machinery are connected with the rest of the world and internal institutions in formulation of internal and external policies. The External Affairs Ministries in other countries are vibrant, proactive and take burden of image building and policy decisions of whole areas of the government machinery. The Indian Foreign Policy makers are professionals where the Governments change but the policy carries on. In the USA the foreign policy is powerful, vibrant and selfish to themselves, their motto is “their self interest” when all the other interests come secondary. China and Russia and many other countries including Latin America the policy makers maintain high standards. To credit to Sri Lanka we had celebrated a highly professional team of international policy makers in the Foreign Service who still continue to maintain high standards.

Sri Lanka has a celebrated foreign policy structure since independence. Let us go back to the history and the current developments of the Ministry started in 1949 with few Public Servants absorbed into the Foreign Service to be a closed service to monitor and interact with the world under the Minister of Foreign Affairs initially under the Prime Minister who generally have the responsibility on foreign affairs worldwide. In the United States it is directly under the President and managed by the Secretary of State which is a successful method in the vibrant and aggressive foreign policy formulated by them giving special emphasis on the policy making on economy and development.

It is accepted that managing foreign policy is an arduous task and managing finance to Ministry outlets too is a substantial burden.  President Rajapaksa managed foreign policy so well single handed, during the crucial period of winning the war which is to the credit to his statesmanship and brilliance on diplomacy. President is in need of committed dedicated and educated leaders and a team to manage the foreign policy which obviously requires a new lifeline.

Sri Lanka Foreign Policy

Sri Lankan Foreign Policy is clearly laid down in Mahinda Chinthana. The policy document states as follows:

“I will follow a non-aligned, free and progressive foreign policy”

“Priority will be given in the political, defense, economic, trade and cultural spheres to the cordial and friendly relationships that we already have with countries in the Asian region including India, Japan, China and Pakistan”.

“It is my belief that the United Nations Organization and International Financial Institutions should be more democratic in their approach. We will actively intervene in this regard”.

“It is my intention to strongly implement international treaties, declarations in anti corruption. This will enable us to act under international law against those found guilty of corruption, when engaging in trade with foreign countries or foreign institutions”.

“I will create Foreign Service which has a correct awareness of our history, economic needs and the cultural    heritage”.

“A new international research institution will be established, sponsored by the Ministry of Technology to access and share global data on new innovations and new concepts and inventions”.

“I believe that the world must come to an agreement to convert global warming and prevent weather and climate changes. I will give my support world environmentalists to implement the Kyoto Declaration in this regard”.

Foreign Policy is implemented through the government outlets popularity and traditionally known as Embassies headed by Ambassadors appointed by the head of the state on which the responsibility is thrust on the implementation of the policies of the government. Needless to state the Ambassadors should be persons conversant with the policies and strategy of the government who will be the go in between the states and regions.

It is shown and proved that the foreign policy adopted has been successful when compared the hot spots worldwide. We are very sorry that some countries in the Arab world who are our close friends are in turmoil due to invisible forces such as Arab Spring. West is in downward trend politically and economically with USA. We are on the top gear on investment, tourism and can be proud of one of the most stable and peaceful countries in the world due to correct foreign policy coupled with commitment, strategy and dedication of President Rajapaksa and his team.

A Non Aligned Foreign Policy

 President Rajapaksa has emphatically declares often that he believes in “Sri Lanka friendly foreign policy” with no reliance or dependency with any world power or a group as has been the case during the cold war. Though the cold war has seen its end, still there are groupings based on regions, economy and power politics and many other considerations. This is in compatibility with the USA foreign policy which has emphasized often that they are concentrating on “USA” interest for which they have given top priority which is one of the main themes of the policy declaration which runs with the “Patriotic Act” which brings USA citizens together on a patriotic front.

Future of our Foreign Service is to be modeled based on our own experience and learning form the success of other member nations. USA, China, USSR and India very carefully manage their Foreign Service machineries in the current turbulent and challenging conditions. Obviously we must learn from our mistakes. Who should bell the cat and whether we are managing well is a moot issue to be looked into by the Ambassadors who are responsible for the implementation of the policy and other guidelines.

It is a moot issue whether it is time for us to rethink on the policy of strict nonalignment as the initiators and forefathers of the policy appear to be shifting the policies based on the needs of the hour. President Rajapaksa masterminded and made use of the existing policy during the war handling leaders, regions and Nations during complicated issues in order to be successful in the completion of the war to achieve the current peace and stability.

Transformation of Foreign Policy and Practice

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa the President of Sri Lanka in the budget speech reiterated as follows:

“Hon. Speaker, foreign offices maintained by the Foreign Employment Bureau, the Tea Board, Department of Commerce and other agencies will be brought directly under the supervision of the Sri Lankan embassies abroad so as to provide a one stop service. Once officials are posted, they will be required to work under the direction and supervision of the respective Ambassador. All scope of the responsibilities of Ambassadors will expand beyond the traditional diplomatic functions to include responsibilities relating to investment, trade and economic affairs.”

 This statement is a transformation and a complete deviation of the existing traditional foreign policy to be vibrant and proactive foreign policy to suit the current needs of the economic and world order. It is salutary that the President has entrusted the Diplomats with the responsibility of image building and implementation of the government policy coupled with diplomacy and friendly nation to the leaders of the community to represent the country.

We appreciate the groundbreaking steps and the vision embodied in this policy statement which gives enhanced powers and responsibilities to the ambassadors who represent the country and the President in all aspects, more importantly, propagation of the policy coupled with economic policies including promotional aspects. HE the President reiterated during the session that in future the Ambassadors are to serve the Nation based on result-oriented strategy and to take the lead in implementation of the government policy and work on the lines of image building, investment promotion, employment promotion and tourism promotion in addition to traditional duties as Ambassadors.

We believe a vibrant unit is necessary to research on the subject matter and pleased that the Minister of External Affairs is taking steps for a fully fledged research centre through Kadirgarmer Centre. USA has a strong team even to research and work on tiny islands to make use of the surroundings, sea bed and collect more strength at world forums. The country reports of USA are exhaustive. We should give priority to economy, tourism, employment, investment, and image building which are necessary ingredients and challenges for the progress and development. We are pleased the Ministry of External Affairs is alive and live up to the expectations.

Government will be give better training for future Ambassadors who should be given  better facilities and understanding on the subject matter the country and the region they are expected to serve. Adequate staff to be properly and well equipped with IT, Language qualified personnel and raw materials such as infrastructure, vehicles, library, and research facility to be adequately provided as   priorities in place of the   current system of handling on case by case in random. Providing facilities should be on a more organized pattern.

Foreign policy and procedure are static and stabilized since 1949 when the Foreign Service was formed with four public servants out of whom Dr. Vernon Mendis made a substantial contribution as an insider of the Ministry, whereas many Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers made substantial contributions since then without changing the uniform pattern.

President Rajapaksa after having taken full control stabilizing peace and stability which are requirements for development and prosperity including investments and tourism, chose to make a complete and revolutionary transformation of foreign policy to suit the current requirements and challenges.

Management and applicability of the foreign policy played a major and a pivotal role in the success of the “WAR FOR PEACE AGAINST TERROR” which the world considered unwinnable. President Rajapaksa strictly applied his motto “SRI LANKA FRIENDLY FOREIGN POLICY” which is compatible with non alignment concept- the majority of the world family is adhered to. As the Ambassadors are the nominees to promote and take the flame of goodwill and image to the rest of the world, it is timely and opportune they be given the first hand information on the amassing developments taking place in Sri Lanka mostly in the North and East once a  terrorist infested fertile and beautiful land with most beautiful beaches, fertile land, greenery with full of wild life, and resourceful and hardworking Sri Lankans awaiting for rapid  progress and developments who are liberated from terror groups yet full ofpoliticians spreading seeds of poisonous ethnic tension with international links, which Sri Lankans have refused to accept.

Ambassadors were given an in-house training for two days by the President, Ministers and senior government servants on the expectations, challenges, their duties and responsibilities organizing the expatriates  worldwide and use diplomacy to attract investments, development projects, employment generation and more importantly image building. Among the key speakers were Hon Basil Rajapaksa, Professor G.L.Peris, Hon. Gotabaya Raapaksa, Hon Dillan Perera, Senior Secretaries, members of Armed Forces, on development, security, diplomacy and all relevant and necessary aspects the Ambassadors should be conversant with.

All Sri Lankan ambassadors worldwide have been taken through the length and breadth of the country with a rough and a rigorous schedule which reminds of army training. Amongst the Ambassadors were two Navy Commanders, an Air Force Commander, and celebrated Army Officers who have led the war on terror on crucial stages in  addition to the experienced Foreign Office personal about whom country still ado with gratitude. There has been a battery of Doctors, Lawyers, Academics and a mixture of experienced intellectuals turned Ambassadors the Foreign Ministry can be proud of.

Sri Lankan diplomats were shown the amazing development projects which include fast growing road structures with long and strong bridges, in addition to micro and mega development schemes countrywide. Self help, cooperative, collective farming, fishing industry with close bonds with the community was indicated by the happy and glittering eyes of the ordinary man on the street and villages. Kilinochchy -once the head of the battlefield has become the fastest growing town in Sri Lanka and traditional Jaffna town has become the Hub of North East challenging the other major towns in the region. What is most important and shown has been the peace and the harmony of the cross section of the people in the region. IDPs will be zero in few months. Ambassadors have had a close dialog with them and the people to fathom first hand information to be given to the world of the real truth in this beautiful Island.

Hon Basil Rajapaksa should be credited for masterminding the process and motivating the government sector and the people in the area on new concepts of co operation based on collective and independent development project with the help of the Government- yet manages independently. It is a unique process not found in anywhere in the world which has emerged as a home grown process suitable to Sri Lanka as a part of the conciliatory and development process.

Rigorous exercise of fifteen long arduous days has given the Ambassadors a complete picture on the current position in the country and amazing developments taking place which catalyzes the Ambassadors task of transmission of the massage to the world easier. It is imminent that Ambassadors make use of the experience and information to counter the adverse propaganda and use it to propagate image building investment promotion employment promotion and development process aiming to be the wonder of Asia sooner than anticipated. HE the President the Minister of External Affairs and the team are to be complemented and credited for organizing this long awaited project which is worth continuing annually or at least bi- annually.

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One Response to “Sri Lankan Ambassadors Worldwide with a Novel Experience”

  1. Vijendra Says:

    It’s about time that the SL representatives did their real job and make sure that the truth about SL is communicated to those who matter and there by counteract the disinformation campaign of the ltte, its supporters and the foreign “warmongers”.

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