More political henchmen to get on diplomatic gravy train Another yahapalana promise broken
Posted on June 11th, 2017

Having lambasted the Rajapaksa administration for giving plum diplomatic posts to political appointees at the expense of career diplomats, the present government is catapulting its backers to the top notches of the foreign service, according to sources.

Close on the heels of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake succeeding Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Parliament has announced a move to offer coveted diplomatic appointments to incumbent Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi and Buddhi K. Athauda, the son former minister Athauda Seneviratne.

The parliamentary Committee on High Posts has called for public representations on or before June 14, 2017, in respect of Hettiarachchi and Athauda being appointed as heads of missions in Germany and France, respectively.

Well informed sources told The Island that the all-party High Posts Committee, headed by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, hadn’t rejected government proposals as regards top diplomatic posts so far. Sources pointed out that High Posts Committees had, under successive governments, endorsed proposals except on one or two occasions.

Athauda received diplomatic postings during the Rajapaksa administration. He served as Ambassador to The Netherlands.

Authoritative sources told The Island with the proposed appointments, the number of non-career heads of missions/posts would go up to 36. Sri Lanka maintains 67 missions/posts overseas.

About 53 per cent of all heads of missions/posts (including proposed appointments to Germany and France) are non-career personnel. According to the Overseas Administration Division, five of the non-career heads of missions are ex-military. The majority of the five had been appointed by the yahapalana government.

Ministry sources said that there had never been an agreed ratio in respect of heads of missions/posts allocated to non-career personnel and those of the foreign service.

In addition to the heads of mission posts, successive governments have accommodated many non-career personnel to overseas missions. Leaders of the present government criticised the appointment of Udayanga Weeratunga, a close relative of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Moscow accredited to Kiev.

Opposition political parties and NGO activists who are critical of political appointments to diplomatic posts have not made representations to parliamentary High Posts Committee. Businessman A.S.P. Liyanage, a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist and one of those who had been investigated by yahapalana government for allegedly hiding gold belonging to the Rajapaksas recently received appointment as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Qatar. Former President Rajapaksa appointed Liyanage, who had contested the presidential poll at the behest of the top SLFP leadership He received appointment as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Nigeria during the Rajapaksa administration.

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