Posted on April 16th, 2016

Sarath Wijesinghe – Former Ambassador to UAE and Israel – Solicitor-Attorney – at-Law-

Madam Bandaraneika’s Unique Position in the Golden Book on International Arena

Madam Bandaranaike’s place in the world international arena is engraved in gold as the first women Prime Minister and the longest serving Prime Minister living in the minds of Sri Lankans as the “Mother of the Nation” won for our  motherland  many unthinkable achievements with her inherent  Charm but Firm Diplomacy” and diplomatic skills in managing foreign policy and  organizing the non-alignment summit during the height of the cold war while maintaining friendship with all but angry with none” theory which is the motto in Sri Lankan foreign policy. She led a full life as stateswomen, world leader, Loving mother of three out of whom one became the President and son the Speaker which is a rare achievement. Other daughter is serving the nation in a different capacity as a social worker and Ambassador on culture and a social reformer. Lot is written on her in various angles, but we intend discussing her inherent powerful diplomatic skills with great restraint and patriotism in leading the non-alignment movement by giving leadership to 118 nations and 17 observer countries. Books have been written and volumes could be compiled of her honesty, integrity and great qualities as a mother figure for the family and the Nation setting standards and examples. Undoubtedly she is the best Foreign Minister Sri Lanka ever had and one of the best Foreign Ministers the world has had. There is lot to learn from her and her foreign policy to the present when the current foreign policy is in complicated unmanaged maize with no vision or aim. Foreign policy should target the economy, development, security, and the future of the country. Good news is these are correctible matters by managers of this weeping Nation demanding want of honest and competent Trustees” to manage the beautiful Island, despite grave danger in planning to connect it to the more corrupt world via bridges and tunnels. Current U-TURN policy on China is a good move in the long term security, development and success of the bleeding Nation. Having realized West” is not helping and not competent to help us and we had to proceed to China with a begging bowl! For assistance and re activate the projects suspended previously. They were nice diplomatic to our powerful delegation and considered to help us due to our past friendship and glory. Late is better than never and good to be realistic and practical though at a colossal loss of billions of funds belonging to the citizen. Europe and west is in trouble looking for outside help. They too seek assistance from Chine on Economy and Technology. One should realize that China is a world power and an economic giant keeping pace with the modern world developments and trends. China has invested heavily in major powers currently limping on the economic front, and it is good news that we have though late have  realized the reality in geo- politics on economic and development strategies. Madam Bandaraneika has set precedents, examples and   framework to work on and built in the area of international relations and diplomacy. Madam Chandrika Bandaraneike too followed her footsteps on Peace Diplomacy” and H. E. Mahinda  Rajapaksa on War Diplomacy” until the end of thirty year war on terror following the same foreign policies with slight adjustments. Strategy of H.E. Mitripala Sirisena, Hon Ranil Wickramasinghe, and Hon Mangala Samaraweera appear to be still in the formative stages until the foreign Policy of the Good Governance Regime” is put to the test and  forwarded with one word based on Economic Diplomacy” and Reconciliation Diplomacy”. It is to their credit that the pressure mounted by the West on Sri Lanka is less- most probably on the Regime Change process- on the political front though with no financial and economic benefits expected and the questions at what short and long term price? Madam Bandaraneuka laid the foundation for close relationships mainly with India, China, SAARC , Non alignment Zone,  and the rest of the world. She was friendly with all and angry with none as the foreign policy motto of Sri Lanka. The Foreign Ministry during her time has been a bee- hive” on activities on International law and relations. We still reap the harvest of good work by SWRD and Madam since 1930s in developing close friendship with China from Rice/Rubber pact and helping her during difficult periods in the UN system during the highest of the cold war. Do we maintain a proper and effective foreign Policy depends on the behaviour of the leader of the country and impacts on our economy and the future. Madam Bandaraneika gave leadership and pride to the country with effective and productive foreign policy. Is it the time to overhaul the Ministry and the diplomatic service to meet the global challenges, without seeking advice and directions from Singapore and appointing outside politicians as monitoring personalities as has been previously messed up by previous regimes. They got into difficulties tarnishing the image and historical pride of the Ministry and the leader of the State then. Madam Bandraneika has set precedents to follow in future deliberations in the sphere of management of foreign policy through the Ministry and the Ambassadors.

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy as the Name implies, is administrative in nature. Foreign Policy of a country is the government’s policy pertaining to it relations and interactions with other nations and inter-governmental organizations. Foreign Policy of a country is dynamic as it is guided and influenced by the national aspirations, domestic and political cultural economic commercial financial and social environment international conventions treatises and global issues. Foreign policy being an extension of the domestic policy national aspirations and domestic issues play the primary role in shaping the Nation’s foreign policy which reflects economic political and future ambitions and aspirations. On 23rd January 1964 Madam Bandaraneika declared at the Senate that “underlying the policy of non- alignment is the belief that independent nations, although small ad militarily weak have a positive role to play in the world today. This attitude is completely different from that of washing our hands of these matters, which was perhaps the idea behind the classical theory of neutralism. There is a world of difference this and then on alignment.” Whilst giving leadership to the non-alignment movement both Hon S W R D Bandaranieka and Madam Bandaraneika maintained close and warm relations with the West, the western leaders and international organizations in an act of balance whilst being active in international affairs as the leader of the non-alignment group. It is evident that Hon S W R D Bandaraneika’s thinking and policies have been implemented by Madam Bandaraneika during her successful regime similar to the implementation of the Marxist theory by Lenin, at a later stage. Today we are witnessing the dangerous shift of foreign policy contrary to the needs and the internal political confrontations/realities especially on China and the socialist block which is dangerous and disastrous. Our neighbour has a firm and stable foreign policy unchanged on change of regime. In my country there should be unanimity and coconscious among the political rivals and the different sects of the ruling clan at least on international affairs in the interest of the Nation leaving aside political differences. SWRD declared that neutralism is not cowardice and running away from trouble but to exert pressure and active in international affairs using diplomatic channel.  Madam did not want to be either to be in the capitalist block or the communist block till a system is found which suits us. Rulers who are Trustees and temporary Guardians” of the Nation do not speak with one word- at least to the world contrary to the Lichchavi” theory they promised to implement. In India Governments may change but not the foreign policy. When father of the Nation Rt Hon D S Senanayaka continued the defence treaty with the Colonial Rulers all agreed upon as it was the need of the day for security for an Unarmed newly born Nation”. Hon D S Senanayaka during the transitional period said I cannot accept  the responsibility of being a Minister of defence unless I am given the full authority to take decisions on defence and perused  the defence agreement with UK was the best option then which SWRD got rid of depending on the  safety and protection on the strength of the non-alignment policy. SWRD followed the 3rd way who declared  – For havens sake be friendly with England or anyone else, but do not commit ourselves to anyone of them.” In 1957 Embassies of USSR and China were started followed by many East Europe and Latin American Countries. Bandaraneika’s neutralism coupled with pragmatism paid dividends by world leaders such as Harold  Machmilan od Britin, Menzies of Australia, Peter Nash of New Zealand, Prime Minister of Cananada, Chie En Lai of China, Suhartho if Indusnia, Narue o f Indiaa, we some of the frequent visiters to Sri Lanka with the entire nonaligned block. During H.E. Jayawardena’s rule the friendship with India was on the lowest web and the 13th amendment consisting of Provincial Councils – a white elephant creating havoc today-was forced on us with Parippue”. H. E. Chandrika Bandaraneika and H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa attempted to follow SWRD and Sirimvo” Policies in the International arena with adjustments based on circumstances.

Settlement of contentious International issues with diplomatic skills

Madam Bandaraneika telephoned from the Indian Prime Minister’s office to Hon Dudly Senanayaka for his consent at the last stages of the settlement of the Indo Sri Lanka dispute on the Indian Labour issue showing the great statementship qualities of both Prime Minister and then leader by seeking opinion of Hon Dudly Senanayaka on the issues, who promptly agreed to the formula proposed by Madam Bandaranaike’s team which is a rare happening in current political personalities and trends. Attitude and the applicability of policies towards Sri Lanka by the successive Indian leaders in the recent past has been always pro -Indian. Nations consist of human beings and obviously any leader will be selfish for the benefit of their Nation unless others are cautious. The current trends are worrying on moves and direct/ indirect threats on imposing trade agreements and construction of roads and bridges connecting the two friendly Nations existed thousands of years in peace and harmony due to peaceful secured location as a protected Island.  H. E. Mahinda Rajapaksa was brave to face arms twisting threats” during the last stages of the war which is a classic example for the current day polite. Madam Bandaraneike and the group took all the precautionary measures to defend and protect this wonderful Island during her time armed with the personal Charm and Goodwill developed by” SWRD and Sirimavo” for decades for the Motherland she loved so much. Indian foreign ministry is behind their successive Prime Ministers and foreign ministers protecting their interests and guiding as one of the most professional and stable foreign ministries. Madam Bandaranaike was always armed and determined to safeguard the interest of her motherland. Therefore it is to our advantage that we resolve to follow firm Non Alignment with fear or favour. It is fondly remembered with credit to H. E. J R Jayawardena – an ardent supporter of the West who was always spoke in favour Non Alignment at lease on the book on realization of the safety and the value to be neutral in the complicated world politics.

Madam Bandaranaike’s Legacy and Strength in the world politics

Madam Bandaraneikas main strength in her success story has been her vision coupled with the dedicated experienced and seasoned international civil servants, such as Dr Vernon Mendis,  Arther Basnayaka,  Shirley Amarasinghe,   Glannie Peiris ,  N Q Dias,  Tilak Gunartna,  Manal Abeyasekara, Jayantha Dhanapala and the colleagues who masterminded the foreign policy with Non Alignment Summit to be one of the Sri Lanka’s greatest triumphs in foreign Policy. She strengthened and gave teeth and power to the Foreign Ministry established in 1949 injecting officers not second to any in the globe for global matters. It is time for the current Trustees/Guardians of the Nation to follow Madam Bandaraneika’s vision and footsteps go get out of the mess we are in on mis – management of foreign policy.  The group led by Madam Bandaraneika helped her in the success of the geopolitical and international affairs coupled with excellent personal and family relations with many world leaders who often visited Sri Lanka on friendship visits with pleasantries to the Madam Bandaraneika and the Nation followed by the subsequent successful achievements with ripple effects on performed diplomacy as a result of the implementation of correct foreign policy of the day. One  main challenge on foreign policy then was the outbreak of the  Sino- Indian war of 1962 when she was deeply distressed as both were close and good friends. Fortunately Zhou En-Lai declared ceasefire providing space for diplomatic efforts for Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Indonesia met in Colombo on 10th December 1962 and Madam Bandaraneike was requested by all the parties to visit countries with proposals. The mediation effect, bold and unique it was, led by Madam Bandaraneika and colleagues, failed to bring the warring Asian Giants to the negotiating table at the time. More than five decades later the boundary issue between India and China remains unresolved, but that circumstances have not prevented the two countries from forging a flourishing bilateral relationship with economic component setting an example to the rest of the world. Hon S W R D Bandaraneika’s opening diplomatic relations with China in 1957. Her other achievement is the declaration of the Indian Ocean a zone of peace by resolution 2832   (10710) by the General Assembly. She maintained close relationships with Indian Prime Ministers Narue,  Lal Bahadur Sharathi, and Indira Gandi whilst holding firm to Sri Lanka’s national interest. The issue of statelessness-the citizenship of Indian origin was settled with Indian counterparts to the satisfaction of both.   A firm group of the implementation of Sri Lanka’s geo- political context together with close relationships between Bandaraneike and Nerue families as far back as 1930s helped to settled the maritime boundary, settlement of the states of uninhabited but strategically important Island Kathchitive agreement in March 1976 demarcation of the maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Manner and the Bay of Bengal are her achievements on quite, subtle and friendly diplomacy”. Correct and firm foreign policy by the leader of the Nation, his approach and charisma will diminish the irresponsible one sided statements published local and international media, by Indian Minister of State Radhakirishnam that India is firm on Bridge across Palk Strait which will be disastrous to Sri Lanka protected over millions of years as an Island. It is time the country is united as one on these issues of national importance and facing grave danger. Will such a leader emerge or mould from the existing lot is a million dollar question. Sri Lankans are flabbergasted with the dead silence on our side as having accepted the suggestion.

Historical Current and Future factors in International Relations

We are going through the most decisive era in International law and relations in the annuals of our great history. Sri Lanka’s foreign relations with other countries could be traced back to 3rd century BC when King Devenampiyatissa” of Sri Lanka, had close friendship with unseen neighbour, Emperor Asoka of India who sent his son and daughter as emissaries to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka. 245 BC Emperor Asoka was instrumental in dispatching noble teachings of Buddha which introduced a new culture with Buddhist concepts. This is how we maintained our foreign relations from time immemorial with the rest of the world when the rest of the world preaching us diplomacy was still developing. Madam Bandaraneika continued and strengthened close existing bonds with ruling world families and the governments brought glory, safety strength and peace. Now that economy, security is linked to diplomacy on international law and relations, it is time for us to be extra cautious on international issues.  Today Nations are giving Priority for Economic Diplomacy” replacing the traditional trends on Traditional Diplomacy” of only attending wine and dine parties. It is the duty of the Ambassadors to promote business and trade bringing investments and prosperity. It is time for us to build on the past glory and experiences to lay down foundations for the future. Whether we are living up to the expectations and fulfilling the needs and aspirations is a matter for the citizen to decide. It is necessary that the President, Prime Minister and the Minister of foreign affairs MUST” speak with one word as the statements made by any one of them is considers as part of common  international law and quoted and used in international deliberations. We reiterate current diplomats and the Foreign Ministry Officials to study the precedents and legacies left for us by Madam Bandaraneike and other foreign ministers of the calibre of Hon Laxman Kadigrmer.

Iron Lady with a Soft and Kind Heart

Sri Lanka is located strategically in the Indian Ocean on the famous silk route traditionally and historically used by Arabs and Chinese for trade with South Asia. The Indian Ocean is now the primary focus internationally politically and strategically as a hot spot. Its geo – political prominence makes it a pivotal factor in the global balance of power as the Ocean of the Future”. Regional and Global powers wish to rub – shoulders with Sri Lanka for future trade and political benefits. Therefore we should be careful in dealing with others on international trade, commerce, and political bonding short or long term. Foreign Policy should be productive to the people and effective to the economy and future of the nation. Our country needs Sri Lanka Friendly Foreign Policy” aiming at the development and the prosperity not following any group / ideology West East or North. We must always think of developing Sri Lanka in the real and unique  Sri Lankan way assimilation the world trends and developments on technology, based on the visions of the  our visionaries lifted the country to the above from time to time historically. We have made mistakes due to hurriedly concluded agreements from the 1815 agreement with British which still unimplemented but in in force, India Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, which is still in force partly implemented not fulfilling of one party agreed to eradicate terrorism, led to Provincial Councils – a white elephant–, 2002 Cease fire agreement forced on us, when we had the opportunity to dictate terms in our favour due to the impact of 9/11. We need a   vision and visionaries to take our country to the correct tract and lift above others. Israel with no water 70 years ago is a world power, and Singapore and Dubai were sandy dry lands uplifted with vision and visionaries brought their nations to the limelight with sheer hard work and dedication with honesty and integrity.   Madam Bandaraneike had a vision for International Relations and full authority to take decisions with power and authority to speak with one word with full control over any situation with an iron fist. She is incorruptible figure with financial integrity beyond approach with unblemished personal conduct which strengthened her starter among her people and the international arena. It is our pride to be a part of the commemoration of the birth centenary that falls on 17th April 2016 and closely associate this great figure. We are indebted to her for what we are today in the diplomatic arena in the regional and international global world in international politics riddled with uncertainty on economic and political fronts, lacking leaders with of qualities of  honesty competency  and integrity. Currently the President, Prime Ministry and the Foreign Minister do not speak with one word on policy procedure and future which is unsafe and undiplomatic which has to be corrected in the interest of the future of the Nation. Sri Lankans are fortune to have her services as the Prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who had set standards for the future rulers to follow. Her Legacy as the Best Foreign Minister in Sri Lanka and a permanent Glittering Star in the world International arena will be ENGRAVED IN GOLD FOR EVER!” in the books and legacy of foreign relations Policy and International Law.

Sarath Wijesinghe

Former Ambassador to UAE and Israel (0777880166)


  1. Christie Says:

    A woman who was fed and managed by Indian Empire and Indian colonial parasites.

  2. mario_perera Says:

    When weighing the positives and the negatives of Sirima’s rule, there are matters that cry to the heavens for our attention.

    It was during her rule that the living standards of the population descended to the ‘netherworld’.

    Her yugaya was the ‘polu yagaya’. the transport of essential goods was restricted to well demarcated areas.

    Her yugaya was one of unparalleled draconian laws bearing on foreign exchange. Those who by-passed those rules were bound to their sick beds in chains.

    The country was forced to eat manioc and yams on several days of the week

    Mothers were in anguish for lack of milk products for their babies

    It was the yugaya of draconian Rent Laws were the occupant, legal or not, was given the status of owner.

    And then there was the massacre of the Sihala youth of the 1971 JVP uprising.

    It was a yugaya when the penury of public transport with mile long queues of dispairing commuters

    It was a yugaya when POVERTY reared its head to unprecedented heights.

    It was the yugaya when the lid on foreign travel restrcited students to the local education system where books and educational material were rarities…of course her children and stooges were able to study abroad

    The non-aligned conference was her international hight point, while at home her popularity was ZERO

    Sirima ruled with her family oligarchy. Parliamentary democracy was a farce under her.

    Just after that non-aligned conference came the parliamentary elections and her party hit the bottom with only 7 seats.

    That paved the way for J R’s dictatorship with more than absolute majority to do his bidding.

    After that down fall, Sirima vanished from the political scene with even her civic .rights being removed, until her stint under her daughter as a literally ‘skeletal’ prime minister. She had ‘ladies in waiting’ wiping her mouth of her saliva, even during her meetings with visiting dignitaries.

    She breathed her last in the private hospital of Dr.Jayaweera at kadawata, while on her way from Colombo to Attanagalla.

    Mario Perera

  3. Dham Says:

    I am from 10 minutes walk from Colombo city limit but from a poor family although we had some land. To be honest I can’t remember the dark picture painted by Mario , specially the bus queues, although I too voted for JR in my first vote in 1977
    Only bad thing I remember was we had to go to my friends house to collect the bread and those people who handled the bread I did not think had clean hands.
    JR had a good team, people like Lalith Athulatmudli and Gamini Dissanayake were there.

    There was a lot of UNP propaganda against Sirima Governement and I remember “Familiy Tree”. Strangely there was this Gentleman ( he was married to Sirima’s Sister in law’s sister) whose house I visited frequently give tuition to his son. He was a proper gentleman and a Graduate of Colombo University and Assistant Controller of Exchange and also was company director where my father worked and I was sure he did nothing wrong or wrongfully abused his power.

    1977 in many ways similar to 2015 debacle but much more easier for JR. It would have been almost impossible to beat MaRa (unlike Mrs. B) – he himself destroyed the huge honour he earned being the President who finished a 30 year long terror. I wonder how the “Family Tree” would look like if drawn in 2014. In 1977 it was just A5 ( 1/2 A4) size but even A0 ( 8 times A4) size would not have been sufficient.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    Her legacy cannot be discussed without the blunders of 1970-77. Although import restrictions were strictly imposed in Colombo, it was not applied in the north. Tamils in the very north became very rich illegally importing things (and agriculture). This illegal channel helped LTTE as well. Due to slavery of low caste Tamils, northerners did well in agriculture. Jaffna got a university which is now Tamil only.

    UNP had an open checkbook thanks to SLFP’s bad reputation. SLFP even lost the opposition leader post to TULF.

    Economic growth was very poor and investments collapsed. People suffered hunger and hopelessness. It was all these that led to SLFP’s disaster for 17 years. Even in 1994 when it won, it only managed to cling on to majority initially thanks to SLMC and TULF (EPDP joined later). Had Sirima contested the 1994 election as PM candidate or presidential candidate they would have lost badly.

    In 1988 Sirima contested against Premadasa. Her DPA included ACTC led by GG Ponnambalam (junior). He, Anura and Lasantha were caught by the IPKF when they met the LTTE for election support. UNP went to town with it.

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DHAM !! Most of what Mario says is true. Yes, they all happened. One of my friends died in a Jet accident at Heathrowe, and the Foreign Exchange available to anyone going abroad was only $100.00. His mother had to go and worship Sirima at her feet to get the necessary Foreign Exchange to go and bring the deceased body to Srilanka.

    Just like the daughter, she too was involved in a RS.2million commission scandal from Soccoman from the Kandy Water pipeline project. As SW says, she had her charming side too. I happened to be introduced to her at the Bogambara Grounds Pavillion, by the Chairman of the Kandy MPCS, where I sponsored the First All Island Multi Purpose Co-operative rally through BCC. I was thanked for helping to supply all the Trophies that were awarded to the various MPCSs. I knew her Sister Mrs Divitotawela and Colonel Divititotawela very well, who lived in Kandy, when I was Manager, Walker & Greig Ltd Kandy.

    I knew Dr. Jayaweera well too, when he was at Nawala, attending Medical College.

  6. aloy Says:

    In all fairness to the lady, our country got a good exposure to the world because of her being first prime minister of the world and that helped many Sri lankans to get employment in foreign lands. I was one of those that landed in Nigeria with only 7 pounds in the hand. I missed the government representative who was sent to fetch me from the airport and I managed to go to the office thanks that one third of the foreign exchange I got from central bank. The balance had been sent to a bank about 400km from my destination and If I were to collect it I had to spend ten times that. These were the draconian forex controls put in place by the golden brains managing our economy. We were virtually beggars. Due to her mishandling of the economy JR got the chance. We were well on the way becoming a developed country when Rajivs became jealous and created LTTE
    After MR took over forex started flowing in large amounts particularly from ME and our financial wizards mishandled the economy again. Anybody who had a child abroad in a uni could get millions of Rupees of foreign exchange without any hassle and due to this type of carefree expenditure we are in dire straights again. And we have a set of golden brains comprising Mahendran, Paskaralingam et al controlling our affairs and PM has full confidence in the direction we are heading. Be ready to line up in banks to withdraw the money like the Greeks did few months ago. We might be even worse off than Greeks.

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