Foreign hand in Parliament
Posted on June 24th, 2019

By Sugeeswara Senadhira Courtesy Ceylon Today

Not only the ordinary British citizens, but also the Queen, the Prime Minister, and top leaders were also shocked when it was revealed that much trusted Chief of Intelligence, Sir Anthony Blunt was working as a spy for the Soviet Intelligence Service, the KGB. Blunt, a Cambridge don, was one of the most trusted public servants of Britain, until it came to light about his traitorous acts.

The revelation made in Parliament earlier this week that Former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam, who is now an adviser to the Speaker is being paid by the United States Government sent ripples through the intellectuals as well as security circles, as such payments are highly detrimental to the national interests of Sri Lanka.

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said that Parliament is an independent institution, and if a senior adviser is being paid by a foreign country, the public might think Parliament is being manipulated by foreign entities. If any advisor is paid by Parliament there is no problem. But the issue here is that a person is being paid by another country and he is serving our Parliament. No one can be employed by Parliament when he is paid by another country. If his services are required, he should be paid by this Parliament,” he said.

Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) leader Dinesh Gunawardena questioned Speaker Karu Jayasuriya as to how Kariyawasam was appointed as his Foreign Affairs Advisor when such a position does not exist in Parliament. Gunawardena claimed that Kariyawasam was an individual who is being paid by the US Government, adding that they have serious concerns, that in addition to advising the Speaker, whether Kariyawasam also acts to gather critical intelligence for other Nations.”

Karunasena Hettiarachchi

Kariyawasam’s actions on behalf of the United States were disclosed by former Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi earlier. The Defence Secretary was pressured by Kariyawasam, who was the then Foreign Secretary to rush through the defence agreement, Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Sri Lanka and the United States. Media reports stated that Kariyawasam is now a US federal government employee.

MEP leader Gunawardena pointed out it was detrimental to national interests to employ a person who is paid by a foreign country. “It is unacceptable that a person paid by a foreign government is working for out Parliament. We have a right to question this. Why are you engaging a former Foreign Ministry Secretary as your advisor? There is IPU, which spends enough money on such matters. Similarly, there is the CPA, the SAARC and all of us pay for that.”

It is true that nobody has any apprehension on Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s intentions, as he is of impeccable character, and he has national interests at heart. However, the analysts are of the view that when such intermediaries are paid exorbitant salaries by foreign governments, they are always liable to push the agenda advanced by their paymasters rather than work for national interests.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya pointed out that Prasad Kariyawasam, former Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is currently coordinating the parliamentary diplomacy group involving around 50-60 countries. He assists me in obtaining scholarships for parliamentarians, coordinating tours to learn about other Parliaments etc. We have no need to provide information to foreign countries,” he said.

Gunawardena said that on the Parliament list of positions, there is no such position specified. While Kariyawasam is getting paid by the US Government, how can he be appointed as your International Affairs Advisor? Moreover, how can he be paid? This gives rise to suspicion and puts the independence of Parliament in jeopardy.”

However, the Speaker insisted that there was no foreign interference and that the country’s sovereignty had not been jeopardised in any way.

Wimal Weerawansa

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa did not mince his words and alleged that Prasad Kariyawasam was the person responsible for pressuring the former Defence Secretary to sign the ACSA agreement. Prasad Kariyawasam’s beloved friend Maheshini Colonne was the individual responsible for pressuring the Government to sign the SOFA agreement with the United States,” Weerawansa said. When Kariyawasam was Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India, he was instrumental in getting Maheshini Colonne as Deputy High Commissioner. They both kept close connections with the US Embassy in New Delhi. Colonne later became a close confidante to then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. When Samaraweera became the Minister of Finance, Maheshini Colonne also joined the ministry.

According to the available information, Kariyawasam is employed by the US federal government-backed Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal entity. The agency’s Colombo Office has placed him as an Advisor to Parliament of Sri Lanka. USAID has been periodically helping and providing experts to help Parliamentary Oversight Committees.

The ACSA was signed on 4 August 2017. This was when the President was awaiting observations from the Commanders of the armed forces, at that time, expressing strong reservations. Defence Secretary Hettiarachchi told the President that he was pressurised by Kariyawasam to obtain Cabinet approval in a hurry.
The leader of the NFF, Wimal Weerawansa stated that Kariyawasam was not being paid by the American Government to further Sri Lanka’s interests, adding that the Speaker has given refuge to American serpents” inside Parliament.

The company which was tasked with implementing a US$ 13 million, US Government programme to strengthen democratic governance and accountability was Development Alternatives Incorporated, commonly known as DAI.
DAI is active in a number of regions across the world, as well as in countries including Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia and Kenya. The functions of DAI include Legislative Strengthening, Decentralization and Local Government Management, Institutional and Policy Reform Public Administration, Civil Service Reform, and Human Resources Management, Voice and Accountability, Law and Justice, Public Financial Management and Health Governance.

The power rivalry in Asia is developing rapidly, and Sri Lanka should be wary about entering into defence pacts with foreign powers, as this Island-Nation risks becoming a battleground for the vested interests of global superpowers.

Signing SOFA

There were indications that the US would insist on signing SOFA during the visit of US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo to Sri Lanka on 27 June. The visit has now been cancelled, and the US Embassy announced that due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts during his upcoming visit to the Indo-Pacific region that includes accompanying President Donald J. Trump to the G20 Summit in Japan, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is unable to visit Sri Lanka as previously announced.” The announcement added that Pompeo hopes to travel to Sri Lanka at a later date to underscore our strong partnership with Sri Lanka, which is rooted in a commitment to democracy, economic growth and a free, open Indo-Pacific region.”

The postponement of Pompeo’s visit would give Sri Lanka sufficient time to study the clauses in SOFA thoroughly, and seek opinions of security forces and military experts, before finalising the agreement.

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