22 November, 2019

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A Reform Agenda: Tightening Up Foreign Policy And Foreign Relations

By Rajiva Wijesinha – 

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is of the view that our Ministry of External Affairs is a mess. His offer to Mangala Samaraweera to make him Foreign Minister indicates his realization that his greatest blunder is the hash the troika that runs the Ministry has made of our international relations. And he confirmed this to Vasantha Senanayake, when Basil accused him of criticizing the Foreign Minister openly.

He had assured Mangala that he would not inflict Sajin Vass Gunawardena on him as a Monitor, which suggests he realizes what a disaster that particular appointment has been. When it was made, he claimed that at least now letters were being answered. That was a necessity, but the power Sajin exercised led to the Minister then abdicating all authority and handing over decision making to his Monitor.

Despite that the crucial letter sent by the Indian Prime Minister before the vote in Geneva in 2012 lay unanswered. In fairness though, that factor is true of our administration in general, and the requirement that letters be answered in three days has been interpreted to mean that at least three days must lapse before a reply is even thought of. One reason I had high regard for Maithripala Sirisena previously, and said so often in my discussions of my work in the North and East as Advisor on Reconciliation, is that his Ministry usually responded to my transmission of complaints from the public. But most Ministries kept silent, though occasionally there were flurries of activity after I had brought the matter up in COPE.

Vass

Vass

The prevailing lethargy is bad enough, but with regard to foreign relations it is worse, given that we need to engage actively with all stakeholders, and in particular those who have the capacity to do us harm. In order to do this, however, we need to have clear guidelines available to all government officials as well as our Missions with regard to foreign policy priorities. Officials could then take their own decisions as to how to react to correspondence, instead of waiting for instructions on all issues. Certainly, when there was a Ministry of Human Rights, we dealt promptly with any queries from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and this led to commendation of Sri Lanka’s engagement with that Office, in the reports for instance of the Working Committee on Disappearances. But after the Ministry was abolished, there were no responses as all for several years, and it is only in the last year, following the harsh criticism in resolutions, that we began to engage.

1. Amongst the principles we should adopt then is ensuring regular engagement with all countries and in particular with the United Nations. Whilst safeguarding our sovereignty, we should respond to concerns with understanding of the issues involved, and should fulfil any commitments we enter into. If this is impossible, we should explain constraints and ensure that our actions and attitudes are understood.

2. But responses must be based on clear policy guidelines, and these should be laid out. The most important of the guidelines we should follow, given geo-political realities, is ensuring good relations with India. This cannot govern domestic policies, but there should be good and reliable communication with India as regards such policies, with the understanding that any commitments cannot be violated.

3. Within this framework, or rather a broader framework that also lays down the need for promoting multilateralism, there should be flexibility. Thus we should have regular consultative meetings of senior level Foreign Ministry officials. If these happen each week, there should also be provision, perhaps on a monthly basis, for consultation of officials of relevant Ministries such as Finance and Defence and Trade. Such meetings should be minuted, and decisions / action points notified to relevant officials with provision for feedback.

4. We also need to build up collegiality within the Ministry. Whilst there are good reasons sometimes for appointment of non-career individuals to Head of Mission posts, all other posts should be reserved for members of the Diplomatic Service. These officials should be required to submit brief regular reports on their activities, which should be based on targets identified by the Ministry, with consultation of the Head of Mission.

5. But there is also need of a wider professionalism. For this purpose Government should establish at least two high level think tanks. The existing government managed institutions could be upgraded, but they should function independently and have research staff who could produce position papers and suggest responses to international developments. In addition, these think tanks should have a training wing, which develops communication skills in addition to the capacity to analyse. They should also publish journals to which diplomats are expected to contribute.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Poor me!

    Problems of the entire world are caused by this man called G. L. Peiris who took over the Foreign Ministry, denying the “lonely me” a chance to trot the global stage, delivering speeches in my “tooth brush in mouth”, half-British accent.

    Now that the Maithripala trick has flopped too, and I lost my government privileges. What do I do next?

    Hell, nothing that can be one. I am a prisoner at Alfred House Gardens.

  • 3
    0

    In essence you want Dayan in the FM???

  • 2
    0

    Sajins Story is complete when the File that is held by L. Wee- ratunga, to safe-guard himself at the COI due after 9-1-15 will disclose. Accidents do happen? This quote appeared eleswhere:- “1. Sajin’s palatial house down Horton place Colombo 7 is located in the private road right opposite the Laksman Kadirgamr Institute of International Relations.It bears assement no.19/2.Just a look at the palatial house reveals it’s luxury.An unauthorized guard house at the top of the lane blocks free movement of cars on that road.The dozen or so of back up vehicles inconvenience the neighbourhood but no one dare complain for sheer fear. 2.Sajin is always provided with an escort by armed Commandos who always follow this rouge in 2 government owned Land Rovers.In addition a black Land Rover with thugs dressed in white short sell even shirt and black pants also follow .So tax payers are paying to protect a thug !!! 3.Sajin also owns the massive building down down Dudley Senanayake Mawatha ( formerly Castle street) Colombo 8.this building is located in the lane next to the MINI Showrooms, the first private road to the left as one travels from the Horton Place / Kynsey Road traffic light junction.The building is is the second to the right on that private road.It now houses KOICA a Korean company that pays Sajin Rupees three million a month.Formerly this building housed Cosmos Aviation Services which operates Sajin’s fleet of 7 helicopters.What a tragedy , afellow who could not afford to pay1800 bucks on his Volvo car fiancé now travels in one of his own helicopters when he visits his luxury 100 roomed Ameythist Resort in Passikudah. Who will inquire and punish this thug who has made millions out of the deal setting up Mihinlanka alone” also, “The baggage-boy and the King jointly have done well – even a future COI may not touch them.

    Culled from comments in CT reveals this wealth:- 1. 7 helicopters and a company called Cosmos Avaiation + Offices – $500,000 x 7 = $5,000,000 2 Owns a luxury 15 roomed luxury mansion at Horton Place Colombo 7 (with large swimming pool,jacuzzi and elevator facility – $500,000 2. 100 roomed Luxury Ameythist Resort in Passikudah – $2,000,000 4. Owns a 79 room resort in Maldives – $1,000,000 5. Owns a fleet of Benz,Jaguar,and other luxury vehicles. – $2,000,000 6. 23 room mansion in Toorak, Melbourne, in the millionaires’ row. – $3,000,000 7. The block of 16 apartments in Pitt Street, Sydney City Centre. – $2,000,000 8. Part owner of the racehorse Black Caviar, (Australian Thoroughbred undefeated in 25 races) with the Emir of Kuwait. – $2,000,000 9. A vineyard (350 Ha) in Borossa Valley, South Australia – $3,000,000 Totals only 20 M USD

    Don’t forget to add Sajin’s fleet of luxury vehicles such as 3 Black Range Rovers costing Rs. 60 million each, a Mercedes Benz 400SEL worth 58 million bearing registration no.CAA 6019 and a full option Maroon colored Jaguar worth Rs. 54 million and a Long wheel base Land Rover Defender bearing registration No.KC 2283 worth Rs. 31 million. The Mercedes Benz 400 SEL and the Jaguar were made bullet proof at an additional cost of US$ 431,000 a piece at an exclusive company in London specializing in such work.This project was handled by Sajin’s sidekick Mohamed Zuraish Hashim ,the chain smoking wheeler dealing businessman living at 63, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 3. Hashim also handles Sajin’s luxury 79 room resort in Maldives.

    Then don’t forget the US $ 9 million that Sajin made as commission for signing agreements with 3 US based Public Relations firms.The man coordinating this was Majintha Joseph Parakrama Jayasinghe who works in the Protocol Section of Foreign Ministry, as Sajin’s bag carrier.Jayasinghe works almost exclusively for Sajin , at a small private office at the BMICH , Colombo 7, paid by the foreign ministry.Majintha had secretly revealed details of the deal to Ratnatunge of the Sunday Times who he got to know why working for Lakshman Kadirgamar, and being Baggage Boy for his wife Sughandhi.Sughandhi and Ratnatunge are extremely close friends Then don’t forget to look at stashed millions of dollars in the Seychelles where Sajin was responsible for opening an Embassy although Sri Lanka has no interests to have one there .

    One day may all these rouges be brought to Justice is all one could hope for.Is that day near or far away

  • 3
    0

    Rajiva,

    With every article, you make it increasingly difficult not to be derisive, however hard I try.

    In that light, may I observe that the first thing that needs to be tightened up is your irrelevant, disingenuous, if not idiotic flapping of the gums! Kindly spare us all the pain.

    • 1
      0

      You can be derisive as you like. He is a politician and it will be like water off a duck’s back !

  • 0
    0

    “nothing with nothing”

    in essence ~0~ andere bad moon rising.

    “Hey, Moe!”,

    “pokes”

  • 0
    0

    Thanks “Accountant”. These and many more known to MR and his close associates are well recorded and SAVED. Hopefully, if a promised change takes place, the “Independent Commissions” to be set up will take care of the legal process of vesting all that LOOT back to the public coffers and put all those found guilty behind bars for life to spend their life in the company of other criminals of the country. I am still unable to comprehend how the SLBC now a days totally utilized and engaged in an “ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN” in promoting this corrupted regime without any shame. This Public Institution must be investigated and those in control must be brought to justice. Please listen to SLBC, the SINHALA services how they “prostitute” the authority they have in promoting MR and condemning the opposing candidate. The Chairman of this Public Corporation is a “DISGRACE” to the country and the authorities are turning a blind eye to what he is doing. This behavior is nothing new, because he behaved in the same way when Late Mr. Premadasa was in power.

    I am sorry for deviating from the main subject of the article. It was nothing but due to my utter disgust of the services provided by a Public Corporation.

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