By Colombo Telegraph –
“The simultaneity of such defamatory articles published against me in different newspapers demonstrates the deliberate character of this smear campaign. I would, therefore, ask you correct this defamatory falsehoods that are aimed at undermining my honesty and integrity, publish this right of reply and apologise.” says the Sri Lankan ambassador to Cuba,Tamara Kunanayakam. Requesting a right of reply and a voluntary apology Tamara says the story carried on July 23 edition of Colombo Telegraph is a part of smear campaign against her. But our diplomatic correspondent while stands by the story says, that at no point, was the news story aimed at defamation or character assassination at Ms. Kunanayakam or any other official.
Read both the Ambassador’s and our correspondent’s replies below;
Right of Reply to Colombo Telegraph of 23 July 2012 ,by Tamara Kunanayakam
The July 23rd July edition of Colombo Telegraph carried a defamatory story against me that seems part of a smear campaign that you are carrying on for the benefit of the sources you rely on.
The first lie is that I have requested the Ministry of External Affairs to pay for my travel costs from Havana to Geneva to attend meetings of the Working Group on the Right to Development, which I Chair. I do not, therefore, see how a request that was not made can be turned down!
The second lie is that my successor was forced to stay in a hotel because I decided to remain in the Official Residence and his family has had to stay behind in Brussels until I vacate the Residence. I have already responded to this accusation to the Sunday Times Editor, parts of which I quote below:
“The story that I did not leave behind the keys for my successor to occupy the Official Residence in Geneva is an outright lie. Had your journalist taken the trouble to verify the facts with the Ministry of External Affairs, you would have known that the Ministry had granted me time until 24th July to pack my heavy luggage and then proceed to Colombo. My successor, who received his transfer order at the same time that I did, was given time until 10th August to pack his heavy luggage, and vacate the Residence in Brussels for his successor.
There are procedures about moving to ensure that Government funds are not misused, so sufficient time has to be given for the move from one station to another. Procedures require three quotations to be submitted for Ministry approval, after which the selected company is contacted and a date fixed for packing and removal of the heavy luggage. It is normal diplomatic practice for an envoy to arrive at a new posting only after the predecessor has vacated the Residence! When I was transferred to Geneva last year, I was instructed to arrive only after my predecessor had left. I suppose this is true for all Government servants on transfer. However, in a departure from normal practice, my successor was asked to arrive in Geneva before my departure, whereas his successor was asked to move to Brussels only after his departure! How can I be accused of refusing to give the key to a Residence that I was clearly authorized to occupy and was still occupying at the time of his arrival?”
The simultaneity of such defamatory articles published against me in different newspapers demonstrates the deliberate character of this smear campaign. I would, therefore, ask you correct this defamatory falsehoods that are aimed at undermining my honesty and integrity, publish this right of reply and apologise.
CT Diplomatic Correspondent’s Note:
Ambassador Kunanayakam challenges two points of the news story. Colombo Telegraph stands by its story and reiterates the refusal by the Ministry of External Affairs to bear the cost for Ms. Kunanayakam attending any UN working group sessions to which she has been appointed in her previous capacity as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. A decision regarding this matter has been made at the Ministry of External Affairs, although the communications to this effect may not yet have reached her.
With regard to the aspect of the story pertaining to her successor having to be provided accommodation at a hotel in Geneva at state expense, Colombo Telegraph would raise the following in public interest, while reiterating that at no point, was this news story aimed at defamation or character assassination at Ms. Kunanayakam or any other official:
1.Geneva is a critical diplomatic station and currently in the eye of the storm in terms of Sri Lanka’s international challenges, with preparations currently underway for the Universal Periodic Review. It is perhaps Sri Lanka’s most crucial diplomatic battleground at this juncture.
2. Ravinatha Ariyasinha was transferred to Geneva from Brussels at short notice, with an appointment commencing July 1, 2012, and was expected to take up the challenges at the UNHRC immediately.
3. Ambassador Kunanayakam has been on vacation leave for several weeks and has not functioned in the capacity of PR/UN in Geneva, with crucial matters pertaining to the Geneva mission at this critical time being attended to by Deputy Head of Mission Manisha Gunesekera.
4. At this time, the question that needs to be raised is rather than the technicalities about which ambassador arrived prematurely (although the proof of Ambassador Ariyasinha’s appointment date suggests otherwise) and heavy baggage issues, but whether it is in Sri Lanka’s best interest that official duties of the present head of mission in Geneva should be hindered in any way.