In a tragicomic turn of events the worst cronies of the former regime and in particular the cabal that surrounded the corrupt and inept Monitoring Minister of the Foreign Ministry, Sajin Vass Gunawardena are still ruling the roost at the Ministry. In a supremely ironic twist Deputy Minister Ajith Perera, who championed good governance and accountability while in opposition has been compelled to defend the appointment of Kshenuka Seniwiratne, former Foreign Secretary and close confidant of MP Sajin Vass and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as Sri Lanka’s new Ambassador to Thailand. The JVP and other political parties have raised concerns over this appointment.
Senewiratne who has several family connections to the UNP went out of her way to prove her loyalties to the Rajapaksas’ during the previous regime. However she maintains a close personal friendship with President Chandrika Kumaratunga under whose tenure Ms. Senewiratne served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UK. However in the Rajapaksa years Kshenuka Senewiratne shunned President Kumaratunga in an attempt to cater to the small minded egos of the Rajapaksa regime. Together with President Rajapaksa and MP Gunewardena, Kshenuka Senewiratne conspired to bring the professional foreign service to its knees, informed sources told Colombo Telegraph. Playing watchdog to the new Government in Sri Lanka the JVP has focused its criticism on Senewiratne’s alleged role in ‘Geneva Gate‘. As Colombo Telegraph exposed in April 7, 2012, during her stint as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Seniwiratne is accused of giving a contract to repair the official residence of the Ambassador in Geneva to a company linked to the LTTE. But meanwhile, her misdeeds and reign at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been ignored. Colombo Telegraph has reliable information about how Senewiratne was actively involved in an attempt to eradicate the professional Foreign Service and recruit political appointees to the Ministry. Under-signing Mahinda Rajapaksa’s inferiority complex and his old animosity with the Foreign Service having once had to fight for the premiership with Lakshman Kadirgamar, Kshenuka Senewiratne ensured that competent Foreign Service officers were side-lined and harassed. Senewiratne and her able lieutenant Majindha Jayasinghe were proponents of the abolishment of the Foreign Service in favour of cabinet appointments as diplomats. The move was strongly championed by Sajin Vass Gunawardena who sought to amalgamate the Foreign Service with the Administrative Service. Senewiratne strongly backed the plans. She also backed the recruitment of a group of Sajin Vass lackeys who were later tabbed “CHOGM babies” who new Minister of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said were the unemployable offspring of political and business cronies. As exclusively revealed by Colombo Telegraph among these ‘CHOGM Babies’ recruited by MP Sajin Vass at Rs. 70,000 per month – were the daughters of then Opposition MP Rosy Senanayake and JKH Chairman Susantha Ratnayake. These children, relatives and mistresses of politicians were paid more than any Foreign Service officer, given vehicles for their personal use and even allowed to misuse their official positions to make money out of CHOGM contracts without any hindrance. Kshenuka Senewiratne even tasked them vital issues of national interest, sending some of these unqualified individuals to Geneva to defend Sri Lanka at the Human Rights council.It was due to Senevirathne’s empowerment that Sajin Vass Gunawardena, an uneducated wharf clerk, managed to run the foreign ministry as his own fiefdom. In such an example, as late as in November 2014 Senevirathne demanded a letter of explanation from the Executive Director of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for what she claimed to be an anti-government article written by the officer. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera the former head of the Kadirgamar centre laments how he had been kicked out and how Kshenuka Senewiratne has been given an Ambassadorial post. The article in question had raised the 18th Amendment and term limits of the president. These of course are in addition to one of the most pathetic incidents in the Ministry’s history when Sajin Vass Gunawardena publicly assaulted the sitting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to London, Chris Nonis in order to defend Kshenuka Senewiratne. Later Senewiratne made officers attached to the London Mission to write petitions against Nonis and all those who were present at the dinner in New York at which Nonis was assaulted attested that they had not seen any one getting assaulted. The depths to which Senewiratne brought the Foreign Ministry, during her short one year tenure, as Secretary is unparalleled in history. During the presidential election season between November 2014-January 2015 Senewiratne created history by being spotted at a Mahinda Rajapaksa election rally in gross violation of the Establishment Code which governs the conduct of Public Servants.
The other Sajin lackey to have secured a plumb posting recently is Majintha Jayasinghe. Despite being the right-hand man of Sajin Vass Gunawardena and responsible for some of the worst financial and ethical violations at the Foreign Ministry in recent times, Jayasinghe has already been sent to Malaysia by the current administration. This individual had failed his Efficiency Bar examination, mandatory for public service officials, eight consecutive times. He therefore was even demoted in the hierarchy of serving officers. Yet during the last regime he was promoted as an Additional Secretary, a rank that is traditionally reserved for the two or three most senior officers in the Foreign Service after the Secretary. In reality, Jayasinghe should be below the 70th rank in the foreign service officers list. As the individual in charge of all the expenses of the CHOGM he had authorised most of the extravagance, waste and corruption associated with that event. Yet it is learnt that he had forced a junior officer at the Ministry to sign the documents in their entirety for all unorthodox CHOGM expenses. Considered Sajin’s main confidant at the Ministry, Jayasinghe went beyond his official capacity to be involved in politics attending rallies and even being present at Temple Trees during the time there was an attempt to carry out a coup on the morning of 9th January 2015. Once again using political connections he has sought a posting and this has been granted setting a fine example that however corrupt or inept you may be no one will be held accountable for any action of omission or commission at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While it is the policy of the current Government that public servants will not be politically victimised, it remains a damning indictment on the present Government that it is permitting those public officers, whose conduct should be exemplary, who were hand in glove with ex-regime corruption, nepotism and witch-hunts are being permitted to go scott-free without being held accountable for any of their actions. In fact, it is an unjust twist that the same officers that conspired to bring down the professional diplomatic service with Sri Lanka’s former rulers are the officers to first receive postings overseas where they can lick their wounds.
One of the worst crooks of the Foreign Service to have thrived during the Rajapaksa regime is Rodney Perera, Sri Lanka’s current Ambassador to Brussels. There are accusations of financial misappropriation by this officer since his first posting in 1988. Charges against him range from corruption, misappropriation, sexual harassment to even more inhumane actions such as leaving his personal dog to starve at his residence after leaving Rome since he did not want to pay for the transportation. Appointed as Additional Secretary after he engineered several insidious campaigns against more senior officers, Rodney Perera went out to prove himself as one of the most loyal Sajin followers. Son of Paul Perera, a one-time UNP MP and a thug and brother of Ronald Perera, current Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon and the member of the UNP Working Committee, Rodney was the dirty-job man of Sajin in order to hide his blatant UNP connections. In one of Perera’s more recent transgressions, he resorted to repugnant actions against a fellow foreign service officer. Distorting private emails and hacking into a private email account, Rodney Perera engineered the disciplinary action against several officers including his predecessor in Brussels, Ambassador Amza. Having opened Amza’s email that he had left unchecked when leaving Brussels, Rodney Perera took copies of all his personal correspondence and sent them by diplomatic bag to Sajin Vass Gunawardena. In some of these emails Amza is said to have been critical of Sajin which resulted in the immediate action being taken against Amza and several others featuring in the emails. This recent incident is one Minister Samaraweera and many in the UNP know well, since it made major news in the mainstream newspapers at the time. A CID investigation was launched against these highly competent officers for the crime of insulting Sajin in a personal correspondence. Later transpired that Rodney Perera had in fact doctored some of these emails before taking printouts. Yet even after the Rajapaksa regime was defeated and all his skulduggery coming to light, Rodney Perera remains as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the crucial capital of Brussels where GSP plus and other important matters will be taken up. Colombo Telegraph learns he is now strongly promoting his UNP connections and using his brother’s links to the Prime Minister and other members of the party to remain a key figure at the Ministry.
One of the most curious cases at the Foreign Ministry is the hold and influence a relatively junior officer named Maheshini Kolenne has started to wield over the Foreign Minister and other sections of the government. Despite being a competent officer she is best remembered at the Foreign Ministry for her various dubious dealings with the previous regime, especially Sajin Vaas Gunawardena with whom she was believed to have been on intimate terms. During Gunewardana’s stint as Monitoring MP for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during which he played the role of de facto Minister, Kolonne openly flaunted her connections to Gunewardana and drafted political speeches and messages for Sajin Vass Gunewardana and was actively involved during the last Presidential election. Certain sources also report that Kolonne was responsible for drafting the foreign policy component of the manifesto of defeated President Rajapaksa at MP Sajin Vass Gunewardans’s behest, although this remains unsubstantiated. In a further twist, Kolonne’s brother was an officially appointed “Advisor” to none other than former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.For someone who strongly toed the hardline foreign policy line of the Rajapaksa regime and having handled the UN division at the Ministry for the past year, Maheshini Kolonne has done a remarkable U-turn in her thinking and affiliations, sources close to the officer said. Given her strong links to the previous regime it remains a mystery how she managed to win the good offices of the new Minister and other senior officials. Kolonne appears now to have exploited her links to the UNP and senior members of the current administration to have got away scot-free for her dealings with the previous regime and her actions to discredit the professional diplomatic service with blatantly political conduct.
While the Foreign Minister must and should use the system’s most competent officials, observers point out that it is best Minister Samaraweera keeps his eyes open to those most closely linked with his office now.
One of the most servile individuals who was used by the previous regime was U.L.M Jawher, the Director General of the Overseas Administration Division, the section that is responsible for the posting of all diplomatic officers. This individual was hand-picked by Kshenuka Senewiratne for his blind loyalty and eagerness to do any illegal activity for the sake of a posting. The astonishing reality today is that he remains in this all powerful position as DG/OAD and serves his old masters. Jawher was in fact the officer who was mostly responsible for the Geneva-gate saga where he had given a contract to repair the Ambassador’s residence to a personally known individual with links to the LTTE. It was through him that the likes of Sajin Vass Gunawardena got all the political appointments done to Sri Lankan diplomatic missions around the world. Jawher in his crucial capacity at the Ministry is a major stumbling block to the changes demanded by the people at the last election and the reform the new Foreign Minister has promised especially with regard to the recall of political appointees. He has delayed the recall of many of these individuals and is known to promise some of them extensions and reinstatements even while Minister Mangala Samaraweera has explicitly promised the recall all political appointees who were sent out as diplomats simply because of their connections to the Rajapaksa regime.