A video conference organised recently by the Ministry of Foreign Relations to discuss ‘strategic communications’ descended into a farce with several politically appointed ambassadors falling over each other to demonstrate their nationalist and patriotic credentials.
One such case was Manori Unambuwe, who was hand-picked by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to represent Sri Lanka as Ambassador to Germany. During the tele-conference Unambuwe floated the idea that an anti terrorism task force on cyber security should established to monitor social media platforms of youth in Europe, especially Sri Lankan Tamils living in the area.
“I am looking at how to build an idea of inclusive nationalism and promote the Sri Lankan identity, rather than Tamil, Muslim identity” the new envoy said. “We must develop different story lines that will have traction in Germany such as emphasis on sovereignty and territorial integrity. We must highlight that terrorism is very much alive with the LTTE, ISIS and others. The fight today is in cyberspace for example there was an Instagram campaign recently which ran the tag line – I am a Tamil and the genocide is a part of my identity. These things must be monitored closely and countered. You have to have a Counter terrorism Task Force on Cyberspace to monitor these campaigns in Europe and use Sri Lankan (Sinhala) youth as a front to counter these things,” she added.
The shocking recommendation would effectively set up a surveillance mechanism to monitor Sri Lankans living in Europe through their social media accounts, a policy the Sri Lankan Government has already launched domestically.
Unambuwe who is also accredited to Switzerland first became prominent when she used her own social media platform to severely criticize the Swiss Government in December 2019.
In her rather undiplomatic post condemning the Swiss government and aimed more at human smugglers said “Forget your Korean language exams, TOEFL, or smuggling yourself to Australia. Just claim the Sri Lankan government threatened you, and harassed you, and you’ll get first class tickets for you and your family straight to a 1st world life in Switzerland! All courtesy of the Swiss embassy.”
Colombo Telegraph learns that Manori Unambuwe’s own brother Suneth Wijesinghe has been unofficially blacklisted by several European countries for breach of commercial contracts and may find these countries unwilling to facilitate his business activities in the region going forward. According to our sources, several embassies based in Colombo have received complaints regarding Wijesinghe’s company from their European business interests/customers. Colombo Telegraph also learns that he is now reportedly using the sister’s diplomatic position to promote his other businesses.
A senior source at the Foreign Ministry said that the Ministry’s policy towards the Ambassador to Berlin was to dance attendance on her every wish.
Eyebrows were raised at the Ministry during the video conference when this newbie political appointee proceeded to lecture senior career foreign service officers on her seemingly absurd suggestions to monitor social media in European countries.
Ambassador Unambuwe had failed to realize the repercussions for Sri Lankan relations with such countries where monitoring of personal social media of their citizens is considered not only against the law but a severe breach of diplomatic protocol between countries.
The Foreign Ministry’s tele-conference was given wide publicity in the weekend newspapers in Colombo where it was hailed as a great communications triumph by Secretary to the Ministry Ravinatha Aryasinha who Colombo Telegraph has recently exposed for high jinx with public funds to keep a favourite colleague Saroja Sirisena happy.
The video conference chaired by Aryasinha was attended by a vast number of Lankan diplomats serving overseas.
This is story has been amended on 2 August, 2020:
Following the publication of this article, an individual by the name of Suneth Wijesinghe has written to Colombo Telegraph threatening legal action.
Suneth Wijesinghe is the brother of Manori Unambuwe, who was appointed as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Germany by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He is the managing director of Malco Engineering based in Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.
The following is his correspondence with Colombo Telegraph:
“I have read an article by your news where I am mentioned that I have been blacklisted by EU including Germany which is totally false and tarnishing my reputation. If you have proof of this please produce to my lawyer in cc and to the embassy in Berlin. I will give you 3 days to submit this or face a law suit against the editor and the news paper. The participants of the 2019 Berlin green week which I organised with HNB was concluded successfully. There are no complaints by the participants of cheating them for money. If you can show me any written evidence of this false claim please submit this too.” [ENDS]
Upon further investigation, Colombo Telegraph can confirm the following facts.
i) That several international business persons have complained to Colombo based European embassies concerning Wijesinghe’s conduct of his business
ii) That Wijesinghe is using his sister’s links to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to advance his business interests by informing customers he had an inside track into the present Government in Sri Lanka
iii) That several Colombo based diplomatic missions are concerned about both Manori Unambuwe and her sibling using their political connections to advance personal and business interests
iv) That European countries which have encountered bad experiences with Wijesinghe will be hesitant to grant him access to their markets
Wijesinghe should know better than to request “proof” of unofficial decisions being made by diplomatic missions regarding his business activities and the promotion and facilitation thereof by foreign governments.
We are also unclear why Wijesinghe has demanded that Colombo Telegraph must copy in the Embassy of Sri Lanka to Germany located in Berlin regarding a personal matter which involves his business dealings. The strange request alone makes it clear that Wijesinghe is involving his sister, who is the representative of the Government of Sri Lanka in his business affairs.
In fact, Colombo Telegraph believes Ambassador Unambuwe should clarify why her brother is involving the Sri Lankan Embassy in Berlin in his personal business matters.
However in light of Wijesinghe’s strong objections Colombo Telegraph has amended the paragraph 7 of this article to more accurately reflect the reality. The earlier story said: “Ironically, it is now revealed that Manori Unambuwe’s own brother has been blacklisted by several European countries including Germany for breach of commercial contracts and is no longer able to get a Schengen visa. He had played out several exhibiters promising to build stalls but had disappeared after taking their money. He is now reportedly using the sister’s diplomatic position to promote various other businesses.”
(By Manishka Unantenne)