Another one of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s buddies from Los Angeles, California will be the recipient of a coveted diplomatic posting at Sri Lankan state expense Colombo Telegraph learns, as the President’s Office “politely” requested citizens to stop questioning his appointments.
Sajiv Gunasekara, a real estate broker from LA has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Japan.
Gunasekera has no qualifications to be the Sri Lankan Envoy in Tokyo, an important capital from the perspective of Sri Lankan foreign relations because Japan remains one of the country’s biggest concessional lenders. His sole qualification, sources told Colombo Telegraph was that he was a close friend of the former American citizen who was elected President of Sri Lanka in 2019. Gunasekera has lived in the United States since 1984, ever since he left school. He owns the LA-based real estate company, Sunland Developers.
Gunasekera’s appointment follows a pattern for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has reserved top government positions for cronies from his former homeland. Earlier this year Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Malraj De Silva another of his buddies from LA as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. During a visit to California in April 2019 Gotabaya and Ioma Rajapaksa stayed with Malraj De Silva in his sprawling Pasadena home. The video of the now President of Sri Lanka sharing a sing-song with his LA buddies that emerged in April 2019 was filmed in Malraj De Silva’s home. The last time the Rajapaksa administration was in power Malraj De Silva served as Consul General to Sri Lanka in LA and was accused of fraud and misappropriation of Sri Lankan state funds during his tenure. The FCID investigated Malraj De Silva for renting out a palatial residence in LA while serving as Consul General at a whopping USD 8000 per month. De Silva never provided a statement to FCID officials about the charge. It was claimed that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s son Manoj Rajapaksa resided at the luxury house while he completed his higher studies. Two military personnel had been assigned to him for security, while water, electricity and other utility expenses were borne by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, documents of payments made during the time revealed.
But the hand-outs to Gota’s LA crew have continued even as the President’s avowed “meritocracy” crumbled in the first few months of his presidency. In an extremely unusual twist, Upul Dharmadasa, known to be Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s travel agent and friend in LA was appointed Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority after the former American citizen took office as Sri Lanka’s President. Another LA crony Raja Edirisuriya (also featured in the 2016 photograph attached to this article) was appointed UDA Chairman by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in January 2020.
The revelations about Gunasekera’s appointment comes as the President’s Office attempted to issue a gag order on citizens regarding the Government’s high post appointments.
The gag order follows outrage from nationalist groups nurtured by the President over the appointment of Milinda Moragoda as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to New Delhi with a hitherto unheard of “cabinet rank”. Sri Lanka has no tradition of awarding cabinet rank to any persons other than members of parliament as stipulated in the constitution. But Moragoda’s role in the Norwegian backed 2001-2003 peace process and his former NGO credentials sparked nationalist outrage about the appointment. Documents have also surfaced sourced to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that during the peace process, Moragoda had been given funding to the tune of Rs 154 million from the Norwegian Government, as part of the Scandinavian state’s donations to “NGOs and Journalists” in Sri Lanka. Moragoda was one of the largest recipients of the Norwegian funding on the list which included Colombo-based NGOs and high profile journalists. Issuing a press release on Thursday, Moragoda said the funds from Norway were used for de-mining work conducted by his NGO. The founder of the Path finder think-tank is also despised by nationalists aligned to Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the SLPP for his ties to the United States as revealed through multiple wikileaks cables. In 2007 Committee on Public Enterprises released a report accusing Moragoda of alleged fraud while he was Minister of Economic Reform when was part of the UNP Government. The COPE report claimed that Mercantile Credit, a subsidiary of Mercantile Merchant Bank of which Moragoda was founded had defaulted on loans to the tune of Rs 4.7 billion after the monies had been obtained by providing false information. The investigations launched by COPE never went further after Moragoda joined the UPFA Government in 2007.
Moragoda’s appointment comes in the wake of the former Justice Minister’s understudy at the Pathfinder Institute, Admiral Jayantha Colombage taking office as the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after former Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha was unceremoniously booted out following the August general election.
The press release issued by the President’s office says; “Pressure is being mounted against certain appointments recently made by the President and the Government. All these appointments were made with the utmost consideration of our country’s sovereignty, national security and implementation of “Saubhagyaye Dekma” policy statement. Also, President emphasizes such appointments have been made after careful scrutiny of loyalty to the nation, qualifications and background of these individuals so that policies of the Government can move forward in a successful manner.
President stresses that he has no intention of changing such appointments made after deep thinking or to replace them with different persons in the face of pressure.
As such, President politely requests everyone not to pressure him or the Government to change these appointments.
President is of the view that expressing opinions against these appointments will not only make the appointees unable to carry out their duties and responsibilities properly, but also will weaken the Government’s process by underestimating them in the society.”
Foreign Secretary Jayantha Colombage in recent media interviews expressed the President’s desire to appoint the ‘best Foreign Service officers’ to the Asia region. It is ironic that Colombage’s Ministry has now appointed a real-estate dealer from Los Angeles as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Tokyo. Ahmed A. Jawad the current Additional secretary at the Foreign Ministry was previously appointed as Ambassador to Tokyo. He is one of the most senior Foreign Service officers having served as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Norway and Saudi Arabia and more recently as the High Commissioner to Canada. He has extensive experience in diplomacy and multilateral affairs. Jaward’s appointment has now been cancelled in order to make way for Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s realtor friend from LA, Sajiv Gunasekara.
Colombo Telegraph awaits details on the citizenship status of Sajiv Gunasekara who has for at least 36 years lived in the USA. (Chinthika De Silva)