Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge, Monitoring MP of the External Affairs Ministry Sajin Vaas Gunewardane, and most recently Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa are leading Sri Lanka’s diplomatic onslaught ahead of the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva this March.
Rajapaksa has joined Gunewardane and Weeratunge in the US where the trio will commence a massive campaign of lobbying to soften Washington’s stance towards Colombo ahead of the Council sessions. It is unclear what Namal Rajapaksa’s contribution to this effort would be, given the gravity of the situation and the gargantuan task at hand to change opinion about Sri Lanka’s commitment to addressing major human rights concerns and promote reconciliation.
Tough times are ahead for Sri Lanka in Geneva, with the Government being forced to go into overdrive to combat the international pressure very early on.
The Sunday Times notes that the Presidential Secretary (and now his entourage) must fly out to Washington to plead Sri Lanka’s case despite the fact that a fully fledged embassy with 100 percent political appointees and two public relations outfits, one retained by the Embassy and another by the Central Bank are unable to make an impact on America’s attitude towards Sri Lanka.
In its political column this week, the Sunday Times revealed that the Rajapaksa Adminsitration spends 15.7 million rupees per month to bankroll two major lobbying firms hired to improve Sri Lanka’s image in the US. “It has reportedly been arranged for the Central Bank by the US public relations and lobbying firm Thompson Advisory Group LLC (TAG). The Central Bank pays this company US $ 66,000 (or more than Rs 8.5 million) every month for three different tasks. As reported earlier, they are to create (1) “a political climate” in the US “more than conducive to enhancing Sri Lanka’s long-term political and economic aspirations,” (2) to create a platform where US decision makers “receive clear and accurate information of Sri Lanka’s current achievements and future plans, and (3) “a higher volume of private sector investment in Sri Lanka,” the Sunday Times said.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington has also separately hired a US lobbying firm, called the Majority Group to lobby the US Government to change its attitude towards Sri Lanka. The Majority Group charges Sri Lanka Rs. 6.5 million for this task, but there have been no results so far.