Sonali Samarasinghe, widow of Lasantha Wickrematunge, the slain Editor of the Sunday Leader, has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s ‘Minister Counsellor’ at the country’s mission in the UN Headquarters, New York, it has been reported in a website that is reputed to be run by persons politically aligned with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera. The website claimed that the appointment was approved by Cabinet on Wednesday the 22nd of April.
Samarasinghe earlier secured a diplomatic posting in the Sri Lankan High Commission in Australia. This was in the 2001-2004 UNP Government headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe. She was and is not a career diplomat.
The appointment comes in the wake of the Ministry recalling all ‘politically appointed’ diplomats following Maithripala Sirisena winning the Presidential Election on the 8th of January 2015.
Earlier this month Minster Mangala Samaraweera released the results of the long-delayed foreign service examinations.“This will enable the many vacancies currently in the foreign service to be filled through a transparent, professional and meritocratic process.” a foreign ministry official told Colombo Telegraph.
“The self-serving Rajapaksa regime not only posted political appointees to as ambassadors abroad, they also staffed the second and third tier of missions with their cronies. These incompetent individuals shamed Sri Lanka on the world state – even using embassies for illegal business activities,” she further said.
Colombo Telegraph emailed the Foreign Ministry requesting confirmation of the report and seeking clarification regarding Samarasinghe’s credentials and whether or not they warrant such an appointment, especially in the context of stated policy abhorring political appointments. Colombo Telegraph specifically asked the Ministry to respond to the following questions: “What is the position given to Sonali Samarasinghe? On what ground she was given that diplomatic post? Is it a political appointment or not?”
The Ministry has not responded.
When Samarasinghe left the Sunday Leader and the country it was widely speculated that she was fleeing political persuasion following the murder of her husband. However she squashed such perceptions in an interview with Kristin Mansfield for www.theithacan.org in October 2012, stating that she didn’t run away but was ‘kicked out’ (of the newspaper). The chairman of the Sunday Leader was Lasantha’s brother Lal Wickrematunge.
Samarasinghe has also gone on record to state that her husband’s murder had nothing to do with journalism. She has revealed that Lasantha had worked with the intelligence service of a foreign country and hinted that it was this fact that led to him being killed.