A head-on confrontation between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera has become inevitable after officials in the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Service have continue to defy the PM.
After tensions between the two began to mount, Wickremesinghe has said he will raise all the pertinent issues with Samaraweera when he returns to Colombo. He is now on a tour of Japan where he has received an overwhelming welcome and the honour of addressing Diet, their parliament.
The sharp difference first came to the fore before the Prime Minister’s visit to India. He had sought a detailed brief from officials in the Foreign Ministry. What he received shocked him. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat told Colombo Telegraph even a GCE (OL) student could have written a better report than the puerile one the PM received. The Prime Minister announced publicly that in future he will not seek any report from any official in the Foreign Ministry nor take anyone from there on his foreign visits.
The Indian visit took place without any Foreign Ministry representative. Even the current Japan visit saw no one from this Ministry taking part. After these two events, things have been on the increase.
This official said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has also been upset over the conduct of Sri Lanka Ambassador in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha. This had come after reports were received alleging that he had been briefing via secret telephone calls at least two persons, a former diplomat and a Minister, regularly matters relating to the UN Human Rights Council. Such inputs had been included in opposition statements. Aryasinha was a strong loyalist of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Foreign Minister, G.L. Peiris and a close friend of Dayan Jayatilleka, former Ambassador to Geneva. In the recent months he has cultivated Foreign Minister Samaraweera and had claimed he could get anything done by him.
Another official who had repeatedly defied the Prime Minister, it is alleged, is the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chitranganee Wagiswara referred to by officials at the FO as the “Ayah Amma.” She had refused to sign an agreement with America to obtain legal assistance using an excuse that cabinet has not given approval. The Prime Minister’s Secretariat official said “she was pulled up” and the PM ordered that the offer is accepted. There were other officials also who have been identified for their lackadaisical attitude towards the PM and his office.
Mangala Samaraweera has been bitter that he was given only the Foreign Affairs portfolio and denied the subject of telecommunications. It was the latter portfolio he used to provide jobs for those from his electorate. After he was denied a second subject, Samaraweera has told close friends, he made a request from the President Maithripala Sirisena. He has wanted to give him an additional portfolio. Samaraweera has alleged to his friends that Prime Minister’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake telephoned President’s Secretary Abeykoon and told him not to give anything to Samaraweera.
Some officials in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat are asking whether Samaraweera himself is getting his officials to be indifferent. These officials dismissed reports that all was well between the Foreign Minister and the PM. He has been ignoring requests made by the Prime Minister with regard to Foreign Office persons, these officials said.