Ravinatha Aryasinha who was appointed as Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the failed coup by former president Mathripala Sirisena in October 2018 has been unceremoniously sacked from his post by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
He has been replaced by former Navy Commander, Admiral (Professor) Jayanath Colombage. The retired Admiral is a Pathfinder Foundation alumnus and considered a “China Specialist”. He is one of four senior military personnel who have been appointed to run government ministries.
Colombo Telegraph learns that as the President’s advisor on international relations, Admiral Colombage was already running the Ministry from the Presidential Secretariat, a situation that had made Aryasinha extremely uncomfortable. A decision was made a few months before the election that all diplomatic postings even at lower levels would have to be given the green light from the Secretariat before they could be confirmed. With the election over the President’s office was now asserting direct control of the Ministry, sources told Colombo Telegraph. The decision to appoint Colambage as Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations would also ensure Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunewardena toes the presidential line the sources added.
There was no reasoning for the abrupt change of the guard especially since Minister Gunewardena held on to his pre-election ministerial portfolio.
However a few weeks ago the Colombo Telegraph used a series of articles to expose a number of irregular and fraudulent financial transactions carried out by Aryasinha along with Sri Lanka’s current High Commissioner to London Saroja Sirisena. The fraud involving manipulated plane tickets, an irregular and illegal authorisation for a medical procedure in the USA, transfer of money for the medical procedure to Saroja Sirisena in Vienna instead of the hospital in the US through the Sri Lanka embassy in Washington DC and a massive losses to the Sri Lankan government over the temporary accommodation for Sirisena during her nine month stay in Vienna as Ambassador amounted to at least USD 226,190 or LKR 41.875 million.
Despite clear evidence of financial fraud, neither the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Finance, the Auditor General nor the Criminal Investigation Department of the Police have opened an investigation into the actions of Aryasinha. Instead there has been a cover up of the fraud with Aryasinha using his powers as Secretary to issue a statement from the Ministry claiming that no irregularity had taken place.
As part of the attempts to cover up these transactions Aryasinha recently granted a transfer to M.K Pathmanaathan, the Director General of the Human Resources and Mission Management Division as Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner to Chennai. Even though such a high level appointment should have been made by the Minister in consultation with the President, since the deputy high commissioner in Chennai is an ambassador ranked and critically important position, Aryasinha ensured that this was done using a transfer board appointed by him which was meant to decide on junior level transfers of third and second secretaries. Curiously Pathmanaathan was the only applicant for the post. In an event of an inquiry into the fraudulent activities of Aryasinha, Pathmanaathan would be a key witness
But even more shockingly Colombo Telegraph can reliably report that several key documents pertaining to these transactions, including the medical bills of Saroja Sirisena amounting to millions in tax payer money are now missing from the files at the Human Resources and the Mission Management Division headed by Pathmanaathan. Curiously these records are not available at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Vienna either.
However Pathmanaathan’s Chennai posting has now been withheld on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been advised on this and several other irregular manoeuvres by Aryasinha. Even though he has now been sacked by the President, Aryasinha who has more than one year left before he reaches retirement age is reportedly lobbying Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to secure a plumb diplomatic posting to a western capital or to the land down under. Colombo Telegraph learns he was eager to secure a posting to New Delhi but this effort has been torpedoed by powerful persons in both capitals.
It remains to be seen if Admiral Colambage who is a military man with supposedly a clean record on corruption will brush these allegations of fraud against his predecessor under the carpet or take appropriate action and at least initiate an inquiry. Colombo Telegraph stands ready to provide all the information and documents in its possession (including copies of those that have now gone missing from the files at the Ministry) in addition to those already published, if there is a formal, credible investigation into these financial crimes.
However Colombo Telegraph learns from sources inside the Government that it was far more likely that Aryasinha will get a “sweetheart” deal to travel to cooler climes in order to massage his bruised ego following his sudden sacking. (By Chinthika de Silva)