22 May, 2022


Sri Lankan UN Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam Demoted

By Charles Haviland/ BBC News, Colombo –

The Sri Lankan government has demoted its ambassador to the UN in Geneva after the Human Rights Council adopted a motion critical of the country.

Tamara Kunanayakam – one of the few Sri Lankan ambassadors who are Tamil – has been reappointed as the envoy to Cuba, a post she vacated nine months ago.

Tamara Kunanayakam

She will be removed from the Geneva post in July despite expressing strong wishes to stay in the job.

The transfer comes amid reports of divisions within the foreign ministry.

A senior official said her transfer back to Cuba was a routine matter and had nothing to do with the UN motion.

But it coincides with the emergence of an apparent rift in the foreign ministry, with one presidential adviser warning of “destructive elements” at work.

Ms Kunanayakam had been in the post just nine months and her removal means Sri Lanka will have had four Geneva ambassadors in the space of three years.

In a letter to the foreign minister on 1 May – and in subsequent media interviews – Ms Kunanayaka said she had loyally carried out the instructions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Ironically, she said the president had ruled out reappointing her to a previous posting like Cuba as this “would be interpreted as a demotion”.

“Removing one of the very few Tamils heading diplomatic missions abroad will allow questioning of the government’s commitment to reconciliation,” she said.

Furthermore it would “reinforce extremist elements on all sides”.

She told BBC Sinhala she totally rejected being removed from her current post, which she said would heighten perceptions of ethnic tensions.

“We will fall into the hands of those who say there is a conflict between Sinhala and Tamil.”

In 2009 the Sri Lankan government defeated Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland in the country after 26 years of civil war.

‘Completely routine’

Foreign ministry secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama told the BBC that Ms Kunanayakam was only expressing her personal views.

“It’s not a question of someone being happy or unhappy but having the best people for the right places,” he said.

Mr Amunugama insisted that her nine-month stay in the post and reappointment to her previous position were completely routine and had nothing to do with the Geneva human rights vote.

The transfer was decreed by the president on the recommendation of the minister of external affairs, he said.

Ms Kunanaykam has been a stalwart advocate of the government’s position, defending its human rights record and the divisions may be centred around personalities and factions rather than around ideology or doctrine.

Last month another senior diplomat, the ambassador to France, Dayan Jayatilleka, said he was “indignant and outraged” after a senior foreign ministry official wrote a letter threatening to charge him under Sri Lanka’s penal code.

Reports said he was accused of minor extravagances on the government’s account, including the repainting of the embassy and hotel accommodation for a newly arrived colleague.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Very interesting career, started as a human right activist, then war crimes defender, civil casualities justifier, finally ambassador for Cuba for a sinhala chuvinistic regime

    • 0

      Tamara mishandled the Geneva issue by antoganising the US delegation in particular and the west in general. Her anti west rhetoric were unwarranted and had made no useful purpose. Both Dayan and Tamara should know that Wimal Weerawansa type approach is suitable to manipulate common ignorants it is not fitting into a sophistication needed to be a good negotiator. In a way this demotion is message to USA and India demonstrating that the Govt of Sri Lanka is ready to work with them.

  • 0

    Ms. Kunanayakam, you have lot more tyo learn in Sri Lanka foreign service. Now you are good for nothing spent force. We have new Aryan blood to take care of Sri Lanka. You better vanish to where you came from without causing any more headaces

    • 0

      Sinhalese as Aryan is a buddhist monks saga ( todays terminology a lie) to show they are somone else than southindians

      Hitlers Aryan Philosophy is different, he sent Sintis and Romas, who were the origins of North India and were under SL philosophy Aryans, to gas chambers

      You poor folk, Sinhalese are not Aryans

      The genes of human is decoded, according to this results 89% of the sinhalese genes are dravidian origin, no wonder this so called Aryans came from Iran to India.

      You are the late generation of Veddas, who is the one and only origin of SL

      This 100 Vijaya and his thugs can not make 72% of the SL population.

      This is only a saga

  • 1

    Shame on this chauvinist regime.Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

  • 1

    Mr Retort, your comments wouldn’t sound any the less arrogant if they had come from one of Hitler’s nazis. Aryan blood? So you still believe in that nonsense, do you? Don’t you know that that shibboleth was disproved a long time ago, that the Sinhalese are a hybrid race of Aryan-Dravidians?

  • 0

    Serves her right for selling her self respect and the Tamil Cause for a pot of pottage. Disgusting and an insult to Professionals. Today if any Professional claims he/she is a President’s Counsel, one has to ask under which President, to ascertain the quality and capability.

  • 0

    Tamara tried hard to avert the votes approving the US resolution sponsored by 40 countries, including those of the European Union.
    But sri lanka had ruined its chances by zero progress in human rights.
    This happens even now – a canadian tamil trying to regain posession of his business properties has been killed. Killers “unknown”.

  • 1


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