23 March, 2019

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The Story Of The Rajapaksa Diplomats

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr Ranga Kalansooriya

Sunday Times in its last week edition carried somewhat a disturbing headline story that brought embarrassment to Sri Lanka mainly on international theatre. The story elaborated how Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Russia had allegedly involved in arms sales to separatist rebel fighters in Ukraine.

This episode evolved following a formal complaint by the Ukrainian government of Petro Poroshenko lodged a formal and detailed complaint with the Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the news story said. The accusation mainly deals with the sale of assault rifles and other small arms. Though both Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and his deputy Ajith Perera made confirming comments on this complaint, local language media did not pick up the story at its desired levels.

If these allegations are true and correct, the highest ranked Sri Lankan diplomat in one of the key capitals (one of the five Security Council member countries) in the world has violated all accepted norms of diplomacy and international relations.

Udayanga Weeratunga who is the nephew of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been resident of Ukranian capital Kiev running his own business “Club Lanka” until he was appointed to the highest rank at our Embassy in Moscow soon after President Rajapaksa assumed office ten years ago. According to his own Facebook page in which he is still the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow, Weeratunga has studied at National Technical University of Ukraine, Kiev and graduated in 1991.

Ambassador to Russia Udayanga, Ex- President and Ex-FM

Ambassador to Russia Udayanga, Ex- President and Ex-FM

This unacceptable and highly embarrassing conduct of a top diplomat raises many questions (for which answers are pretty obvious I suppose) and challenges to the present government of Sri Lanka.

Weeratunga was among the dozens of kith and kin who extensively benefited with lavish diplomatic postings in capitals all over the world with or without necessary qualifications; mostly without. On many occasions the only qualification was being a member of a powerful family tree or connected otherwise to the top. These appointments not only included top diplomatic posts, but second and third tiers of embassies, as well as non-diplomatic postings. If I am not mistaken several embassies ran without a single career diplomat within the mission office which could lead into highly vulnerable situations on protocol and consular fronts.

Of course, the blame of appointing such substandard individuals to high diplomatic positions could be directed at the political leadership of the day, but at least there is one barrier that such appointments have to face – if at all it could considered a barrier. These appointments have to be approved by the Parliamentary High Post Committee and it would be interesting to go through the reports of such meetings where these individuals were whetted and scrutinised. I do remember the career diplomats’ collective body raising their concerns over substandard appointments at several occasions but those fell on deaf ears.

These crucial appointments were made totally neglecting the country priorities of the day – at a time when Sri Lanka was militarily confronting the most ruthless terror organisation in the world. Harsh military responses demanded tough political battles on diplomatic grounds in every single capital wherever we were present through our missions. But what happened in reality was entirely the opposite. Many political appointees were enjoying perks, some were engaging in their own businesses,some were educating their children in popular universities, some were on ‘medical postings’, some were dealing with state resources to make commercial benefits – all at the expense of the public. There was another fascinating part to this entire episode. The government outsourced most of the functions of our embassies to high-flying international private agencies through multimillion dollar deals resulting in a double waste of public funds.

Personnel in missions abroad should not be confined to career diplomatic officers. The embassies should be multi-faceted, multi- skilled one-stop shops representing Sri Lanka. There are many non-career diplomats who had excelled and became iconic figures within the country’s Foreign Service; the list could span from Prof. Gunapala Malalasekera to Rosy Senanayake.

Realising the importance of bringing private and corporate sector skills into the country’s diplomatic sphere, former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar institutionalised a mechanism where many professionals from different sectors joined the Foreign Service. But that process at times faced several challenges including a few legal battles – but this does not mean that these could not be repeated or that the challenges could not be mitigated and the system restructured with a new dynamism.

The challenges of the day in foreign relations are multi-faceted ones that predominantly include damage control measures as well. There is a clear paradigm shift in the country’s foreign policy following the Jan 8 developments in the country and those were clearly visible during the past three months. The Geneva achievement, to my mind, is a temporary gain but bigger battles are ahead.

Although past political appointees were quick fixes filling those vacancies with necessary skills and capacities is the challenge. Foreign Service professionals alone could not fill this vacuum in meeting the present day challenges of Sri Lanka in our missions abroad.

The world of diplomacy is now slowly transforming from political diplomacy to economic diplomacy. Several European countries are already taking rigorous measures along this path. One Scandinavian ambassador in an East Asian capital briefed me last week on how their embassies are now converting into service providers to their own home-based businesses.“This has become more than seventy per cent of our work and we are not doing this as a mere service. This is a service for money. The embassy charges lucrative amounts from these home-based businesses to provide the services on an hourly rate basis that goes up to even USD 150 per hour,” the ambassador said..

“So we are now busy in several fronts – attracting necessary local knowledge and skills to the mission to provide these services, developing business plans and revenue models, I am trying to be skillful on these strange subjects myself. We used to enjoy golf and colourful evenings, but not anymore,” he said.

Thus, the political engagements and focus is now dominated with economic focus at these embassies.They are supposed to be one-stop shops for business opportunity seekers, PR exercises on public diplomacy but without totally neglecting the importance of political and consular engagements.

These trends could be too early for Sri Lanka, but could provide some food for thought in prioritising our challenges and opportunities in diplomatic fronts. The embassies which predominantly were retirement destinations, personal business ventures and places for personal achievements for kith and kin and other henchmen (sometimes for retired foreign service personnel as well) for a period over a decade need a serious clean up and revamping effort.

At the end of the day it is all about value for money. Millions of dollars of public funds are being spent monthly to maintain 50 odd Sri Lankan foreign missions all over the world. Thus, we need a strict monitoring and evaluation mechanism on these embassies to get the best value for public money.

Professionalism is the buzzword in this whole game.

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Latest comments

  • 20
    0

    Where did this guy get the arms from? Who supplied it? Was Sri Lankan officials of the previous government involved in this as well??

    • 8
      1

      Ranga Kalansooriya –

      RE: Ambassador to Russia Udayanga, Ex- President and Ex-FM

      Nice Picture of three Crooks, Robbers and Criminals, CRCs.

      “If these allegations are true and correct, the highest ranked Sri Lankan diplomat in one of the key capitals (one of the five Security Council member countries) in the world has violated all accepted norms of diplomacy and international relations.”

      “violated all accepted norms of diplomacy and international relations.”

      What about the violated all accepted norms of human rights of its citizens>

      [Edited out]

    • 1
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 3
      4

      what a load of rubbish. This is a yet another artcle from the yahapalanya rubbish mountain to discredit MR Regime. Why would putin want a Sri Lankan to supply arms to his forces in Ukraine. Doesn’t make sense in so many levels.

  • 9
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    He is hiding in Russia , because he helped Putin

  • 27
    3

    It is a family sponsored international business. Drugs, Arms, organ sales are key products of Mahinda & Co business. Vasu, Weerawanse, Dinesh are co-owners of local business.

    • 7
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      this reminds us the other embarrassing episode of Rajapakse relative , Jaliya Wickramasooriya in the USA , he also had to leave the high office with a similar back room deal getting exposed by the US officials. what a news , now both USA and Russian SL embassies have been destroyed by our very own ambassadors , miracle indeed!

  • 12
    1

    Looks to me like Russia is supplying arms to “rebels” in Ukraine through SL! Is this the price we have to pay for getting arms to wipe out LTTE from Russia? Perhaps more is to come…

  • 4
    3

    Don’t know about selling arms to rebels in Ukraine? Don’t believe it either, because Russia is NOT a country without a surplus of arms. Why would they want to import arms from crummy SLK which is just a speck among arms sellng countries, legal or illegal. It may however be possible that this chap Udayanga might have been doing some other illegal business, gem stones, or elephant tusks and such like, and transferring ill gotten moneys of his kinsfolk in SLK into Rusiian and Ukrainian banks. Why did he disappear? Simply to stay abroad and spend some of that money as a play boy! May be he is not too keen to return to his missus

  • 5
    1

    Chi key disgraceful. Anyway the family has looted left right and centre from the Poor old Srilankans. Still some cronies are crying to bring back the crooks. To bury the crimes and start all over again. Round 2 for the swindlers.

  • 8
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    Most foreign service appointments were terrible during MARA time.

    This includes the militarization of the foreign service by the appointment of service commanders and their deputies.

    Imagine Shavendra being made a diplomat or the Brigadier who ordered shooting at Rathupaswela being given a diplomatic posting or the IGP who resigned due to Katunayake shooting being posted overseas?

    MARA sons girl friends being given diplomatic postings !!!

    Gosh!! What a country !!!

    • 0
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      you should have became yes boy then you would have benefitted so do not whine!

  • 2
    3

    Supplying arms to Ukrainian rebels! What Hog Wash!! Putin is quite capable of doing that on his own, thank you kindly. This fellow may have been appointed as an envoy because he spoke fluent Russian, educated and well versed with the culture having lived in Ukraine for decades (and of course because he had the right connections). Diplomats should be appointed through a Public Foreign Service and not as a service to the political henchmen, and they should be trained in diplomacy, foreign policy and language of the country they appointed to, Sri Lankan diplomatic appointments are and have been a joke, having said that this arms supply accusations are, did I say hog wash..yes that is what it is!!!

  • 6
    1

    It is known fact in international circles that Rajapakse government has involved in many shady under-deals. Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia involved in web of deals, Basically he was the guy acted behalf of Russians.
    Also Uma oya project with Iran, basically a cover-up done by Rajapakse cronies to launder money behalf of Iran, Ever thought why US is so aggrevated by Rajapakse regime?

  • 1
    0

    The new government has initiated action to fill DPl vacancies ina transparent manner. For instance,it has given an opportunity to SLAS officers selected on merit. Names of SLAS selectees for DPL jobs have appeared in the web site of the Ministry of Public Administration. Weil done! A good beginning in the right direction.
    You have mentioned that focus should be on economic diplomacy. Unfortunately what is our economic/trade diplomats are doing. For instance the Trade lady in London has now completed 08 years in London. She may be wanting to complete 10 years for her children to qualify for UK residency after 10 years of continuous residency. She has managed to get extensions like this through former President Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, a friend of her husband. Trade representation has become a monopoly of the Commerce department. It is important to review the current system of appointing commercial diplomats. It should be opened to officers from the BOI, EDB, Customs, Tea Board and the private sector. But it should be done in a very transparent manner.
    It is important to give a good education to your children but not at the expense of the tax payers money. Except one or two most of the trade officers are useless. They are happy when there are problems in the Foreign Ministry as they can relax without any fear.

  • 1
    2

    Which Sunday Times Ranga?
    So you are back in destructive journalism and destroying the reputation of the man who was once your friend. I suppose like Rauf Hakeem told me: “Relationships in Politics are never permanent ones” . Of course that is good for the [Edited out]but for a Sinhalese Buddhist? I know our “temple elephant” was a snitch and a turn coat”.
    The Ukrainian rebels are right because they had a lawfully elected President the Americans did not like. Where is the problem? Take Assad,Gadhafi, Sadaam the Jews did n’t like them so the US and Ranil don’t like them either. Good luck with you high post.

    • 1
      1

      Q: Which Sunday Times Ranga?

      A: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150322/news/lankas-moscow-envoy-accused-of-selling-arms-to-ukraine-rebels-141253.html

      Having difficulty in finding uncomfortable news, Peter?

    • 0
      0

      And, in case you didn’t know, here’s some more uncomfortable news:

      http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130714/plus/sri-lankas-first-phd-in-news-journalism-52419.html

      • 0
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        kalansoooooriya,,,,,,,,Big names, “PhD’s” doesnt matter. What you ‘write’ spews hate and venom that blinds. One track mind going berserk with hallucinations. Go get a life, moron! Keep away from Sri Lanka.

    • 0
      0

      who is this Ranga guy what he is a doctor of medicine or else? he is talking bull crap Ukrainian rebels buy weapons? what nonsense weapons were supplied by Russians or captured from pathetic Ukrainian army, Enil;s handpicks pollies can not understand geopolitics in eastern Europe, if they can not understand stop making statement that make all world laughing yes its true the SL embassy has a long history doing speculative deals vehicle spare parts, tea, gems even arranging male prostitution from SL embassy premises in Prospect Mira so its not a thing happened just during MR;s time

  • 2
    0

    Any connection to the flotilla of arms (Avant Garde) controlled by GR now under scrutiny ?

  • 0
    0

    Dear Dr Kalansuriya.
    You find the article on Sunday Times disturbing. Yes, I too am disturbed that this highly incredulous story was published by a so called national newspaper owned by a close relative of the present prime minister. What is shameful and inexcusable is that you give credence to these imps without batting an eyelid to check the veracity .
    Is it asking too much from supposedly educated people like you to apprise the public and readers of the charges of unfathomed corruption of the present government, which is barely three months old, ranging from nepotism, favouritism, victimisation of innocent public servants, abuse of the judicial system, usurping the authority of the police, and scandals to daylight robbery at the Central Bank, our most cherished financial institution.

  • 0
    0

    Arms supplied by AVANTGARD. Arrest Gotabaya. This is the reason he is unable to go to USA.

    Ask him if he can go to USA.

  • 0
    0

    I am not accepting what MR regime done to our diplomatic service, but I thought write this note because Dr. Kalansooriya and his political forefathers should go in front of a mirror and check whether they are so clean to point the fingers to others.
    Will start from Dr.Kalansooriya, as far as my knowledge Dr. Kalansooriya(then Mr.Kalansooriya) was appointed as the Minister councilor to High commission of Malaysia in year 2002, I want to know what type education qualification and prior experience he had at that time to hold a minister councilor post? He got this posting because of [Edited out].
    He was a journalist in lake house then and how he got in to that post during Premadasa regime is a another story.
    Dr Kanansooriya mention her former boss Rosy Sennanayake is a iconic non carrier Diplomat, what a shame to Pro. Gunapala Malalasekara. If he think illegal human smuggling is a part of great diplomacy,then he is right. I do not want to [Edited out]
    It is a well known fact that his former political master late Tyrone Fernando [Edited out]. During Mr. Tyrone Fernando’s time UNP filled appoint 60-70% of diplomatic post with non carrier diplomats and all most 100% of ancillary posts in the missions were filled by their henchaman. They are the one started this damage. That is why we have heard about drunken Ambassador’s inappropriate behavior during

    What I think these type of bad practices done by UNP regime open Mahinda to do the same and tarnish our international image and make arm dealing ambassadors.

    I can write 100 pages about blunders done by these politicians and there henchamen to our country.

    I feel sorry for my fellow citizens because in Sri Lanka Dr.Kalansooriya is taking about clean diplomacy, Mahinda is taking about anti corruption, Rosy taking about women’s right and Rajitha is talking about Yahapalanaya. What a shame !!!!

    I hope Dr. Kalansooriya will get a Ambassador post soon, good thing he has paper qualification now.

    • 0
      0

      “What I think these type of bad practices done by UNP regime open Mahinda to do the same and tarnish our international image and make arm dealing ambassadors.”

      Wow , what a discovery after all the personal attacks on the author ? so according to your latest discovery , previous UNP regime had committed many crimes thereby UNP is responsible for all MR blunders ! yes, we need people like you to move forward as a nation .

      • 0
        0

        Sirilal

        I have seen this type of articles every time when a regime change. You wait and see what new government is going to do. They will start doing the same thing. Sri Lankans forget things so fast. I do not want to white wash any one, same as I want to tell that this author does not wear clean suits sling the mud on others.

  • 0
    0

    What a shame Kalansooriya is talking about clean diplomacy !!!
    Then how he got the minister councilor position to Malaysian High Commission? and what he did there?

  • 1
    0

    Big deal. Saudi Arabia does this all the time. Supply weapons to radical Islamic groups all over the world. Even the US and UK do it, so long as it suits their foreign agenda.

  • 1
    0

    Dr Kalansooriya does not go into Intenational Espionage and Diplomacy and his knowledge seems to me very limited indeed. I have no intererest in defending Weeratunga but his supplying/selling Arms to the Ukranian rebels seems to be much appreciated by certain world powers. If you think that Rosy Senanayake would make a better diplomat then you dont even know your own politicians aspiring to be diplomats. Just dont try to compare Dr Gunapala Malalasekera, Ananda Guruge, RSS Gunawardane, Vernon Mendis, Balasubramanium or for that matter Gen Dennis Perera to any of these cronies.Your doctorate must be in medicine.

  • 0
    0

    One shady diplonut appointed in Sydney was Bandula Jayasekara.{edited out]

  • 0
    0

    Big names, “PhD’s” doesnt matter. What you ‘write’ spews hate and venom that blinds. One track mind going berserk with hallucinations. Go get a life, moron! Keep away from Sri Lanka.

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