19 July, 2024


USAID Moves On The Bar Association

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

First they offer help and then they enslave

‘First they had the book and we had the land. Then they said “close your eyes, let us pray”. When we opened our eyes, we had the book and they had the land.’ — Bishop Desmond Tutu on the relationship between invader and missionary in the conquest of Africa.

It all began innocently enough, not too dissimilar to the Europeans who upon ‘discovering’ new lands obtained first the goodwill of native peoples with bead in return for temporary shelter and later spilled their blood and robbed their lands. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was at the beginning full of promises and generosity. It began when Upul Jayasuriya was the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). Money was offered and accepted to refurbish the old auditorium.

As of now, the agency notorious for its covert operations to destabilize countries it purports to help, is involved in numerous other projects including the development of the District Court Library, improving the BASL Library, BASL system networking project, public forums, trafficking program, ethics issues, BASL research unit and the ICT project.

Most of these projects are in the ‘in progress’ category with some having little or no progress to show. Some of them are partly funded by BASL but are conveniently referred to as ‘USAID projects’.

Interestingly apart from the BASL President, Geoffrey Alagaratnam the rest of the Bar seems to be clueless about projects, duration, budget lines and such. Such information is known almost exclusively to Prakalathan Thuraisingham (also known as ‘Prabha’), who is the on-the-spot point-man for USAID in BASL offices and activities. Thuraisingham works closely with Nayomi Wickramaratne who was the previous Administrative Secretary (Acting) of BASL.

Interestingly, she held that post even as she worked for USAID, obtaining two salaries, a fact that the then Treasurer Upul Deshapriya vehemently objected to. Whether or not Upul Jayasuriya knew this is unclear. What is clear is that through her, USAID had access to the personal files, the accounts, system information and details of the management structure, all of which could easily be used to manipulate the BASL for whatever ends. Whether this happened, we don’t know, but the opportunity was there and indeed was created either knowingly or due to gross neglect and incompetence on the part of whoever was responsible for creating these conditions.

USAID does pay a rent for the space occupied, but nothing is paid for the use of other BASL resources including employees. What might have begun in cordial terms had within the space of 18 months transformed into a situation where USAID officials operate as though they own the BASL. USAID officials are reported to be poking their fingers into administrative operations of the BASL. Thuraisingham is reported to strutting around as though he is a member of the BASL, even being present that election of Bar Council Members. The truth is he is neither member nor an employee. Whether or not he had the blessings of the BASL President and the rest of the BASL membership is not known.

Most disturbing (for lawyers) is the fact that through the ‘networking project’ funded by USAID the details of all BASL members, court cases against lawyers, projects etc., can be accessed by an outside agency. Considering the sway of the BASL in the political life of the country (it played a key role in the eviction of Mohan Peiris and the reinstating of Shiranee Bandaranayake as Chief Justice, for example), the benefits for a rogue outfit operating for a country that does not subscribe to the ethics one expects in matters that are described as ‘friendly’, are pretty obvious.

Information is key. Documentation, historically, is often a necessary first step that is followed by either purchase or outright capture. Perhaps the affairs of the BASL are not that dramatic, but a body that purports to be independent of political control (a fact seriously compromised by the election of Upul Jayasuriya, a known UNPer and an immediate beneficiary of the January 8 result) should not only steer clear of political parties but all other bodies, especially agencies that have a history of meddling and indeed subversion.

It doesn’t look as the membership of the BASL has a clue about what’s happening. The current President and the Executive Committee, for example, are contemplating a change in the BASL structure which could very well make the ‘USAID takeover’ official for all intents and purposes.
The envisaged restructuring will see the appointment of an Executive Director who will function as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Registered Lobbyist. This would severely diminish the discretionary powers of the Secretary, Treasurer and Administrative Secretary.

The project is the brainchild of USAID which is to provide relevant funds.

The person appointed to the position will have wide powers which include implementing programs regardless of management changes, developing income generating plans and linking the bar with other professionals and organizations.  In addition he/she will be involved in education, communication, data base and community through policy, reporting and programming.

He/she will also develop strategic plans and implement the action/operational plan and micro donation strategies, advice on all BASL activities, act as official spokesperson of the bar, represent BASL and supervise day to day operations of the BASL.

Thuraisingham’s name (Surprise! Surprise!) is being tossed around as the possible first ‘Executive Director’. BASL members would know the nature of the organization’s relationship with the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. The potential for involvement in unwarranted and dangerous ways in the affairs of justice needs no elaboration.

The proposal does not mention eligibility criteria, opening the post to people who are not members of BASL and therefore technically to people who have no understanding of the judicial system of the country, its history and traditions, or the role of the BASL. The problem then is not about Thuraisingham. If not him, then someone else, that’s the logic that can be drawn from the absence of specification. And if USAID is funding it, there’s no reason to believe that USAID will not have a say in who gets the job.
The membership needs to ask questions. Alagaratnam needs to answer questions. Will he inform the membership of all that has happened, including the role of the USAID, the operations of Thuraisingham, the status of BASL vis-à-vis USAID and what the possible appointment of an USAID-handpick would mean for the BASL?

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Malinda Seneviratne, Mahinda Rajapaksa Shill and White-Washer.

    RE: USAID Moves On The Bar Association

    “‘First they had the book and we had the land. Then they said “close your eyes, let us pray”. When we opened our eyes, we had the book and they had the land.’ — Bishop Desmond Tutu on the relationship between invader and missionary in the conquest of Africa.”

    A good one, especially to come from a Medamulana MaRa Shill.

    Can you talk to the Native Veddah Aethho, and ask them what they have to say about the Paradesheshi, Paras?

    Malinda, MaRa Shill, can you ask your boss Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa to sheel out some stolen money from the People and buy out US AID?

    • 3

      This was not said by Desmond Tutu ..but by the founding father of Kenya JOMO KENYAATA……sorry mahavamsa information is wrong..

      Keyatta`s Moi Moi libération movement killed 100s of whites even babies during freedom struggle and British called Kenyaata a terrorist……after Kenya got independent the same British Queen gave a royal welcome to President Kenyaata when he made his first visit to U.K

      His son who is the current President is under investigation for genocide by ICC at The Hague ….Iguru Kenyaata the President went and appeared at the iCC at the Hague even sent his Vice President..

      He he he here MURDERPAKSE and DOGGABAYA are shivering when they hear about UN report and ICC


      Now even worse than street rats…


      • 2

        MS; You sound like a broken down record player!

        The worst colonialism today is Black on Black, brwon man on brown man..
        In post-colonial countries the majority group colonize, oppress and discriminate against minorities all over Asia and Africa…

        Sri Lanka has had independence for 60 years, so stop blaming the foreigner for Sinhala Modakama aka Sinhala nationalist RACISM! IF the majority Sinhalas of Lanka had not oppressed and rioted, and DISCRIMINATED against the minorities – Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Veddhas etc. no outside power could intervene in domestic affairs of Lanka!

        Get with the PLOT DUDE MS! Democracy in the Land of the Modayas has become the TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY!

      • 1

        This [Edited out] MS obviously does not believe in the RIGHT TO INFORMATION!

        If the USAID is funding CAPACITY BUILDING of the Sri Lanka judiciary and Re-EDUCATION of Lawyers who now think that politicization of the judiciary is the norm – what is wrong with this?!

  • 6

    USAID is CIA.

    So, what ever Bar Association do would support what the USA interests are. They will pay hefty….., lavish… Bar Association will love it.

    Just watch the show.

  • 6

    interesting – wheels behind wheels… thanks for expose.

  • 7

    Anybody who thinks USAID is helping the world and not itself (USA)is a dummy.

  • 7

    US Aid has tantacles in a lot of govt: organisations, the government should firmly reject US Aid dictating appointments to BASL.Sadly this govt: has no back bone to stand up to the benefit and safety of Sri Lanka. The president openly says that ‘he wants to refuse Modi but he cannot’ which obviously shows that as a president he has no back bone and spineless. He has given into India, US knows he cannot refuse to demands made by US. So everybody will dictate to Sri Lanka, end of the day public in Sri Lanka is downtrodden by all these foreign countries. The sooner we stand up as a nation defend ourselves, the country will be respected, not by licking their toes.

    • 2

      He he he begger can’t say no or refuse the charity……

      One is USAID and other is Japanese JETRO who control politics in most developing countries

      The future of SL will be in tears and pains and you all deserved this …


  • 8

    BASL needs reform since it is too politicized.

    Also it needs to be self financing of activities.

  • 7

    Thanks Malinda for exposing the proposed take over of BASL by USAID.

    BASL should have remained apolitical but guys like Upul Jayasuriya have made it into a pro-UNP and pro-American organisation. The activities of BASL office-bearers in support of Sirisena Presidency had deprived BASL of its rightful role to remain a neutral organisation representing the interests of lawyers of the country.

    The news that USAAID will be in a position to control BASL policies is very disturbing. American agencies like USAID and Asia Foundation are known fronts for CIA operations. These US agencies under the guise of financial aids and project funding infiltrate into sensitive and influential organisations and use them as cover for their covert activities. It is typical for these US agencies to fund projects like legal aid, human rights training,civic education, and even judicial mentoring in third world countries. I have personally seen how these US agecies operated in Cambodia when that country emerged from years of war and conflict after the implementation of the Paris Peace Accord in the early nineties. Under the guise of assiting the newly elected members of the Cambodian Constituent Assembly, covert CIA opertives functioning as Asia Foundation staffers exerted great influence over many Cambodian people’s representatives and made them pro-American.

  • 2

    The quotation with which he starts is probably not from Tutu. Tutu, a bishop, could hardly have said that, though some attribute the quote to him. It was probably Kenyatta who first said it.

    Aid is a means of influence. They do not provide charity. Each scholarship, each building constructed with aid, every stint at Sandhurst – is motivated by the reason that the giver hopes to influence the receiver. With all the Third World nonsense that we speak, we are not concerned about the receiving of such aid from rich countries, some which exploited us. Neither will we be wary of receiving such aid from the new givers, China and India. A game has been started as to who to rely on and who is the better giver and how one can be played against the other. With all the Mahavamsa greatness, the fact is that beggary (no “u” despite the lion) is the creed that has become common. Digging out the mechanics of how such aid is made use of is of no use unless the culture of dependence can be eliminated. The motives and personnel involved in such aid projects can be dug out but as long as the state is willing to receive, why blame the giver and its agents.

  • 0

    Good point Sivakumaran…however the fact remains small nations like SL cannot survive without the global powers, for millennia SL leaders have played this game ultimately losing the whole island to British, independence regained and just 67 years later SL is back to begging from Peter and snitching on Paul, and if the current currents prevail, Mary (or rather Hilary) will be running the show.

    • 1

      he he he Hilary is a good friend of Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu ….

      Last time when Hilary was visiting India she flew to Chennai to meet Jayalalitha…and spend hours with her

      Greater China has just signed and agreement with Modi to open Deputy High Commission in Chennai …this was expected..and Greater China will install ALL Chinese diplomates who are proficient in Tamil here..Chinese are moving their cards in a right manner ..they don’t care about MODAYAS

      So so grandchildren’s of LION wait for more fire works..

      When the right time come one of the super power will do the surgery of dividing this country ….

      and they know who are intelligent here

      Till then taste toddy and dance with Nona



    • 3

      You are right. We cannot return to our agricultural past. We will be a happier people if we could. So, we are caught up in this vortex of aid givers.

      Maybe Malinda and his gang will favour us with the information as to who gave the money for his sojourns in the US and other Western capitals? Shouldn’t be throwing too many stones when you have profited in the past from aid, even if you now want to bite the hands that fed.

  • 3

    [Edited out]

    UNHCR investigations or USAID or US help are all eventually to establish a Military Camp in Sri lanka to block Chinese vessels crossing the Indian Ocean shipping route. Diego Garcia contract is also coming up for renewal.

    Already, Sea route run close to Sri lanka is among the busiest shipping routes in the world.

    That is why Mahinda Rajapakse had to go towards China.

  • 4

    I couldn’t believe this. What I understood someone try to take revenge on the persons name mentioned above. How internal news comes out from BASL? This will be really dangerous for BASL in near future . As far I heard USAID project going to be end by Next year July. Someone from BASL manipulated this need find that person punished send them off.

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