After the Colombo Telegraph exposed how Foreign Ministry’s Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage was involved in an utterly unprofessional media gimmick, leaking a confidential report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to Government-friendly media, it has now been revealed that the same individual styling himself as “Foreign Secretary” issued a stern warning to his subordinates regarding sensitive information being ‘leaked’ to the media.
Issuing a circular to all Sri Lankan Ambassadors in foreign countries on 11 January 2021 Colombage claims that “certain media institutions have obtained confidential information pertaining to key discussions at the Foreign Ministry” and that such articles have been “noted as bringing disrepute to the Government and the Foreign Ministry.” Colombo Telegraph has obtained a copy of the circular.
A top ambassador who received the warning told Colombo Telegraph that “it was a joke for the Admiral to be talking of disrepute to the Foreign Ministry after having leaked a confidential UN document to the media last week.”
Colambage the one time sailor who was parachuted to the post of Secretary to the Foreign Ministry by President Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa after the Parliamentary elections in August 2020 notes further in his memo with reference to leaks in the media that leaking “is quite a negative and unethical practice and does not argue well for the institution.” The Colambage circular further warns: “Immediate action to investigate such leakages of confidential information will be taken by the Ministry and those found responsible will be subject to strict disciplinary action.”
Then last week, a few days after issuing the warning circular Colambage took it upon himself to violate his own order. Large parts of High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s draft report showed up in the pages of a national Colombo newspaper.
The UN is furious about the leak in the Colombo media especially since Colombage had requested for a 10-day extension to respond to the confidential report by Michelle Bachelet the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN. If not for this delay Bachelet’s report would have been released sooner. But her office granted Sri Lanka more time to reply to her report and held back the report until it was received. But several days before the GOSL reply was delivered to the Office of the High Commission on 27th January Colambage had already leaked the contents of the report in several interviews he gave in the Sri Lankan media and also a full copy of the report to a newspaper that has been friendly towards the Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa Government.
Colombo Telegraph learns that the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations intended to make sure the leaked report took the wind out of Bachelet’s sails when her Office finally released the damning document. The friendly newspaper was to downplay Bachelet’s findings about the Nandasena Government’s pathetic human rights record and use the leaked copy to kick off the spin doctoring that the High Commissioner for Human Rights was biased against Sri Lanka. The agenda was made clear when the newspaper failed to even mention one of the most damning parts of the report which was that Bachelet was finally telling member states for the first time to consider referring the Sri Lanka human rights situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Senior officials have expressed concern over the increasing militarisation of the Foreign Ministry under Admiral Colombage. It is reliably learned that at a recent meeting Colombage informed a group of shocked senior officials that their private communications with each other are being monitored by ‘different agencies.’ The Ministry officials were told that any criticism of the government or the foreign secretary will be known through this surveillance.