Some second-level Foreign Service officers are in line for promotions under Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s plans to depoliticise Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps.
The Minister said he
intends to restrict the number of politically-appointed heads of
missions to 19, while the country has 66 overseas missions. It was not
immediately clear whether Sri Lanka had sufficient first-level Foreign
Service officers to help meet this ambitious target.
“We may have to
promote some of the second-level diplomats,” he told the Sunday Times.
“I also think it’s high time we injected the system with some new
diplomatic blood. There are a lot of talented people who may not be that
old, who I feel are much more capable than the people who have been
posing as ambassadors in the last few years.”
The Minister said
Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps will be completely overhauled. “It’s a
dreadful mess here,” he sighed. “The politicisation is unbelievable.”
Thirty-one—over half—of Sri Lanka’s missions abroad are headed by
political appointees. These include consuls general. On Tuesday, letters
went out to 27 heads of missions, giving them a month to report back to
Among those recalled is former President Mahinda
Rajapaksa’s cousin, Udayanga Weeratunga, who has served in Moscow for an
unprecedented eight years. High Commissioner to India, Sudharshan
Seneviratne will retain his post until after President Sirisena’s visit
to New Delhi in February.
The shakeup will happen at all levels,
Minister Samaraweera vowed. “First step is heads of missions,” he
explained. “If we are to recall all of our political appointees
together, many of our missions will collapse because 70 to 80 per cent
of them are political. We have to do this step-by-step.”
insisting that the earlier formula of 70:30 will be adhered to,” he
continued. “That is, 70 per cent of appointees will be from the Foreign
Service and up to 30 per cent for political appointments. But even the
latter must be of the highest quality and calibre.”
SOURCE: SUNDAY TIMES (Sri Lanka)
Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development Dr. Harsha de Silva said the Sri Lankan government would certainly investigate into the assets in Seychelles belonging to the former first family in Sri Lanka and their closest associates.
“There are various ways through which we can conduct investigations. We can seek the assistance of private auditors and proceed with the matter. At the same time, we can conduct inquires with the help of the Stolen Assets Recovery Programme of the World Bank. The government can assure the public that no one will be able to hide the ‘stolen assets’ in Seychelles and dodge local law enforcement mechanism,” the Deputy Minister told Asian Mirror on Monday.
“Seychelles is known to be a safe haven for stolen assets and a money laundering hub. But, we, as a government, have realized the gravity of this matter,” de Silva also added.
The Deputy Minister, when he was in the opposition, said that embezzled funds, including money swindled from development projects in Si Lanka, were deposited in Swiss banks through Seychelles.
Due to strict laws adopted by Switzerland, he said, the amount of funds deposited in Swiss banks under Sri Lankan addresses had decreased in recent years while deposits through Seychelles had drastically increased.
“The population in Seychelles is slightly more than 90,000 but the deposits under the addresses of that country are worth about 3,000 million Swiss Francs last year, which is higher than the accumulated deposits under Sri Lankan addresses,” he told media.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, nearly seven months before his visit, opened a Sri Lankan High Commission in Seychelles while setting up a branch of the Bank of Ceylon in the island.Despite its population which does not exceed 90,000, Mihin Lanka, an airline started under directives from former President Rajapaksa, started a direct flight to the island last year.