An adjournment debate on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was held in Parliament on Wednesday. The motion was introduced by JVP MP Anura Dissanayaka and seconded by UNP Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella. Following are excerpts of speeches made during the debate.
| Courtesy: The Sunday Times, Colombo
JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake:
( August 10, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It’s no secret that the External Affairs Minister is someone who bends polices to suit the position of the side he is in. When he was in the UNP, he said we must go beyond 13 to 13 Plus, and now he says 13 is too much and we must go to 13 minus. This is a clever tactic. As the saying goes, “if you go to the bats wedding, you have to adapt accordingly”. He has shown clever ability for that. But today, the EAM has slipped away from your hands. We have no problem with him spending time abroad as he is the EAM, but when he is in Colombo, is he managing the EAM? These days, he has become the main speaker at “Tharunayata Hetak” and SLFP meetings, but we did not see former Foreign Minister, the late Lakshman Kadirgamar engaging in such meetings.
The EAM has gone astray now. Who is in charge of the EAM today? It’s a hidden force. The EAM and the Foreign Service is in crisis today, and we have lost our friends in the international community due to our bad policies. The Foreign Service has been turned into a branch of the SLFP today, like what was done to the Police, the Judiciary, the Bribery Commission, the Inland Revenue Department and the Customs. I have enough documentation to prove this. Who are the heads of Sri Lanka’s missions abroad these days?
Look at this list I have. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Netherlands is Buddhi Athauda- son of Minister Athauda Seneviratne, Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga- nephew of the head of state. For nine years he has been Ambassador there. Jaliya Wickramasooriya who was Ambassador to Washington, also a relative, was involved in a fraud, but what have you done as Minister, about it? Instead of taking any action, you have nominated him as Ambassador to Canada. This has brought disrepute to our country. High Commissioner to the Maldives Dixon Dela is the father of the Diyawadana Nilame. High Commissioner to Nigeria A.S.P. Liyanage, also a confidant of the SLFP. Ambassador to Sweden, Oshadi Alahapperuma- brother of Minister Dullas Allahaperuma. What is his qualification to hold such a post? He is concurrently accredited to seven other countries. Consul in Sydney, Yasara Abenayake- granddaughter of late film star Gamini Fonseka. A breakup of a love affair led to her appointment. Ambassador to Turkey, Bharathi Wijeratne- wife of late Minister Mano Wijeratne. Ambassador to Vietnam, Prof Ivan Amarasinghe, Ambassador to Germany, Sarath Kongahage, High Commissioner to Singapore, Ferial Ashroff, Ambassador to Jordan Gamini Rajapaksa, Second Secretary in London, Muthu Padmakumara, First Secretary in Melbourne, Osada Yapa Abeywardene and Second Secretary in the Permanent Mission to UN in New York Chamithri Rambukwella. All of them are either relatives or friends of SLFP leaders. If this is not a branch of the SLFP, then what is it?
What is this Foreign Service? This is like putting your relatives into the Provincial Councils. Those who have failed the competitive examinations are posted to overseas missions. There are 49 heads of missions and, of these, only 11 from the Foreign Service. There are also four who had retired from the service, and if you add them it will be 14. In Canberra, of the 20 officials, 19 are political appointees. Of the 156 Foreign Service officers, 70 are stuck in the EAM.
UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera:
The UNP has consistently maintained that the opening of the floodgates of intentional scrutiny can only be avoided by holding an independent and credible local investigation into the serious allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian laws of the Rajapaksa regime. When looking at the recently appointed members of the advisory council, to assist the missing person’s commission, their credibility is questionable. Is it appointed for the greater good of the country or to serve the interest of a few? There are serious questions about the credibility of those appointed to this panel. A closer examination of the credentials of these advisors makes it clear that the motives of the Government may not be pristine and altruistic, as it may seem as first glance. The role of Sir Desmond De Silva QC as an apologist for the excesses of the Rajapaksa regime during the last days of the war, is well documented.
The lesser known backgrounds of the other two advisors are also important. Sir Geoffrey Nice, one of the advisors, a Professor of Law at Gresham University, is an expert on head of state immunity. According to reports, he was contacted by former Libyan leader Mohamed Gadhafi when he was referred to the International Criminal Court. He did not get a chance to represent Gadhafi, as he was killed before anything could be done. The background of the second expert, Prof D. Crane, is even more interesting. He was hired by Moussa Dadis Camara, former President of Republic of Guinea, who now stands accused of war crimes for responsibility for the massacre of 156 people in September 2009. What is interesting is that Prof Crane managed to absolve the president of the crime and place the blame and responsibility lower down the chain of command. Therefore, Prof Crane has the experience of saving the skins of dictators facing war crimes charges, and pinning the blame lower down.
There is an attempt to safeguard a family, not the country. How much are these foreign experts being paid, because these kinds of lawyers don’t come cheap? I will not ask Minister G.L. Peiris because he does not know what is happening in his Ministry. It is Sajin Vaas Guanwardena and President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga who are running the ministry. It is they who went around and found these experts. It is a big racket. This is a move to betray the military and save those who gave the orders. Those who once shouted they will go to the electric chair for the country, are now trying to betray the military.
Minister External Affairs G.L. Peiris:
MP Anura Dissanayaka launched an attack on the officials of the Ministry, which is unfair. As a politician, I am prepared to face any mudslinging .Politicians cannot shy away from this kind of thing, as it is part and parcel of politics. There are tale carriers in any ministry, who are disgruntled and carry tales to MPs. This happens in my ministry as well, and I regret those things have been brought up during a Parliamentary debate. I taught for 26 years at the University of Colombo. The students were not all from Colombo, but also from rural areas. Many of them are in good places today. Those who enter the Foreign Service are not recruited based on their English knowledge only, but are given a training while in service.
The MP said that I go to villages and address meetings. I can say without any fear that I go to all areas of the country to explain our foreign policy to the people. I have to give a clear picture to the people. It is my responsibility. Even former Minister Kadirgamar addressed meetings in Colombo, but he did not have the ability to go to the village and address people in Sinhala, but he worked from Colombo. Some MPs spoke of African countries with ridicule and in a derogatory manner. That is their colonial mentality. When HE went to Tanzania, there were such comments made here, but a few days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit there, US President Barak Obama also visited Tanzania, then no one said anything.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in an interview with the Hindu newspaper in 2010, has said the solution to the ethnic problem can only be found with the intervention of India, USA and the European Union. His opinion was that the problems cannot be solved in this country, everything must be handed over to the international community. But out foreign policy is not that. We firmly reject that stance. Not three, but even if there are 30 repetitive resolutions against us, we will not change our stance. We are well aware we are up against formidable forces, but we face them courageously. We will not kneel before powerful forces. We have not been elected by the people for that. We know how countries are being coerced into voting against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. We are telling the truth to the UNHRC. Not a single Arab country voted against us. What is this world view without China, Russia and the Arab world? Today, look at the relations we have developed with countries. Take China for example. We have free trade agreements with China and India. Even Japan said they will not support such a resolution, whatever the pressure they come under, and so has South Africa.
We are not against a national mechanism to look into various allegations. We are against the international inquiry. The local commission is continuing its work, and around 16,000 complaints has been received so far. Its Chairman wrote to the President and said they are faced with certain legal issues and hence, they would like some persons with in-depth knowledge in the area, to assist it. Which is why the President had to appoint the three-member advisory panel? It is our duty to assist our own commission, but this is not an international inquiry. This is not a U-turn or a Z-turn as someone said, but it is a continuation of our policies. This is an advisory committee. This is a local mechanism, not a foreign mechanism.
Whatever anyone says, we have been consistent on the Palestine question. There is a road named after President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Ramallah. Starting as a young MP, he has been a strong ally of Palestine. We have good relations with India. There are some problems, but both sides are committed to resolving them in a cordial manner. Both sides realise the importance of this relationship.