Dr. Dhanapala and DG post at IAEA

| by Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri

( November 18, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Every Sri Lankan, I am certain, would feel proud that Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala will receive the 2014 International Achievement Award for Nuclear Disarmament, at the UN premises on the 17th instant as reported in several weeklies last Sunday (16.11.14). This prestigious award has been previously received by two UN Secretary Generals – Kofi Annan in 2006 and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1995.

Reading through the write up on Dr. Dhanapala which appeared in Sunday Island of 16.11.14, his main contribution towards nuclear disarmament which earned him this award appears to be the role he played as President of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference held in 1995 where he successfully steered the negotiations to get the powerful nuclear-weapon nations - USA, UK, France, Russia and China – and several non-weapon nuclear nations to agree for an extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty towards elimination of nuclear weapons and a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This achievement alone qualifies him even for the Nobel Peace Prize, more qualified than President Obama who was awarded the prize doing nothing towards world peace.

This news item brings to my mind the correspondence K. Godage had with Sunday Island of 19.10.14 in which he described how the five permanent-member countries of UN Security Council wanted Dr. Dhanapala to head the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) based in Vienna when the post fell vacant some years ago, but our then government did not nominate him, to the utter surprise of these countries.

Another correspondent describing himself as an UN Observer made an attempt to justify the government’s position saying that the Foreign Minister at that time did not nominate a Sri Lankan candidate for the post of DG IAEA as he had to balance the national interest as against the personal interest of one individual (Sunday Island of 02.11.14). He also tried to cast doubts about acceptance of Dr. Dhanapala for the DG post, which is now proved wrong with this award.

As a participant in many UN meetings on climate change and ozone depletion in the nineties, I have seen how governments clamour to get their people into high positions in the UN system. Unfortunately, this is not so in Sri Lanka where our man at the top only kicks the ladder down. This was highlighted by Mr. Godage when he spoke of our envy at the success of our fellow citizens. Dr. Dhanapala not given nomination is just another of these cases. May be it is part of Sri Lankan culture!

I also endorse the view expressed by Mr. Godage that had Sri Lanka not bartered the Security Council seat with South Korea for employment opportunities there, Dr. Dhanapala would have had the opportunity of being even elected for the post of UN Secretary General when he made a bid for the post, just the way Ban Ki-moon got into that position with S. Korea sitting in the Security Council, provided of course the government gave him the full backing.