Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry officials have tried to keep the refusal
of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's nominee for the next High Commissioner
posting in Canada by the host Government so hushed, that the secrecy
would have made even the commissars of the Kremlin of the former
Soviet Union blush.
doubt, it is an embarrassment of the highest order. President Kumaratunga's
hand-picked nominee was not a career diplomat, nor even a recipient
of a political IOU and he was certainly not a potential political
threat to the government as Major General. Janaka Perera was, who
got sent to Canberra in order to get him out of the Army hierarchy.
Instead, Chandrananda de Silva who was one of the few trusted and
loyal public servants of President Kumaratunga's Administration
over the past decade, now has the misfortune of being treated like
a common refugee in the country of his posting, even before he leaves.
That the President's nominee was turned down under provisions of
the new Canadian Immigration Act (2002) points to what depths this
nation has plunged.
Canadians, it appears decided to lock the stable door after the
horse had bolted. The country has been smarting under the weight
of an influx of refugees, especially pro-LTTE Tamils to that country.
Now, an appointee of a sovereign country gets caught up in the clearly
flawed interpretation of that Law meant to screen hoi polloi asylum
is no surprise. Neither President Kumaratunga nor the Government
bothered to protest when the British Government introduced what
they called was an 'experiment' in immigration procedures by fingerprinting
Sri Lankans requiring visas to visit Britain. Instead, the President
shows her fondness for Britain, by making regular 'private visits',
'official visits' and 'semi-official visits' to that country at
regular intervals. When the Foreign Minister meets his counter-part
Jack Straw the matter of fingerprinting Sri Lankans is not even
on the agenda for discussion.
France has taken the cue from Britain in the bargain, and the Finance
Minister (who once lived and worked in France) virtually elbows
others to get himself fingerprinted. At least one can say he did
not ask for special privileges. It's acceptable if these were the
normal immigration procedures adopted by countries world-wide but
they are not; we Sri Lankans are instead the guinea pigs in an improvised
yet, these countries have the gall to open their doors to acquire
all the skilled labour of our countries, while also retaining all
the plundered artifacts (which Italy is at least now beginning to
return to Ethiopia, bravo) from these once colonised nations. Human
Rights violations, indeed.
it comes as no surprise when the Canadian Government slaps the President
by rejecting her nominee. Mr. Chandrananda de Silva may not have
been the ideal candidate for a posting in far away Canada, but that's
not because he was Secretary of the Defense Ministry when a sovereign
Government had to ward off a seperatist war with a terrorist organization
(...and Ottawa still does not seem to appreciate that fact).
de Silva's decision to go on a diplomatic posting, clearly upset
the whole line-up for appointments in the Diplomatic Corps. Former
Ministry secretary Bernard Gunathillake who was originally due to
be posted to Canada had to be re-located as a result, and was then
sent to Washington ejecting Devinda Subasinghe who was doing yeoman
service for the Government, its trade and industry, and its security
with the back-door appointment of former Presidential Secretary
Kusumsiri Balapatabendi to Canberra - an issue regarding which the
UNP opposition showed its mettle as an ineffective parliamentary
opposition - Chandrananda de Silva's appointment did no credit to
the UPFA Government's drive for an efficient and effective foreign
countries engage in similar political appointments, and political
IOUs are often enchased this way. But those big countries have the
support of back-up staff to ensure the entire mission is not dead
weight. Also, unlike in Colombo, where 2nd secretarias have access
to Cabinet Ministers, Sri Lankan Ambassadors and High Commissioners
often don't have the necessary access to government leaders in the
bigger capitals. This underscores the importance of the top job
in these missions.
tried a similar stunt once before and delayed the agrement when
late President J. R. Jayewardene appointed General T.I. Weeratunga
to Ottawa after his stint as Army Commander. The then President
was made of sterner stuff and played the waiting game till Canada
question now is whether President Kumaratunga will opt to fight
things out, or whether she offers her other cheek. That's anybody's
guess. As for the rest of us, the issue has taken a somersault.
Having said that the Presidential appointment is a bad one in the
first place, it has now become a case of having to defend the nation's