Right of reply
to our news item of July 7 and July 21 by Neville de Silva, Foreign
Ministry's Publicity Division Director says:
I wish to bring
to your attention the actual facts on the local recruits and please
extend publicity with equal degree of prominence in your paper,
as the news item concerned has given misconception to the public
with regard to these appointments.
(1) It is not
the first time that local recruits have been terminated in terms
of their agreement they have entered into and new recruits have
(2) Most of
the local recruits who have been requested to leave the Missions
have served an extended period of over ten years in our Missions
and it is the policy of the Government to give an opportunity to
others too to serve in our Missions abroad.
(3) It should
also be noted that the local recruits need not be appointed always
from the host country but suitable persons could always be posted
(4) The article
which appeared states that a new Driver attached to one of our Missions
in Canada, unused to traffic arrangements in the city has been driving
the wrong way in one way streets, prompting a Sri Lankan diplomat
to change places. For all record purposes, if this development incident
was true, the law enforcement officials of Canada would have executed
the due legal action.
Mr. Neville de Silva to reveal what course of action was taken.
(5) Almost 95
per cent of the local recruits in most of our Missions have been
living in those countries and have obtained permanent residence
or citizenship, for example British citizenship, Austrian citizenship
and Italian citizenship. Therefore, it is not necessary always to
keep foreign nationals in our Missions when there is a large number
of our youth who are unemployed in Sri Lanka.
(6) All the
local recruits who are posted to our Missions are entitled only
for the salary. They have to bear their own air passage from Colombo
to the destinations, medical bills, house rents, etc.
(7) In certain
Missions, we have allowed the present local recruits to continue
for three to four months after their termination of notice due to
personal commitments of their families as well as for the new recruits
to undergo training, which would accommodate the new recruits to
get oriented with the official as well as unofficial functions.
In addition, this would also facilitate the work of the Mission
as well as the new recruits to assimilate to the Sri Lankan community.
(8) You may
be aware that Sri Lankan expatriates who are working all over the
world leave the Island with a fair knowledge of Sinhala, Tamil and
English and they acclimatize themselves in those countries within
a brief period of time.
(9) In the
article, Mr. de Silva states that his reportage could not be independently
checked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo for verification
as the Ministry appeared to be closed for the day.
It may be noted
that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a staff officer on duty
and the Ministry could be contacted on a 24-hour basis on the Ministry
general numbers. This was an initiative taken by the new Minister
of Foreign Affairs after he assumed office.
and cooperation are much appreciated.
on the specific issues in the Foreign Ministry statement, may I
make an observation. In the first paragraph the ministry refers
to a "news item" and does so again in para 2. In point
4 it refers to "The article".
Yet in the very
first para the ministry refers to my reports of July 7 and July
It seems to
me that besides the linguistic aberrations in this clumsily drafted
reply, the Foreign Ministry also has problems with simple arithmetic.
blithely ignores my first news report of May 19 published under
the headline "DPL Test Match over London recruits" in
which I referred to the diplomatic wrangle with the British Foreign
Office because the Foreign Ministry in Colombo had applied for 13
visas to replace locally recruited staff at its high commission
here with persons sent from Colombo.
It has thus
taken the Foreign Ministry more than two months to take up the issue
first reported in May.
Ministry says that the "news item concerned" has "given
misconception" to the public. It fails to say which of the
three news items and what the misconceptions are.
to points 1 and 2 in the ministry reply, the first was never in
dispute and the second that it is the government policy to give
an opportunity to others to serve in Sri Lanka missions, is no doubt
laudable were it been with a scrupulous impartiality that gives
everybody an equal opportunity.
In Point 4,
the ministry in its own peculiar linguist construction appears to
suggest that this incident did not take place and challenges me
to reveal what the Canadians did.
It seems that
the Foreign Ministry appears to be unaware that diplomatic vehicles
have clearly identifiable registration plates. In most capitals
police do not take legal action unless there are major and serious
offences committed because missions tend to claim diplomatic immunity,
which the ministry must be aware of.
me the ministry assumes that the offence of driving the wrong way
in a one-way street was in fact observed by the police. Surely it
was to avoid being observed and save himself the embarrassment that
the diplomat concerned took the wheel from the driver.
Since the ministry
has taken over the highly undiplomatic task of issuing challenges
let me do the same and ask the ministry to answer the following
Since the ministry
is so concerned with clearing public misconceptions, I am sure it
will not shirk this responsibility. This will allow the public judge
the accuracy, veracity and even the morality of its statements and
* The ministry states that it is government
policy to give wider opportunity to people to serve in our missions.
How many persons
have been sent to our missions to take over local recruits' jobs
between February and July this year?
The government promised fairness in recruitment, promotions etc.
Were the above persons selected through a fair and open process?
The ministry says the government wants to give an opportunity to
unemployed youth in Sri Lanka. Were the vacancies in the different
missions abroad advertised in Sri Lanka so that all those interested
could apply and were the people sent selected after interviews?
If they were interviewed when were the interviews held and who interviewed
them? If not how were these persons selected?
The Foreign Ministry applied to the British Government for 13 visas
for persons who were to replace locally-recruited staff at the London
High Commission. Has such a large number of persons ever been sent
to a single mission at the same time since independence?
The statement says that local recruits need not be appointed always
from the host country.
If so what
does local recruitment mean? If they are interchangeable, as is
implied, why the British Government refuse to grant the 13 visas?
Is it not because the British Government held that locally-recruited
persons cannot be replaced by imports from Colombo?
Did not the Foreign Ministry have to suffer the embarrassment of
withdrawing that earlier letter and re-apply saying that the 13
posts would be considered home-based posts and the persons sent
would return home after their three year contract?
If the ministry considers the 13 sent here in May/June "suitable
persons", how was their suitability ascertained and what criteria
Will the ministry state where all those sent to our missions abroad
recently are domiciled in Sri Lanka, their addresses and electorates
where they are registered voters? If not why?
It says that in some missions the staff terminated are continuing
to work for 3-4 months despite the arrival of the new staff in order
to train these arrivals or something like that.
How is it that
in London some of the former staffers will continue to remain until
December? Is it not correct that this is costing the High Commission
an extra £ 10,000 or so a month in salaries?
Is this a violation of Sri Lanka's Financial and Administrative
Why did the ministry in challenging me over an incident in Canada
fail to do so with regard to two other cases mentioned- a receptionist
sent to Paris who speaks only Sinhala and another sent to the consular
section of our Berlin embassy who speaks no German or Tamil which
are vital for the proper performance of the job? Is it because I
The ministry says that a staff officer is on duty 24-hours a day.
Had I been able to get through to that person would he or she have
been equipped to answer my questions immediately when it has taken
the ministry two months to reply and still evade the key questions?
Can the ministry deny that it is now awaiting a visa so that it
can send to the London High Commission the son of a Sinhala film
star to a newly-created post called Commercial Assistant? Were the
unemployed youth of Sri Lanka over whom the ministry is shedding
copious tears able to apply for this post? Or, in the words of George
Orwell, are some more equal than others, especially if one resides
in a coastal electorate south of Colombo?