by Bandu de Silva
I refer to the news item in today’s The island (Saturday 2nd September 2017) and would like to comment on contracts on which non-career ambassadors are appointed by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, to create public awareness in search of truth.
I do so with my background as a former Director General and Ambassador and Director of Overseas Administration in the Foreign Ministry whose duties included preparation of contracts to be signed by non -career ambassadors, and also one who served with 12 heads of mission appointed on contract.
There is something fishy about the content of the local media reports. They speak of General Jayasuriya claiming he took up the post and assumed duties in August 2015 for a term of two years. In June, this year he wrote to the then Foreign Secretary that his tenure had been completed and if he was to be re-appointed as an Ambassador, he wanted to be posted to an Asian country.
General Jayasuriya’s was a non-career appointment. Therefore, the appointment would have been necessarily, based on a contract signed with the Foreign Ministry. For long years the usual period of appointment under a contract has been three years. Earlier, it had been four years but this was changed.
There has been no case of any head of mission on contract being posted for a lesser number of years at his request or terminating the appointment except in a single case, i.e. of Wilmot Perera, first Ambassador to China, who requested the termination of contract after six months. The contract contained a clause that the appointee should pay cost of damages if the contract was terminated by him/her before the expiry date. The govt could, of course, terminate a contract early for political reasons on a new govt taking office.
The case of Neville Jansz, High Commissioner in Australia, and Earnest Perera, former I.G.P, who was appointed High Commissioner in Malaysia, fall into this category. There were others who were recalled to be appointed to other posts.
This was the general policy and pattern. There is no evidence that this policy was changed to accommodate General Jayasuriya. In the present case, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said the Ambassador returned on termination of contract. Isn’t there something fishy here, the F/O too stepping in to confirm the retired General’s version?
The statement attributed to the Ambassador shows that he envisaged an extension of his contract (presuming it was two years) or another posting to an Asian country. Why is this preference for an Asian country? Was it because of the feeling that he would be safe there against growing allegations? Can it be because he wanted to visit his son in Hong Kong and daughter in Australia? Too fragile a thought! Will he get easy access to Australia with the allegations against him coming up?
The Ambassador has said that on July 10, he received a reply saying the completion of the tenure had been approved and he had been asked to return before August 31. This is unusual if the contract was for two years and it was ending. The words ‘completion of the tenure of the contract’ seems to let the cat out of the bag. What is there to approve if the contract ended? If the ‘completion’ had to be approved by the Foreign Ministry that must be a termination before the expiry of the contract.
The Ambassador has sought to prove that he did not know that allegations were being made against him by a lawyer in Brazil, in which a request has been made to the Federal police to launch an investigation against the Sri Lankan Ambassador, to deprive his diplomatic immunity and declare him a ‘persona non grata’ in the event the Sri Lankan government refused to cooperate with the investigation. We have only the Ambassador’s version that he did not know of such a thing while he was still the Ambassador, a position which can be deemed to be supported by the Sri Lankan Foreign Office when it says he returned on termination of the contract.
Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, formerly a member of Darusman’s team, said in London that they believed that Jayasuriya had been tipped off about plans for the suits and fled. “We discovered by tracking him that in fact by 10:00 last night he had reached Dubai,” said Sooka. “That means that he took a direct flight from Brazil to Dubai and he made sure that he didn’t cross any of the other countries like the US, the UK. or Europe where he could potentially have been picked up.” Sooka is not fond of Sri Lanka and is bent on a witch hunt.
The question arises if the Brazilian government knew of moves against the Ambassador and advised him to leave Brazil immediately to avoid an unpleasant diplomatic situation. Reuter observes that the nations where Jayasuriya was ambassador have their own dark histories of violence including military dictatorships, torture and the killing or disappearance of thousands. Where else? Except Brazil?
There seems to be a big cover-up including the involvement of the Foreign Ministry in Colombo and Brazilian authorities.