Civil society representatives and several rights organisations asked President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday to withdraw his controversial nomination of Dayan Jayatilleka as ambassador to Moscow and protect the country’s international image.
Nearly 100 individuals and over a dozen organisations signed a petition to the High Posts Committee of parliament arguing that they must reject Jayatilleka’s nomination given his record of defending the extra judicial killings of the former regime.
Jayatilleka was also a key figure in Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s election platform known as “viyath maga” whose speakers have openly advocated the killing of anyone supporting constitutional reforms undertaken by the current government.
Since securing a nomination for the plum diplomatic post, Jayatilleka had attempted to distance himself from Gotabhaya’s bid to become a presidential candidate at next year’s election.
The civil society activists noted that Jayatilleka was a disaster during his previous diplomatic posts as ambassador in Geneva and Paris. The then president Mahinda Rajapaksa posted him to Geneva in 2007, but he was sacked in July 2009. However, he found favour with Rajapaksa again and got an ambassador post in January 2011 and sent to Paris.
Jayatilleka was at the UN Human Rights Council when Sri Lanka ended its war against Tamil tigers in May 2009.
“Professional diplomats have argued convincingly that the line espoused by Dr. Jayatilleka at the 2009 session (of the UNHRC), and triumphalism about his ability to ‘win’ a resolution congratulatory of Sri Lanka’s execution of the war, galvanised Geneva actors whose concerns had been cast aside by the Sri Lankan delegation.
“The 2009 Special Session debacle ultimately had a significant impact in convincing the international community, including the members of the UNHRC that grave violations took place in Sri Lanka and that an independent international investigation was required,” the activists said in their petition.
Jayatilleka’s hostile and triumphalist line was counterproductive as it subsequently led to several resolutions being adopted by the UNHRC between 2012 and 2014.
“We also note that Dr. Jayatilleka who was subsequently appointed Ambassador to France was unable to prevent the French government from voting against Sri Lanka in these resolutions, demonstrating his ineffectiveness as a head of mission.”
The activists said that President Sirisena should not appoint Jayatilleka to an important diplomatic post at a time when his government was making significant strides in winning back international support.
“We were also heartened to see the government of Sri Lanka rebuilding bridges with the international community and engaging in a constructive manner to further the interests of Sri Lanka, not the whims of particular individuals.
“This was also welcomed by the international community and in recognition invited President Sirisena to events such as the prestigious Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan and Anti-Corruption Summit in the United Kingdom both in 2016.
“This hard work of rebuilding Sri Lanka’s image and reputation to be a truly democratic and plural country where all citizens are equal and a country that values its international standing can be damaged with the promotion of individuals who were not only apologists of the previous Government but also, to date, its most ardent champions.”