Dr. Chris Nonis, Sri Lankan Envoy to the United Kingdom is likely to continue as High Commissioner in London despite having tendered his resignation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in person.
It is learnt that External Affairs minister Prof. Gamini Lakshman Peiris is currently engaged in trying to persuade Dr. Nonis to “withdraw” his resignation and continue in office.
According to sources Dr. Nonis has agreed to do so provided he receives an apology from Galle district Parliamentarian and External Affairs ministry monitoring MP Mr. Sajin de Vass Gunawardena.
Dr. Chris Nonis whose term of office in Britain was extended for another year till 2015 was reportedly involved in a skirmish with Mr.Sajin de Vass Gunawardena in New York on September 24th. The incident had occurred at a dinner hosted by Mr. Dilan Ariyawansa the Sri Lankan Airlines director based in New York.The guests were mostly Sri Lankans who had come along with President Rajapaksa to New York for the UN General Assembly sessions
Apparently a heated argument had ensued at the dinner between High Commissioner Nonis, Vass Gunawardena MP and External Affairs ministry secretary Ms. Kshenuka Seneviratne.A highly inebriated Sajin de Vass Gunawardena had allegedly abused Chris Nonis in foul language and at one point begun to punch Nonis.
A scuffle ensued when Nonis resisted after receiving a hard punch on his face.Chris Nonis allegedly lost his balance and fallen down whereupon de Vass Gunawardena had started kicking the man on the ground.Other guests at the dinner restrained the Galle district MP who was pacified by Ms. Kshenuka Seneviratne.
A highly agitated Nonis had left the place despite the entreaties of host Ariyawansa and External secretary Ms. Seneviratne not to do so and made a beeline to President Rajapaksa who was also staying in New York at the time.He had told the President what had happened and tendered his resignation to him.
Realising that Chris Nonis was in a highly emotional state, President Rajapaksa had calmed him down and asked the High Commissioner to return to London and continue with his duties. He had also refused to accept the resignation and assured Nonis that an inquiry would be conducted and appropriate action taken against de Vass Gunawardena.
Chris Nonis returned to his Hotel and left the next day for London.Chris Nonis had then telephoned External Affairs minister Prof. GL Peiris and said that he would be tendering his resignation with a month’s notice
Thereafter President Rajapaksa and Prof. Peiris who both value High Commissioner Nonis highly had engaged in damage control exercises. The President had instructed his chief of staff Gamini Senarath who was on a private visit to France to go to Britain and meet with Nonis. Senarath had done so and told Nonis that President Rajapaksa had summoned Sajin de Vass Gunawardena and lambasted him for assaulting Nonis.
Prof. Peiris who is closely associated with Nonis and was responsible for appointing him as envoy to Britain also communicated with Nonis and told him that he was notgoing to accept the high commissioner’s resignation because the President, Government and Country valued his worth highly and needed his services badly.A seemingly mollified Chris Nonis had agreed to reconsider his unaccepted resignation provided Sajin de Vass Gunawardena apologised to him.
It is learnt that Sajin de Vass Gunawardena is now being pressured to issue a formal apology in private to Chris Nonis. According to informed sources the apology is most likely to be tendered as President Rajapaksa has ordered de Vass Gunawardena to do so.If and when that occurs Nonis would accept it, withdraw his unacceptable resignation and continue as usual in London. The row would turn out to be a storm in a (Mackwoods)tea cup!
The incident has not ben publicised in the Sri Lankan media following requests from highly placed Govt sources. It was however raised at the weekly post – cabinet press briefing conducted by Cabinet spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.Minister Rambukwella who first said that Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Britain Dr. Chris Nonis had resigned from his post over a “personal dispute” with a Government Parliamentarian, later withdrew that statement.
Initially the Minister was asked by reporters to comment on reports that Dr. Chris Nonis had resigned after he was allegedly assaulted by External Affairs Monitoring MP Sajin de Vass Gunawardena at a function in the US recently.
Rambukwella replied first that Dr. Nonis had tendered his resignation.He later asked one of his officials to telephone External Affairs Minister, Professor G.L Peiris to clarify if the resignation letter was received after journalists at the press briefing continued to press the Minister on the issue.After speaking to Professor G.L Peiris, Minister Rambukwella withdrew his earlier statement and said that the External Affairs Ministry had not received a resignation letter from Dr. Nonis.
Rambukwella apologized to the media and said he based his initial comment on Dr. Nonis on media reports but later found that the External Affairs Ministry had not received a letter of resignation from him.Journalists then questioned how a Government spokesman could make such a mistake to which the Minister responded by saying it was a genuine mistake on his part.
Rambukwella also said he was not aware if the issue on Dr. Nonis was discussed at today’s cabinet meeting as he had arrived late for the meeting following another official function. However after speaking to Professor G.L Peiris, Minister Rambukwella said that the reports on Dr. Nonis resigning from his post had not been raised at today’s cabinet briefing.