COLOMBO: In a major purge of the Sri Lankan Foreign Office, the new Maithripala Sirisena government has sacked 50 non-career diplomats appointed by the previous regime on political and other non-professional grounds.
The purge covers 27 Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Heads of Missions; three Consuls General and 23 others. Among the prominent Heads of Missions sacked are: former Navy chief Adm Thissara Samarasinghe (Australia), former Army Commander Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (Thailand), former Navy Chief Adm Wasantha Karannagoda (Japan), and former Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona (Permanent Representative at the UN in New York).
But Lanka’s High Commissioner in India, Prof Sudarshan Seneviratne, a non-career diplomat, has been retained.
The removal of political appointees and restoring competence and professionalism in Lanka’s foreign service was one of the election pledges of President Sirisena. Politicisation of the foreign service took a particularly virulent form during the 10 year rule of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, in order to strengthen himself politically to be able to fight the war against the LTTE, encouraged defections from the opposition by offering ministerships, ambassadorships and other diplomatic positions as baits.
Sri Lanka’s foreign service has been small, and has had to take many personnel from other services and fields to manage the increasing number of missions and embassies overseas.