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Sri Lanka shakes up foreign service with military and hardline appointments

The Sri Lankan government has announced a broad shake up of its foreign service this week, with a range of new reported appointments that includes hardline Sinhala Buddhist politicians and former military personnel.

Usually Sri Lankan envoys stay in their post until the end of their appointed term, however the Rajapaksa regime is reportedly looking to cut many key postings short. Amongst the major overhauls listed are diplomatic postings in New Delhi, Washington DC, Chennai, Tokyo, Beijing and Ottawa.

Photograph: Former Navy Commander Admiral Jayanth Colombage

After his replacement as Foreign Secretary by the Former Navy Commander Admiral Jayanth Colombage, a man who was accused of being complicit in torture, Ravinatha Aryasinha will now reportedly head the mission in Washington DC, USA.

Photograph: Kohona with current Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Meanwhile Palita Kohona, who was the former Sri Lankan representative at the UN and served as Foreign Secretary during the massacres at Mullivaikkal, has been reportedly tipped to head Colombo’s mission in Beijing, China. During his previous tenures Kohona has slammed the UN after it warned of a “bloodbath” in Sri Lanka, admitted that the No Fire Zone was bombed after being confronted with satellite footage during a live interview on Al Jazeera, and rejected any allegations of sexual violence by the state's security forces as "absolute rubbish". "These [military] are the guys who are winning the war - they could have raped every single woman on the way if they wanted to. Not one single woman was raped," Mr Kohona said. 

Kohona was also personally involved in the ‘White Flag’ incident that saw surrendering LTTE cadres and political leaders executed by the Sri Lankan military in 2009. He told AFP “I told them to…take a white flag and walk slowly towards the army lines in an unthreatening manner”. “What I learnt subsequently is that the two of them were shot from behind as they tried to come out,” he subsequently claimed. “They had been killed by the LTTE.”

Photograph: Milinda Moragoda.

Milinda Moragoda, a politician who has previously stood with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP), has been reportedly nominated for the New Delhi post. In the past, whilst serving as a negotiator during peace talks with the LTTE, Moragoda took credit for engineering the anti-LTTE Karuna paramilitary group and also claimed credit for the sinking of LTTE vessels during the peace talks.

Photograph: Former Navy Commander Piyal De Silva

Sri Lanka’s former navy commander Piyal De Silva, who previously received US training and was actively involved during the armed conflict, has reportedly been rewarded with a nomination to be Sri Lanka’s envoy to Afghanistan.

Previous diplomatic appointments by the Sri Lankan regime saw several high ranking military officers posted as diplomats around the world, in apparent attempts to protect them prosecution. In 2017 human rights groups filed lawsuits in Brazil and Colombia against former Sri Lankan general Jagath Jayasuriya, who was posted as ambassador to the region. Jayasuriya fled back to Colombo to evade the lawsuits.

With the appointments still to be publically confirmed, Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat issued a statement on Thursday calling on people to accept Rajapaksa’s appointments. “Expressing opinions against his appointments will weaken the Government’s process by underestimating them in the society,” the statement said.

See more from the Sunday Times here and Economy Next here.





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