The Sunday Leader

Kshenuka’s Appointment Raises Concerns

By Camelia Nathaniel

The government has come under severe criticism from numerous quarters for the appointment of former external Affairs Ministry’s Secretary, Kshenuka Seneviratne as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Thailand.

According to sources within the foreign ministry, the appointment was made as Seneviratne is a senior foreign ministry official and she cannot be left at the ministry without an appointment. However the JVP has strongly condemned the government for overlooking the allegations against the former external affairs ministry secretary and appointing her as the Lankan ambassador to Thailand.

During the recent past she had been under fire for handing over the renovation of the embassy to an LTTE supportive construction company, while she was serving as Lankan ambassador Geneva. Her appointment is seen as unlawful as the investigations regarding the allegations against her have yet not been completed. The JVP and JHU charged that the Ministry of External Affairs should provide an explanation on her appointment.

The Auditor General’s report on the investigation noted that the refurbishment was carried out by a group affiliated to the LTTE, violating tender procedure. Meanwhile, Former Sri Lankan permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam says that the appointment of Kshenuka Seneviratne as the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Thailand is problematic, but according to the JVP the present government is viewing this whole issue in a lighter vein.

Former ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam sought the intervention of the Auditor General in the case where Seneviratne had authorised the refurbishment and renovation of the Embassy to an LTTE affiliated company. Tamara Kunanayakam, the former Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, exposed a transaction on the refurbishment of the official residence of the ambassador a few years ago.

However, having criticised the former government for the prominence given to Kshenuka Seneviratne and the whole issue of the Embassy, deputy foreign minister Ajith P. Perera last week defended Seneviratne noting  that the contract to hand over the refurbishment to a group affiliated to the LTTE, was made without the knowledge of Ambassador Kshenuka Seneviratne, adding that she cannot be blamed for the issue as it had been done without her knowledge or consent.

He further said that an individual cannot be deemed a wrong-doer if the activity in question had taken place without his or her knowledge. Many in the diplomatic arena condemned her appointment by the government stating that the appointment of Seneviratne to the post of ambassador to Thailand, before the investigations are completed is questionable.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader regarding this issue Leader of the National Unity Front Azath Salley said that he had taken up this issue at the last executive council meeting as well as to why a corrupt official such as Ms Seneviratne had been appointed as the Ambassador to Thailand.

“The explanation I got was that she cannot be kept in the ministry either and if she is to be kept at the ministry then she has to be given a posting according to her experience and qualifications, and that is why she has been appointed as the Ambassador to Thailand.

My point was that she should not have been selected as the Ambassador to Thailand or anywhere but she has to be investigated and until such time she can be put in the foreign ministry pool until the investigations are completed and she should be punished if she is found guilty of the charges that have been levelled against her,” he added.

According to Foreign Ministry Sources, during Seneviratne’s tenure as the secretary to the foreign ministry, many career diplomats had been marginalised for political reasons and kept in the pool, while their experience and capabilities were wasted. Hence it is ironic that while there are serious allegations against Seneviratne at this point that the government would decide to appoint her as the Ambassador to Thailand instead of keeping her in the pool until the investigations are completed.

Meanwhile commenting on the issue professor Rajiva Wijesinghe said that it seems a complete travesty of the principles on which this government was elected.

“The Foreign Minister told me he had looked into the matter and she had done nothing wrong and had not signed the contract, but then granted that she might have, but it had been decided on earlier.

The foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera has claimed that the problem had been caused by Tamara Kunanayagam, and I gather he said on a TV programmer that Tamara had been an LTTE representative. But he knows perfectly well that she had been a human rights activist at the period he was talking about, as he himself had been, in working with the Mothers Front. So it looks like he is turning into someone from the last government who flung LTTE allegations around freely, whenever anything embarrassing came up, charged Professor Wijesinghe.

He further added that the foreign minister ironically claimed to know nothing about Kshenuka’s involvement in the persecution of Chris Nonis and just like Kshenuka’s after Chris was assaulted was critical of Chris.

“Meanwhile the Prime Minister said,when I brought the matter up at the government group meeting before I crossed over that it might be easier to have an investigation while Kshenuka was abroad. Contradictions without principle I fear, which is what we had before,” said professor Wijesinghe.

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