The total absence of proper foreign affairs management and professional diplomacy during the past ten years has resulted in our country having to pay a huge price on the world stage. Our non management of the ‘Northern Issue’ also contributed to this situation. For the Tamil Diaspora born out of the program of ’83, spared no pain to malign our country and bring us down. Let us now together work to protect our multi ethnic, multi religious, multi religious nation. It is only through proper diplomacy that this can be achieved.
Professional diplomacy along with foreign affairs management is an extremely specialized field. The authorities have only to note the quality of the diplomats serving in Sri Lanka, which is after all is not an important country in our world of today. All countries take the management of their international relations seriously. The last administration never took the management of our relations with other countries seriously ; they just appointed their friends and relatives as they thought that mere representation was adequate and acted in the same manner as the Roman Emperor Caligula, who sent his horse to represent him. Our leaders thought that any clown, without any training , could do the job of a diplomat and promote our national interest.It now appears that these jokers promoted their own interests.
The UNP during the period of 1977-1991, appointed a few cronies to diplomatic positions in our missions. During that entire period they would have appointed about ten or twelve. In the subsequent period, between 2002 and 2004, about five appointments were made to cadre positions. During the period that Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar was the Foreign Minister and no such appointments were made to cadre positions. The information counselors from outside the service were recruited after applications were called and applicants interviewed. Appointments were on contract and for a period of three years; they were professional men and women who were absolutely excellent and discharged their specialized functions to the entire satisfaction of government. Professional diplomacy involves the conduct of our relations with foreign countries, international organizations, other international institutions, regional organizations, business corporations, NGOs etc. It is not a mere PR job. Today, besides bilateral diplomacy, there is Multilateral Diplomacy which is today another specialized field as well as personal diplomacy, with world leaders flying around the world and meeting their counterparts and sorting out international issues. This expansion of the scope as well as the substance of diplomacy has enlarged to such an extent that it is most complex and challenging. The mind boggling advancement of communication technology only makes the task at hand of a diplomat most demanding. Besides international political relations one would need to follow the international economic situation, the monetary and financial developments, promote educational and cultural exchanges, scientific and technological co-operation, promote Trade, Investment and Tourism and, above all, in our situation, keep a tab on the activities of the LTTE supporters abroad and report on matters relating to national security.
Conventional diplomacy is today a thing of the past and the wide range of activities (the expansion is both qualitative and quantitative) of a state calls for specialisation and training. Training is an absolute imperative. There is no such a thing as a free lunch in this business anymore. Sending untrained clueless people to promote the interests of this country is a crime against the state and the people of this country. If the exigencies of service require that we recruit temporarily from officers with an abiding interest in international affairs, (until permanent cadre are fully trained), the government should advertise and recruit from the AG’s department, which has excellent material, from the SLAS and from the private sector. Recruitment from the latter sector is particularly important for the promotion of trade, investment and tourism.
To conclude, I do hope that there would be an inquiry into manner in which the votes of the Foreign Ministry were spent over the past ten years. It may come as a surprise to many that the monies have been spent on foreign travel and recurrent administrative costs and that there has been no investment on operational work. There should also be an inquiry to find out as to how some unknown PR Agencies were retained in the by the Central Bank to lobby for Sri Lanka at a massive cost.