The government has made two improper appointments to the London High Commission this month to the surprise of many in the UK. The first is the appointment of Manoj Warnapala as a Counselor and the second is S. Guaratne as a Minister. Gunaratne is also expected to be the namesake Deputy High Commissioner. While Warnapala has already stated working in the High Commission Gunaratna is expected to start work end of the month.
Manoj Warnapala is the son-in-law of Austin Fernando (married to his daughter)the Governor of the Eastern Province. Fernando was a civil servant and held many high posts. He retired longtime ago. With the new government coming to power on January 8 Austin Fernando’s stars changed. He was the Government Agent in Polonnaruwa when President Sirisena was a Gramasevaka. Fernando used this connection to get the plum post of Eastern Province Governor. But he was not satisfied with what he got. He was soon asking for more. He thought that his son- in-law living in London, who was without a good job can be given a job in the London High Commission. He pressured the President to give in. Very confidential sources have said that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister was not very happy about it.
Sri Lankan community in the UK is very upset about this appointment. They say that this is going back to the Rajapaksa time when relations and friends were appointed to all the Embassies and service people were kept outside and not allowed to work. The surprising thing is that Warnapala is a British citizen and is living in the UK. His family has a law firm. With Warnapala working in the High Commission he will have all personal information about Sri Lankans living in the UK. He can give all the work like certifying documents to his family Law firm. After his job is over he will not go back to Sri Lanka. He will remain in London. He can then use the personal information against people he does not like. Community sources ask why should a person who did not want to be in Sri Lanka and settled down in UK and who has given his loyalty to UK and the Queen and got the UK citizenship should be given a job in the High Commission. They also ask how the UK Police will act if by chance he breaks the law. This will embarrass the Sri Lankan government.
According to community sources Warnapala has not done anything to bring President to power. There are many others who went against the Rajapaksa regime and did lot of work to bring President Sirisena to power. Now they are also going to ask for jobs in the London High Commission. President will not be able to say no and then the High Commission will be full with lot of British citizens making Sri Lanka a joke.
Community members have already complained to the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Cabinet Ministers against this appointment. A Foreign Ministry source told Lanka News Web that current Acting High Commissioner Dr. Chanaka Thalpewa who is said to be a no nonsense officer has raised some issues with the Foreign Ministry about this appointment. Ministry did not know how to respond. When Austin Fernando got to know about this he has phoned the Foreign Secretary Chitra Wakiswara and told her to remove Thalpewa immediately and put someone who will look after his son-in law or he will complained to the President about her. Waksiwara who is retired and is on extension and hoping to go as an Ambassador did not want to get into the bad books of the President and agreed to transfer Thalpewa immediately. The excuse given was that Thalpewa has requested a transfer. But another Foreign Ministry official told Lanka News Web that it is only a half truth. The Ministry was not going to transfer the current Acting High Commissioner for another few months even a request was made. But to satisfy Austin Fernando Foreign secretary decided to transfer Thalpewa immediately and handpicked S. Gunaratna to come to London.
Lanka News Web learns that Gunaratna has been secretly doing politics with many political parties and getting favours. He was a favorite of the Rajapaksa regime and was given leave to go to Canada so he and his family can apply for PR. In Canada he did a Canadian Government job. A Foreign Service officer cannot work for another government. To do Canadian government job the person has to have the citizenship or a permanent /work visa. You can’t do a Canadian government job on a student visa. When questioned a Foreign Ministry source said that leave is given only to study and to work in an international organization. She told that an officer cannot work for another Government while in the service as there is conflict of interest an if someone has done so a proper inquiry should be held and disciplinary action taken.
Some community people questions whether there are no people in the service who can be appointed to one of the most important countries like UK without appointing people whose loyalty to Sri Lanka is questionable. A community member said that those days it was only the Monitoring MP who was calling the shots. Now even provincial Governors are running the Foreign Ministry.