By Gagani Weerakoon and Skandha Gunasekara
The Ministry of Foreign affairs informed Parliament yesterday that the government had paid Rs 95,592,244 to a multinational law firm to carry out tasks that Sri Lanka Embassy officials in Washington, USA, could have carried out at a far cheaper cost.
According to an answer tabled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington had procured the services of multinational law firm Patton Boggs (now called Squire Patton Boggs) in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, to perform tasks that could have been carried out by officials of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington, USA.
Consequently, Rs 35,685,907 was given as payment to the aforementioned company in 2010 while Rs 46,913,476 and Rs 12,992,860 were paid to the company in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated in its reply that the Sri Lanka had acquired the services of the Patton Boggs Company to cultivate allies in Congress for Sri Lanka, to try and prevent any bills or Resolutions against Sri Lanka at the Congress, to help get Sri Lanka off the Trafficking in Persons Watch list and to organize a US Business delegation to Sri Lanka.
Subsequently, the minster, in his answer tabled, stated that officials of Patton Boggs have claimed to have cultivated genuine allies within the US Congress for Sri Lanka, organizing official delegations of US Congressmen and their staff to visit Sri Lanka; prevented any bills calling for an International Investigation on Sri Lanka being tabled in the Congress of United States and negotiated on behalf of the Mission to get the State Department to lift the 2010 US travel warning against Sri Lanka.
The multinational firm also claims to have helped Sri Lanka to be removed from the ‘Trafficking of Persons Watch List’ published by the US State Department and organized a Business delegation of US companies to visit Sri Lanka.
“I wish to add that in my opinion all these activities could have been carried out by the diplomatic officers in the Embassy in Washington as these are their areas of responsibility and thereby saving considerable expenditure,” Minister Samaraweera observed in his answer.