Colombage or Justice Tilakawardane tipped as SL’s new HC in London?

2By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Speculation is rife that former Navy Commander, Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage is tipped to be appointed Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to London.

The government has opted to nominate a senior naval officer to counter LTTE propaganda in the UK, which is expected to heighten, particularly after an EU court lifted sanctions against the LTTE, knowledgeable sources indicated.

As nothing concrete has been done to counter LTTE activities and their propaganda in the UK over the past three years, the Sri Lankan government is keen on picking an energetic military officer to give an impetus to the campaign to counter the pro-LTTE lobby, the sources asserted.

With the former envoy to London, Chris Nonis stepping down prematurely and  former intelligence officer, Major General Prasanna Silva not replaced for over two years, the authorities believe the most suitable candidate to head this key mission in Europe is Colombage, the sources noted.

Some members of the High Commission staff have now sent written complaints about Nonis to the Foreign Ministry in Colombo, according to these sources.


During his term, three of his personal secretaries resigned jobs citing “difficulties in working with him” as the reason. Two Deputy High Commissioners, P. M. Amza, M. R. K. Lenagala and Minister M. K. Pathmanathan were also prematurely transferred at the time. Deputy High Commissioner, Neville de Silva survived his term with difficulty, the sources claimed.


When contacted, De Silva refused to comment, but suggested to read his book on his term at the High Commission, which will be published soon.


Colombage, who has a clean slate on war crimes allegations, has been conferred two Masters Degrees – Master of Science in Defence Studies and Master of Arts in International Studies. Currently, he is reading for his Doctorate in Philosophy at the Kotelawala Defence University.


He is also a scholar of international repute. He has published papers and conducted national level seminars on Maritime Security and presented scores of papers on Maritime Terrorism related subjects in Sri Lanka as well as at international fora.


He is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute of the United Kingdom and currently the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Branch. Colombage is an illustrious alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in India, Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii in the United States of America as well as Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom.


If the authorities fail to send Admiral Colombage to London for some reason, their next choice will be justice Shiranee Tilakawardane, the Sunday Island learns.


However, there was no official confirmation on the proposed appointee to the top position.


Another possible nominee for the High Commissioner’s job that’s doing the rounds in London is that of Justice Tilakawardane, a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court and a member of the Judicial Service Commission. She has also served as acting Chief Justice when the incumbent, Mohan Peiris was overseas.


With an apprenticeship under Lalith Athulathmudali PC, Justice Tilakawardane’s legal career started after a tenure in the United States, where she served in the Consumer and Narcotic Division of the District Attorney’s Office of Fort Colorado. In June 2007, she received an honorary degree from Williams College and an honorary degree from Smith College in May 2011.


She became the first woman to be enrolled as a State Counsel in 1978. Furthermore, in April 1988 she established a record by being the country’s first female judge of the High Court, in addition to the first woman Justice of the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka in July 1998.


She also served as President of the Court of Appeal. Justice Tilakawardane has earned international recognition due to her work in the fields of equality and justice, gender education, child rights in Sri Lanka and international community.

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