Some second-level Foreign Service officers are in line for promotions under Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s plans to depoliticise Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps.
The Minister said he intends to restrict the number of politically-appointed heads of missions to 19, while the country has 66 overseas missions. It was not immediately clear whether Sri Lanka had sufficient first-level Foreign Service officers to help meet this ambitious target.
“We may have to promote some of the second-level diplomats,” he told the Sunday Times. “I also think it’s high time we injected the system with some new diplomatic blood. There are a lot of talented people who may not be that old, who I feel are much more capable than the people who have been posing as ambassadors in the last few years.”
The Minister said Sri Lanka’s diplomatic corps will be completely overhauled. “It’s a dreadful mess here,” he sighed. “The politicisation is unbelievable.” Thirty-one—over half—of Sri Lanka’s missions abroad are headed by political appointees. These include consuls general. On Tuesday, letters went out to 27 heads of missions, giving them a month to report back to Colombo.
Among those recalled is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cousin, Udayanga Weeratunga, who has served in Moscow for an unprecedented eight years. High Commissioner to India, Sudharshan Seneviratne will retain his post until after President Sirisena’s visit to New Delhi in February.
The shakeup will happen at all levels, Minister Samaraweera vowed. “First step is heads of missions,” he explained. “If we are to recall all of our political appointees together, many of our missions will collapse because 70 to 80 per cent of them are political. We have to do this step-by-step.”
“I am insisting that the earlier formula of 70:30 will be adhered to,” he continued. “That is, 70 per cent of appointees will be from the Foreign Service and up to 30 per cent for political appointments. But even the latter must be of the highest quality and calibre.”
As for selections: “We are thinking, looking.”