Friday, February 22, 2013

Career Diplomats – I thought you were beyond this! Shame on you

Reading the missive from the soon to be ex-Ambassador to Italy, Asitha Perera, it is apparent that he is not making things up as he has no need to find excuses as to why he was fired! Why would he need to blame anyone if blame was not due?

I would therefore point the finger at the Foreign Service officers who see their chances of promotions stifled by the political appointees, and therefore do their best to clip their wings. I do agree that there are too many political appointees, but that is primarily due to the incompetence of many in the Foreign Service who have entered that service due to poor recruitment of people totally unsuitable for international appointments. In short they are no Jayantha Dhanapalas.

So my attack is directed at career officers not all of them mind you, as there are those like Ravinatha who went into it a little more mature, who has the ability to manage a strong posting such as EU and now Geneva with aplomb. I am willing to give the whole Foreign Service, a three day residential workshop about how to conduct yourselves in the interests of the Country and not your personal agendas. 

There are many anomalies that you have to get used to, the least of which is the difference in your compensation from that paid when you are working from your home country. It is important that you do not have to supplement your income by promising spurious job opportunities and letting the dignity of your country down by giving it a bad name.

If what Asitha Perera says, even has a grain of truth in it as it must, your complicity in his demise must be owned, and if you are unable to replace him by one who is better able to do his job better, and also not get involved in working on personal agendas, and self upliftment then you had better hold your tongue. The Foreign Affairs Ministry gets lot of criticism too, and I am sorry that they have also stooped to the same level of pettiness, when they should be above it.

It looks like these deal makers will not be happy till the high profile non career diplomats are removed, so that they can continue to behave in a bureaucratic mindset with the portrayal of Sri Lanka suffering in the international stage, by both their conduct and incompetence. Until professionalism is restored and political appointments to the Foreign Service and External Affairs Ministry done away with, we will continue to see a level of incompetence in our foreign representation.

Sri Lanka has a long way to go to restore the confidence in the Foreign Service, both to better serve our citizens in those countries and at the same time represent our country’s interests in those foreign lands in a professional manner.

When my Grandfather a political appointment was Ambassador in Rome in the 1950's he preferred to walk to the Embassy from his apartment, something one would probably not wish to do these days, whilst many a foreign ambassador in Italy from other countries still do. He made it a point to learn Italian, so that upon his return 4 years later he was fluent in the language, completely fooling Italians into believing that he was an Italian! 

So it is all part of the general training of basic concepts, which our career diplomats today, do not have. It is partly the fault of our education system, but also the fault of our training systems for these officers. Hence my offer of training them and setting guidelines so they represent their country as professional officers. In fact political appointees except for protocol procedures are better able to carry themselves in their posts than many a foreign service officer.

The debate resulting from the missive referred to at the beginning will grow in the next week, in the media and one is bound to have opinions on how this state of events is handled, spread and generally discussed in public fora.

We can see another example of why we in Sri Lanka are not particularly efficient in the conduct of our foreign policy and keep falling into these traps set by our own people.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you about political appointees and career diplomats, however warn against painting with such a broad brush. There are great political appointees as there are great career diplomats, and vice versa. Your grandfather was a well-known man of incredible integrity and learning, and was a great political appointee. Asitha Perera, on the other hand, hardly holds a stick to your grandfather. A bit of recent controversy:

"There has also been heavy criticism about his attempt to obtain free tickets to attend the opera, `Don Quixote` which was being staged at the Teatro dell`Opera di Roma. The tickets were priced at Eruo 150 each. The opera was a charity event to raise funds for Ani AIDS, an Italian AIDS project, and Wicremesinghe`s or rather attempts by Sri Lanka`s Ambassador to Italy, Asitha Perera, to obtain free ticket for Wickremesinghe, had reportedly even drawn a few sniggers from the Italian Foreign Ministry officials.

He had also tried to obtain free passes to several historical sites, including the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Pentium and Borghese Gallery.

Reports from Rome indicate, following the embarrassing chastisement from Italian officials, Wickremesinghe had purchased tickets to `don Quixote` on 29 December. This has compelled one wag to comment that AniAIDS had received a substantial contribution from Sri Lanka, courtesy the Sri Lankan Ambassador, his wife and her maternal Uncle Ranil Wickremesinghe and his wife Professor Maithree Wickremesinghe.

If the cheapskate embarrassment is not enough, sources at the Ministry of External Affairs reveal that Wickremesinghe was forced to abort plans to stay at one of Italy`s most expensive hotels, the Hilton, after information was leaked out about the plan. According to the source, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, was told in no uncertain terms, by those in higher authority, to convey to Ambassador Perera, if he wanted to provide accommodation to his uncle, he should do so at his own expenses."

Anonymous said...

This looks like clearly a case of Asitha Perera trying to suck up to RW (just in case he wants to come on their side eventually).

RW can afford to stay in any hotel at his own expense, or purchase tickets himself.

This seems like a case of Asitha trying to say "I'll take care of everything for you sir!" and then trying to shift all the costs onto the MEA.

It is more of an embarrassment to RW than anyone else. Most of it Asitha's fault.