Q: Are the charges laid against you by the Ministry of External Affairs accurate? And do they deserve disciplinary action?
A: To quote Stephane Hessel, ‘Indignez-vous!’ I am indignant and outraged! The charges that are threatened to be laid against me, far from being accurate, are best describable in that inimitable phrase, ‘lies agreed upon’! Regarding the matters raised, there has been no fraud or corruption whatsoever at the level of the embassy because as far as I can see there has been no financial gain made by anybody, and certainly no gain of any sort made by me.
Anyway, these matters of administration and financial management are not the task of the ambassador; they are the responsibility of the Head of Chancery and other career officers who handle administration. While there may have been errors and lapses of procedure, and it is perfectly in order for the Ministry to raise queries on such matters – though they have been raised earlier and we have responded to them – it is lunacy to use terms like ‘fraud’, ‘corruption’, ‘undermining GoSL’ and the like, with reference to them. Those who wrote this must have picked up the habit of gross magnification and distortion, from the Darusman report and Channel 4 videos.
More fundamentally, the underlying principle is dangerous, because if the Ambassador is to be accused of such grave offences and threatened with action under the Penal Code, on the grounds that as Head of Mission I am ultimately responsible even for possible lapses in procedure in the whitewashing of the Mission premises, then it is the same logic as invoking ‘command responsibility’!
Q: Allegations have emerged that this is a move to remove you from your ambassadorial post in France, do you agree?
A: I do not wish to speculate on the speculation that there is an attempt to effect ‘regime change’ at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris and UNESCO, by the ‘Oxford Union’ faction – by which term I am not referring to anyone who is an Oxford alumni, as is my good friend Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha.
Q: Is the Ministry a scene of a power struggle with Galle district MP Sajin de Vass Gunawardena vying for the top spot?
A: I would not know as I do not monitor him.
Q: You recently wrote an article critical of the government’s approach to the recent UNHRC summit. Are the charges laid against you by the Ministry a reaction to this article?
A: No. I have not written an article critical of the government’s approach to the recent UNHRC summit. I have made no reference whatsoever to the government in my articles which constituted an honest effort to contribute analytically to Sri Lanka’s post-Geneva search for answers, understanding and a way forward.
Q: Your stint in France ends in January next year; following this threat of charges being laid against you, do you see yourself receiving another posting?
A: I don’t see myself being offered or accepting one.
Q: You have said that Sri Lanka cannot win at the UN solely on India’s support, is the government taking the right steps in moving European missions to Africa?
A: A country which is economically far less prosperous than ours, Cuba, has a global presence with diplomatic missions in 130 countries. I am very glad we are opening missions in Africa. We should proliferate and strengthen our ties with Latin America. I am sad that financial constraints seem to necessitate a cut back in our existing missions in Europe.
Q: You have called on the government to take the UNHRC Resolution seriously. In your opinion has the government discarded the recommendations?
A: While I have urged that the Resolution and the game-plan behind it must be taken with the utmost seriousness, I do not mean complying with it.
I am opposed to complying with the Resolution precisely because it is unfairly critical of the LLRC and urges us to go beyond it, which I do not think we should do or even consider. It is still too early to conclude that the government has discarded the recommendations, though it is perfectly in order to discard the UNHRC Resolution’s recommendations if we implement our own LLRC’s recommendations, as most recently urged by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka.
Q: You have warned that unless Sri Lanka takes the recommendations seriously the countries who supported it would take further action. What course of action do you see them taking?
A: If we do not implement the LLRC recommendations in time – as distinct from implementing the UNHRC Resolution – I see an interim course of action, leading to a far more serious endgame, driven by a combination of Tamil Diaspora pressure, Tamil Nadu dynamics and uni-polar strivings in a new cold war in Asia and the Indian Ocean. Initially, the trap that will be sprung is to allege that we have proven as a state, beyond reasonable doubt, that we are unwilling or incapable, or both, to implement our own domestic reform recommendations, dialogue successfully on ethnic reconciliation and take steps on accountability. That will be the springboard for an international investigative and accountability mechanism, the recommendations of which will be sent to New York and even legislatures elsewhere. If we do not implement the LLRC report in time I am more worried about the worst-case: an R2P scenario, namely, a political vacuum in the North, which opens the way for protest and agitation which may be met by force, which will in turn, trigger external intervention, or ethnic polarisation resulting in violent unrest and the use of lethal force, which will also trigger intervention. If anyone thinks this is fanciful scaremongering on my part, I would only remind them that we once experienced something similar, in 1987. If there is ever another July ’83 or anything remotely like it, we shall experience a 1987 which will be of permanent partition under UN or international auspices.
Q: In your opinion what are the key steps Sri Lanka needs to take towards becoming a more liberal country?
A: Three simple and basic points. Adhere to the letter and spirit of the totality of our Republican Constitution and implement it in full in all parts of our small island; fully restore the pre-war situation and practice of law and order; expeditiously implement the recommendations of the LLRC. In short, seek out and travel on the Middle Path in all matters.