Tony Blair and Family in Galle, Mid-August 2015

Michael Roberts

In August 2015 Tony Blair and family visited Sri Lanka  on a private holiday trip[1] and during their stay in Galle resided at the upmarket boutique hotel known as “Amangalla.”[2] When a Sunday dawned on 11th August 2015 they adhered to their Catholic faith and attended mass at the little low-key Catholic Chapel in Lighthouse Street around the corner from Amangalla. So, we now witness a picture of an informal gathering after the service where the Blairs are chatting with Moninna Goonewardena of Parawa Street, Fort Galle, Charmaine Fereira of Galle and Fr. Tharanga Saminathan of the Jesuit Order — a lovely moment etched in ecumenical space.


A quick check of Google generated interesting background facts associated with the visit – at a moment when parliamentary elections were pending after the Yahāpalana combo had ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa from his Presidential hopes in January 2015. The Daily Mirror of 12th August tells us that “Mr Blair and his family visited Sri Lanka on an invitation by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. They left for Anuradhapura on a a domestic flight soon after arrival.” But further explorations lead to a significant sidelight: namely, that Blair had accepted an invitation to present the Lakshman Kadirgamar Talk at the academy bearing the latter’s name. It had been in August 2005, the 12th of August 2005 to be specific, that Kadirgamar was assassinated by the LTTE.[3]

Thus, a few days after the family sojourn in Galle, on 24th August 2015, Samaraweera introduced Tony Blair to an audience that included Mrs Kadirgamar and Madame Chandrika Bandaranaike. Tony Blair then addressed the audience on the topicReconciliation in Sri Lanka and the Northern Ireland Experience.”[4]

These facets are surely a significant background condition. They compromise the innocence of the initial Times news item as well as the photo that I have chanced upon. We can presume that Samaraweera, former President CBK and others in the Yahāpalana enterprise had selected Blair with an eye on the Government’s (controversial) foreign policy strategy in Geneva on the UNHCR-driven war crimes charges directed at Sri Lanka.

In the early months of the year the Yahāpalana administration had backflipped on previous foreign policy programmes and supported the human rights agitation targeting Sri Lanka’s conduct in the last stages of the war – in effect going along with the accusations of the UN Panel of Experts and the Tamil diaspora. Dayan Jayatilleka correctly assailed this position thus: “Mangala in Geneva: Backstabbing the Armed Forces.”[5] Samaraweera was a key driver of this line of policy and was metaphorically in bed with Samantha Power of the US State Department at this point of time.

Samaraweera and his aides were apparently seeking to address the political tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese within Sri Lanka. by adopting a set of policies oriented towards “reconciliation” (a magic word that is continuously repeated). Speculatively, we can surmise that the personnel driving the Yahāpalana machine in this realm desired supporting interventions from the British governing quarters of that day and had opted for Blair as a person outside that government with precisely the sort of experience to address delicate irredentist issues because Blair, as the Labour PM in the period 1997-2007, had tackled and worked out a compromise on the delicate issue of Northern Ireland.

Thus, after “two weeks of bliss” (Blair’s turn of phrase), on the 24th of August Tony Blair was introduced by Samaraweera to an august audience which included Mrs Suganthee Kadirgamar and Chandrika Bandaranaike.[6]

President Sirisena with the Blair family

SPECIAL ENDNOTE: the Colombo Gazette item 11 August 2015

Tony Blair served as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from May 1997 to June 2007. He was also the leader of Britain’s Labour Party (1994 to 2007) and the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield, England (1983 to 2007).

Tony Blair is also the founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. An opinion article appearing on the Foundation website last week said that the inaction of the previous government led to increased persecution of religious minority communities in Sri Lanka, but the situation has improved since the January 2015 election.

The article also says that with former-President Mahinda Rajapaksa running for prime minister at the election next week there is a risk of an increase in religiously-divisive rhetoric, or worse, violence against religious minority communities by members and supporters of Buddhist nationalist groups, particularly Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Sinhala Rāvaya.


Ashik Bonofer 2005 “After Kadirgamar’s Assassination: Options for LTTE, Sri Lanka and India,” 23 August 2005,

Dayan Jayatilleka 2015 “Mangala in Geneva: Backstabbing the Armed Forces,” 3 March 2015,

Christopher Black 2016 “Samantha Power leads USA’s Threatening Squeeze on Russia,” 7 October 2016, …………….. in Near Eastern Outlook 3 October 2016, where the title is “NATO’s War On Russia: The Winds Howl Before the Storm”

Richard Gowan 2015 “A Hardline R2P Interventionist? An American Analyst’s Interpretation of Samantha Power,” 22 November 2015,

Samantha Power 2003 A Problem from Hell, New York: Perennial.

Stephen Wertheim 2010 “A Solution from hell: the United States and the Rise of Humanitarian Interventionism, 1991–2003,” Journal of Genocide Research vol. 12/3: 149–172


[1] Their arrival was noted in both the Times the Colombo Gazette of 11th August 2015. Neither news outlet indicated that Blair would be presenting the Kadirgamar Lecture later in the month. However, the Daily Mirror did mention the fact that the Balirs had been invited by Mangala Samaraweera. The additional information served up by the Colombo Gazette is of some significance and is presented as a Special Endnote.

[2] Aficianados will know that Amangalla was previously the famous New Oriental Hotel run by Nesta Brohier and immortalized by such writers as Joe Simpson. The Aman chain of hotels in Asia is top-of-the-range boutique value and when I was invited for tea by Olivia Richli, its manager, in 2005 rooms were about 800 dollars per night. By 2015 costs would have been higher.

[3] See Bonofer,

[4] Note AND OR

[5] See Jayatilleka at ….…. AND—Mangala-tells-UN-in-Geneva

[6] Widely accepted rumour indicates that CBK was the principal broker in the manouevrings that brought Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickramasinghe together to challenge Mahinda Rajapaksa and his troupe by securing the Presidency in January 2015. Sirisena had been provided with a Howard fellowship in USA in 2012(?) and Daya Gamage has revealed the manner in which America promotes the fortunes of potential ministers (0989) with an eye on the future. Thus, we can surmise that USA had a hand in the processes that brought together a team that could wrest the Presidency by vote. The selection of Samaraweera as Foreign Minister suggests that he was party to the process.




Leave a comment

Filed under accountability, centre-periphery relations, charitable outreach, communal relations, conspiracies, devolution, ethnicity, foreign policy, governance, historical interpretation, human rights, legal issues, life stories, performance, politIcal discourse, power politics, power sharing, reconciliation, religiosity, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, tourism, travelogue, unusual people, world events & processes

Leave a Reply