Daya Gamage in Email MEMO entitled “Enlightening Foreign Secretary Colombage & Lobbying from Far-away Lands” …. that is addressed to “Mr. Chandre Dharmawardana & Our Friends in the Forum,” **
I’ll take one-by-one what Chandre noted about my submission … endeavoring to give a message to Foreign Secretary Colombage:
- THE CLAIM: Attacking Mr. Colombage in public and holding him accountable are counterproductive.
This [my memorandum] was not an attack: ‘Holding Accountable’ is what we Sri Lankans – both living in Sri Lanka and expatriates – need to do to bring sense to policymakers in the Sri Lanka government. I have noted, going through the Sri Lankan media – and in open dialogue – no one is engaged in investigative journalism to help policymakers understand many aspects of a single issue that they may have missed. Only Shamindra Ferdinando provides such erudite analyses helping the policymakers to mend their approaches to issues. What I did is exactly that not with any objective in a journalistic writing to score a point or demean Mr. Colombage. I very subtlety told him “Don’t Let the Global Operatives in the Tamil Diaspora Be One Step Ahead”.
- Politicians never admit their mistakes. They merely harden their position when confronted in public with direct criticisms.
Mr. Colombage is not a politician: His responsibility as the Foreign Secretary is to (a) Monitor Sri Lanka’s foreign relations with other countries (b) What other countries’ attitude toward Sri Lanka (c) Who are the principal individuals who formulate foreign policy in those countries (d) Know their credentials as the FS at some stage may have to contact/communicate with them (e) based on the all the above to provide advice to the Foreign Minister, and through him to the President who appointed him. For Mr. Colombage to pronounce “Right now, I don’t think any bearing on Sri Lanka” when asked “How do you see the political change in the United States on this matter” is serious statement on behalf of his government, and reflects that his Minister or the President have taken the ‘Enormous Regime Change’ in Washington very lightly. The change in Washington is: From a non-interfering Conservative to interventionist Liberal regime, and Sri Lanka knows what a ‘Liberal Regime’did during and after the Eelam War. Mr. Colombage’s statement itself could be a ‘comfort’ to the operatives within the Global Tamil Diaspora who are well ahead of ‘monitoring’ especially the developments in Washington after Biden took over. It is true that the Ministry Secretary is not the person who formulates policy but he should be in a position to mend/influence policies provided he monitors beyond the Sri Lankan shores. The old saying is “Foreign Policy is Domestic Policy: Domestic Policy is Foreign Policy”.
- Mr. Chandre: You and I, or anyone in this forum has no influence over policymakers in the Presidential Secretariat or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The person who has influence is Mr. Colombage to let his Minister or the President, who was solely responsible in appointing him to that position, to let know what policies need to be mended or formulated. Mr. Chandre is right: Politicians want to hear what they like to hear, and do not want anyone to tell how to do their job (meaning criticism). When Mr. Ravinath Aryasinha was in UNHRC-Geneva at the time the Resolution 30/1 was to be presented by the Yahapalana Government, he vehemently opposed it, (in fact made a public statement) but was silenced by Minister Mangala Samaraweera and, under the pressure of Washington, adopted it to which Sri Lanka is still suffering. When Mr. Colombage initially made a statement Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is “India First”, I gave an analysis in the Asian Tribune“If India First means U.S. First as India had already signed two (at that time and now three) defense/military agreements with Washington, therefore it turns out to be ‘US First too”. I don’t know who showed him my report, I noticed he later adjusted it to “Sri Lanka First”. That’s how we who have no access to the Presidential Secretariat or Foreign Ministry do to lobby through our writings. I know, as Mr. Chandre infer, the ‘big Shots’ don’t want others to say how to do their job, or do not want to hear what they don’t want to hear. It is ‘criticism’ to some, and should not embarrass doing so. (Who are We)
There’s one person in this Forum, I think, who understands what I say: JANAKA.
Chandre Dharmawardena’s COMMENT — the note that drew Gamage’s Essay
I believe that attacking Mr. Colombage in public and holding him accountable to the foreign policy statements made on behalf of the government are counterproductive. Politicians never admit their mistakes. They merely harden their position when confronted in public with direct criticisms.
The Ministry secretary is most probably NOT the one who formulates these policies.
Attacking and killing the messengers do not work.
What is needed at this moment is direct lobbying, in a less public manner, with the ministry AS WELL AS with the presidential secretariat where policy is formulated. Putting the house right is more important than journalistic objectives.