Von Neena Bandhari

SYDNEY (IDN) - Obwohl das australische Parlament das im vergangenen Jahr mit Indien geschlossene Atomkooperationsabkommen noch nicht ratifiziert hat, warnen Zivilgesellschaft, Umweltaktivisten und Abrüstungsbefürworter davor, dass ein Verkauf von Uran an Indien einen nuklearen Rüstungswettlauf in der Region auslösen könnte. Australiens guter Ruf als Verfechter atomarer Sicherheitsstrategien geriete damit in Gefahr.

- Photo: 2020

Distinguished Diplomat Kohona Tipped to be Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China

By Radwan Jakeem

NEW YORK | COLOMBO (IDN) – A major overhaul of the heads of Sri Lankan diplomatic missions abroad will come into effect in the next 30 days and new ambassadors have already been handpicked to key embassies abroad. These include New Delhi, Washington DC, Chennai, Tokyo, Beijing and Ottawa, reports Sunday Times.

At the same time, several retired diplomats who are over 60 years and heading embassies overseas have been summoned back by October 4 — i.e one month’s notice from when they were recalled. They include Kshenuka Senewiratne, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Asoka Girihagama in Ottawa, Sudanthaka Ganegamarachchi in Stockholm, Damayanthi Rajapaksa in Cairo, A.L. Ratnapala in Havana and Sumith Nakandala in The Hague. Sumith Nakandala will be given time till October 22 when he turns 60.

Ravinatha Aryasinha, who was in August replaced as Foreign Secretary by Admiral Jayanath Colombage, will head the mission in Washington DC, USA. Incumbent ambassador Rodney Perera will likely return to the ministry in Colombo. He took charge of the Washington mission after it remained without an ambassador for almost two years during the Yahapalana Government. Kshanika Hirimburegama, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and professor of Botany, will be posted to Ottawa, Canada as High Commissioner.

Milinda Moragoda, who held several ministerial posts in the past in both UNP and UPFA governments, will be the envoy to New Delhi, India. The Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai will be V.K. Walsan, a one-time Ambassador to Sweden. He also served in Chennai previously as deputy high commissioner.

Sanjiv Gunasekera, a resident of Los Angeles, USA will be the next ambassador to Tokyo. He is the founder and CEO of Sunland Group of Companies, a real estate conglomerate based in California. He is a grandson of former ambassador to Rome (1963-65) and Accra (1970-73) Loranie Seneviratne.

Dr Palitha Kohona, a former Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will head the mission in Beijing, China. He was at one-time Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

Explaining the importance of Dr Kohona’s choice for China, P.K. Balachandran writes in NewsIn Asia: In the current and developing regional and international geo-political context, the posting in Beijing will be a very critical one for Sri Lanka. The strategically located Indian Ocean island nation has become an arena of Big Power rivalry with China, the US, Japan and India in the fray.

While China has already established a large footprint in Sri Lanka with its massive infrastructure projects, Beijing’s rivals are trying to stem its further inroads saying that the Chinese projects have landed Sri Lanka in a debt trap. The US is coming up with its own version of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Diplomacy. It is putting pressure on Sri Lanka to sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact for a grant of US$ 480 million for infrastructural development. But Colombo is wary about the compact’s impact on the country’s sovereignty.

Recently, the US State Department clamped visa restrictions on select officials of the China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC), the parent organization of the China Harbour and Engineering Company (CHEC) which is building the mammoth US$ 1.4 billion Colombo Port City. The State Department had gone a step further and appealed to all governments dealing with the CCCC to be wary of its role in China’s questionable activities in the South China Sea.

Balachandran adds: “Rivalries of this sort are likely to increase rather than decrease in the months and years to come. Therefore, Sri Lanka and its envoys in Beijing, New Delhi and Washington will have a delicate task on hand requiring a lot of tight rope walking.

Dr Kohona comes to the job armed with a distinguished record in academics, international law and practical diplomacy. He has advanced degrees from three countries and experience as a civil servant with the Australian and Sri Lankan governments and the UN.”

Dr Kohona was Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka from 2006 to 2009. He then went to the UN to be the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in New York till 2015. In 2013, he was elected Chair of the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal). He was Co-Chair of the UN Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, and Chair of the UN Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Arab Territories.

Earlier, between 1995 and 2006, Dr Kohona was Chief of the United Nations Treaty Section in New York. At the UN he was responsible for introducing major managerial innovations and was awarded the UN 21 PIN for superior performance and efficiency. He managed the computerisation of the UN treaty database which contains over one million pages of information and which now receives over 1.5 million hits per month from around the world.

Dr. Kohona initiated the UN treaty training project as part of an outreach programme for familiarizing countries with the UN treaty collection. He also initiated the UN Treaty Event, now held during the General Assembly, which has become a regular feature in the UN calendar. Given his proactive approach to UN reform, he was assigned to the results-based budgeting spearhead group and to a range of other groups working on Secretariat reform.

The Presidential Secretariat issued a statement on September 3 urging those who are protesting the appointment of certain individuals by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to refrain from doing so. The statement says these appointments have been made after careful scrutiny of loyalty to the nation, qualifications and background of individuals and taking into consideration the country’s sovereignty, national security and implementation of the ‘Saubhaygya Dekma’ policy statement of the new government.

“Expressing opinions against his appointments will weaken the Government’s process by underestimating them in the society,” the statement adds. [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 September 2020]

Photo: Dr. Palitha Kohona, Former Permanent Representative of UN to Sri Lanka. Credit: NewsinAsia.

IDN is the Flagship Agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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