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Foreign Ministers of Sri Lanka

The Begging and Bombast Brigade

by Sachi Sri Kantha

A.C.S. Hameed and L. Kadirgamar were the two foreign ministers who have had the longest tenures in this slot. Why this is so is because both nominally belonged to the non-Sinhalese ethnic tribes. They satisfied the first rule of ‘being a non-threat to topple the Top Banana from the throne’.

Thirty years have passed since a specific ‘Foreign Minister’ slot was established in the Cabinet of Sri Lanka by the first executive President, J.R. Jayewardene. As such, it is not inappropriate to comment on the performances and the functional dynamics of the politicians who have served as foreign minister. In a nutshell, I’d summarise the personalities and performances of the foreign ministers as noted by the five words in the sub-title ‘The Begging and Bombast Brigade.’ All the foreign ministers were officially permitted to go on begging trips for development funds, grants, loans and jobs. A couple of them, like Ranjan Wijeratne and Lakshman Kadirgamar, also perfected bombast as part of their act of duplicitous hucksterism.

The Members of the Brigade

As of now, Sri Lanka has seen the tenures of eight foreign ministers, with two of the longest serving foreign ministers in the saddle for two interrupted tenures. Here are the names and their tenure periods, in chronological sequence.

A.C.S. Hameed (July 1977 – Feb.1989)

Ranjan Wijeratne (Feb.1989 – Mar.1990)

Harold Herath (Mar.1990 – April 1993)

A.C.S. Hameed (May 1993 – July 1994)

Lakshman Kadirgamar (Aug. 1994 – Dec. 2001)

Tyronne Fernando (Dec. 2001 – April 2004)

Lakshman Kadirgamar (April 2004 – Aug. 2005)

Anura Bandaranaike (Aug. 2005 – Nov. 2005)

Mangala Samaraweera (Nov. 2005 – Jan. 2007)

Rohitha Bogollagama (since Jan.28, 2007 -  )

Among the eight, two (Ranjan Wijeratne and Lakshman Kadirgamar) were assassinated while holding Cabinet positions. While Kadirgamar was garbed with the Foreign Minister’s cloak during his assassination in Aug.2005, Wijeratne substituted his  Foreign Minister’s garb for that of Deputy  Defence Minister, when

L Kadirgamar Visits Buddhist Vihara Washington DC May 2004

Visit to the Washington Buddhist Vihara by L. Kadirgamar in May 2004

This visit to Washington D.C. is the fifth visit by Minister Kadirgamar as Foreign Minister, having previously visited in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. As on previous visits to Washington DC, the Minister visited the Washington Buddhist Vihara and received blessings from the Ven. Maharagama Dhammasiri Thero, Chief Priest of the Washington Buddhist Vihara. Ven. Thavalama Bothiseha Thero and Ven. Bandarawela Nanda Thero represented the International Buddhist Center in Wheaton.

he fell in March 1991. Though both assassinations have been conveniently attributed to the LTTE by the servile Colombo news media, as of now, proper police investigations followed by judicial indictment and conviction have not been carried out. It has become a convenient modus operandi for the Sri Lankan police officials to pass the buck and put the blame on the LTTE for any unsolved high profile assassinations. See below for more details on the undercurrents of Wijeratne’s assassination.

A.C.S. Hameed and L. Kadirgamar were the two foreign ministers who have had the longest tenures in this slot. Why this is so is because both nominally belonged to the non-Sinhalese ethnic tribes. They satisfied the first rule of ‘being a non-threat to topple the Top Banana from the throne.’ Hameed, being a seasoned politician with a solid support base on his own, was comfortable in identifying himself as a Muslim. But Kadirgamar being a ‘Johnny Come Lately’ to politics and without a solid support base on his own, never felt comfortable in identifying himself as a Tamil. To curry favors from his Top Banana and her courtiers, Kadirgamar bleached himself into a that non-existent category of ‘Sri Lankan’ without an ethnic identity. This was no different from pop singer Michael Jackson’s pecadillo of transforming himself into a bleached White.

Two other foreign ministers (Ranjan Wijeratne and Mangala Samaraweera) among the eight, who showed inclinations of becoming too big for their britches – in the eyes of their Top Bananas – fell flat too soon, as the friction and heat they produced in confronting their Top Bananas had a boomerang effect.

One foreign minister (Tyronne Fernando) had an international ambition of becoming the UN Secretary General and used all the perks which his tenure at the Foreign Ministry could afford. He didn’t even make it to the starting gate in 2006.

Then, there was Anura Bandaranaike, the designated Court Jester in Sri Lankan politics, whose head carried the Foreign Minister crown for merely three months. This was possible only because his elder sibling was in her final months as the Sri Lankan president and she couldn’t count on anyone else to soothe her nerves.

The current incumbent, Rohitha Bogollagama, is a party hopper, lacking decorum; as such, he received the nod from President Mahinda Rajapakse as a non-threatening clod to have in his jumbo Cabinet.

The Origin of the Foreign Minister Slot and the Three Notables

In Vvolume 2 of their J.R. Jayewardene biography, Kingsley M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins provide the following details on the origin of the foreign minister slot in Sri Lanka. To quote,

“The appointment of a foreign minister, the first in the island’s post-independence history, was indicative of the priorities he [i.e., J.R. Jayewardene] attached to the responsibilities of the head of government, the important point being that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was no longer part of the direct responsibility of the head of government as it had been since 1947. To that extent there was an inevitable, and perhaps intentional, reduction of that ministry in political status and importance. However, as with heads of government the world over, J.R. would keep the more important pronouncements on foreign policy for himself, and would intervene directly whenever he felt it necessary to do so. In choosing A.C.S. Hameed for the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he picked a man who had little understanding of what an efficient ministry required, but his non-committal approach to all the foreign missions in Colombo was seen to have considerable merit and, above all, served J.R.’s purpose of retaining major foreign policy decisions to himself. The fact that he was a Muslim carried no particular advantage or disadvantage to J.R.” [J.R.Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, vol.2, Leo Cooper/Pen & Sword Books Ltd., London, 1994, p.398]

There was a foot-note to the last sentence which stated,

“The fact that Hameed was a Muslim did not bother J.R. at all, but it apparently did bother Morarji Desai, the Indian Prime Minister, who, on an official visit to Sri Lanka in 1979, pointedly asked J.R. why he did not appoint a Sinhalese for that important position. J.R. related this incident to K.M. de Silva in early February 1979 shortly after Desai’s visit.”

Among the eight foreign ministers, I shed light on some aspects pertaining to three (a Muslim, a Sinhalese and a nominal Tamil), on themes which have been left untouched by regular hacks.

(1) Lucky A.C.S. Hameed

A.C.S. Hameed
A.C.S. Hameed

I would comment that Prof. K.M. de Silva was a little economical with the truth in noting that Hameed “was a Muslim carried no particular advantage or disadvantage to J.R.” Jayewardene, being a wily politician, was shrewd in selecting Hameed as the foreign minister, for more than one reason. First, Jayewardene rewarded Hameed for his loyalty to him, when Jayawardene was on the verge of being expelled from the UNP for ‘anti-party activities’ in 1972. In the same Jayewardene biography book, 163 pages earlier, de Silva had noted the following facts, relating to Jayewardene’s trouble with the UNP Working Committee. To quote,

“The first salvo in this campaign was fired on 12 February [1972] when M.D. Banda, a respected figure in the party, moved a resolution at a meeting of the Working Committee calling for J.R.’s expulsion. He argued that J.R. had flouted party discipline by his public speeches and interviews with the national press advocating a line of policy that the party had rejected, namely cooperation with the [SLFP] government…At this juncture, J.R. was totally isolated in the party’s Working Committee. Only one person spoke up in his support, A.C.S. Hameed, who raised objections to the procedure that had been adopted.”

Secondly, the major political plank of Jayewardene in the 1977 general election was the adoption of a free market policy. And having a Muslim foreign minister in his Cabinet was an un-mentioned ‘begging’ ploy to curry economic favors in the Arab Middle East nations and Iran. Thirdly, as I had noted earlier, Hameed (as a loyal Muslim, and a generation younger than Jayewardene in the UNP) was non-threatening to Jayewardene’s power-hold in the party, while some other Sinhalese Cabinet ministers (such as M.D.H. Jayewardena, E.L. Senanayake and even Cyril Mathew) in Jayewardene’s age cohort were anticipated to produce - and occasionally did induce - some hiccups. During his entire tenure, Hameed perfectly settled into his role as a ‘certified’ Cabinet beggar on behalf of his Chief. His globe-trotting schedules were much envied by his Cabinet colleagues and other hangers-on, so much so that Hameed’s initials A.C.S. (standing for Abdul Cader Shahul) was pejoratively talked of as ‘All Countries Seen’ Hameed.

However, in the parochial Colombo politics, that even a seasoned politico of Hameed’s stature should provide him immunity to racist back-stabbing (if and when needed) couldn’t be assured for long. Towards the tail-end of his career as a foreign minister, Hameed lamented in the parliament:

“Foreign Minister Shaul Hameed facing criticism for not turning up in Brussels (from London) to sign a crucial aid agreement, alleged in a statement in parliament that ‘Certain hostile elements conspiring against me with different motives, have come together for a common objective.’ He said that this was a powerful coalition of forces, otherwise divided hopelessly, but knit together with one goal. The motivating force, he suggested, was the feeling that a Muslim should not be the Foreign Minister.” [‘Conspiracy, says Hameed’ Lanka Guardian, June 15, 1994, p.1]

It will remain in record that among the eight foreign ministers of Sri Lanka, only Hameed had the opportunity to meet with LTTE leader Pirabhakaran, face-to-face.

(2) Rapacious Ranjan Wijeratne

Journalists and one academic scribe have suggested the idea that rapacious Ranjan Wijeratne was an assassination victim of the LTTE, which may not wash; instead, President Premadasa, a noted exponent of the double cross, may have played his hand in Wijeratne’s killing. That President Premadasa was also strongly implicated in the assassination of one of his party rivals, Lalith Athulathmudali, in April 1993 is now an uncomfortable political truth for the Sinhalese.

For the record, I provide below the obituary-commentaries on Ranjan Wijeratne as they appeared in the Economist and Asiaweek magazines in 1991, and the relevant passages from a 1995 biography on Premadasa by a Dutch academic. The correspondent to the Economist magazine [in all probabilities, Mervyn de Silva, the editor of the Lanka Guardian magazine] had noted two previous attempts made on Wijeratne’s life, one by poisoning and the other by ramming “his car with a car full of explosives.” These deserve highlighting, since a Wikipedia entry on Wijeratne (probably contributed by anti-LTTE polemicists, and which I checked on August 31, 2007) informs that he was assassinated by the LTTE by a remote controlled car bomb.

It is a sad reflection on the quality of post-Independent Sri Lankan education that the proliferating Wikipedia entries on Sri Lankan politics (mostly contributed by amateur Sinhalese hacks and partisans as evinced by their anti-Tamil bias) reflect the crude scribblings characteristic of bathroom graffiti. But, the website dedicated to Wijeratne’s memory (www.ranjanwijeratnefoundation.org) also conveniently ignores the following three items.

Death of a Hawk

[Sri Lanka Correspondent; Economist, March 9, 1991, p.28]

Ranjan Wijeratne, Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister, was a hard man to kill. He survived an attempt to poison him last year at a banquet he was giving in Colombo. A plan to ram his car with a car full of explosives was foiled. But whoever killed him in the capital on March 4th [sic; 2nd was correct] made no mistake. A minibus packed with explosives was blown up by remote control as Mr Wijeratne’s white armor-plated Mercedes drove by. The minister was killed, as were his two bodyguards in the car and the four soldiers in an escorting jeep. At least 30 by-standers died too. A dozen buildings were destroyed. The explosion was heard ten miles from Colombo.

Although the minister held the deputy’s job, in practice he ran the defence ministry. After the president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, who is formally defence minister, he was the most powerful man in the country. As such, he had many enemies who might have liked him dead.

The most obvious suspects, the Tamil Tigers, fighting the government for a separate state in the north and east of Sri Lanka, have denied killing him. For international consumption they have denied political killings before, although later admitting responsibility. It seems likely, though, that they would have been happy to claim the death of the government’s foremost hawk.

The JVP, the Marxist-nationalist group that terrorised the south of the country and was in turn brutally put down by the security forces, is believed to be finished. But some JVP zealots survive, and they blame Mr Wijeratne for the deaths of 60,000 people in the drive against the group. The JVP is thought to have planned the two previous attempts on the minister’s life; it is possible that the JVP’s men succeeded this time.

A third possibility is that the murder was carried out by gangsters with an interest in gambling in Colombo. Mr Wijeratne had got his men to probe their empire, which includes prostitution and currency rackets. Fourthly, he could have been killed by a rival in the government. Some thought Mr Wijeratne was getting too big for his boots, and too close to the military establishment for a civilian politician.

Whoever did him in removed a man who was brave as well as ruthless. When the chairman of the ruling United National Party was killed in 1988, Mr Wijeratne volunteered to take on the job. When the party’s general secretary was killed, Mr Wijeratne took on that position as well. ‘I’m not afraid of dying,’ he said.

The political significance of his death may soon become apparent. President Premadasa seems to be steeling himself to try to talk peace with the Tigers yet again. Perhaps with this in mind he has chosen as his new defence deputy Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, who is regarded as a dove. But if army officers believe the Tigers have killed their favourite minister, they are likely to oppose any talks. Encouraged by Mr Wijeratne, the army has built up considerable political clout. The Tigers rearmed and regrouped during the 14 months of peace talks that ended abruptly in pitched battles last year. ‘We will never allow that to happen again,’ said one senior officer recently. Bombing raids on the Jaffna peninsula, the Tigers’ main stronghold, were intensified in the days after Mr Wijeratne’s death. His memorial may be that they will continue.

*****

The Killing of Ranjan Wijeratne

[Anonymous; Asiaweek, Hongkong, March 15, 1991, p.33]

Like many of Sri Lanka’s political leaders, Deputy Defence Minister Ranjan Wijertne set his life’s course by the stars. So when his astrologer told him that he was entering the best period of his life, he relaxed his security. Where once he varied his routes to work, he began to take the same road every day. But the stars were wrong. Early Saturday morning, March 2, the tall silver-haired minister climbed into his white Mercedes and, escorted by two Land Rovers manned by police, headed downtown on Colombo’s busy Havelock Road. Five minutes later an estimated 100 kg of explosives, hidden in a parked bus and detonated by remote control, hurled the Mercedes off the ground, killing Wijeratne instantly along with most of his guards. The blast razed nearby houses and left some 30 bystanders dead, their bodies strewn along the sidewalks. The few surviving soldiers let loose a hail of gunfire but the assassin was gone. And so was the man who once told reporters: ‘I’m not afraid to die.’

Wijeratne’s sudden death created a political void not felt since 1959, when then prime minister Solomon Bandaranaike was shot dead by a Buddhist monk. As President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s right-hand man, the outspoken 59 year-old minister was credited with crushing the 1989 Marxist rebellion by Sinhalese youth in Sri Lanka’s rural south. Since last June he had led the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who are fighting for a separate Tamil state in the north and east. He also held the plantation industries portfolio. ‘It will be very difficult – almost impossible – for the government to fill the vacuum,’ said Col. Anurudha Ratwatte, shadow spokesman for defence (Premadasa himself doubles as defence minister). Added opposition leader and ex-PM Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Solomon’s widow: ‘He was a very important man.’

At midweek police were still sifting through the wreckage to determine who was behind the assassination. The army reckoned only the Tigers were sufficiently organised and motivated to plant such a massive bomb in a residential area. Officials said they could have benefitted from the experience of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students, a Tamil group closely aligned with the Tigers. They exploded a similar bomb in central Colombo last year. ‘The technology required for such an operation is not terribly advanced,’ said a Western military analyst in Colombo. He reckoned a child’s walkie-talkie could have been used to communicate an electronic signal from 50-75 metres away. ‘The difficult thing is obtaining an electronic detonator.’ The detonator used to trigger the explosion was like that used to kill an army colonel on the east coast in December. The Tigers denied any involvement.

Whether or not the Tigers are responsible, they certainly stood to gain by Wijeratne’s death. Said a London-based spokesman: ‘His demise will bring a sense of relief for the Tamil people.’ Others had criticised the government’s chief hawk for taking the war too personally. To Wijeratne the Tigers were ‘a bunch of thugs and criminals’. Said one senior Western diplomat: ‘No one else is going to conduct the war the way he did. And I don’t think anyone else wants to. You are going to see less political intervention, less control and less civilian casualties.’

In many ways, Wijeratne was an unlikely military leader. He grew up among Sri Lanka’s landed gentry in Colombo. He spent most of his working life, nearly 26 years, as a tea planter and for a brief period served in the Ministry of Agriculture under the previous administration of President Junius Jayewardene. According to his niece Bharatie, he was a simple family man who drank sparingly and worked constantly. The minister gave up his only hobby, growing orchids, after entering politics formally as general secretary of the ruling United National Party in 1987. Premadasa appointed him minister of foreign affairs and deputy minister of defence in 1989.

It was in this capacity that Wijeratne made his mark. While he was learning the job in the first half of 1990, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front), or JVP, was terrorising the rural south through intimidation and murder. ‘By July’, Wijeratne told Asiaweek last year, “things got so bad that people thought the government would fall any time. We said, ‘right, enough is enough’. And we went for them.”

Going for them meant unleashing a campaign of counter-terror unseen in Asia since the Khmer Rouge rolled through Cambodia. Thousands of dead and burning bodies began piling up on the sides of roads, on the beaches and in town squares. On at least one occasion the JVP tried to assassinate Wijeratne, killing his driver in the attack. Wijeratne made no apologies for his tough stance. ‘It was my life against Wijeweera’s life.,’ said the minister, referring to JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera. By December 1989 the rebel boss was dead and so was the movement. Wijeratne later admitted that some of his soldiers may have been ‘over-enthusiastic’ in pursuing the insurgents.

A cigar-smoking cricket fan, Wijeratne enjoyed references to the sport. After Wijeweera was killed, he announced: ‘Match over.’ He had a shoot-from-the-hip style, but was widely regarded as sincere. ‘He was a doer and an incorruptible man,’ said N.U. Jayawardena, the chairman of Sri Lanka’s stock exchange. ‘Two remarkable things for a politician.’

*****

Katakata on Ranjan Wijeratne Killing

[source: Josine vander Horst; ‘Who is He, What is He Doing’ – Religious Rhetoric and Performances in Sri Lanka during R. Premadasa’s Presidency (1989-1993), VU University Press, Amsterdam, 1995]

Katakata is orally transmitted information about all that is of temporary interest to people about other people or events…Depending on the issue, a rumour may circulate in a village or region, but also nation wide.” (page 189)

“The katakata of the most negative kind depicted Premadasa as a merciless tyrant, unpredictable and dangerous, who would not stop at anything to protect his power. Premadasa had the reputation of eliminating anybody who came in his way, whether it was a journalist criticizing his ruling style, a photographer who took unattractive pictures of his family members, or a colleague who became too powerful in his eyes. According to wide-spread rumour the killing of Ranjan Wijeratne, the State Minister of Defence, was ‘an inside job’, meaning that the President had ordered the killing.” (page 194)

“The May day rally of 1992 can indeed be characterized as an anti-Premadasa demonstration, the first of its kind and the last. All the negative katakata that had recently circulated was represented openly in the procession, either on banners, as slogans, in the form of tableaux vivantes on the back of trucks, or by means of symbolic objects carried around. First, the slogans referred to the killing of Ranjan Wijeratne and Vijaya Kumaratunga: ‘Who killed Ranjan? Who killed Vijaya?’ They referred to the death squads, called Black Cats (Kalu Pusa): ‘Premadasa, Kalu Pusa!’ (page 195)

(3) Kitschy Lakshman Kadirgamar

One meaning provided in the dictionary for the word ‘kitsch’ is, ‘tasteless decorative object.’ And ‘kitschy’ was the perfect adjective for Kadirgamar. His performance as the foreign minister, between 1994 and 2005, showed a distinct contrast from that of Hameed. If Hameed was comfortable with his stature as an elected UNP Muslim politican servicing his Sinhalese benefactor, Lakshman Kadirgamar was not at all sure either about his status in the parliament or in the SLFP hierarchy. As such, he was constantly at the mercy of his Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga; to neutral observers, in all his deeds, Kadirgamar projected the image of a harried service dog (prancing its legs and barking at command as well as biting bones that spilled from the food table). Nominally born and bred as a Tamil-Christian, how Kadirgamar prostituted himself to service his Sinhala Buddhist patrons was illustrated by the following 1994 news snippet:

“Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao told Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Delhi that an end to the island’s ethnic conflict would be one less problem for India. The Foreign Minister was on a four day official visit, the first by any minister of the new government. Despite talk by Indian politicians about asking for the extradition of Tiger supreme Prabhakaran to face the Rajiv Gandhi murder charge, Foreign Minister Kadirgamar told media men that Prime Minister Rao had not uttered a ‘single word’ on that matter…During his visit Mr Kadirgamar met the Indian President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. He also toured Buddhagaya. The minister said that it had been one of his ambitions to visit the land that the Buddha had trod.” [‘Kadirgamar in India’, Lanka Guardian, Dec.15, 1994, p.1]

While Hameed, a devout Muslim, did not have to tour Buddhagaya and pout piffle about one’s ‘ambition to visit the land that the Buddha had trod’, as a salivating collaborator, this was a necessary ‘to do’ gig in Kadirgamar’s schedule, though he was born a Tamil Christian. What was ridiculous about this piffle is that Kadirgamar waited for 62 whole years to satisfy this ‘ambition’ in nearby India (of all places) at tax-payers’ expense, though he has been globe-trotting for long on his own, before that time.

It was reported that, in November 2005, Kadirgamar was posthumously conferred Sri Lanka’s highest national honour – the Sri Lankabhimannya – by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, ‘in recognition of his astute advocacy of Sri Lanka’s case in international fora and for his undaunted valour and indomitable courage.’ [Sunday Times, Colombo, Nov.13, 2005]. Literally, the adoration ‘Sri Lankabhimannya’ means ‘the One who loved Sri Lanka.’ It may not be wrong in inferring that Kadirgamar did show ‘indomitable courage’ in bleaching his ethnic and religious origin to serve as a star kitschy performer to Sinhalese interests. Also, he did show ‘indomitable courage’ in parading himself as an ‘intellectual’, while not authoring or contributing any book or articles of intellectual content which gained recognition in databases/bibliographies on Sri Lanka. Last, but not the least, Kadirgamar also showed undaunted valor during his tenure as the foreign minister in defending Sri Lanka’s sordid image by turning a blind eye to the oozing revelations which were proving that Sri Lanka is a pedophile’s paradise.

Let me provide a citation/synopsis from a scientific study, which appeared in 1999, when Kadirgamar was the Foreign Minister.

Sexual abuse uncovered: The first scientific study on child sexual abuse in Sri Lanka has concluded that 100 young people are sexually exploited or abused every day on the island. A local organization, Protecting Children and Environment Everywhere, found that while Sri Lankan boys were subject to commercial sexual exploitation involving foreign paedophiles, it was girls who suffered most from abuse within the community. Many of the girls only had one parent, usually the mother who was working abroad, and victims were easy prey because they were left unsupervised. Currently, sexually-abused children are sent to remand or detention homes where offenders and victims live side-by-side. One activist warned that without help victims often end up drug addicts, criminals or abusers themselves.” [New Internationalist magazine, May 1999, Issue No. 312]

Nearly 100 young people were being sexually exploited or abused daily! Is it wrong to infer that Kadirgamar’s high-falutin barking about the plight of the LTTE’s child soldiers in the 1990s was meant to divert the attention of international observers from the negative publicity the island was earning as a heaven for child prostitution? Even the most recent issue of Readers Digest [August 2007] carries a report by Brian Eads entitled, ‘Asia’s Shameful Sex Trade’, in which journalist-author Maureen Seneviratne is quoted as follows:

“The first time, a child often earns about 500 rupees ($5) for themselves or their families, which is a lot, says Maureen Seneviratne, who runs Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere. The pimp, of course, gets more for trafficking the victim…Seneviratne estimates that in the areas where her Colombo-based NGO works, up to 6,000 children are being forced to work as prostitutes at any given time. Yet, in recent years, few foreign paedophiles have been arrested and prosecuted.”

Coda

The Foreign Ministry under its current incumbent Rohitha Bogollagama merely marches in the footsteps of Sri Lankabhimannya Kadirgamar’s hucksterism on the depravity of LTTE child soldiers, while trying to hide its exposed behind on (1) the thriving child sex tourism in resorts dotting the Western and Southern coasts of Sri Lanka, and (2) the child slave labor throughout Sri Lanka, which according to a 1996 statistic – when Kadirgamar was the top honcho - amounted to nearly ‘500,000 children’ [Time magazine, April 15, 1996, p.44].

Here is an update on the 1996 statistic. As per the revelation made by parliamentarian Ms. Nirupama Rajapakse (a kin of current President Rajapakse), on July 20, 2006,

“Sri Lanka has almost one million children enslaved in child labour, despite being a signatory to the International Convention on Child Labour, Hambantota District UPFA MP Nirupama Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday. Quoting Labour Ministry statistics Ms. Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka had an estimated 926,038 children between 5 and 17 years of age, subject to child labour, which amounts to 21 per cent of all the children in that age group.

Almost 10 to 12 per cent of these children work in hazardous conditions, such as in mines, with chemicals and pesticides or with dangerous machinery she said, speaking during the debate on the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children (Amendment) Bill, which was passed yesterday.

Ms. Rajapaksa said these figures do not take into account the numbers of children being used in the intimacy trade for child pornography or prostitution. Approximately 19,000 children, mostly girls, work as domestic servants and unpaid household help and are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Many work under horrific circumstances, being forced to carry out heavy work well beyond their capacity, she said. She said the new law would address areas of child abuse that have plagued the country for decades, namely, the use of children and young persons for prostitution, pornography and in illicit or hazardous activities.”[source: News summary, July 21, 2006; www.lankanewspapers.com]

In light of this statistic, the eight Sri Lankan Foreign Ministers who have plied their jobs are nothing but professional hucksters, who consistently sell the image of Sri Lanka as the only nation in the world where one can see white crows.

*****