Sri Lanka: Kariyawasam's Duplicity - Case for Treason

Is Kariyawasam running a parallel operation as advisor?

Former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam, who is accused of rushing through the lopsided Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the United States, came in for strong criticism in Parliament on Tuesday.

Speaker Jayasuriya presiding at a controversial meeting with envoys of Islamic countries.

In the course of the discussion, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya admitted that Kariyawasam was being paid by a foreign agency under USAID for serving in Parliament as an advisor to him. The reference was to Development Alternatives Incorporatd (DAI), the implementing agency for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

When the Sunday Times (Political Commentary) reported on June 6 that Kariyawasam was being paid by funds from the US Federal Government, he said in a tweet @TimesOnlineLK resorts to deplorable reporting with no prior fact-checking. Yesterday it did the same by misrepresenting my contractual employment with the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the Hon. Speaker as his Advisor on International Affairs.

Now Speaker Jayasuriya has confirmed in the hallowed chamber of Parliament that Kariyawasam was indeed being paid with US funds. Hence, what he calls “deplorable reporting” and “no prior fact checking” to use parlance Kariyawasam is familiar is nothing but terminological inexactitude or simply a down right lie. So is his claim that he is on contractual employment with the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the Hon. Speaker implying he gets paid by them. Like the Speaker, why did he not come out with the truth?

First to what transpired in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon with Speaker Jayasuriya in the chair.

“Dinesh Gunawardana: Mr Speaker, I request special permission from you to clarify these two matters. It is reported that Mr Prasad Kariyawasam has been appointed to Parliament as an international affairs adviser to the Speaker, but that he is being paid by the US Government. There is no such rank among the list of officials Parliament has given to us. How can Prasad Kariyawasam, who is being paid by a US institution, be acting as an International Affairs adviser to you? This raises serious questions regarding Parliament itself.

“Last week, you summoned foreign envoys to your official residence for a discussion. There is no issue in that. You have the right to meet foreign envoys. You summoned the IGP for this discussion. You are entitled to do that too. However, even the Chief of Intelligence was summoned to this discussion and he was discussing intelligence information. Did no one advise you not to do that? The intelligence chief of the country, who knows all the intelligence and secret information, including investigations that are ongoing, was summoned to your official residence along with the IGP.

“Speaker Jayasuriya: That is wrong. He was not summoned to my official residence, but to Parliament.

“Dinesh Gunawardena: Fine. But summoning the intelligence chief in front of foreign envoys has not been done by any other Speaker. We also need you to clarify whether Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, who is paid for by a foreign Government, is only there to advise you, or whether he also gives out other information.

“Speaker Jayasuriya: Firstly, the envoys of Muslim countries have already issued a statement regarding the situation in the country. They have expressed their dismay and regret over certain matters. As such, I convened a meeting of envoys of these Muslim countries in Parliament to brief them on the latest situation. The IGP came for this meeting, along with other senior officers. It was good that this meeting took place, as otherwise, there would likely have been a campaign against Sri Lanka. Even the EU countries issued a statement a few days ago. The meeting was to brief the envoys of the Muslim countries and ease their fears. The meeting was held with good intentions to explain the current situation and give a guarantee on security. There was no leaking of state secrets.

“As for Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, he is a former Foreign Ministry Secretary. This Parliament currently has connections with 50-60 other Parliaments throughout the world under Parliamentary Diplomacy. It is these programmes that facilitate MPs to travel to foreign countries to understand how Parliaments function there, to obtain scholarships and strengthen Parliamentary Democracy.

It is not USAID that is paying him but another institution under it. He assists me in work related to such programmes. There is no intention of giving secrets to foreign countries.

“Dinesh Gunawardena: There is no issue about paying his salary through Parliament. But it is a question that anyone in Parliament can raise: Why is a former Foreign Ministry Secretary, who is now paid by a foreign institution, working here in this capacity?

“Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa: The important point he (Dinesh Gunawardena) is making here is that Parliament is an independent institution and is supreme. We have no objection if he’s being paid by Parliament. We are saying that it is wrong for him to be working here while being paid by a foreign country. We should establish a mechanism for him to be paid by Parliament. Otherwise, it could lead to a wrong picture developing in society that we are surrendering to foreign influences,

“Speaker Jayasuriya: It is unnecessary (to pay him through Parliament). This programme is aimed at strengthening Parliamentary Democracy. Around 60-70 MPs here have already gone on foreign tours to learn about strengthening democracy using these same funds. These funds have also been used for Parliamentary Committees.

“Wimal Weerawansa: Former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam brought severe pressure on the then Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi to sign the ACSA agreement with the US. He is being paid by USAID not to work for the Sri Lankan State. He has a friend (names a former Foreign Ministry official now with the Ministry of Finance) and it is she and Prasad Kariyawasam who are working the most to ensure that US ambitions are achieved. They are also working towards getting the SOFA agreement signed. It is serpents who are loyal to the US such as them that you are keeping here in Parliament. They have no loyalty to this country.”

One does not doubt the bona fides of Speaker Jayasuriya, a former military officer, diplomat and a much-respected politician, in his decision to obtain the services of Kariyawasam as an “Advisor on International Affairs.” However, it is a very serious error of judgement. No other Speaker in Parliament since independence has employed an International Affairs Advisor, that too using funds from a foreign country to pay for them. The extension of that principle would mean he could also have, for purposes of argument, an Advisor on Tourism, Finance or even Water Supply and Drainage and so on. Is it not beyond his brief as Speaker, whoever may hold that office?

The Cabinet of Ministers is assigned that responsibility by the Constitution. The task of summoning Colombo-based diplomats, like the standard practice in other countries, is the sole responsibility of the Foreign Minister or his Ministry Secretary. It is also the responsibility of the President or the Prime Minister, particularly during exigencies. The fact that he met diplomats in Colombo from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Countries (OIC) in Parliament has given rise to the belief that there are now three power centres in Sri Lanka. Besides the President and the Prime Minister, it is now the Speaker who has literally played the role of the Foreign Minister cum Defence Minister though he is well meant in his intentions.

The matter did not end there. An investigation by the Sunday Times revealed some disturbing trends. It was Prasad Kariyawasam, in his new role as the Speaker’s “Advisor” who invited the OIC envoys for a “briefing.” He is now duplicating the work of the Foreign Secretary. That is not all. Kariyawasam also ensured that the Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Director of Military Intelligence were present. Who empowered him to play the role of Defence Secretary is not clear? The position of “Advisor” became his passport to play his previous role with the pay of his foreign masters.

The worst came when the conference was over. The Speaker’s Media Office released photographs of the envoys and the country’s top intelligence officials seated around a table. The news release said “The ambassadors and high commissioners of Islamic countries have told Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that they would welcome a common law in Sri Lanka that would apply to all citizens irrespective of their ethnicities.”

There are three customary laws which are still in use in Sri Lanka – Kandyan law, Thesavalamai law and Muslim law.

The Kandyan law is the customary law that originates from the Kingdom of Kandy. This is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Buddhist and from the former provinces of the Kandyan Kingdom.

At present it governs aspects of marriage, adoption, transfer of property and inheritance, as codified in 1938 in the Kandyan Law Declaration and Amendment Ordinance. The Muslim law is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Muslims by virtue of birth and conversion to Islam. It is different from Islamic law and governs aspects of marriage, divorce, custody and maintenance, being included in the Act No. 13 of 1951 Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act, the Act No. 10 of 1931 Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance and the Act No. 51 of 1956 Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act.

The Thesavalamai law is for Sri Lankan Tamil inhabitants of the Jaffna peninsula. The law was codified by the Dutch during their colonial rule in 1707. It is a collection of the Customs of the Malabar Inhabitants of the Province of Jaffna (collected by Dissawe Isaak) and given full force by the Regulation of 1806. For Thesawalamai to apply to a person it must be established that he is a Tamil inhabitant of the Northern Province. The law in its present form applies to most Tamils in northern Sri Lanka. The law is personal in nature thus it is applicable mostly for property, inheritance, and marriage.

An OIC diplomat who attended the Speaker’s meeting said, “we were summoned to be updated on the measures the government has taken to ensure peaceful co-existence of the communities as well as on security and stability in the country.” He said we never agreed to “the introduction of common law since that is not our business. That is an internal matter for Sri Lanka. We never said anything of the sort the news release claimed.”

The envoys are now seeking meetings with President Sirisena, Premier Wickremesinghe and Speaker Jayasuriya to set the record right. One of the envoys said, “We want to tell them not to look at us through western eyes. We are friends of Sri Lanka and are only seeking peace, harmony and the safety of all people.”

The diplomats included those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Would it not have been better to ask the Foreign Ministry to have invited envoys of these countries should there be a need. This clearly shows that Kariyawasam was running a parallel operation.

The opposition also called a news conference on Thursday to voice its concerns over Speaker Jayasuriya recruiting Kariyawasam. “He was not able to give us a satisfactory answer,” said Dinesh Gunawardena. He asked why Kariyawasam was appointed and added “there are suspicions since this was privately done.” He said President J.R. Jayewaredene “had to tell a onetime Speaker M.A. Bakeer Markar to go home after he had summoned the then IGP without the President’s permission. E.L. Senanayake was made Speaker later,” he said.

Courtesy: the Sunday Times, Colombo


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