The government’s primary foreign policy agency, the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategy Studies, will require reforms to be made effective once more, the Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister said.
“The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategy Studies has been ignored and underutilized,” Dr. Harsha de Silva said at the LBR/LBO forum on economic diplomacy last week.
Created as the Sri Lanka Institute of Strategic Studies by the most celebrated Foreign Minister in the country’s history, it was renamed in his honour following his assassination in 2005.
It comprises of the government’s foreign policy think tank as well as the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute, which is the primary training arm of the country’s career diplomats.
The Foreign Service under the past regime had come under criticism for openly practiced nepotism. Dr. de Silva said that though some of them may be extremely incompetent, most are smart enough but not equipped with the expertise to do the job.
“The Foreign Office was a let-down. It was run like a private property. We need good teams for trade negotiations. The problem isn’t whether the government servants are good or not but whether they are equipped and provided with the proper incentives,” he added.
He said that the institute cannot do in-depth research and analysis into global issues within the constraints of the government’s financial and administrative regulations.
“Why should we do TPP? Why did we say no to GSP Plus? Did we think about the repercussions? So much needs to be done. Lakshman Kadirgamar’s institute was meant for that. But what has happened is that there’s no money,” he said.
Dr. de Silva said that the solution is for the corporate sector to donate chairs and personnel to revamp the institute, which would be an exemplary first step in creating public-private partnerships under the new regime.
He pledged that the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute will be made independent similar to the government’s economic think tank—the Institute for Policy Studies—so that those in the institute will not be afraid to present critical views the regime may not be comfortable with.
“I value people’s independence. They should be able to speak out and say what they want to say. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not, but nevertheless, we will give that independence,” he said.
Dr. de Silva noted that the government has moved in that direction already, appointing an academic from the University of Hong Kong as the chairman of the institute. (CW)