Britain’s Queen Elizabeth 11 meets High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Saroja Sirisena during an audience at Buckingham Palace. (AFP)
There are severe attacks on the newly appointed Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London Saroja Sirisena. There were several attacks on Ms. Sirisena who climbed the ladder in her profession thanks to her educational and professional qualifications at a relatively young age. The attacks were both personal and professional. Some of the attacks were baseless are not related to her professional duties. Yet this is not the first time that Ms. Sirisena became subject to cruel attacks. There were a series of attacks when she was appointed as the Ambassador to Austria in 2019. However it is clear that these attacked are coming not from outside, but within the diplomatic circle itself.
Responding to the latest attack on Ms. Sirisena, the Sri Lanka High Commissioner-designate to the United Kingdom, Ministry of Foreign Relations on last Friday (29) issued a statement. The statement states, “The attention of the Ministry is drawn to news reports appearing in some newspapers and websites with allegations against the present High Commissioner in the UK, regarding her medical treatment”.
“The Ministry wishes to clarify that the procedure and the payment related expenses in this instance had been approved by the Ministry, in accordance with Ministry Circulars, established procedures and based on precedents, including with respect to such treatment received in third countries. All Government officials contribute to a medical scheme ‘Agrahara’ which they can avail of in Sri Lanka. Similarly, a medical scheme is extended to all home-based officers appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to Missions abroad, within which the case under reference was granted approval to proceed with an essential medical procedure.”
Referring to the restrictions on public servants and those in the diplomatic services in responding to media, the Foreign Relations Minister stressed, “It is regretted that public officials who cannot engage with media on personal matters, are maligned and subject to violations of their privacy, including attacks on critical medical issues, as in this case.”
With regard to qualifications, Ms. Sirisena has been in foreign service for over two decades. Having joined the service in 1998, during her career, she has served as the Director General Economic Affairs, Director General Public Diplomacy and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, Consul General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai, Director General for External Relations in the Ministry of Economic Development of Sri Lanka, Director, South Asia and Director, Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka. Her previous diplomatic posts include Minister Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Minister Counsellor Sri Lanka Embassy in Brussels and First Secretary Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris. Immediately prior to her appointment in London, she served as the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Austria and as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office in Vienna. A graduate on political science from the University of Melbourne, Australia Ms. Sirisena has completed post graduate studies at the École nationale d’Administration in France. She is also the daughter of reputed Gynaecologist Dr. L. A. W. Sirisena, who is a teacher to a large number of leading medical practitioners serving both here and the world over.
Among her credible interventions to defend Sri Lanka’s integrity was her strong protest last month to the UK based the Guardian newspaper which had posted a questionable quiz in its online edition using the word ‘Eelam’. Published on May 15 the question read-‘Eelam is an indigenous name for which popular holiday island?’ When a reader selects the correct answer which was Sri Lanka, a further description ‘the full name of the island’s recent military insurgency was LTTE – Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam’ appeared. Ms. Sirisena immediately protested to the quiz and in a letter to the editor of the publication had questioned the use of the word ‘Eelam’ as an ancient name for Sri Lanka.
Ms. Sirisena in her letter noted that the LTTE is a banned organisation in many countries, including the UK, and it was wrong to promote their ideology in a publication.
Following her intervention, the Guardian removed the controversial quiz.