ri Lanka is facing its worst ever international crisis today and many independent analysts believe it is largely because of the mishandling of foreign policy by unprofessional and unqualified High Commissioners or Ambassadors. This reality is clear to most people though scriptwriters for the myths of royal party legends in the ‘kept press’ describe the foreign service as the most professional and uncompromising service since independence.
It is in this context that we today commemorate the ninth death anniversary of one of Sri Lanka’s if not Asia’s best diplomats, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. From Trinity College where he excelled at studies and sports and was awarded the prestigious Ryde Gold medal for the best all round student in 1950, Mr. Kadirgamar went on to gain first class degrees from the University of Ceylon and later the Oxford University where he also became President of the Oxford Union. On such a solid foundation he built up a lucrative practice in Sri Lanka and was probably earning several lakhs a month when he accepted Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge’s offer to enter Parliament on the national list and take up the post of Foreign Minister. Many would still remember the historic acceptance speech that Mr. Kadirgamar made. With the sincerity that comes from a life of the highest integrity and selfless, sacrificial values. Mr. Kadirgamar said that during the past few decades he saw that many politicians were coming to office mainly to plunder or pillage the wealth and resources of the country and the people. Mr. Kadirgamar said that the country had given him much through free health services, free education and so many other benefits. Now he believed it was time for him to give something back for his country. That was why he accepted the top post of Foreign Minister when Sri Lanka was going through an international crisis with a full scale war against the LTTE which many saw as the most ruthless terrorist movement in the world. Mr. Kadirgamar like a great statesman not only made a promise and pledge. More importantly he kept them and has been widely hailed as Sri Lanka’s best foreign minister while in this era of rampant corruption no one anywhere made any such allegation against Mr. Kadirgamar.
Choosing skilled professionals from within and outside the diplomatic service Mr. Kadirgamar used all his educational, professional and political skills to repair and present a positive image of Sri Lanka despite counter offensives not only by the LTTE here but also by the diaspora agents in the United States, Western Europe, India and other countries. He and his team of top diplomats worked with such extra-ordinary diplomatic skills that they were able to get the LTTE banned in the US, Britain, India and other countries. Mr. Kadirgamar earns so much prestige that after the 2004 General Elections he was widely tipped to be appointed as Prime Minister. But reports say some groups blocked this. So he continued as Foreign Minister and continued to do a wonderful job till an LTTE sniper shot him dead at his residence on the night of August 12 with President Kumaratunga describing it as one of the saddest days for Sri Lanka.
Instead of just showing their faces at some commemoration meetings today, government leaders need to honour Lakshman Kadirgamar by carrying forward his vision or mission and rebuild the battered diplomatic service so that it could play a major role in pulling Sri Lanka out of the major international crisis.