- Another controversy surrounding a diplomat in New York
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Controversies at the Sri Lanka’s Mission to the United Nations in New York never seem to end. Considered a key foreign mission of the country, Sri Lanka’s Mission to the United Nations in New York, has been embroiled in many issues regarding its employees rather than carrying out the designated diplomatic work and implement Sri Lanka’s foreign policy overseas.
The latest controversy surrounds the handing over of a fake document to the External Affairs Ministry by a senior Counselor at the Sri Lankan Mission to the United Nations.
Counselor Maxwell Keegel it is learnt had submitted a document claiming to hold a diploma in French from the Alliance Francaise in London as part of his educational qualifications.
A member of the Foreign Service on the basis of anonymity told The Sunday Leader that when inquired about the certificate for verification, the respective institution in London had informed the External Affairs Ministry that the certificate was not authentic.
The External Affairs Ministry had contacted the Alliance Francaise in London to verify the certificate because Keegel had submitted a photocopy of the so-called “certificate.”
Sources from the External Affairs Ministry told The Sunday Leader that the Ministry was planning on recalling Keegel to Colombo.
When The Sunday Leader contacted Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe for a comment on Keegel’s case we could not elicit a comment from the Secretary.
The Sunday Leader also sent an e-mail to Keegel at the Sri Lankan Mission to the United Nations for his response to the allegations. However, at the time of going to print, the newspaper had not received Keegel’s response.
Keegel’s case comes after the recalling of Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Bandula Jayasekera to Sri Lanka without giving proper notification.
Jayasekera was the third Deputy Permanent Representative to the Mission to be recalled to Sri Lanka within a short period of time.
Jayasekera’s predecessor, Suresh Chandra was also recalled in less than six months after his appointment. The previous Deputy Permanent Representative to be recalled was M. Azeez.
Jayasekera was recalled to Colombo by External Affairs Ministry Secretary Jayasinghe saying that the decision was arrived at following his ‘good service’ in the country’s foreign missions and had been asked to return in order to put his services to better use in Sri Lanka.
Jayasekera speaking to The Sunday Leader about him being recalled to Colombo at the time said there were issues over the behavior of certain senior mission officials.
When queried if he was being recalled due to his alleged sexual harassment of First Secretary to the Mission, Muditha Haliyedda, Jayasekera while totally rejecting the allegation said, “It is a figment of imagination of a paranoid woman who wants to get rid of me in order to run her parallel administration. This is a tactic used by this employee of the mission in the past, which perhaps was successful and it has been tried again.”
Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Leader that Haliyedda, who is politically connected to senior members in the Presidential Secretariat, has been on foreign postings for a period of seven continuous years — an unusual practice in the Foreign Service.
Haliyedda after serving in Brussels had returned to the country and had immediately been posted to the Sri Lankan Mission in New York.
“Her political connections are used to have her own way in the mission and the employees are harassed and threatened. Anyone who stands in her way is threatened to be transferred from the mission,” sources said.
It seems that its time for the External Affairs Ministry to clean up the mess that is the Sri Lanka’s Mission to the United Nations in New York.