by H. H. Albert
In Retrospect: A Rejuvenated Career
When Ms. Aruni Wijewardane returned to the forefront of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic landscape, hopes were high. Her storied career in diplomacy suggested a seasoned hand would guide the nation’s foreign affairs ship. Appointed by then-President Gotabaya Rajapakse on the recommendation of a political ally, Ms. Wijewardane assumed her role as the Foreign Secretary on May 22, 2022. Much was expected from her, given her extensive background as a career diplomat.
Jet-Setting While Diplomacy Suffers
Yet, a shadow looms over her tenure as Foreign Secretary. According to both retired and serving officers within the ministry, Ms. Wijewardane is frequently abroad on official trips. September alone saw her journeying from Cuba to the United States and now Germany. What raises eyebrows is her reluctance to share these travel opportunities with other deserving officers. The question lingers: What tangible value have these trips brought to the government and the people of Sri Lanka?
Missing the Mark: A Ministry in Disarray
The criticisms don’t end with her frequent flyers’ miles; they extend to her administration. Numerous missions are without heads, leaving key diplomatic posts vacant and undermining Sri Lanka’s global presence. Worse yet, Ms. Wijewardane’s travels are accompanied by a colossal contingent of protocol officers, straining the already fragile resources. Her behavior suggests an undue sense of entitlement, with personnel assigned to ensure her comfort at every turn.
A Shift in Focus: Economic Diplomacy Needed
While Ms. Wijewardane’s foreign visits and meetings with dignitaries continue to grab headlines, some observers argue that what Sri Lanka truly needs is a high-caliber young officer who understands modern global trends, technology, commerce, and business. With Sri Lanka’s economic struggles in mind, the call for economic diplomacy has never been more critical. It’s time to prioritize the nation’s financial stability over photo opportunities with world leaders.
The Way Forward
President Wickramasinghe must consider a recalibration of Sri Lanka’s foreign diplomacy strategy. The nation requires demonstrable results and cost-cutting measures, as starkly highlighted by the IMF. The hardworking remittances from overseas Sri Lankan workers should not be frittered away on extravagant foreign missions. Instead, these funds should be channeled into bolstering the nation’s economy.
As Ms. Wijewardane’s tenure continues to be marked by controversy and concerns, it is imperative that Sri Lanka reevaluates its priorities on the global stage. The nation’s future hinges on its ability to navigate these turbulent diplomatic waters, focusing on economic diplomacy, efficiency, and prudent resource allocation. The time for change is now, as Sri Lanka seeks to overcome its economic challenges and safeguard its place in the world.