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Esala Weerakoon to be new Foreign Secretary

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By Dharisha Bastians

Career diplomat Esala Weerakoon has been nominated as Sri Lanka’s next Foreign Secretary and is expected to take office on 1 June 2016. 

The letter nominating Weerakoon as the top bureaucrat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been sent to the Presidential Secretariat by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Daily FT learns. The appointment of the Foreign Secretary will be made by President Maithripala Sirisena.

Weerakoon will replace Chitranganee Wageeswara, who continued as Foreign Secretary after formally retiring in the Service in September 2015.

Wageeswara, the outgoing Foreign Secretary has been posted to New Delhi as Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to India.

While Weerakoon is not the most senior officer in the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, he was the best choice in the current context, with the Foreign Ministry driving the transitional justice process that the Government has committed to with the UN and its international allies, authoritative sources told Daily FT. 

Weerakoon, who has served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Norway, High Commissioner to India and Deputy Ambassador to the United States, is well placed for the international networking that will be crucial to the reconciliation initiatives that the Ministry is driving, the sources said. Additionally, Weerakoon is also generally well-liked within the Ministry and the Foreign Service, the source added.

Esala Weerakoon joined the Foreign Service in 1988 and has served 28 years in the country’s professional diplomatic corps. He is the son of former civil servant Bradman Weerakoon, who has served, during his career, under nine Prime Ministers and Presidents of Sri Lanka, including current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

While his appointment is likely to be generally well-received, Weerakoon being number eight in the Service seniority list has caused rumblings among some senior diplomats, an authoritative source told Daily FT.  However, Esala Weerakoon is the best choice for the political spirit of the moment, the highly placed source said.

The senior-most officer in the Foreign Service, Jayantha Palipana has just been appointed as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Norway by Minister Samaraweera. Former Foreign Secretary under Minister G.L. Peiris, Kshenuka Seneviratne who currently serves as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Thailand is second in seniority. Ranjith Uyangoda who is due to retire from the Service in less than a year follows Seneviratne as third in seniority, in the now most senior 1985 batch of Foreign Service officers.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha is fourth in seniority in the Foreign Service list, at the top of the 1988 batch of diplomatic officers. Ambassador Aryasinha who has served as Permanent Representative in Geneva since 2012, just received an extension of his tenure from the Foreign Ministry until July 2017.


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