President Maithripala Sirisena who was critical of the Foreign Service yesterday said “most diplomats use their postings abroad as a means to spend their retirement in luxury”.
“Foreign diplomatic postings are highly competitive in this country not because they want to work for the country but because they want one long vacation”, he added as he addressed the commemorations and book launch of the late Prof Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekara at the BMICH.
Prof. Malalasekara's biography edited and compiled by Prof.Kusuma Karunaratne and W.A.Abeysinghe was presented to the President by Prof Malalasekara’s son, Vijaya Malalasekara.
Prof. Malalasekara was Sri Lanka’s first Ambassador to the Soviet Uniion, High Commissioner to Canada, the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
He was also Professor Emeritus in Pali and Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the Colombo University.
Prof.Malasekara who was a renowned academic in Pali and Buddhist Studies also produced the Buddhist Encyclopaedia with his magnum opus being the Malalasekara Sinhala to English Dictionary.
President Sirisena thus asked the present diplomats to take Prof. Malalasekara as an example and work to improve their service to the country,
“In the last 25 years, if our diplomats had taken people like Prof. Malalasekara as an example and committed themselves to their work and improved their knowledge and understanding, our country would have gone far. We would have developed much more and benefitted much more with the improved relations with the international community,” the President said.
“As a teacher, lecturer, diplomat and an expert in Buddhist Philosophy, he won the world for his motherland and introduced his country to the world,” President Sirisena said.
The President recalled that Prof. Malalasekara’s 1950s, was a decade where Sri Lanka greatly expanded its presence in the international sphere. It was a time where many of the pioneering work in bilateral talks, opening of embassies, government to government relationships, economic, technological and educational agreements were signed and built.
“When you look at the power blocks at the time, on one side we had the Communist countries aligned with the Soviet Union, and on the other hand, the USA with other Capitalist countries. During this Cold War period, our country, under Prime Minister Bandaranaike chose to follow and introduce the policy of non-alignment. The policy was a major factor which led to the country building relations outside of power blocks and to be friends with all. Prof Malalasekara contributed greatly to this endeavour along with Prime Minister Bandaranaike,” President Sirisena said.
On a personal note, the President recalled meeting Prof.Malalasekara at a conference of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress in the mid 1960s.
President Sirisena who was heading a branch of the student wing of the Congress at his school in Polonnaruwa Maha Vidyalaya attended its conference as a 15-year-old.
Special Assignments Minister Dr.Sarath Amunugama who delivered the key note address at the event noted that Prof. Malalasekara was a ‘public intellectual’ who did not keep his intellect hidden within the four walls of a university but chose to engage in public life and to enrich it with his studies.
As an expert in both English and Sinhala, Prof.Malalasekara also stressed the importance of the study of English whilst knowing one’s mother tongue, added Dr.Amunugama and this he said allowed Prof. Malalasekara to take Buddhism to the world and to enrich its education.