Sri Lanka is to hold Independence Day celebrations in diplomatic missions overseas in simple ceremonies for the first time in the recent past due cut down in expenditure by the foreign ministry as the result of dollar crisis, ministry directive revealed.
In a Letter issued by the foreign ministry to all folrerign missions, It has directed all these mission heads to conduct these independence day celebrations in a low key with limited participation of Sri Lankan expatriates
Sri Lankans living in foreign countries have been restricted from participating in Independence Day celebrations at all Sri Lankan embassies and high commissions abroad, according to the letter sent by the ministry.
Foreign Ministry has nowidirected all foreign diplomatic missions to hold celebrations without the attendance of guests due to dollar constraints.
In this circular to heads of missions overseas, Foreign Secretary Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage had issued instructions relating to holding celebrations to mark Sri Lanka’s 74th National Independence Day.
Accordingly, permission has been granted by the Foreign Ministry to hold the Independence Day activities “at low key, with the participation of the mission staff.”
Foreign Ministry sources said that Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris had also informed the diplomatic missions to refrain from inviting guests for events due to attempts to cut costs.
Hundreds of Sri Lankans abroad were in th practice of visiting Sri Lankan embassies and high commissions overseas d to mark the country’s Independence Day while foreign Missions, especially in the Middle East, often receive the large number of guests on the day.
Meanwhile, in another communique issued on January 12, foreign secretary Colombage had also informed Heads of Foreign Missions that a decision has been taken to temporarily suspend the reimbursement of the representational allowance given to diplomatic missions.
The representational allowance granted to Diplomatic Missions are used for important activities such as strengthening ties with the authorities of each country, promoting Sri Lanka’s tourism, trade, political, economic and security ties, and presenting official gifts at diplomatic meetings.
Foreign Ministry pointed out that while all related expenses are audited, these expenses incurred by the Missions are only reimbursed after the presentation of bills to the Ministry.
According to the circular issued by the ministry, the same set amount has been dispensed to all Sri Lankan Missions since 2001.
“For example, the maximum representational allowance granted for the Mission in Seoul, South Korea, one of the most expensive cities, is US$ 700 per month but it isn’t sufficient to cover expenses for a week,” informed sources added.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Heads of Foreign Missions had been informed that they are allowed to exceed the limit of the allowance on ‘special occasions’ but many had been turned down despite making requests to exceed the allowance when necessary.