The ongoing ugly crisis involving Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the State of Qatar A.S.P. Liyanage and the Board of Trustees of the Stafford Sri Lanka School in Doha has warranted President Maithripala Sirisena to summon both parties for a meeting to Sri Lanka on the 28th of May 2018.
This is in order to resolve the debacle that has brought much negative publicity to the Sri Lankan expatriate population living in Qatar.
The summoning of both parties comes after Ambassador Liyanage sent a letter dated the 10th of May 2018 to the President’s Office in Colombo, requesting the removal of Kumudu Fonseka as the Chairman of the Stafford Sri Lanka School Doha.
The peace loving Sri Lankan community in the Gulf State of Qatar had much hope that this crisis would finally be solved.
This is when the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Wasanatha Senanayake flew into the Gulf State of Qatar shortly thereafter to meet both parties.
On the 11th of May 2018, Minister Senanayake summoned both Ambassador Liyanage and the Board of Trustees of the Stafford Sri Lanka School in Doha for a meeting.
At this meeting it was agreed by both parties that the Sri Lankan Embassy will officially sever ties with the school by denouncing itself as its Patron, but sought to take control of a 20,000 square foot property currently leased for the purpose of building a new school. Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage insisted that he will see to it that another community school is built for the Sri Lankans residing in Doha.
On the 14th of May 2018, Minister Senanayake submitted an official letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Thilak Marapone, keeping the Minister informed of what had transpired during his trip to Qatar.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Wasantha Senanayake then on the 23rd of May 2018 telephoned Chairman Kumudu Fonseka from Sri Lanka and also sent him and official letter stating that President Maithripala Sirisena wishes to meet the Board of Trustees of the school on the 28th of May 2018 in Colombo.
Shortly thereafter over 100 staff attached to the Stafford Sri Lanka School in Doha signed and sent in a petition to President Maithripala Sirisena’s office stating that they will resign from their posts if any threat or removal was made to their Chairman Kumudu Fonseka.
Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage was summoned to Colombo and departed Qatar on the 24th of May 2018.
Lankanewsweb spoke to a cross section of the Sri Lankan expatriate population in Qatar.
However due to the uncertainty prevailing around the behavior of their Ambassador A.S.P.Liyanage, many declined to comment openly fearing his loose behavior in filing cases against his very own people.
However a member of the Sri Lankan community speaking on the condition of anonymity said “Ever since Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage came to Qatar, we as a community have been in the spotlight for all the bad reasons. This school ran without any problem for the last 17 years as a nonprofit operation. All Trustees of the Board give of their time and have continued to work for the sake of the children in an honorary capacity. During our meeting with Minister Senanayake, Ambassador Liyanage openly threatened Mr. Manoj the secretary of the PTA saying that he will file a case with the CID against him. 'I will send you to jail like him the finger pointing ambassador then turned and threatened Mr.Fonseka too in front of the Minister'. This is when he stated that Mr.Manoj had not reported to the Embassy when he was summoned by an SMS sent by the ambassador to do so.This is what happens when political appointees are sent instead of career diplomats. Whilst Qatar opened its borders for over 80 nationalities to walk in to their country without visas, we as Sri Lankans still require visas for our families and friends to visit us in Qatar. These are the responsibilities Ambassador Liyanage should be dealing with on behalf of his people. He has also summoned many Trustees of the school and has threatened to get them out of their jobs and have them deported back to Sri Lanka. He went on record to state that he has been empowered by President Maithripala Sirisena to deport any Sri Lankan he wishes from Qatar. There are many other qualified people who would even volunteer to take up posts such as this. The Sri Lankan community work very hard in the Gulf and boosts the country's economy by remitting hard earned foreign currency to Sri Lanka. We deserve much better than this”.
A staff member of the Stafford Sri Lanka School Doha also speaking on condition of anonymity provided a chronological sequence of events that has taken place pertaining to the history of the school.
He stated the following:
1. Stafford Sri Lanka School Doha was founded by Chairman Kumudu Fonseka and a group of Sri Lankans from within the Sri Lankan expatriate community, with a Qatari national as the local partner in the early part of 2001.
2. Stafford Sri Lankan School Doha was inaugurated in October 2001, under the patronage of H.E. Meerasahib Mahroof, then Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Qatar.
3. The school is affiliated to the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Qatar and runs as a non-profit organization.
4. H.E. the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the State of Qatar was made the Patron of the school in 2011.
5. The school is fully governed by a Board of Trustees.
6. SSLSD is an approved educational institute by the Supreme Education Council of Qatar and is known as the Sri Lankan Community School.
7. The school is also an Approved Exmination Centre by Edexcel International (UK) which grants students to sit for Edexcel IGCSE and GCE examinations.
8. At the beginning, the school was a nursery with 25 students and over the years it has vastly progressed.
9. It was President Maithripala Sirisena’s political appointee Prof (Doc) W.M.Karunadasa who as the Ambassador to Qatar who initially wanted control of the school.
10. After his unsuccessful attempt Ambassador Prof (Doc) W.M.Karunadasa departed for Colombo.
11. His successor another political appointee A.S.P.Liyanage assumed the role of Ambassador in 2017.
12. Besides pursuing to take control over the School, Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage is the first Ambassador in the State of Qatar to file a case against one of his own nationals.
Ambassador Liyanage files case against his own national in Qatar
Meanwhile in a unique first of its kind, the people of Qatar witnessed an ambassador of a country filing a case against one of his very own people in a foreign land.
This saga was instigated initially in November 2017, when the Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage himself used his official mobile phone and antagonized Chairman Kumudu Fonseka by sending him an unwarranted message using whatsapp.
His message was of a link to a newspaper article which falsely published an article accusing the school’s board of trustees of collecting funds illegally on behalf of the school in Qatar.
This published newspaper article was viewed by many of the Sri Lankan community in Qatar as a one sided story published with the aim of tarnishing the image of the respected Board of Trustees of the school.
Responding to Ambassador Liyanage’s message, an enraged Chairman Fonseka sent him six consecutive messages in the span of a few minutes.
One of his messages read “You invited people make film. You didn't succeed. You can use your power on dogs. Not humans. You should stop using me and our school. I am detest. We will never forget this Article. Your a cowed. To tell me I am the best and then I am not. You think school children"
Shortly thereafter Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage filed a case with the law enforcement authorities in Qatar, claiming that Chairman Fonseka had insulted him by calling him a dog.
However shortly thereafter when President Maithripala Sirisena visited Qatar in the latter part of 2017, he got both Ambassador Liyanage and Chairman Fonseka to shake hands at a public forum and requested them put this all behind them.
They did shake hands and President Maithripala Sirisena ordered Ambassador Liyanage to withdraw the case he had filed against Chairman Fonseka.
Ambassador Liyanage stated publicly in front of President Sirisena and the Staff of Stafford School Doha that he will adhere to President Sirisena’s order and withdraw the case he had filed against Chairman Fonseka.
However Ambassador Liyanage went on to dishonor his word and continued to proceed with the case against Chairman Fonseka after President Maithripala Sirisena departed.
Later in March 2018, the court in Qatar charged Chairman Fonseka for insulting Ambassador Liyanage and fined him Qatar Riyals 50,000 which is approximately LKR 2.2 million.
Chairman Foneska has appealed the verdict and court is set to provide its ruling for his appeal on the 30th May 2018.