Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Qatar has resigned from his post amid a controversy over a Sri Lankan school in the Gulf state’s capital, Doha.
Ambassador Wadu Mestrige Karunadasa in a statement to the Sunday Times said he was resigning due to “personal reasons.”
But Sri Lankan sources in Qatar said the resignation followed the dispute over the Sri Lankan school administered by an influential Sri Lankan with political connections in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Karunadasa, a former international relations professor at the Colombo University, issued his statement yesterday, saying it was meant to correct baseless websites reports posted by persons with vested interests. These reports say the ambassador is being called back.
Dr. Karunadasa in his statement said:
“In my personal capacity I wish to state that I have resigned from the post of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the State of Qatar due to personal reasons by tendering my resignation on 4th October 2016 to the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“My resignation had been accepted by the Secretary of Ministry Foreign Affairs in a letter dated 10th October 2016. Now it has been duly communicated to me under a “confidential cover”. My own request to return to the island on 31st December 2016 has been granted with copies to the relevant authorities.
“Hence I wish to correct the purported media reports and make the public aware of the fact that I am returning to the island on my own choice by retaining my good name and prestige I earned as the Senior Professor of International Relations and as a practicing Lawyer – Counsel of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.”
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harsha De Silva’s in a text response said the ambassador’s resignation had been due to “irreconcilable differences” between Dr. Karunadasa and the Sri Lankan community in Qatar.
“We have accepted his resignation effective 31 December 2016. It is due to irreconcilable differences between the ambassador and the Sri Lankan community,” he told the Sunday Times in a text message, without elaborating what those differences were.
The school dispute made headlines in several Qatari newspapers recently. Stafford Sri Lankan School, which was started in October 2001, was vested in the Sri Lankan embassy in 2011 and has been run as a non-profit organisation in a rented building. About 1,000 children study in the school which follows the Edexel curriculum.
The Qatari government has allocated a 10,000 square metre plot for a new building for the school. In August, this year Dr. Karunadasa who took over as Sri Lanka’s ambassador last year, raised issue over the conduct of school board meetings without a proper quorum.
This apparently angered the school’s founder and board chairman Kumudu Foneseka. The spat gave rise to speculation that Stafford Sri Lanka School would be closed.
The ambassador quashed such speculation in a media statement. He told Qatar’s leading newspaper, Peninsula Qatar, in August this year that rumours about the school closure started to spread after he sent a letter to school authorities raising issues over board meetings.
This was because according to the school constitution, at least half the members of the 20 member board should be present to form a quorum, he said.
“When the school sent minutes of board meetings without a quorum, I sent a letter requesting it to abide by the school constitution,” said Dr. Karunadasa.
In his letter to the school board, the ambassador said, “As the patron, I’m compelled to advise you that the constitution’s provisions should be followed in strict term if school wishes to remain under the embassy’s patronage.”
Dr. Karunadasa told the Qatari newspaper the school management misinterpreted his letter.
“I have no intention to close down the school but to expand it on the new premises which has been handed over to us by Qatar’s government,” he said, adding that the school management had to be transparent and work in coordination with the embassy.
School chairman Fonseka told Peninsula Qatar that the school was run according to its constitution and a proper audit was submitted to the embassy.
Via The Sunday Times