The Sunday Times can reveal that Ambassador Wickremesuriya has signed (on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka) an agreement with the lobbying firm Majority Group for US$ 50,000 or Rs, 6,300,000 a month to, among other matters, lobby the US Government to change its attitude towards Sri Lanka. It will also lobby Congressmen and Senators to reach out to President Barack Obama. US law requires that such agreements are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act within three months after an agreement is signed. As exclusively revealed in these columns last week, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has already entered into a similar agreement with the US lobbying firm Thompson Advisory Group LLC for US$ 66,600 (Rs. 8,337,600) a month.
Added together, the two lobbying firms would have to be paid a monthly fee of US$ 116,600 or more than Rs. 14.8 million in this exercise of outsourcing diplomacy when it should remain the sovereign responsibility of the state. Of the 58 Sri Lanka diplomatic missions overseas, the one in Washington is the costliest in operational terms. The payment to the two lobbying firms, a source familiar with the subject said, was roughly 50 per cent of the cost of running the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC. A Ministerial source said yesterday these deals had been worked out without any Cabinet approval or the formal consent of the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Thompson Advisory Group is now busy preparing a programme for Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal who will arrive in Washington DC on April 19. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of International Monetary Co-operation, is also due in the US capital on April 16. They are attending the joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee meeting.