So Sri Lanka has now rejected Gordon Brown’s appointment of Des Browne as a special envoy to the island. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the appointment was “unhelpful” and was made without consulting his government. A foreign ministry statement said the appointment was tantamount to an “intrusion of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs”.
No 10 have played this down, saying that they were still speaking to the Sri Lankan government about Browne’s exact role. But from Colombo Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama warned of “major repercussions” for relations with Britain over the nomination and said “there is no further discussion with London on the matter.”
Before this incident, the appointment of a Sri Lanka envoy only seemed poorly through-out. Now it looks downright humiliating for the Prime Minister who clearly wanted to make up for sacking his Scottish colleague.
What could have happened? There are a number of options. Perhaps No 10 did not check the appointment with the Sri Lankan government. But if true, this seems negligible beyond belief. Perhaps the Foreign Office did check, but the Sri Lankans changed their minds, or did not communicate as forcefully as they should have that they did not want the appointment. That is what happened over Paddy Ashdown’s UN appointment in Kabul. The final option is that Des Browne, who was quite poorly treated by the PM, was about to blow, spilling the beans on Brown’s weaknesses. To stop this, the PM may have panicked, and offered Browne something that was not really his to offer.
Either way, the non-appointment does not put Brown in the best of lights.