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article imageSri Lanka president tells diplomats: pick up phone or pack up

By AFP     Sep 17, 2018 in World

Sri Lanka's president on Monday justified his decision to sack six diplomats -- including an ambassador -- for not answering his phone calls, saying more would follow if the foreign service did not shape up.

Maithripala Sirisena was criticised for the shock dismissal last week of his top envoy to Austria and five other Vienna-based staff after his office tried unsuccessfully for hours to reach them by phone.

"I am being attacked ferociously over social media for recalling the entire embassy staff. Yes, I did that to send a powerful message to other embassies," Sirisena told a public meeting in Colombo.

He said he ordered the sacking of ambassador Priyanee Wijesekera and five other staff to set an example.

Sirisena did not say why he needed to contact the embassy urgently, or why other avenues were not explored to reach the staffers.

The Sri Lankan embassy in Austria is accredited to UN bodies in Vienna, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.

It was the second time in days that Sirisena has raised eyebrows.

Last week, he flew into a rage over nuts served aboard SriLankan Airlines, the island's national carrier, saying they were unfit for animals.

"Returning from Kathmandu, I was served some cashews on board a SriLankan flight, but it was so bad even a dog wouldn't eat it," he said.

An airline spokesman said it had cleared its stock of cashews -- only served in business class -- and would change its Dubai-based supplier.

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