Sri Lanka Express

SL Embassy Announces Appointment of New Honorary Consul in Chicago

Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam with Honorary Consul Ronald J. Sorini (Photo courtesy Sri Lanka Embassy)


By Hassina Leelarathna
May 29, 2016

Sri Lanka has a new honorary consul in Chicago and his name is Mr. Ronald James Sorini.

If the headline sounds familiar, this is Mr. Sorini’s second time being appointed to the same position.  His first stint was in 2004, also when the United National Party led by Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe was in power.   

Announcing the appointment , Ambassador Prasad Kariywawasam said Sri Lanka needed greater representation throughout the United States because of the country’s  “deepening political and economic partnership with the United States, and our increasing people to people contacts.”
 
“Illinois is home to a substantial number of Sri Lankan–Americans, including a sizable student population. The state is also home to several major U.S. companies, which have business interests in Sri Lanka” he

added in a press release.
  
Expanding on Mr. Sorini’s credentials, Ambassador Kariyawasam said the Chicago native has over a decade of experience in high-level positions in the federal government at the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). In 1989, Sorini was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the position of Chief Textile Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), holding the rank of Ambassador.   He is a founding partner of Sorini, Samet & Associates, a leading international trade firm in Washington D.C.

Public records show that in the early 2000’s Mr. Sorini was affiliated with Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg which was hired to lobby on behalf of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association .  Between 2000 and 2004, the Association paid the lobbying firm a total of $300,000.  In 2007, Sorini left Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg to co-found the lobbying firm Sorini, Samet & Associates. 

The post of honorary consul usually has no stated salary but as outlined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963  the title  could come with many perks and privileges including exemption from parking tickets, certain immunities from law enforcement, fast-tracking through immigration and customs lines, and, of course, invitations to diplomatic parties and other elitist events.   In return an honorary consul is expected to promote trade and tourism and, in some instance, provide consular services such as emergency passports.  

 Among those who have served as Sri Lanka’s honorary consul in Houston are Dr.Bandu Wijay, appointed in 2011, and Mr. George Sisler a sales consultant who held the post in the eighties.  Mr. Sisler had never been
to Sri Lanka and had little contact with its government.

The publicity given to Mr. Sorini’s appointment is in direct contrast to the silence by the Embassy when  Consul General Swarna Gunaratne assumed duties in Los Angeles in April.   There was not even a press release to the expatriate community announcing her arrival. 

Was that silence due to allegations of nepotism in Colombo surrounding Ms. Gunaratne’s appointment?  

And is the hype over Mr. Sorini a reflection of the place given to Caucasian males in the pantheon of Sri Lanka’s honorary diplomatic postings?

Text of Press Release

Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Illinois
 
Sri Lanka’s deepening political and economic partnership with the United States, and our increasing people to people contacts require further expansion of Sri Lankan representation throughout the United States.
 
Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam today handed over the Commission of Appointment to Ronald James Sorini to serve as the Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in the State of Illinois.
 
Illinois is home to a substantial number of Sri Lankan–Americans, including a sizable student population. The state is also home to several major U.S. companies, which have business interests in Sri Lanka.
  
Sorini brings into the position over a decade of experience in high-level positions in the federal government at the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). In 1989, Sorini was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the position of Chief Textile Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), holding the rank of Ambassador.   He is a founding partner of Sorini, Samet & Associates, a leading international trade firm in Washington D.C.
 
 
Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington D.C.
 
May 25, 2016