ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 30, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 31

Odds & Ends

Prof. Mohan Munasinghe, the co-laureate of the 2007 Nobel Prize, though the first Lankan to win this highly coveted prize has hardly received any garlands or even any congratulatory messages or even a photo op with the Big man that is usually de rigueur or award winning sportsman, actors etc. Is it because this country does not think much of the country that gave the professori the honour?

Poor IG is blamed by some for the sudden transfer of a sleuth attached to the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption. Little bird whispers that DG was shooting his mouth little knowing the order came from the National Police Commission following a complaint from far above. The man may not have had any charges against him, but insiders say he certainly knew how to shuffle files given for investigation and report. Now they have found he had been sitting on hundreds of files. His mistake was he sat on the wrong file. Did we hear some one say sree pathy.

Commissioners too are blamed for not putting down time limits for investigation and report. Now can you guess who sat on the faxed transfer order?

Our man is an officer and a gentleman in fighting graft and corruption, but on the spur of the moment he does get carried away when lecturing on the subject. Early this week he was giving a pep talk to undergrads at the Sri Jayawardhanapura University and he nearly lost it all when he declared that urgent new legislation was required to fight rampant graft in the private sector. His argument was that some in the private sector induced Government servants to take bribes, but didn’t he know that to give a bribe was as equally wrong as accepting a bribe under existing legislation. Besides they have hardly tackled the problem of graft in the state sector to even think of the private sector.

Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev. Thomas Saundranayagam has gone on record as stating that the manner in which the Government was handling the investigation into the disappearance of Rev. Fr. Jim Brown seemed like eyewash to hoodwink the international community. He had also said a CID officer who came to gather evidence from Colombo only spoke Sinhala. “I was shocked to realize how he could conduct investigations without a working knowledge in Tamil and English”, the Bishop had said. The Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee coming under the Foreign Ministry tasked to follow up on such investigations too has gone silent.

A top official attached to IMCC, however said that the police had categorically denied sending any officer without knowledge of Tamil and therefore the police had been asked to issue a correction, but so far they have not done so. “Either the Bishop is correct or the police are inept”, he said.

Rotten elements in a police outfit are said to be minting in the guise of tackling terrorism. They say amounts extorted runs into millions. The amounts amassed are said to put usual bad boys among Customs, Inland Revenue and even narco sleuths in the shade. One state organization that had attempted to get some of the victims to talk has had no luck as victims are said to be too scared. One old khaki coat lamented that even when important units are headed by honourable men, no good comes out if the body is manned by rotten ones.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who was scheduled to visit Sri Lanka between Christmas and New Year has put off the visit giving some breathing space to hard pressed defenders of Government against charges of violations of human rights. A foreign office wallah sarcastically speculated that the postponement could be a case where it had dawned on the French that it is not nice to poke their nose into Lankan affairs, when discriminated Arab migrant youth are rioting in their own country now for the second time in recent years.

Mr. Kouchner prior to being appointed the Foreign Minister was earlier a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) headed by former Chief Justice of India P.N. Bhagawati appointed to monitor the progress of investigations into unlawful killings in Sri Lanka and it has been having a running battle with the Justice Udalagama Commission.

The recent episode over airline seats for the Presidential entourage which led to the cancellation of the visa for Peter Hill was certainly not the first time a Presidential delegation was unable to get the airline seats they'd wanted. Just a couple of months earlier, on their return from Los Angeles, the Presidential delegation could not get First Class seats and were hence relegated to Business Class.

Since a fall guy had to be found to pacify an irate head of state, it was decided by those close to him to pin the blame on the Chief of Protocol of the MFA who nowadays performs more like a travel agent and a baggage handler. However, it is now known that Hill became the fall guy when the Presidential ire was aimed initially, rightly so according to insiders, at the failure of our HC in London and the Protocol Chief to secure seats even though the two of them were made aware of the travel plans early. The two however are very grateful to a certain 'Vas' who swung the fireball of an anger to get over the Hill!

A decision to shift the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Division from its current location at Rotunda Gardens near Crescat to the BOI building at Janadhipathi Mawatha, Fort, from January 1 is being likened by some critics to jumping from a frying pan to a fire for those coming there to seek its services.

The main reason cited by Ministry officials for the shifting is that the current location lacks space and the area is increasingly inaccessible even for its employees as public transport is barred from this stretch of Galle Road for security reasons.Critics, however charge that the new location is right inside the high security zone and many minority race persons who come from places in the North and East to get various documents authenticated by the Consular Division would find it an ordeal to get through security barriers to reach the new office. They therefore request that it be sited in a more conducive environment.

Officials claim that they have been scouring the city and the immediate suburbs for a centrally located and convenient building to shift the Division since December 2006 without success even after advertising the requirement three times.

They said the BOI building was within walking distance from the country’s main rail and bus terminus and as for overcoming any problems that the public may encounter at security barriers, the Ministry has already made arrangements to station some of its officers at these locations to help such civilians.

The continuing rumblings against the proposed Norochcholai coal power plant created by instigating affected people, despite them being resettled in much more comfortable homes with most modern conveniences, compared to the thatched huts they earlier occupied, is said to be an embarrassment to the Catholics as no recognized individual from the Church is any longer standing in opposition to this vital utility, the cheapest solution to overcome growing power shortages.

The individual concerned is said to be a discard who had nearly got some Catholic youth killed by State death squads during the 1980s by getting them embroiled in revolutionary politics. The Church itself had saved his life by banishing him to Manila, but the man has now come back in search of a cause and he seemed to have found it in Norochcholai.

Two ministers, a senior and a junior, ran into each other in the VIP Lounge awaiting departure on separate flights last week. The junior minister asks his senior colleague, "Ah, minister, how long you are going to be away?". The senior replies, "Well, I've managed to arrange an official tour for a few days, and then I'll be on holiday for a few days more." The junior says, "Aren't you afraid to be away for a while, especially at a time when a reshuffle is much anticipated?" The senior responds, "Not at all." "Why?" the junior queries with a look of surprise all over his face. The senior is calm and responds, "Well, Basil is away on holiday. So nothing will happen at least until he returns."

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