Chewing on summit dates
An 11th-hour change of plans will see Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila stuck at home, while Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama wings his way towards Iran next week, as head of the Sri Lanka delegation at a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The dates for the SAARC conference, which will be attended by heads of government, ministers and officials, are July 27 to August 3, while the NAM meeting in Iran is slotted for July 29 and 30.
If he does not miss his return flight, Mr. Bogollagama will be back in time in Colombo for the main business of the summit. The question being asked in political circles is whether there was a conspiracy to send the minister out of the country during the crucial preliminary meetings of officials and ministers, preceding the summit proper? In case he is unable to be present, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona will be the person to carry the torch.
The Supreme Court judgment of May 3, 2007, which decreed that retired President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was not entitled to an official luxury bungalow and an office at public expense at No. 27, Independence Avenue, Colombo 7, remains half executed, even though it is now more than a year since the judgment was passed. Observers are wondering why the incumbent President and his Secretary are so hesitant about fully implementing the court ruling.
A part of the Supreme Court judgment was implemented last December on the very day the country was transfixed by a live drama under way at state-owned TV headquarters, where Labour Minister Mervyn Silva was “getting a taste of his own medicine”. Meanwhile, in a six-hour operation, officers under the incumbent President painstakingly removed all items from Mrs. Kumaratunga’s office at Independence Square, after first taking a careful inventory of items in the office.
In terms of the Supreme Court judgment on the entitlements of retired Presidents, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga issued “without delay” quit notices to President Kumaratunga’s residence/office and President D. B. Wijetunga’s office at the Summit Flats on September 30, almost five months after the decree.
It also resulted in accusations that the quit notices were issued on September 20, after it came to public notice that no one from the incumbent First Family had been invited to a reception hosted by Mrs. Kumaratunga at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel on September 30 to celebrate the marriage of her only daughter, Yasodara, to Englishman, Dr. Roger Walker. While ex-President D. B. Wijetunga has already complied fully with the Supreme Court decision, Ms. Kumaratunga appears to be disinclined to move from the official bungalow at No. 27, Independence Avenue, even more than one year after the decree delivered by the highest court in the land.
Last year, she refurbished the famous family walauwa at Horagolla at great cost. She also owns a residence at Rosmead Place, adjoining the family home Tintagel, which is now a boutique hotel.
Repeated attempts to contact Mr. Weeratunga to find out why the Supreme Court decree has still not been implemented in respect of Ms. Kumaratunga’s official luxury residence, have failed. We were told by his office staff that he was either at meetings or “not available”.