Odds and Ends

Silence is golden

A scribe bumped into the once very vocal JHU Parliamentary group leader Ven. Aturaliya Ratana Thera last week in the Lobby and queried the reason for his silence in the Legislature. “We are now with the Government, that is why,” was his reply. Silence sure is golden when sitting on the Government side.

Carry on Bogols

Journalists were informed that after the closing ceremony of the SAARC Heads of Sate Summit, the President would hold a press briefing. Some journalists who entered the main committee room at the BMICH where the briefing as to be held and took up the seats in the front row were told by a senior Foreign Ministry official that these were reserved for officials and not journalists. When asked why the officials are needed in the front row when a press briefing is being held, he said they were needed as observers. Once the journalists moved back and the press briefing began, the FM official along with the Director of Information and some others occupied the front row seats. Maybe all they were keen was in marking their attendance at the briefing with the Executive because if they knew anything about a press briefing, they would be observing the proceedings from the back rows.

Anyway the President’s much awaited press briefing was no briefing at all. The President made a hurried entrance to the hall, read out a statement and left asking Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to carry on with the proceedings.

Door shut on con-consultant

A big telecom man who masqueraded as an aviation expert and took our dandu monara and politicos reigning over it for a good ride for some months has finally been exposed and we are told doors have been slammed shut on him. The man who used to fly in VIP comfort once a week from Arabia to advice the new indigenous management and always stayed in the best suites the five stars could provide all at dandu monara’s expense. In addition he had also been globe trotting on the same account visiting his friends and relatives in world capitals. But a dandu monara publicity bird yesterday claimed that there was no problem and he would be back for the AGM later this month.

For INGOs Lanka a beggar’s wound?

Are the UN con artists using a country like Sri Lanka like a beggar’s wound to attract dollar handouts? The recent cooked up report submitted by the World Food Programme office in Colombo about 30 per cent of Sri Lankans going without food for days, though, was soon retracted after the Government protested. It resulted in Japan extending US$11.7 million to WFP for food assistance in this country in addition to US$ 5 million given by Tokyo in December for the same purpose. A retired UN hand said because of its massive bureaucracy 50 percent of such handouts received by the world body go to meeting its administrative and salary needs and not the people they were meant for.

TNA more abroad than here

The shuttling between Colombo and Kilinochchi by TNA parliamentarians for regular consultations with the Tiger hierarchy has come to a total halt with the intensification of fighting. All except one of them are in the South or abroad. Only S. Kanagaratnam is said to be in the Wanni with his family and most of the balance 21 TNA MPs have settled their families abroad. Some are said to be like their Sinhala counterparts and are more interested in globe trotting than attending to the needs of the community here.

Tamils out of pic

The absence of Tamils from the recent SAARC Summit activities has led to allegations that the Foreign Ministry has deliberately kept those officials out of it. While Ms. Grace Asirwatham, Head of the SAARC Desk at the Ministry vehemently denied it, an old Foreign Office wag however said that the problem was that there weren’t many Tamils left in the Ministry as recruitment to the service especially in the late 70s and in the 80s had been to the benefit of another minority. The few Tamils presently in the service were serving in overseas posts.

Now they can be told

Several stories did not make big news during the SAARC summit. One was how the Caretaker Nepali PM Girja Prasad Koirala, an elder statesman from the region tripped and fell on the ground. His aides quickly came to his assistance thinking it had something to do with his health, but it seemed it was the carpet that was to blame.

Then, there was the young Bhutan PM who got stuck in a lift. The door did not open at the right level, and his security officer had to hold his hand out for the athletic Bhutanese PM to use as a lever to jump on to and then jump to floor level. Then, there was the story that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had got into a car at 4 o'clock in the morning of the SAARC summit and driven out in a President Premadasa style personal supervision of the arrangements. Whenever he found something amiss, the one he called was his International Affairs consultant Sajin Vaas Gunawardene, not anyone at the Foreign Ministry.
This might have been the reason that the President forgot to thank officials of the Foreign Ministry at the end of the Summit, having thanked everyone else.

This was later communicated to the President, who then shot off a letter to the Foreign Minister, personally addressed etc., thanking him and the Ministry. While, there is no doubt that the President has approved the letter - some hand-writing experts seem to think that the letter is signed by the auto-generated signature machine usually used to sign letters the President does not really see.

Foreign media disappointed with press packs

Several of the foreign journalists who were in Colombo to cover the SAARC summit said the media pack they were given was a disappointment, and that it contained no material that was of help to them in their work.

The media pack, prepared by the Information Department and distributed among the SAARC journalists, contained a writing pad and a pen, two T-shirts, a packet of tea, biscuits and a cake of soap, but no information about either the country or the history of SAARC, or any reference material relating to the summit.

Many foreign media personnel left their media packs behind, saying the packs were of no use to them professionally.

Whenever there is an international event, such as SAARC, the Information Department is expected to prepare information materials for distribution among members of the media, especially foreign media,. The press kits are considered especially important for foreign media, as supplementary materials that could be used to promote the country’s image.

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