Odds and Ends

It all revolves around a chair

The advent of new technology, particularly the internet, has come as a new poser for Government’s media monitors.

If monitoring the multitude of websites that have multiplied to report on the news in Sri Lanka is a difficult task, it has been made worse when it came to counter them. Within minutes or seconds of an incident, those around the world get to know before the monitor’s could cry foul.

A case in point was how a local website reported that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had a fall from his revolving chair when he attended last Monday’s Sahithya Awards at the Presidential Secretariat.

He walked away from the ceremony somewhat angry but returned later to confer awards but did not speak, this website claimed in story posted at 4.24 p.m. the same day. The report also alleged that officials who said they would release photos later seized Rupavahini video. By Thursday the website has had over 17,000 hits.

At 5.30 p.m., the same website had a one-liner quoting Wijayananda Herath from the Presidential Media Unit. He had telephoned to say President Rajapaksa did not fall and nor did he intend to speak at the awards ceremony.

The same website later quoted Cultural Affairs and National Heritage Minister Piyasiri Wijenaike who was present at the ceremony, as saying that the responsibility to ensure there were no defective chairs rested on the Presidential Security Division (PSD). It said a probe was under way. The matter did not end there.

Another website, now banned in Sri Lanka, took on the story from there. It said Cultural Affairs Ministry Secretary Wimaladasa Samarasinghe had been transferred out over the incident. This is how A. Dissanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Media and Information, was appointed as the new Secretary. Succeeding him was W.B. Ganegala.

Therefore, a purported fall from a revolving chair has triggered off musical chairs if the claims made by the websites are correct.

It suits his pocket

They say that there are more chiefs than Injuns or more ministers than MPs in Sri Lanka.

One of them who is in the limelight, news comes from Bangkok, placed orders for suits worth Thai baht 400,000 or around Rs 1.2 million in just one go. That would naturally last him for a lifetime.

But, the man who has an uncanny ability to prove a “wrong” as “right” and a “right” as “wrong” wears only immaculate white when he is in Sri Lanka.

That prompted one wag to remark that when he travels abroad, he could wear a suit every hour.

Light post for Alok

India’s haughty High Commissioner Shri Alok Prasad is no ordinary career service diplomat. Ending a rather controversial stint in Sri Lanka, where he was loved by the Government and disliked by Opposition parties, he vied for the post of Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry. However, the post went to Nirupama Rao, another career officer who had served a stint in Sri Lanka. Then, Shri Prasad was posted to South Africa as India’s High Commissioner.

The well-connected diplomat who has a penchant for golf fought hard to avoid creating a new precedent – the first senior career service officer aspiring for Foreign Secretary level appointment not being sent to a posting at New Delhi South Block’s External Affairs Ministry.

There is news from New Delhi that he has won though he will not go to the South Block. Shri Prasad will now be a Deputy National Security Advisor (DNSA). He succeeds Leela Ponnappa, who is retiring. There are six such deputies under National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan. The latter holds Cabinet rank and functions from an office in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

However, the six deputies to Narayanan have no offices at the PM’s Secretariat or at the External Affairs Ministry. They are at New Delhi’s Shastri Bhavan at Parliament Street in Central New Delhi.

Air war on ganja

Ganja (Cannabis Sativa) cultivators in the thick jungles surrounding the Yala National Park were in for a rude shock this week when they discovered a spy in the sky.

With the Tiger guerrillas militarily defeated, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) is now using the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to see whether they could locate any remnants of the guerrilla group hiding in these jungles.

Their additional task, it transpired, was to locate ganja plantations and pass the information to the Police.

No visa problem for Kohona

“You have a truly global government,” a western diplomat once remarked to a local journalist after the Presidential elections in 2004. He was alluding to high positions held by a number of persons who were US green card holders or held citizenship in other countries.

One such person is the outgoing Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona. This week, he assumed duties as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations.

The British High Commission was unable to accede to his request for a visa in two hours. That too, without Dr. Kohona giving his fingerprints as required by British laws.

However, that does not mean he cannot travel to Britain at all. He would probably have had the last laugh. A Foreign Ministry source said that since assuming office in the Government of Sri Lanka, the dual citizen had only used his Sri Lankan passport.

If he wishes to travel, he could always use his Australian passport. Australians do not require a visa to Britain.

Dr. Kohona, who was educated in Australia, joined its foreign service. Later, he became head of the United Nation’s Treaty Section. That was using the Australian “quota” of jobs for UN employment. From there, he joined the Government of Sri Lanka.

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