Columns - Talk at the Cafe Spectator

Twists and turns in Deputy Minister's incident

Last week's reference in these columns about Deputy Transport Minister Rohana Dissanayake has had its sequel. His spokesperson Harsha Hiyarapitiya claims, "A simple incident has been sensationalized by using words such as "outburst" and "top gear" which are having tarnishing effects on his good image".
"The actual facts relating to the incident are very clear.

The Deputy Minister, as he does usually, acceded to the request of a group of residents affected by a road widening programme to present their grievances. When he met them, they handed him a letter purported to contain their grievances. The Deputy Minister carefully read it and explained the larger benefit to the community. He urged them to co-oporate with the government to complete the development projects faster."

"Those who place obstacles have been playing delaying tactics by giving letters like this. When he explained this to them they became agitated and began shouting.

They were not prepared to accept the Deputy Minister's explanation that the government's development programme takes precedence over all the other things. As these arguments were endless, the Deputy Minister called it to an end rejecting the protest note."

However, Hilton Berenger, a local journalist and Secretary of the Association of the Main Street (Matale) Property Owners told the Sunday Times that, "it was not a simple incident" as the PR man of the Deputy Minister says. The Deputy Minister clearly showed clear signs he was not willing to listen to the grievances of his voters and was not interested in their representations."

He said: "The deputy minister tore up the petition in which we had sought a meeting to discuss about the impact of the road widening project on the property owners. The incident happened at the conference room of the Municipal Council in the presence of at least 25 officials including the Deputy Mayor Palitha Jayasekara."

"Officials present at the time of the incident have later personally called our members and expressed regret about the incident," he said . "We invited all members of the Association to the Chamber of Commerce building this week and explained the response of the Deputy Minister," he added.

JVP voice dead, only music now

The VFM (or Victory FM), the voice of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) appears to have been humbled further. Last week, we revealed how the radio channel was obtained by the JVP when it was a bosom partner of the government.

This week, the radio station stopped broadcasting news and views. Instead it is playing non stop Music.

The conductor who orchestrated the exercise, a one time key JVPer is laughing away. His plans to shift shareholders and take control has paid off.

Hague not vague about Britain's stand

External Affairs Minister, G.L. Peiris, has been told by Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague there was a "need to have a credible and independent process to address allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the conflict." Mr. Hague said he hoped Sri Lanka would show clear commitment towards democracy, human rights law and freedom of the media, according to a report posted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office web site.

The report said at a meeting with Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister, Mr. Hague said the political settlement should address the needs of all Sri Lanka's communities.

The Foreign Secretary discussed the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commisson with Dr. Peiris and said he hoped that Sri Lanka's Govt. would engage with the United Nations Panel of Experts.

The two Ministers also discussed wider bilateral relations and areas of common interest, the website said.

There was no official statements in Colombo about Dr. Peiris' meeting with Mr. Hague.

Double check on President's messages

Government Information Director General Ariyaratna Athugala this week sent out a Circular to Editors of newspapers. It says:

"Please be informed that Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President has informed me that messages of His Excellency the President should not be published in any newspaper supplements without the prior approval of the Director of Foreign Media, Mr. Lucian Rajakarunanayake or Director of Print Media Mr. Mahinda Illeperuma. Therefore you may please take necessary action to instruct your editorial staff accordingly".

According to Prof Athugala the need to issue such instructions came since some of the Ministries and Departments wanted to carry messages of the President in supplements though they were not approved. He said "particularly we want to avoid any mistakes or grammatical errors in these messages which may be published when the President is sworn in for his second term of office."

Ranil and GL: Big bill on wrong foot!

External Affairs Minister, G.L. Peiris and Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickreme-singhe, were both on visits to Britain.

They stayed in different rooms in the Michellin-starred 28 storied Hilton Park Lane. Mr. Wickrem-esinghe was a guest of Foreign Secretary William Hague.

However, the Foreign Ministry had to foot Dr Peiris' bill. Ordinary rooms at the hotel in Mayfair, overlooking the Hyde Park, cost 242 Sterling Pounds (around Rs 42,410) a night.

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