Double talk or double speak in diplomatic circles is nothing new. There are occasions when diplomats do that. They say to lie for their country is part of their job.áHowever, when the numero uno does it, it raises eyebrows. Here is an example. External Affairs Ministry Secretary, Karunatilleke Amunugama told the Sunday Times last week [...]


Rizana’s execution: Ministry secretary beheads the truth


Double talk or double speak in diplomatic circles is nothing new. There are occasions when diplomats do that. They say to lie for their country is part of their job.áHowever, when the numero uno does it, it raises eyebrows. Here is an example.

External Affairs Ministry Secretary, Karunatilleke Amunugama told the Sunday Times last week that the recall of Ahmed Jawad, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was “aimed at the Saudi authorities who ignored our many pleas for clemency” for Rizana Nafeek. She was beheaded for allegedly killing a young child. This is despite the defence adducing proof that she was a minor when the reported offence was committed.

Two days after the comments to the Sunday Times, Mr. Amunugama was quoted in the Arab News, a leading newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, that Ambassador Jawad was not recalled due to the execution of Rizana Nafeek.

“We transferred the present Ambassador Ahmed A. Jawad to Colombo upon completion of his tour of duty in the Kingdom,” he was quoted as telling the Arab News.áThis shows that the top official of the External Affairs Ministry has one message for the outside world and another for Sri Lankans.

For the latter, it reflected the anger of the Government over Saudi inaction over repeated pleas. Little wonder, when Minister Dilan Perera was telling Parliament that Rizana would win a respite, the execution had already taken place two hours before. So much for Sri Lankan diplomacy.

Asked to comment on the two different views, Amunugama denied that he made a statement to Arab News claiming Ambassador Ahmed Jawad was not recalled but his return was due to his term as ambassador ending.”I did not make such a statement,” Mr. Amunugama told the Sunday Times.á”Media could have quoted me differently. The transfer was made to express the displeasure of the Government on Rizana Nafeek’s execution.”

Arab News quoted Mr. Amungama as follows: “‘We transferred the present Ambassador Ahmed A. Jawad to Colombo upon the completion of his tour of duty in the Kingdom,” Karunatilake Amunugama told Arab News from Colombo yesterday. Ambassador Jawad’s three-year term ended Dec. 9. Amunugama said that there is no question of downgrading the embassy since this is a routine transfer. He also said that Jawad will be replaced by another ambassador who will soon be formally appointed.”

Jumbo Cabinet but only 14 were there on time

The regular Cabinet meeting on Tuesday at 9.30 a.m. was delayed by half an hour. Officials gave notice to ministers of this change the previous day.áWhen President Rajapaksa arrived at 10 a.m. on this day, he found only 14 ministers present. The President and the ministers chatted for a while till more trooped in to start the meeting.

Namal gets toddy tavern shut down

Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa was on a tour of the Kilinochchi District. He took part in a string of ceremonies to mark the Hindu harvest festival of Thai Pongal.

At one such event, when he was interacting with the public, a parent came forward to speak to him. He told young Mr. Rajapaksa that there was a toddy tavern right opposite a school in the area and said that set a very bad example.
Mr. Rajapaksa was on his phone immediately thereafter. It took some ten minutes before he could tell the crowds that by the next morning, the toddy tavern would be closed down. That did happen.

Police to police the traffic police

Police Chief N.K. Illangakoon has asked his top brass to crack down on gazetted and other ranks violating traffic laws. The move comes in the wake of media reports that some police officers were even driving in the opposite direction on lanes that were one way.

Mr. Illangakoon has showed his top brass six photographs from the media where traffic offences by the police were highlighted. Some of them show police officers driving while talking on mobile phones, riding without helmets and overtaking vehicles violating traffic rules.

If such acts were reported, the Police Chief has said that Officers-in-Charge of stations have to bear the responsibility.
When travelling in a group, if the driver violates traffic rules, in addition to the driver the most senior officer in the group will also be held responsible, according to the new directive by the IGP. áNow, we seem to need a police to police the police.

Nugegoda’s shaking bridge, where are the police?

A traffic snarl at Nugegoda, along the High Level Road, gave motorists the creep this week.áThe overhead bridge at the Nugegoda Junction, from one end to the other, was loaded with traffic – buses, lorries, cars among them. Suddenly the bridge began to shake and sway mildly. Whether it was a construction defect or designed that way is not known.

But an area of serious concern for the motorists has been the absence of any traffic police in the bridge area, particularly during nights. Buses racing with each other over take right on top of the bridge. Buses stop at both ends of the bridge to pick up passengers. This, no doubt, is a serious poser for the traffic police.

But then, it’s a well-known secret that many buses are owned by police officers or their wives, and for them, the highway code is a ‘dead letter’. Any wonder why there are so many road accidents?

COPE to hold late night sittings

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), the Parliamentary watchdog that monitors state enterprises, appears to have taken a leaf from the Parliamentary Select Committee that probed Chief Justice Shirani Bandarnayake.

It will hold late night sittings later this month monitoring the performance of more than fifty state organisations.

While country burns UNP continues with in-fighting

As the debate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake got under way in Parliament, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) was embroiled in more problems.

It had listed four speakers — John Amaratunga, Lakshman Kiriella (the two members who served on the Parliamentary Select Committee that inquired in the allegations against the Chief Justice), Wijeyadasa Rajapaksha (who doubles up as the President of the Bar Association) and former Speaker Joseph Michael Perera. Several others, including deputy leader Sajith Premadasa, former deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and Dayasiri Jayasekera were on a reserve list. Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was not going to speak.

So what did the UNP deputy leader do? He asked for time from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and spoke. Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga had also given his assent to this switch.

However, this has angered the party hierarchy which says that he spoke not on the UNP line on the debate, but on the TNA line.

Later two other MPs, one from theColombo District and one from the Gampaha Dristrict, who are notably in what is called the “Ranil Camp” had asked from Mr. Amaratunga, the Chief Opposition Whip, why he allowed Mr. Premadasa to speak during the debate on borrowed TNA time.

The Opposition Whip had replied that the decision was made by him and they had no right to question him.áThe matter has not quite ended, with the party leader now threatening to go further into the matter, which also includes the party’s deputy leader and general secretary Tissa Attanayake taking contrary stances on whether Premadasa sought his permission to attend the Court of Appeal hearings on the impeachment motion, or not. Premadasa told the Sunday Times he did not; while Attanayake insists he did, and that Premadasa was instructed not to attend court. “One of the two has to be lying,” said a party stalwart now fed up with the internal disputes in the country’s main opposition party.

Ranil and Festus did party work on bicycles

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was one of the speakers at the funeral of Festus Perera, a one-time UNP Parliamentarian, Cabinet Minister and well-known figure from the Wennappuwa area.

Wickremesinghe said that in the 1988-89 period, despite terrorist threats, he and Festus travelled on bicycles to carry out party work. That is how party work was done then.

Greeting card has one million less

The head of a Sri Lankan mission overseas, on a holiday at home that continues for well past a month and half, has sent out New Year greeting cards.

The cover of the card is a montage of the face of young Sri Lankans. However, it speaks of 20 million Sri Lankans. Did the envoy get his statistics wrong? Sri Lanka’s population now stands at 21 million, said a Sri Lankan, one of the recipients of the card.

MP gets taste of Rajapaksa wrath in canteen

While the debate on the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was under way in Parliament, there were some heated moments in the MPs’ canteen too.

UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera had approached Minister Basil Rajapaksa with a copy of the resolution listed on the Order Paper and the subject of the debate. He pointed out that one of the allegations was incorrect. áHowever, this was not taken lightly by Minister Rajapaksa. The usually composed Minister gave the UNP MP an earful, saying the Government has come with the charges as they are correct.

Later as he was leaving the MPs’ canteen, the Minister had walked up to the UNP MP, tapped him on the shoulder and asked him not to take “these things seriously.”

The UNP MP had replied he did not take such outbursts seriously. However, he had remarked that what he saw was a demonstration that those who invoke the wrath of the Rajapaksa’s are in big trouble. He walked away thereafter.

Health Minister finds bambuwa again

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena was the Chief Guest at the ministry’s annual gathering where employees displayed their talents and skills.

While the minister and the guests were inspecting a traditional rural home at the event Mr. Sirisena spotted a pittu bambuwa (a mould used to make pittu, a meal prepared with coconut and rice flour)

“Mata kalekin thamai bambuwa hambu une. (I have found ‘bambuwa’ after a long time),” the smiling Minister said taking the mould into his hand.

“Ei sir bambuwe vishesathwaya. (Why sir, what is so special about a bambuwa?),” asked his Ministry Secretary Nihal Jayathilake.

He explained that when he was serving as the Agriculture Minister he responded to the JVP saying, “Ay gollo danney bambuwa vitharai”. (They only know about the ‘bambuwa’). The word ‘bambuwa’ is also common parlance in colloquial Sinhala for ‘talking nonsense’.

The Minister said that after his comments then, newspaper cartoonists used his remarks to lampoon him.áSo he said, ” Edata passÚ adai bambuwa hambu une. ( it was only after that incident that I found a ‘bambuwa’)”.

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