Last week’s report headlined “Political debate over Premiership erupts again” had its sequel from, of all places, in the plush banquet hall of Colombo Hilton. Among other matters, we said that the “Premiership issue also reverberated in the halls of the Colombo Municipal Council during a meeting of members. Mayor A.J. M. Muzzamil declared that the [...]


Premiership quips at wedding banquet


Last week’s report headlined “Political debate over Premiership erupts again” had its sequel from, of all places, in the plush banquet hall of Colombo Hilton. Among other matters, we said that the “Premiership issue also reverberated in the halls of the Colombo Municipal Council during a meeting of members. Mayor A.J. M. Muzzamil declared that the most suitable person was Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who has had a 30 year long political career.”

The occasion was a resolution felicitating Minister de Silva. It was unanimously carried by the Council after several members praised him, some even saying he was the most suitable for the post of Prime Minister. The resolution was moved by Opposition members of the Council.

Last Sunday, President Rajapaksa and some of his ministers attended the wedding of the daughter of Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem. He was seated at a table where Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was alongside. There was Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Sabaragamuwa Governor W.J.M. Lokubandara among others.

From the adjoining table, Mayor Muzzamil rose and walked up to President Rajapaksa to extend his greetings. “Mey inney apey Agamathi thorana ekkanaa (Here is the one who picks our Prime Minister),” quipped the President, pointing Muzzamil to his leader, Wickremesinghe. A shy and embarrassed Muzzamil replied “Mama ehema kivvey nehe. Aya motion eka genavey Sir laage kattiya (I did not say it that way. The motion was brought by your people, Sir).”

Wickremesinghe, who is seldom outdone in repartee responded, “Ithin Mervyn Silva wa thorala ivarei nehe (Anyway Mervyn Silva – Public Relations Minister – has already been chosen).” President Rajapaksa burst into laughter.  “I praised Minister de Silva in my speech. The motion was brought by Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members in the Council,” Muzzamil told a journalist and lawyer friends who were waiting for their vehicles to line up.

Well, well, who would want to contradict a President? Not even Muzzamil would do that. Even if he wants Minister de Silva as Prime Minister, he cannot place him in that high portal. After all, despite all the high praise he heaped on Minister de Silva, Muzzamil is from the UNP.

On his way out, President Rajapaksa ran into Parliamentarian Sri Ranga. He noted that the shirt he wore was very nice and said he knew who gave it. He asked Sri Ranga whether he came alone for the wedding. When the MP replied “yes,” Mr. Rajapaksa said, “you should have come with your wife. That is how you strengthen family bonds.”

Ministers get book for compulsory reading

Last Thursday’s weekly Cabinet meeting saw ministers being given a 100-page book for compulsory reading.  The book by Dr. Mark Cooray is titled ‘SRI LANKA – Reflections on the Impeachment and the Constitution’. The hard cover page of the book says it is edited by Rohitha Bogollagama, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Unimpeachable umpires

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the match yesterday

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe went to the annual 134th Royal-Thomian Cricket encounter yesterday accompanied by German Ambassador Juergen Morhard.
Coming from a country where cricket is virtually not known, Dr. Morhard kept asking questions from Wickremesinghe. At one point, he pointed to the two umpires and asked, “who are they?” Wickremesinghe replied “they are the only judges not fixed by the Government.”

US offers grants for groups promoting media freedom and reconciliation

The United States is busy making preparations to move a second resolution on Sri Lanka at the on-going UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.
In the midst of that activity, the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour (DRL) has announced a Request for Proposals from organisations interested in submitting proposals for projects that promote democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Sri Lanka.

Here are the requested proposal programme, objectives and the amounts to be paid to those who qualify:

Increasing Support and Safety for Journalists (Approximately $500,000):

DRL’s goal is to strengthen the capacity of independent media in the area of investigative journalism and increase safety and support for journalists in Sri Lanka. The bureau seeks proposals that will 1) increase the capacity of independent media to effectively investigate and report in a restrictive environment; 2) provide digital and physical security training to journalists, bloggers and other media professionals, including those who work in post-conflict areas and cover issues such as reconciliation, accountability within a rule of law framework and democratic governance; AND 3) establish a mechanism that offers legal support and advocacy for media professionals who are facing legal challenges. Competitive proposals will 1) focus on journalists working in English as well as Tamil and Sinhala media outlets; 2) include journalists from throughout the country rather than focusing just on Colombo.

Facilitating Reconciliation (Approximately $500,000): DRL’s goal is to facilitate cooperation across religious and ethnic lines to advance reconciliation so that all citizens of Sri Lanka can live with each other in peace. The bureau seeks proposals that will create opportunities for religious and ethnic groups to come together to promote reconciliation through cross-community communication and programming. Activities should include: (1) developing a plan to promote reconciliation at the community level using the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report recommendations as a starting point; (2) identifying community leaders, including youth and women, to facilitate and advance the reconciliation process; and (3) implementing concrete actions to build inter-community trust and understanding such as peace-building and dialogue activities, or other mechanisms to foster inter-communal collaboration.

Telecom inquiries not free

A caller who sought the services of the Directory Inquiries at Sri Lanka Telecom to obtain the telephone number of a private company was in for a shock.
A recording said the caller would be charged per unit plus taxes.

This was earlier a service rendered to subscribers. Inquiries revealed that it was only the recording of the service offered that was new. The practice of charging for the calls had been in existence.

DIG does not care two hoots

Jaffna’s Senior Superintendent of Police Mahinda Ekanayake was chairing a news conference in Jaffna last Friday.  He was asked about an incident where Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was hooted at by some persons who wanted to interrupt his meeting.

SSP Ekanayake claimed that there had been no such complaint. An enterprising journalist pulled out the copy of a statement made to the Police and showed it to him.
The senior Police officer in the peninsula then changed his stance. He said there were no laws in the country to deal with hooting.

This is despite two persons being rounded up and handed over to the Police. Perhaps SSP Ekanayake’s remarks would come as encouragement to those who want to hoot at political leaders, whatever party they may belong to. Certainly not good public relations.

Rain takes away make-up screen from actresses

A trade fair to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bentota National School was held last week with the participation of several politicians. UPFA MPs Namal Rajapaksa, Udith Lokubandara, Sajin Vass Gunewardene, UNP MP Gayantha Karunathilaka, Bentara-Elpitiya SLFP organiser Geetha Kumarasinghe and UPFA Sourthern Provincial Councillor Anarkali Akarsha were among them.

While the event was under way, heavy showers fell. UNP’s Karunathilaka said he was afraid that the rain would wash out two actresses’ make ups.  Moment later one of those who had made arrangements asked those around “Niliyo dennama giyada?” (Have the two actresses left?)

“Nehe ne make-up eka vithrai giye. Niliyo denna innawa (No. Only the makeup has gone away. The two actresses are here),” Karunathilaka hurriedly responded.

Columbia University official calls for war crimes probe

Not so long ago, the New York-based Columbia University’s Programme for Peace Building and Rights tied up with former minister Milinda Moragoda’s Pathfinder Foundation.

They were making an effort to identify avenues of ensuring lasting peace in Sri Lanka nearly four years after the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas.
The Government of Japan helped them organise an “Observation of Progress of National Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka.” David L. Phillips of the Columbia University was part of a fact-finding delegation which included officials from Bangladesh, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Romania and South Africa.

Tuseno Nishida, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, prepared a chairman’s report based on discussions by the delegation with the Government of Sri Lanka, the UN country team, Colombo-based diplomats, Sri Lankan civil society and members of Parliament. Their report was handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Now, Mr. Phillips has declared in a public statement, coming as it does during the UN Human Rights Council sessions, that “an independent international investigation of alleged war crimes under the auspices of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is necessary to address allegations.”

Hangmen hanging in the balance

The two hangmen recruited by Prisons Department were in the media focus last week due to their absence without leave from work at the Welikade Prison. However, both reported back later. It has now transpired that the duo have not been given training related to their core duty; on how to hang convicts.

Instead they were only put through a course given to prison officials. The two men also told the minister in charge they were still not doing the job they were recruited for.

Beware of dog fines

Environmental laws seem to be getting tougher in the Western Province.  The Western Provincial Council recently approved bylaws in this regard.

On such bylaw is to impose spot fines on owners whose pets defecate on the road. The fines imposed are between Rs. 500 and Rs. 3,000. A broad definition of the bylaw would make it unsafe to walk a pet dog on the streets.

But, it’s not only that. Cars cannot be washed on the roadside, even in front of your house. No more car washing events as fund raising campaigns on the roadsides.

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