Perhaps dozens — or even scores — of Sri Lankan expats in the US got an unexpected windfall last week: A round-trip economy class airline ticket New York-Colombo-New York at the unbelievably low price of $300. The average price is about $1,300 (at non-peak season) and about $1,500 (at peak season). A technical glitch on [...]


Lankans fly high on airline error


Perhaps dozens — or even scores — of Sri Lankan expats in the US got an unexpected windfall last week: A round-trip economy class airline ticket New York-Colombo-New York at the unbelievably low price of $300. The average price is about $1,300 (at non-peak season) and about $1,500 (at peak season).

A technical glitch on the website of one of the Gulf airlines erroneously spat out the $300 fare for a couple of hours last week. Once discovered, the information spread like a wild fire among scores of Lankan expatriates who were quick to grab the offer — even though most of them had no plans to travel to Colombo.

In one case, an entire family of four is jetting to Colombo at the ridiculously low total cost of $1,200. One of the expats was quoted as saying: at $300, he was willing to just spend the weekend in Colombo and get back to work in New York by Monday (in an exaggerated boast, notwithstanding the huge difference in the two time zones).

The airline that suffered the technical glitch rectified the error within hours. It had no choice but to honour all those purchases made at $300 apiece. Perhaps the figure “1″ may have been dropped from the $1,300 figure as the real cost of the airline ticket. In newspaper jargon, it is the printer’s devil.

C’wealth ODIs: SLC has no thinking cap

How did CHOGM organisers with all their elaborate preparations of activities miss a trick? Cricket enthusiasts are talking about the best positive publicity Sri Lanka’s CHOGM could have had internationally.

If three ODIs were during the summit period between Sri Lanka and combined Commonwealth countries and were televised internationally in the cricket loving Commonwealth countries, they could have been good publicity.

The New Zealand team would be no doubt touring, but Sri Lanka Cricket should have put on its thinking caps, many say.

Govt. media head stays on

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has refused to accept the resignation of the head of a state owned electronic media outfit.
The move was the result of a three-cornered power struggle in the organisation. He has said the present incumbent should not only continue but also remain in another media related position.

Mervyn wants giant complex for ministries

Public Relations and Public Affairs Minister Mervyn Silva wants the Government to construct a building complex to accommodate offices of ministers.

Minister Silva has noted that his own Ministry, located in Galle Road, Bambalapitiya, pays a rent of a million rupees every month. 

He has suggested to the Government that a Narahenpita land which was earlier occupied by the Ceylon Tractor Corporation or a Jawatte land belonging to the Department of Labour be taken over. The estimated cost of the project? It would be more than Rs. 700 million.

Katunayake expressway means 8 tons of gold

Sections of the opposition were commenting that the Colombo-Katunayake expressway open last Sunday could have literally been paved with gold. The claim may be exaggerated but some of the statistics they produced were nearer the truth.
The expressway cost, originally estimated at around US$ 292 million, was revised upwards to US$ 350 million (Rs 45.7 billion) as costs reportedly rose. The project funded by the Exim Bank of China covers about 26 kilometres. This meant US$ 14 million or Rs. 1.8 billion for a kilometre.

The current market price of gold is US$ 43.24 million for a tonne ( Thus the cost of the expressway – US$ 350 million – would have been enough to buy 8.09 tons of gold. That would have been more than enough to run a thick gold rope all the way from the Kelani Bridge to the Bandaranaike International Airport, said a member of the opposition.

The southern expressway with a length of 95 kilometres from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa cost only US$ 741.1 million or Rs. 96.8 billion. It was funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Co-operation Agency. Work was carried out by the China Harbours Corporation.

Wigneswaran bans TNC soft drinks

One of the first few decrees from the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran was to direct that no beverages produced by trans-national companies (TNCs) should be served at their official events.

The move is notwithstanding his meeting this week with the US Ambassador Michele Sison. Coca Cola, a US product, was widely available in Jaffna and had been served to guests earlier. 

At the inaugural meeting of the NPC, locally produced soft drinks were served to members and guests. So it will be Nelli-Cola for those who visit Jaffna on official business.

Mervyn expressly forgiven

There were some humorous moments during the ceremonial opening of the Colombo-Katunayake expressway last Sunday.
“Ko Kelaniye aithikaraya” or where is the owner of Kelaniya, asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the chief guest.

Heads were turning in different directions. Then suddenly from a short distance away, a man emerged singing a song made popular by Sanath Nandasiri. “Waradak kalath sithakin nowe…ridawanne paliganne ayi?…waradak unanam sama uwa manvi, oba mage neth deka wage (If I made a mistake, it was not intentional. Why are you hurting me? Forgive me for the mistake. You are like my eyes).”

Even Rajapaksa appears to have melted. Controversial Public Relations and Public Affairs Minister Mervyn Silva also won a ride in the President’s vehicle on the expressway.

Mullivaikal centre in TN

At least one Tamil National Alliance (TNA) hard line parliamentarian has agreed to take part in the opening of a “Mullivakal Centre” in Tamil Nadu.

The environs of Mullivaikkal including the lagoon are where Security Forces militarily defeated Tiger guerrillas in May 2009.
The event is being organised by Paza Nedumaran who leads the Tamil National Movement in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He was known to be a friend of slain guerrilla leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Better service to the people

What are the problems faced by the people when they go to state institutions to have their grievances sorted out?
The Government has decided to conduct a study to identify the issues. For this purpose, officials will study existing rules and regulations which pose impediments to increasing the efficiency of service to the public.

Some of the key issues in this regard have surfaced during mobile services conducted by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa at Deyata Kirula events.

His heart was not on Cabinet meeting

Did Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran choose to skip last Thursday’s weekly ministerial meeting which was attended by other chief ministers? Reports said he was admitted to the Jaffna Hospital with what was described as a heart condition on Wednesday. However, Mr. Wigneswaran was present at a birthday party of one of his staffers in Mullaitivu.

Sections of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had urged that he should not attend the Cabinet meeting. Chief Ministers are being invited once a month for Cabinet meetings to discuss matters relating to their provinces.

MR rejects Keheliya’s blacklist of journalists

The Media Ministry had blacklisted 15 foreign media personnel and wanted to refuse them official accreditation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella took the list to brief President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He took a good look and directed that all of them be given accreditation and allowed to come to Sri Lanka. “Otherwise they can do greater damage,” he pointed out.

Among those on the list were those from Britain’s Channel 4 including Callum Macrae, the producer of the controversial film “No Fire Zone,” dealing with the final stages of the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas. On Thursday, Macrae was on Channel 4 after the network aired what it called “new footage” of the death of Isaipriya, a news reader for guerrilla television productions.

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