A blasted New Year!
It was advertised as a ‘Blast from the Past’ with special guest Desmond de Silva. My friend who bought ten tickets for our table was assured that Desmond would spend the whole evening with us and was contracted to sing 30 songs. Apparently though the BMICH Banquet Hall could hold 400, only 300 tickets were to be sold at Rs. 5,500. I was a bit worried about the acoustics of that small hall not designed for music and felt that even with 300 it would be crowded.
Arriving just after 9 p.m., when the event was advertised to start, we found only the organisers and caterers in the hall. They were selling Desmond’s CDs on a table outside.
We were happy to see a comfortable arrangement with only 16 tables with 10 seats each. We were told that Desmond was expected by 10.30 p.m. By that time less than half the tables were full and no one was yet on the dance floor. Some at our table were getting bored and we went exploring to see what else was happening at BMICH. We went to the main hall and there was an event organised by the People’s Church in collaboration with the Bible Society. In the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre (SBMEC) was a KRC event with Jerome Fernando. Both these active free events were crowded, but the ushers were courteous and offered to find us seats, in a bid to deliver to us their message. We stayed only for few minutes and rushed back not wanting to miss any part of Desmond’s show.
At 11.30 p.m. they served dinner, and at 11.50 p.m. the dance floor was still empty and there was no sign of Desmond. Most got on the floor just before midnight for the count down, and a few went outside to watch the fireworks from the CR&FC grounds.
Desmond finally arrived at 12.30 a.m. just around the time that a few of us in the small crowd were getting restless. He got the party going well after the New Year and long after the bedtime of most of the audience with an average age well over 60.
Desmond sang under 20 songs in about 50 minutes and bid everyone good night. The band went for dinner, and we too left, disappointed that this Blast had brought in 2014 with a whimper.
Maybe it was a change of plans due to low ticket sales.
However, the organisers must have clearly known at the start of the evening and if they were honest with those they had sold tickets to promising a night with Desmond, started dinner well before midnight and somehow got the party going, the atmosphere would have been far more jovial. Not knowing if we have been totally cheated, was a real damper and no way to start a Happy New Year.
Finding none on the Internet, I felt it was important to review this event for the benefit of those seeking nightlife in Colombo.
A disappointed reveller
Kudu container: Public service rules observed in the breach
The hottest talking point today is the issue of a letter by the Prime Minister’s coordinating secretary, requesting waiver of demurrage and other port charges for an importer of a container of ‘Kudu’.
While Minister Wimal Weerawansa, UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera and some political monks have come to the defence of Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne, some opposition figures, especially the JHU leader, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha, are demanding his resignation. These two factions, both for and against, seem to be blissfully ignorant of the procedure that should have been followed.
Firstly, private secretaries or coordinating secretaries and staff are not public servants and are appointed by the respective ministers for the services rendered by them during elections. One of their main duties is to convey the minister’s instructions to the ministry secretary for necessary action and it is left to the ministry secretary either to implement or reject the instructions, depending on the legality of such orders or availability of funds.
It is worthy to mention one instance where President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Minister for Finance, instructed the Treasury Secretary to pay the enhanced pension to those who retired before 2006. The Treasury Secretary did not carry out this order due to paucity of funds. Then again, President Rajapaksa requested the CEB to give relief to those low and middle income groups consuming 60-90 units. This has fallen on the deaf ears of the Minister for Power and Energy and the CEB.
I would wish to relate my experience while in the public service. It was in the late 1960s, when I was summoned by Public Works Minister Michael Siriwardena and ordered to sanction an estimate to metal and tar a section of a road. At this time, the Permanent Ministry Secretary Rajendran was with the minister. Turning to the minister, he said in his Oxford accent, “Sir, that order should be given by me as I am the Chief Accounting Officer responsible to the Public Accounts Committee.” Then he asked me to meet him with the relevant papers. Going through, and finding funds of the Block Vote, under which this estimate had to be sanctioned, was insufficient, he made a minute in the file to consider it after three months. That was when the Public Service in Sri Lanka was considered the best in Asia.
These instructions and procedures are yet in force, but followed in the breach, to satisfy politicians. Mention should be made here of a case where a senior secretary to a ministry together with the minister were charged with bribery by the Bribery Commission and before the findings concluded, the minister died and the secretary was dismissed for carrying out an illegal order of the minister.
Going back to the duties of a minister’s private staff, apart from conveying instructions of the minister to the ministry secretary, they have to see to the needs of the electorate which the minister represents and arrange meetings.
In this instance whether the Prime Minister requested the Coordinating Secretary to issue such an order or the Coordinating Secretary acted on his own is a matter best left alone but the officer who carried out the instructions of the Coordinating Secretary is at fault and should be dealt with.
This incident of “Kudu” should open the eyes of the government, specially the Public Administration Minister and remind all public officers of the existing procedure, to strictly enforce and adhere to. I would go one step further and say educate our ministers, members of Parliament to avoid such incidents. Perhaps if this matter is handled by Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga it will be more effective.
Galle Road chaos: Who ‘s digging for what?
The Wellawatte stretch of Galle Road is being dug up more and more on all four sides – that is on both sides of both lanes! There seems to be work going on at snail’s pace. With no completion in sight, more and more digging takes place amid more and more inconvenience to pedestrians and the motorists, but then who cares?
The traffic is almost at standstill most of the time with nonstop blaring of horns and three quarter of the road being taken up for repairs; no one seems to know what the repair is about and when and how it is going to be completed.
Can someone tell the long suffering silent majority of citizens why cannot they do the work at small laps of stretches from one end and finish before going onto the next lap? Why didn’t someone think of doing one lane first and the other one later so that at least the people could have used one lane for traffic? Why not close the huge holes in one stretch before digging up the next one? Why not let the workers do the repairs at night and let them rest during daytime and make the traffic flow a little easier? Why not employ a larger number of labourers and complete the work in shorter period? Why not leave completing the middle divider between the two lanes to a later time and finish the constructions at the sides first? Why not at least lay the concrete slabs properly even if cementing or tarring is to be done later? Why, why oh why not?
Who is in charge? Who is supervising this if at all? Is this the only way to do it?
We were told it will be finished before the CHOGM starts. The CHOGM has come and gone but the chaos has not abated. Only “sogam” (sadness in Tamil) seems to be remaining for Wellawatte!
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai
Bouquets for Kandy’s City Centre
Kandy’s ‘City Centre’ together with the municipal car park which can accommodate 1000 vehicles is a masterpiece of innovation and those responsible deserve accolades.
It is a great pride to the hill capital and a study for architects and allied persons. I was impressed by the section where most banks have set up branches. The bank officials appear geared for long hours of work and are very efficient.The city centre has an entrance from one side from the municipal car park and another from Dalada Veediya by the side of Cargills Food City. Those who come from the suburbs of Kandy by bus have no difficulty because they can get down opposite the Maligawa on one side of the building and others opposite the Municipal Library and Kandy Market.
The City Centre is a study for administrators to improve other areas of public services. For example bus services can easily be improved to remove the congestion in the town, if they can plan the movement of buses avoiding the town by utilizing by roads. Buses to Katugastota and Matale can come via the Cemetery Road and those going to Lewella, Pallakelle can take the Dutugemunu Mawatha which runs alongside the Mahaweli.
Roaring silence over CHOGM-zoo cruelty
A recent article in the Sunday Times highlighted how some animals in our Zoo were displayed in a mini-zoo for CHOGM guests. It was sad to read that a number of deer had died and the wings of birds were clipped.
As usual these days, no one has taken responsibility for such untoward happenings. Why the animal lovers’ associations are not protesting over the issue is anyone’s guess.
Against this backdrop, I came across a photograph of a leopard at Yala taken by my son Ravindu during a visit to the national park. My son says he looked lazily at them, almost as if he was posing for the camera. How many Sri Lankans and tourists look forward to seeing this beautiful sight on a visit to the park?
We do not have lions or tigers in our land but this majestic animal must be protected for the future.
Sunil R. Wickremaratne