|The long wait
A leading Colombo businessman whose export brands are now in the spotlight
in the commercial world was in for a rude shock last week. It came when
he was to embark on an European tour.
His vehicle was stopped at the regular check-point ahead of the terminal
buildings of the Bandaranaike International Airport. After being told to
alight, the man noticed the Army commando style uniform of the men on duty
and remarked "thank God, the Air Force is not there any more. You all are
doing a good job now…" he declared.
Little did he realise the men were all from the Air Force but in uniforms
resembling those worn by Army commandos. The change had come in after the
July 24 Black Tiger guerrilla attack on the SLAF airbase and the adjoining
Bandaranaike International Airport.
The businessman had to pay a heavy price. His bag and baggage were given
a thorough check and it was almost time for the flight when he was allowed
Needless to say, the incident would not please Air Force Commander Air
Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody, who has strongly exhorted the need for his
men to be both polite and disciplined.
Its not only the men at the entry point to the airport that travellers
complain of. Even those departing from the airport are given a tough time
by the guards who line up all vehicles leaving the airport for a lengthy
question and answer session.
As one wag, who arrived in a flight from Chennai (Madras) remarked,
it took over an hour, or more than the time taken for the flight, to leave
the lengthy vehicle queue before the departure gate. The men were using
their weapons to signal departing vehicles to join the lengthy queue.
Only a stone
Last Thursday's Saudi Airlines flight that left the Bandaranaike International
Airport for Jeddah had to return barely an hour after take off.
A crew member had noticed a suspicious parcel inside the toilet. The
Captain was told of a parcel and fears rose that it contained the deadly
The aircraft returned to BIA for a thorough check by the Sri Lanka Air
Force anti-hijack team.
They found a small parcel inside the toilet. It was a stone, a porous
one, neatly wrapped in tissue.
It turned out that the stone belonged to a Muslim passenger who was
carrying it for personal ablution purposes where no water was available.
He had mistakenly left it in the toilet. The aircraft was then given
the all clear to take off.
For special duties
Has a State organisa tion embarked on a programme to recruit temporary
Security Assistants ?
Insiders say some 400 are to be recruited for special duties, though
what they are has not been defined formally.
As one wag remarked, it is perhaps to keep the peace in the run up to
next month's general elections.