Ranil Wickremesinghe, set an example for his ministers to follow, by only using one single advance vehicle for his security. Perhaps with the cessation of hostilities, his advisors felt, the threat level was not so high. But the Premier's security men were shocked at what they saw in a City street whilst escorting him.
First came two Land Rover Defender Jeeps loaded with men in battle fatigues with fingers on the triggers of their assault rifles. Escorting the jeeps were two motor cycle outriders with armed sailors as pillion riders. As they swept through the road, the Premier's convoy had to pull to a side to give way.
The security men thought it may have been President Kumaratunga rushing for an urgent engagement. That was not to be. The man in a bullet proof Benz was the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagari. Insiders say a polite advisory has already gone out to him to avoid such a public display during a relatively peaceful time.
Vice Admiral Sandagiri has already come under scrutiny for committing public funds on non priority ventures. One was the election time purchase of a luxury Mercedes Benz worth Rs 8.5 million when there were three new such vehicles assigned for his use at Navy Headquarters.
Now comes news of another venture – the construction of a Rs 13 million holiday home in Diyatalawa. This is whilst the Navy already has one such home there. Worse enough, there have been complaints of lack of accommodation for sailors in Colombo.
No more commandos
An officer and ten
commandos assigned for security duties to former Deputy Defence Minister, Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte, were withdrawn last Tuesday. They were accompanied by two drivers and a cook.
The Ministerial Security Division (MSD) personnel have now been assigned to Gen. Ratwatte. When orders for the withdrawal was sent out by Army Headquarters, two commandos had gone on leave. Messages went out asking them to report to their unit and not to Gen. Ratwatte's residence.
This did not happen in
the days of the Raj where Aratchis had a lot of clout. It was a recent event somewhere in the Weli Oya area. The man on special jobs had helped himself liberally to the satellite telephone, issued to the unit for use in an extreme emergency. He even phoned girl friends abroad.
The bill - Rs 420,000 for all the satellite calls around the world. Paying the sum became a knotty problem since the top men at headquarters scorned at such moves.
But a modern day Aratchi intervened and got another organisation to cough out the money. Whoever paid it, it was from public funds.
The cat is out of the bag. They say the big boss is now to ask the new Aratchi, a media hater, how this latest satellite telephone drama took place. The billion dollar question is whether the caller will now be asked to pay.