ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 16, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 29

Odds & Ends

Many have wondered where in the world the controversial Sajin Vas - the Presidential confidante has been all these months. Now we are told that the whole Presidential visit to Japan was the ‘Sajin Vas show.’ Other than the three official outings organized by the Japanese Government, viz., the call on the Emperor, banquet hosted by the Emperor and the call on the PM, it was Sajin who decided what H.E. did, where H.E. went, etc., leaving senior officials to just ‘hang around’ and carry out orders.

The Japan visit started with an unusual segment; i.e. a visit outside the capital city, a departure from common protocol practice. Normally, a Head of State would start his/her official program in the capital and then move on to visit other parts of the country on a semi-official basis, meaning with receiving the State’s patronage. It must be noted that although the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) touted the visit as a ‘State Visit’ the Japanese merely called it a ‘working visit’.

In visits not considered ‘State visits’ the host government would not arrange any other programmes outside the capital. Hence, as MR was very keen to see some sights, Sajin arranged a ‘sightseeing tour’ to Kyoto for one and half days followed by an unprecedented arrival in the capital city Tokyo by train, all at the expense of the GOSL. As the Kyoto leg was not considered ‘official’ at all by the Japanese, there was not much fanfare when MR arrived at the Kansai International Airport in Osaka. One could see on TV how the President of Sri Lanka was received when he arrived in Osaka. Sajin directed that the Sri Lanka Ambassador wear a ‘national dress’ to receive the President. He complied, but as was seen on television screens here, walked well behind MR rather uncomfortably in freezing weather without even wearing an overcoat thereby diligently following the orders given by the powerful Coordinating Secretary. Hence, it was left to the Japanese Ambassador based in Colombo to escort the President inside the air terminal, a rather peculiar protocol arrangement. When MR had inquired about the rather ‘plain’ arrival formality, someone close to him had whispered that it was because the Protocol personnel of the Foreign Ministry (MFA) in Colombo had not ‘done the job properly’. After all, on Sajin’s orders, few from the Protocol division of the Ministry had made it to Japan—a record for a visit! In total, including the Minister and his family, more than a dozen from the MFA eventually made it to Japan—as 1st advance team, 2nd advance team, etc., etc.

This MR visit was also unique in that for the first time in his tenure, a Presidential visit took place without either S/President (Lalith W) or S/FA (Palitha K) in attendance. Interestingly, both are mentioned as diplomatic envoys in the foreseeable future. At least Boggles was a happy man as he told a Sri Lankan diplomatic officer toward the end of the visit that ‘at least there won’t be any controversies after this visit, since there isn’t anybody to leak out different versions of what happened!!’.

MR arrived in London and was received by the SL HC (Kshenuka). MR was quick to take a shot at the lucky lady who is to soon move around in the comfort of a super luxury Jaguar by chipping in “Anna Times ekay thibba, may oyata shoke car ekak hamba wenawa kiyala…” The Lady just giggled with her customary ‘aney sir…’ but didn’t waste anytime in breaking some bad news to the Prez, i.e. the Chilcott statement at the Dudley Senanayake lecture in Colombo with some ‘lunu ambul’ thrown in. The smiling Prez turned angry in a matter of seconds, “Ganda oyage amathiya”…When told that he couldn’t be reached as RB was lost in Singapore on a routine stopover, MR quipped, “Aiyo may miniha koi loakay yanavada man da…ganda ara Kohonayawa.mang minihawa thiyala giye may wage pissu ewa nathara karanna.” While waiting for the call to go through, he added “Dan ithin apey foreign ministry ekata fighting acting ministry kiyalai kiyanna wenne; ai? Wedak wunahama mama ke gahanawa, ethakota okkomalla nagitala diplomat la ekka gahaganna yanawa…eetapasse aigolla weerayo wage act karala kiyanawa onna api dunna unta wetenna…” He also noted that despite our big hue & cry, the UNESCO statement is yet to be withdrawn. A protocol officer in the vicinity whispered, ‘at this rate we will be able to fight the whole world pretty soon.’

The Inland Revenue Department, the notorious den of corruption which hit the headlines with the VAT fraud is now up to a new ruse this festive season. Given targets to meet, the top notches there are having an open licence to literally cash-in. It is this time of year when liquor shop owners must get the tax certificates before they go to the Excise Department to get their permits to sell booze for next year.

So, they must grovel and go before the Tax Department to get that certificate. The Department then tells them, "No, no you must be making more than what you are saying you make - here's our own assessment of what you MUST BE MAKING". The liquor shop owner protests, saying "No, no I don’t make that amount". Not that they truthfully say how much they really make, but then the Tax Department's assessment is equally inflated beyond reason, and sans proof. So, then what happens ?

An amicable settlement - under the table. So, both are happy, but not the Government and not the tippler who will get more water shandy in his booze bottle next year. Cheers.

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