Talk at the Cafe Spectator

Showers and flowers of blessings

On Wednesday morning, most people in the Greater Colombo area woke up to learn that the rains and floods in some areas overnight had been the worst in four years. It was the highest recorded rainfall during that period.

The same day, there was a flood of different sorts at "Temple Tree," the official residence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Coffee tables, racks and ledges were flooded with floral bouquets of different sorts. They came from Colombo-based diplomatic missions, corporate bodies, ministers, parliamentarians, friends and a whole host of others.

Armed forces chiefs, senior intelligence and Government officials turned up in the forenoon for the National Security Council (NSC) meeting. They waited for President Rajapaksa to turn up. Instead, the gathering was ushered into a hall to partake in cakes and tea among other delicacies. There was no NSC meeting. In the afternoon, the daily buffet lunch drew a larger than usual crowd. Mr. Rajapaksa in a trouser and bush shirt was there. His ubiquitous kurakkan satakaya (the maroon shawl) was around his neck. It was his 64th birthday.

In the evening, the weekly Cabinet meeting was delayed. The President had visited the Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya for religious ceremonies.

As Mr. Rajapaksa turned up at the meeting, Ministers sang "happy birthday dear President" in a chorus. They later cut a cake and shared it among themselves.

It was Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who made a speech on behalf of all his ministerial colleagues. Wishing President Rajapaksa many happy returns, Mr Wickremanayake said, "I hope the future will be good for you and the country."

Karuna going north

Former Eastern Province Tiger guerrilla commander, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, will be the SLFP organiser for the North.

Thus, two one-time guerrillas will be among those vying for political top slots in the once violence-torn area.

Mervyn's bite at the birthday bash

Some visitors who turned up at "Temple Trees" on Wednesday morning to greet President Rajapaksa on his 64th birthday were talking about the antics of Mervyn Silva, the non-Cabinet Minister of Labour.

The UPFA Government's hit man drew their attention after some of his goons reportedly hooted at former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, when he visited the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.
One of them, a regular visitor to Temple Trees, declared his experience. He said: "One day, I saw him at the entrance. He was standing there when Gen. Fonseka arrived. He shouted Menna Enava Apey Deviyo (here comes our god). This was soon after the war…."

Mervyn, quipped another, had declared at a public meeting in Dematagoda weeks later that armed forces chiefs should not overstep their limits and try to take personal credit for winning the war. If only ten giants like Velusumana and Nandhimitra were there without King Dutugemunu, could the war against Elara have been won?

The conversation was triggered off by a reference in the political commentary of the Sunday Times last week. Mervyn was quoted as telling Gen. Fonseka "Naginna Epa Kunu Bakkiwalata. Api Gahanawa (Do not get onto garbage buckets. We will attack).

A lesson for all

One of Sri Lanka leading retired state official, Bradman Weerakoon, was speaking at a book launching ceremony this week. He had served as Secretary to several Prime Ministers.

When he served his very last stint as Secretary to then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the latter had wanted some alterations made at Temple Trees, then his official residence.

When it came to paying the bill, Wickremesinghe told Weerakoon not to charge it to any Government account. He paid it out of his own pocket.

A world of a change in this new era of politics where a percentage of any deal goes into most pockets!

Diplomatic jumble in Japan

The Guinness Book of Records does not have a special section dealing exclusively with foreign affairs. If it did, this one would have qualified for a place.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, is sending a former Sri Lanka ambassador to Japan, as the country's Charge d' Affaires to the same diplomatic mission in Tokyo. He is Ranjith Uyangoda who served there from June 30, 2005 to January 10, 2009.

It is clear from the move that the Government wants to keep the top post vacant until a nominee is picked.

The hurry to send Mr. Uyangoda is because of a UPFA Government move to hurriedly seek economic support and enhanced investment from Japan. This is with the coming into office of the new Government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

A Sri Lanka delegation headed by the Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera and including several senior Government officials, is set to leave for Japan.

Marriage made in General's house

The scribe who wrote on matters defence and security was moved out from a Sinhala weekly to a daily in the same group because of his close association with Gen. (retd.) Sarath Fonseka.

But he was not going to write off the new retired General altogether. He wanted him to be the attesting witness at his engagement. Since security considerations prevented Gen. (retd.) Fonseka from moving around freely, the would-be groom and bride turned up at the heavily guarded "General's House" at Bullers Road. Gen. (retd.) Fonseka is staying there until he finds a home.

There, the attestation, which some of the invitees said was a "mihiri avastavak" (sweet moment) took place. The Fonsekas were both happy, said another. Thirty pieces of kiribath (milk rice) for the event were ordered from the Army Mess.

Spotlight on the gatecrasher

Did a guerrilla turned politician gatecrash a formal dinner of the Japan-Sri Lanka Business Co-operation Council this week?

Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, walked into the banquet hall of a city hotel with a businessman, a key player in bodies representing business. That was almost two hours after the event got under way.

Karuna also had a few escorts. One participant said none was dressed properly for the event. If all others were in suit and tie, he was in a pair of trouser with the shirt buttons open exposing his chest. The former Eastern Province Tiger guerrilla leader photographed some of the tables where the guests were seated. Some of the guests in turn had their photographs taken in the company of Karuna.

Karuna was a guest of her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom after he entered that country on a diplomatic passport that held a different name instead of his. That did not deter him from proposing a resolution relating to international affairs at last Sunday's annual convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). After all, he is now a member of the party.

Snakes and mammoties

When it became known that Gen. Sarath Fonseka was talking to opposition parties, at least seven ministers (both Cabinet and non Cabinet rank) castigated him publicly.

The eighth to join in was Mahindananda Aluthgamage, non-Cabinet Minister of Power and Energy. Unlike his colleagues, who hit out, Aluthgamage was drawing parallels at "pocket" (or small group) meetings in his electorate. Just two examples of what he said:

One: When a snake charmer displays a cobra and blows the flute, he earns money. Can a snake perform on its own without the charmer or after killing the charmer and make money?

Two: A farmer who achieved a "Honda aswennak" or good harvest always gets praised. "You don't go around praising the mammoty he used," said Aluthga-mage.

No hospitality for this hospital

A ceremony was held at the Colombo Hilton on November 16 by the President's Office to felicitate doctors who treated war casualties.

The function began with cocktails followed by dinner. At least 500 were in attendance. The distinguished guests were Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The Commanders of the Armed forces and Health Ministry Officials too were present. The guests were doctors of the armed forces as well as from many hospitals which treated the casualties.

However, conspicuous by their absence were doctors from the Sri Jayawar-denepura Hospital. Many of them who treated war casualties were naturally disappointed.

Defence job for ex-police chief

Former Police Chief Jayantha Wickremaratne has a new role now. He will assume duties as Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.

He retired from service on November 2, this year.

CBK: Gain in Spain, pain in Horagolla

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga returned to Colombo after one of her many overseas jaunts last Sunday.

She was in a jubilant mood. It was only days ago she attended a meeting of the Club de Madrid, the forum of former Democratic Presidents and Prime Ministers. The club's annual conference was held in the Spanish capital last week. More than 100 former Heads of State and experts from around the world met over two days to discuss 'The Political Dimensions of the World Economic Crisis'. Kumaratunga has been elected to the board of directors of the club.

Back in Sri Lanka, she went into a dicussion with her one-time Cabinet colleague and close friend, Mangala Samaraweera, over legal action against some Government politicians.

Lawyers are to be consulted this week. Letters of demand are to go out to some Government politicos for desecrating the samadhi (monument) of her late father, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at Horagolla.

This had reportedly occurred when the newly-formed United National Front (UNF) of opposition parties held a vehicle procession from Colombo to Kandy. At Horagolla, some of the UNF leaders had alighted to pay homage at the samadhi when groups backed by Government politicians reportedly hurled stones and caused the damage.

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