The opening ceremony of the 3rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Asia Regional Conference held at the Hilton Hotel in Colombo yesterday where the Speaker of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) Meira Kumar was the guest of honour was a nightmare not only for journalists but also for invitees.
While journalists were kept waiting for more than four hours before the conference began, the bigger mess-up was seen in the seating arrangements. Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody had to leave the venue as he had no seat.
The lack of protocol was so shocking that delegates, diplomats and special invitees were seen vying for a place to sit and in one instance an employee of the Indian High Commission had to stand by and safeguard two seats for senior members of his mission.
The confusion was such that many were unaware the Indian Parliament's Speaker had walked into the hall and was seen seated alone at the head table for a while till Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratna who was the chief guest was heralded in by Kandyan dancers and drummers who could barely manage to squeeze through the narrow ally of the hall.
When it was time for the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, the compere Arun Dias Bandaranaike read out 14 names of those who would be lighting the lamp but not before asking the cameraman present not to intrude too close to the lamp due to the "problematic space."
As to why the smallest hall available at the hotel was selected to hold the conference when the two other bigger halls were both available last mornings is puzzling. Instead the ballroom has been arranged for participants to have lunch.
The media were the most shabbily treated having been asked to report to the Information Department at 7 in the morning to be taken after security checks to the Hilton for the conference which they were told would start at 9.30 a.m. Prior to departure from the Information Department, media personnel were searched by members of the Ministerial Security Division and given special passes to wear.
However after they got to the Hotel, members of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) who were present there insisted on checking them once more but that was prevented due to loud protests from journalists. It was also after their arrival there that the media personnel were told that the conference was starting at 11 a.m and not 9.30 a.m. as they had been earlier informed.
The seating arrangement for the journalists was worse with a few chairs shoved into the corners of the hall and cameramen having to argue with PSD personnel who prohibited them from taking up a vantage point from which they could record the events.
Ironically the Prime Minister who was Chief Guest on the occasion thanked the Speaker and the Secretary General of Parliament for having made ‘excellent arrangements ’to make the conference a great success.
The Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Kitulgoda who gave the vote of thanks said that Sri Lanka was preparing to host the 101st conference of the CPA in Sri Lanka next year. This would mean delegates of more than 50 nations would be attending it.
Going by the dismal manner in which a regional conference was conducted, Parliamentary officials might do well to start preparing for it from now on. They could then avoid a chaos similar to yesterday's meeting where the organizers were seen running around changing identification boards placed on top of the tables from time to time to accommodate those who came to them with complaints they had no seats.
Shinwatra holds secret talks here
Thailand's ousted Prime Minister and now his country's most wanted man, Thaksin Shinwatra, was in Colombo this week.
Interestingly enough, he arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in a flight from Dubai. He waited at the airport and took the same return flight from Colombo to Dubai.
During his brief stay, he had talks with a government politico now at the forefront of battles to bring down prices. What they spoke, whether it was over billion dollar investment projects, remains a secret.
Shinwatra is now wanted in Thailand, among other matters, for alleged corrupt deals.
National Languages and Social Integration Minster Vasudeva Nanayakkara has decided to promote the practice of Sinhalese learning Tamil and Tamils learning Sinhala.
He launched the programme from his own ministry having a weekly class for his staff members.
The Minister himself decided to set an example by attending classes together with his staffers.
Dilan's outburst at Badulla woman
The commotion in Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera's office on the fifth floor of Central Bank building was so loud it drew the attention of many.
"If you don't leave now, I will have the security throw you out," exhorted Mr. Perera in anger. He was of course speaking in Sinhala. The woman visitor rushed out before security men could arrive.
The woman from Badulla had turned up to meet the minister, who represents that district, for help to get back lands she had lost. Mr. Perera remained cool until she came out with the next sentence. "If you do this for me, I will buy you ten acres of land," she declared.
Mr. Perera did not lose ten seconds to shout at the woman to leave the premises immediately.
Beaten up for bathing in Sajin's pool
Four men who had a dip in a private swimming pool of parliamentarian Sajin Vas Gunawardena at Pagoda Road in Nugegoda were beaten up and handed over to the Police.
According to the Mirihana Police, the men had obtained the permission of the caretaker of the house and to use the pool when the owners were alerted about the strangers.
The family members had informed the police, but a gang had assaulted the persons who had used the pool and handed them over to the police. They have been remanded until February 24.
Dullas honours father's humble wish
Youth Affairs and Skills Development Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, lost his beloved father, a one-time school principal, last week.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, known for his commitment to attend funerals of both political friends and foes, rang Mr. Alahapperuma to say he would come. The minister politely asked the President not to come since it was his late father's wish that there be no ceremonies and that his body be handed over to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital.
Mr. Alahapperuma ensured that no publicity was given to the bereavement. He also asked his own cabinet colleagues not to turn up.