Columns - Talk at the Cafe Spectator

Bogols' theory on relatives

Former foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama has sent us the following letter in response to our last week's Café story titled 'Diplomatic outlaws and illegitimate ads'.

The letter says:

I wish to respond to the above news item, though appearing more in the form of a "Gossip Column", with a view to correcting the false impressions this may cause in the Public eye.

It is to my regret that in rather poor taste you have stated that my daughter will be become homeless in the absence of Deputy High Commissioner's extension. This shows the depth to which at times the malicious conduct of the media can resort to in targeting innocent children. Such journalism will only invite contempt and disgust in the society.

The facts are quite contrary to what you have stated that I sought an extension for the Sri Lanka's Deputy High Commissioner to India purely for my daughter's accommodation. My daughter has been well accommodated in private dwellings in an exclusive neighbourhood in New Delhi during her stay in India.

Why she stayed with the Deputy High Commissioner was purely for security concerns as a result of my holding office of Foreign Minister at the most critical period in the history of Sri Lanka. You will appreciate as parents we should always look after our children's security especially when they become vulnerable due to official positions of their parents.

I, as Foreign Minister even accommodated the posting of Security Officers to the USA, to protect the children of some Military officials and others during the critical period. I must also take this opportunity to state that much prior to my holding ministerial positions both my children have been receiving their education overseas and they still live overseas at our own expense, and never had occasion to seek Government patronage.

Since you have cast aspersions that I have appointed relations to diplomatic positions, and you have referred to the appointment of High Commissioner to Singapore, I invite you to state whether she was a wrong choice and whether she had failed in her duties. I am confident the only two relations you can cite are the Deputy High Commissioner to India and High Commissioner to Singapore. They have been acknowledged well in terms of their capabilities, competence and conduct. I have not had any other relations ever appointed, to any diplomatic positions.

Jamis Banda says:

Former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has been quick to pounce on a story we ran last week about the appointment of his relatives to diplomatic posts overseas. He not only admits that he appointed his brother-in-law as Sri Lanka's Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi and his sister-n-law as our High Commissioner to Singapore but also justifies the appointments on the grounds of their "capabilities, competence and conduct." (a judgement best left to others, not to Mr Bogollagama, a blood relative).

These appointments were made at a time when experienced career diplomats, also "capable and competent", were cooling their heels in his ministry awaiting appointments. If Mr Bogollagama's argument is valid, he could have appointed all his "capable and competent" relatives to ambassadorial posts-- a Sri Lankan version of Einstein's theory of relativity -- and dismantled the entire foreign service. He obviously is not well versed in the concept of nepotism although he was once a member of the Uncles, Nephews Party and then of the Sri Lanka Family Party.

Mr Bogollagama's letter also proves what we asserted in our story: he may have long gone but his tall, dark shadow lingers in the ministry. He admits he had "sought" an extension of his brother-in-law's tenure in New Delhi but not "purely for my daughter's accommodation." Homeless, no. But baby-sitting, maybe.

Palmyrah tree bares road racket

The Palmyrah plant growing in the middle of the road.
Govt. and Ministry officials vsiting the site
Pix by Padmakumari Kankanamge

Officials of the Economic Affairs Ministry and the Road Development Authority on Friday rushed a team to Kalpitiya. Their mission was to investigate as to how a Palmyrah tree was growing on a newly carpeted road.

Our area correspondent Padma Kumri Kankanamge had captured the picture of the palmyrah tree beginning to grow on the Palathudawa-Talawila road. The visiting team could not find the location of the tree and sought the assistance of our correspondent after they heard that she had captured the picture.

She took them to the location and found that the plant had been removed, but the marks were visible. The visiting officials were unable to give an explanation as to how the palmyrah tree was growing on this road built at the cost of Rs. 36.3 million. The road was part of the 'Sapiri Gamak Supiri Ratak" project concluded in April.

PM gives bottles before buffet

National, provincial and foreign journalists were among those invited to Visumpaya (former Acland House) for dinner on Friday night by Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne.

It began with a cocktail session. The few Black Label bottles of whisky were over in no time. Then came bottles of gal arakku or molasses arrack to complement the beer that was served. The event ended with a sumptuous buffet.



Road to promotion through Colombo for Indians

Is Sri Lanka a launching pad for Indian diplomats to rise upto the most powerful post in the country's diplomatic service? At least five recent Foreign Secretaries - K.P.S. Menon, J.N. Dixit, Shiv Shankar Menon, Nirupama Rao, and Ranjan Mathai (whose appointment was announced last week) have all served in some capacity at the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

A sixth who may inherit the job two years from now, Hardeep Singh Puri, India's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, also served in Colombo, along with his wife Lakshmi Puri, currently a U.N. Assistant Secretary-General in New York.

As far as Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretaries are concerned, there is a New Delhi-Beijing nexus: Nihal Rodrigo, Bernard Goonetilleke and Wilhelm Woutersz served in both capitals in different capacities before becoming head honchos in the Foreign Ministry here. Rao and Shiv Shankar also served in Beijing.
The bottomline: if you aspire to be foreign secretary in India or Sri Lanka, a common political denominator appears to be: Colombo-New Delhi-Beijing.

TV boss Nishantha plays defensive shots at COPE

Some former officials of Sri Lanka Cricket appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) last Wednesday.

UNP Legislator Dayasiri Jayasekera who is a committee member, queried from the former SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, if he had any other business interests besides the job in the Cricket Board.

He replied that he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a sports television station which is available on cable TV.

But when he was asked as to who the other directors of the company were, the former cricketer and one-time national TV chairman played a defensive stroke. He was requested to bring the details regarding the company next time he comes before the committee.

The Cabinet recently decided that the exclusive rights to telecast cricket matches would be given to a state-run station or a channel that is exclusively dedicated to sports. Mr. Ranatunga's defensive stroke may have come in deference to this decision, insiders say.

Can you beat Kanakaratne?

Where does one draw the line between fact and fiction? In an interview with a state-run newspaper last week, our United States Ambassador Jaliya Wickremesuriya proudly claims: "I do not know whether there has been a single instance in the past 60 years where a Sri Lankan diplomat has met the members of the US Congress or the Senate on an individual basis explaining the true picture of Sri Lanka".

If he hasn't been misquoted, that's quite a fictionalized story worthy of Baron Munchausen, the legendary teller of tall tales.

Sri Lanka has had some illustrious ambassadors who assiduously worked at Capitol Hill during their stints in Washington DC over the past 60 years. They included Oliver Weerasinghe, Neville Kanakaratne, Ernest Corea, Jayantha Dhanapala, Susantha de Alwis, Ananda Guruge, Devinda Subasinghe, Bernard Goonetilleke and W. Rasaputram, to name just a few, who wined and dined senators and congressmen of all political stripes and at a one-on-one personal level.

Kanakaratne was perhaps one of the most outstanding of our ambassadors. He built personal relationships with senators and Congressmen on the Hill -- so much so he was affectionately called "Our Neville."

To cap it all, in 1978, Kanakaratne was the opening speaker at the George Washington University -- a rare honour for any Sri Lankan ambassador of standing -- along with an award of an honorary doctorate.
In a letter to the ambassador, the George Washington University's then president, Lloyd Elliott, said of Kanakaratne, one of the most brilliant speakers of his generation: "Were there a parliament of man in our time, he would be eminently qualified to be its first Speaker."

"The George Washington University is now honored to confer on his Excellency the degree of doctor of Laws with all of the rights, duties and privileges pertaining thereto.

For this University -- as well as numerous universities and public forums throughout the country -- he has added his knowledge to our understanding of learning and diplomacy" And that honour would be hard to beat by anyone - notwithstanding the claims of the present incumbent.

EAM goes to Kilinochchi

Even if those in other parts of the country have to come to the External Affairs Ministry to get their consular work done, there will be an exception to the rule for those in Kilinochchi. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris is to introduce a periodic Consular Service in Kilinochchi. The move comes at the request of Namal Rajapaksa, MP.

  From : Ruwan Basnayake
Can you imagine this Bogols that wa well known as a trip off Merchant
and his kith and kin Staying  in 5 and 6 star hotels on all sorts of
diplomatic conferences that  are absolutely useless and a waste of tax
payers money from a poor 3rd world country such as ours.  Oh yes his
siter in law and all his relatives are such well qualified diplomats
that they need to be be given diplomatic postings above Trained
members of the diplomatic service.Cant this foreign minister Prof
Peiris see hostage of this disgusting mob of semi educated people

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