Despite the antipathy towards Sri Lanka by the present British government, its Defence Minister Liam Fox took time off to come to Colombo last Saturday to deliver the fifth Lakshman Kadirgamar oration. It was held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute with a crowded audience.
Fox is, perhaps, the only British Cabinet minister who could be termed as a good friend of Sri Lanka. However, it seemed a strange irony that no UPFA government politician was present on the occasion. The only exception was External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris who presided at the event.
No doubt, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa met Dr. Fox on arrival and spent an hour with him at the airport's VIP Lounge, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa conferred with him later, but not a single Cabinet minister thought it fit to even honour their former colleague by attending the memorial lecture.
It was whilst serving as the Minister of External Affairs in the PA government that the late Kadirgamar succeeded in persuading Britain to impose a ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He later fell victim to an LTTE assassin.
The fact that Fox had to make the visit to Colombo at personal cost can be seen from the string of questions in the House of Commons. Here is a catalogue of questions listed for answer:
Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when his recent visit to Sri Lanka (a) started and (b) ended. He is also to ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether any (a) Government officials and (b) special advisers were involved in the preparation or delivery of the oration during his recent visit to Sri Lanka.
Murphy is also to ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what official engagements he undertook during his visit to Sri Lanka, whether any of his officials accompanied him on his recent visit to Sri Lanka.
John Mann (Bassetlaw): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what meetings he had during his visit to Sri Lanka in July 2011. In another question, Mann is also to ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he had discussions on (a) defence industry sales and (b) war crimes allegations concerning the Sri Lankan Army during his trip to Sri Lanka in July 2011.
Yet another question listed from Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he consulted Ministerial colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office prior to his visit to Sri Lanka in July 2011, what the cost to the public purse was of (a) staff, (b) assistance and (c) accommodation in respect of his visit to Sri Lanka in July 2011.
It would seem from all this that the Diaspora lobby is seething with anger that Fox eventually made the visit to Sri Lanka to honour a fallen statesman of another country and have activated their lobby of British MPs to target him for it.
After Strauss-Kahn, bitter tale of Lankan woman
With the International Monetary Fund's former chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French Socialist Party leader, still facing charges of sexual assault on a hotel maid in New York city, the newspapers have been focusing on the sexual harassment undergone by migrant women, ethnic minorities and hotel maids in New York.
A story in the New York Times last week, spotlighting the plight of migrant women, quotes (by name) a Sri Lankan woman who says she was raped: a criminal offence with severe penalties. But when she went to the police precinct in New York City to report the crime, the police officer dismissed her charges off-handedly by saying there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the alleged rapist.
The US which is a great advocate of human rights abroad, might just as well go by the old adage that charity begins at home!
Malwatte prelate sends Samadhi Buddha
statue to Fonseka
Wife of jailed former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, called on the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter this week.
The prelate, Most Venerable Thibottuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera, presented a white Buddha statue to Anoma Fonseka. He asked that the statute be handed over to the former Army Commander so he could keep it in his prison cell.
The prelate said Fonseka, like the late Jawaharlal Nehru, should draw inspiration from the Buddha statue. He said the late Nehru, independent India's first Prime Minister, had such a statue, the Samadhi Buddha, when he served a jail sentence. "That is all I can do for him," the Most Venerable Thera said.
Sharjah row and polluted petrol
The talk among Sri Lankan expats in the UAE is that there is a link between the dirty petrol sent to Sri Lanka and the closure of ENOC petrol stations in Sharjah. ENOC stopped its retail operation across Sharjah over a dispute with the government in May.
The dispute led to a fuel crisis in Sharjah because repeated requests by the Sharjah government to ENOC to reopen the sheds were ignored by the company. The angry government in June ordered the closure of the all ENOC sheds in Sharjah.
Sri Lankan expats say ENOC has sent the oil lying idle for weeks in fuel stations to Sri Lanka. However, a cursory internet check shows the dates don't tally and the story was said more in jest.
Moreover, it is now discovered that the fuel came from ENOC in Dubai, and not from Sharjah.
How Tissa got bottle of ‘Susil’ petrol
It was a flat tyre in his vehicle that prompted UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake to have it repaired at a shop in Peradeniya.
When he went there, he saw scores of cars and three-wheeler scooters parked outside a garage next to the tyre repair shop. He asked the owner what had gone wrong.
"Sir megollo Susil Petrol gahala amaruwey vetila," (Sir these people have pumped 'Susil petrol' and got into trouble," he declared. Attanayake had heard of the brand of petrol called 'Supiri Petrol' (Super Petrol), but not 'Susil Petrol'. Later, the garage owner brought a bottle full of the contaminated fuel. He said some particles floated on top of the petrol whilst there was water and other sediment below.
It became a trophy for Mr. Attanayake. He brought it to Colombo to display it before a news conference and demand action from the government..
Red lights on
green card lottery
A warning to the thousands of Sri Lankans who are longing to migrate to the United States on the widely-popular annual lottery for green cards entitling permanent residency . A letter from the State Department last week cautions about the e-mail scams which continue to circulate worldwide, including Sri Lanka.
The letter says: The Department of State, Office of Visa Services, advises the public of a notable increase in fraudulent e-mails and letters sent to Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program (Visa Lottery) applicants. The scammers behind these fraudulent e-mails and letters are posing as the U.S. government in an attempt to extract payment from DV applicants.
All applicants should be familiar with information about DV scams provided by the Federal Trade Commission. Applicants are encouraged to review the rules and procedures for the DV program so that you know what to expect, when to expect it, and from whom.
Finally, the letter says, "remember that all DV-2012 applicants will not receive a notification letter from the U.S. government but must check their status online". DV Entry Status Check will only be provided through the Department of State secure online site: http://www.dvlottery.state.gov
Bus politico keeps buzzing and backfiring
The antics of Nishantha Muthuhettigama, the Galle District UPFA parliamentarian, continued this week.
After complaints that he had no security, two police constables were assigned to him. They were under strict orders not to use their mobile phones to make or answer calls when they travelled with him.
One of them had received a message asking him to call a DIG (Deputy Inspector General of Police). He took his phone out and dialled. An angry Muthuhettigama asked both constables to get out of his car. They had to take a bus to his residence.
Muthuhettigama, a bus-owner-turned politician, was disappointed that he was not listed among the speakers when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in Galle to open a bus terminal, described as the largest in Sri Lanka. He was given only an opportunity to welcome the President and make a short speech.
In his speech, he said how he made friends with his political rivals like Manusha Nanayakkara (a former UNPer who crossed over to government ranks) and Sajin Vass Gunawardena MP. However, though former Mayor, Shan Wijelal de Silva was still in good terms, both had something in common. Both were heavy weights. He then invited "Rajapaksa Samagamey Nayaka" (leader of the Rajapaksa company) HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to declare open the bus station.
The President was not amused.
It did not end there. Muthuhettigama had lined up one of his buses for President Rajapaksa to take the first ride. Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, intervened and stopped the move. He said he would travel in the bus instead. Mutuhettigama gave them a ride around the bus terminal. He not only drove but kept on tooting the horn to make sure other motorists on the road gave way to the VIP entourage on board his bus.
Brazen politico gives receipts for bribes
A Sri Lankan expatriate who returned to New York last week after a visit to Colombo was at a social event dissecting the political and economic situation in the country.
Focusing on the rampant bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka, he said the malpractice was so transparent that one politician, he was told, is said to have offered to provide a receipt for a bribe -- as it was prevalent once in Indonesia.
Well done Vasu
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, gave a powerful lesson in simple living to other ministers and government officials this week.
He had been on an official visit to France and given US$ 3600 for expenses.
Upon his return to Sri Lanka, he had given back US$ 3100. The Minister had spent only US$ 500.
Despite being crucified for abandoning the working class, especially when the Pensions Bill was presented, though he had championed the workers' cause as a young Trotskyite of the LSSP, his exemplary conduct in returning unused public funds is a lesson for his ministerial colleagues indeed!!
The Father of the Nation
A doctor couple and their four-year-old daughter were present at Kataragama when President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the sacred area last week for the Esala perahera.
Mr. Rajapaksa, who is numero uno or number one politician in Asia when it comes to public relations felt the young girl's face and patted her on the head with some words of good wishes.
When the parents returned home with the child, they faced a problem. She was sleepless and woke up periodically. She had wanted to see the President again.
The worried mother telephoned Presidential aide Kumarasiri Hettige and asked whether they could get a photograph of the President greeting their child.
Hettige mentioned this to Mr. Rajapaksa. He asked him to get the parents on the telephone. Later, he spoke to the four-year-old girl. He asked her to come and see him when they are next in Colombo.
Placing the handset on the phone, the President remarked "Apey lamayintath thiyana prasna" (what problems our children also have!).