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Controversy over Ban's proposed visit to Lumbini

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remains mired in a controversy not only in Sri Lanka but also in Nepal-- this time over a visit next month to Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama the Buddha. But the proposed visit has generated strong protest led by UNICEF's former deputy executive director Kul Gautam, a native of Nepal.

Gautam says that under normal circumstances, the personal commitment of the UN's second Asian Secretary-General, and his desire to visit Lumbini to promote its development would be welcomed whole- heartedly, not only by Nepalese but the world's one billion Buddhists. But these are not normal circumstances in Nepal.

It is now struggling to come out of a decade- long violent civil war which ended six years ago, but genuine peace has not yet dawned. Some 15,000 Nepalese, most of them civilians, were killed during the decade-long insurgency, and horrendous human rights violations were committed, some amounting to crimes against humanity, says Gautam.

But no-one has been prosecuted for war-time atrocities, and many known perpetrators of heinous crimes are occupying high positions in government institutions.

Ban Ki-moon's host and counterpart, Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', is the Chairman of the ruling Maoist Party, who was recently appointed as Chairman of a national committee for the development of Lumbini by the incumbent Maoist-led Government of Nepal. Dahal led a violent armed insurgency resulting in the death and disappearance of tens of thousands, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

If Ban Ki-moon is to co-chair a high profile meeting with Dahal, he must insist that Dahal's party should officially renounce the use of violence in politics in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, says the former UNICEF official.

Otherwise, the Secretary-General co- chairing a conference with a leader who refuses to renounce violence would be contrary to the UN Charter, and to do so at a holy religious site would be sacrilege, insulting not just peace-loving Nepalese but millions of Buddhists around the world.

Parippu Soup: President's quip on eating humble pie

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is unhappy that his ministers have not sufficiently countered criticism over the recent fuel price hike. He made his feelings known at a cabinet meeting.Though ministers inquired why the prices went up, they took no steps to defend the government action, he said. Perhaps the ministers felt that the cabinet was not consulted over the matter.

Yesteryears leftist firebrand turned Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara was to say that the tax imposed on dhal was too high. A response came from Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa. He said, "Mey wenakota ape mun aswenna wediwela.desheeya nishpadanawalata thena deema ape prathipathtiyayi. Ehma kale nethnam goviya akrmanaya wenwa," (The cultivation of Mung Dhal has increased. Otherwise the local farmer would be stranded).

President Rajapaksa was to add a footnote: "Ehema tax gehuwe nethnam apita parippu kanna wenawa.." (If that is not done, we have to eat dhal. This is a local equivalent to eating humble pie).

LLRC report: Nimal told to keep silent

Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, a member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the government's negotiator with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was literally told to shut up last week.

The instructions came from the top echelons of the UPFA leadership after he made some remarks of the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to a Sunday newspaper.
The Minister, who is also the Leader of the House, said the Government had not yet taken a decision to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. He added that according to some experts, the LLRC had gone beyond its mandate.

De Silva's remarks are not surprising. He is not alone. Like the five blind men who described an elephant, various Ministers have been giving their expert opinions on the LLRC.

De Silva told the Sunday Times, "I will not make any more comments to the media. I will only make them at the UN Human Rights Council."

One can only hope he will not say the Government would not implement the LLRC recommendations. After all, his colleague, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has already declared that they were being implemented.

Wimal's ban: What about green card and US citizenship?

Minister Wimal Weerawansa and controversy seem inseparable twins. One does not leave the other come what may.

In July 2010, he staged a "fast unto death" to urge the United Nations Secretary General to disband an Advisory Panel that had been appointed to probe alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. Barely 24 hours later, Weerawansa called off his fast.

The three member panel, however, went ahead and formulated its report. Later, Weerawansa called for the setting up of another United Nations, one where super powers like the United States would not be present. However, that task was much heavier than just building houses and did not materialise.

This week, Weerawansa asked the people to boycott US products including KFC, McDonalds, Coca Cola and stop using Google Search engine and G-mail. His appeal came at a rally organized by the national Freedom Front at Hyde Park in Colombo. The media were also invited for the event.

While Weerawansa was tongue-lashing on US products, the journalists covering the event were served a drink. That was Coca Cola, a popular beverage in the United States.

Moreover, UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara charged the next day that Weerawansa was using an I-Pad, a US product. The minister has not yet denied the MP's claim. He could perhaps have given that up. Cabinet spokesperson and Minister Laksman Yapa also distanced the government from Weerawansa's statement.

He made clear that what Weerawansa said was his personal view and not that of the government. Minister Weerawansa was a notable absentee at the weekly cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

Sections of the government heaved a sigh of relief over the Cabinet spokesman's official clarification. A wag commented, "If Wimal's decree is to be heeded, many in the government would have had to give up their Green Card or US citizenship."

The call by Weerawansa to boycott American products seems to have been taken seriously at least by the employees of his ministry and its affiliate organizations. At his Housing and Construction ministry, a notice was pasted on the canteen wall stating that no, "American Coca Cola or Pepsi will be sold there."

Tissa says take us both

Many government and opposition politicians including President Mahinda Rajapaksa were at the Japan ambassador's residence last week.

They were there to commemorate the first anniversary of the devastating tsunami which hit the east coast of Japan this time last year.

After the ceremony, when the President prepared to leave, he noticed Sajith Premadasa, Deputy Leader of the UNP and Tissa Attanayake, General Secretary of the UNP.

"Mokada Tissa Sajith langatama wela inne? Mama Sajith aragena yai kiyala hithuwada?" the President remarked ( Why are you so close to Sajith? Do you think that I might take him with me?) "Ane nehe Sir, Aragena yanawanam dennama aragena yanna..." Tissa replied. (No, no Sir. If you want take, take us both). He was of course engaging in some light hearted banter.

Fibre elephant at Lanka's NY show

The Sri Lanka booth at the New York Times-sponsored travel show at the Javits Centre in New York City last week was the centre of attraction for one reason: a life-sized elephant on display outside the booth.

Made out of fibre, it was flown all the way from Colombo to New York in one piece. The elephant was so striking and realistic that the only thing missing was a sign reminiscent of a zoo: please do not feed the animal.

Also on stage was the Channa-Upuli dance troupe who turned out several performances during the two day event which attracted thousands of New Yorkers. Sri Lanka's participation in the event was meant to be a boost for tourism, and was the brainchild of Dillan Ariyawansa who wears two hats: promoting both tourism and Sri Lankan Airlines in New York.

Arrested SP creates problems in detention centre

Former Police Superintendent, Lakshman Cooray, is now in custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Among other matters, he is alleged to have plotted to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Officer in Charge of the Detention Centre where Cooray is being held has complained in a report that the former SP is "mistreating other detainees."

He is said to be getting his clothes and plates washed by other LTTE detainees. He had been making statements to provoke them; the OIC has said in his report. The officer has made an unusual request to Courts - limit the quantity of food brought to him by his family members as it takes longer to search them.

Master, Sir

While traffic policemen are on the lookout to detect those who break traffic rules, one of them chose to turn a blind eye last week when he spotted a luxury Audi car being driven down Deans Road in Colombo on Wednesday afternoon without a number plate. Instead onlookers saw the Policeman engaged in a friendly chat with the occupant of the vehicle who happened to be a cricketer turned politician from the South.

He seems to have charmed the policeman. Yet another instance of traffic rules, just like most other rules, being applied selectively, one for the politically influential, and another to those who have no strings to pull.

Mervyn to produce film on King Gajaba

Controversial Minister Mervyn Silva is preparing to produce a film about King Gajaba. He has chosen Ravindra Randeniya to play the role of King Gajaba.

The producer's pick for the queen is Upeksha Swaranamali better known as Paba. Interestingly both were former UNPers who crossed over ostensibly to support President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom minister Mervyn Silva calls the Modern Day Dutugemunu (King Dutugemunu).

Basil hopes to give loans to European countries

Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, has forecast that Asian countries, including Sri Lanka "might even provide loans to European countries" soon. His forecast came at a news conference where the media was briefed on the upcoming Sri Lanka Expo 2012 in Colombo.

A brief account of what he said: "There has been a 20 per cent growth even after the GSP plus -General System of Preferences offered by the European Union- was withdrawn. We do not solely depend on Europe. We now have new markets. India is a lucrative market and it is our closest neighbour. China is also another good market for our products.

"Now the stronger economy lies in Asia and not in Europe. Even if the European economy collapses, we will not falter. Even if Europe threatens us, and attempts to harm our sovereignty, we will not surrender. Therefore this is not an issue. In the near future, we might soon provide loans to European countries."

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