The high-flying Rajahs who made it big in Europe post-1983 selling mobile telephones and buying influence got their just desserts when their boorish behavior came to an abrupt halt onboard SriLankan Airlines Flight 503 to London on the October 29 (last Wednesday). The Rajahs from the UK, all 31 of them, and all of Lankan [...]


Captain Fantastic: Drunken UK Rajahs brought down to earth


The high-flying Rajahs who made it big in Europe post-1983 selling mobile telephones and buying influence got their just desserts when their boorish behavior came to an abrupt halt onboard SriLankan Airlines Flight 503 to London on the October 29 (last Wednesday).

The Rajahs from the UK, all 31 of them, and all of Lankan origin except for the kiddos, were on a holiday to the Four Seasons hotel in the Maldives. The cheapest room at the Four Seasons is more than US$ 1,600 (Rs. 208,000) a night. The bunch of them all arrived in Sri Lanka and proceeded to the Maldives on a SriLankan Airlines flight. Also on the same flight and at the Four Seasons was former Sri Lankan cricket captain and national selections committee chairman, Sanath Jayasuriya, MP and the national carrier’s Marketing Manager G.P. Jayaseelan. They were all having a good time, mainly at the bar.
The holiday turned sour when the party started making their way back ‘home’ in Britain.

The ‘party’ had arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport from Male and turned the Business Class Lounge into a fish market with their loud talk. The elders were boozing as if there was no tomorrow and the kids were running around screaming as if their parents owned the darn airport.
Then it was time to board the flight to London on Flight UL 503 at 1300 hours. The aircraft was an Airbus leased from Cathay Pacific and it could accommodate the 31 passengers in the business class. The usual SriLankan Airbus doesn’t have that many seats in the Business Class. The boorish behaviour continued unabated; by now the cabin crew headed by Chief Purser GihanWickramaratne onboard the airline getting concerned at the way some of the passengers were misbehaving.

Whereupon, the Captain of the Airbus showed up and quickly sized up the situation. He was going nowhere with this bunch of sozzled rowdies. He ordered them off the plane saying, and quite rightly so, that he was not going to endanger the other passengers nor disturb their comfort with their presence on board.
The Rajahs who own not only a mobile telephone company but also are into the airline ticketing business might have thought they owned the airline as well. One cannot blame them for thinking that way. They had access to the top echelons of the airline. Money talks, after all — in some quarters. They were on their Lyca mobile phones calling London; calling SriLankan Airlines hot-shots, MPs (who were dropping names of VVIPs). The Captain was asked to ‘take off’, mind you by senior executive officers of the airline, but he was firm in his decision. No way was he going to risk the flight.

Passengers onboard the flight were informed of the delay over the PA system. “There are some passengers who are drunk,” said the steward.
The Rajahs came to realise that money can’t buy everybody. They had been brought down to earth and grounded. Like lame tigers, with tails between their legs all 31 had to disembark, collect their baggage and go find a suitable place to stay until they got themselves on another flight.
UL Flight 503 left for London at 1520 hours — more than two hours late due to this incident — and just made it at Heathrow before ‘curfew’ time in London (flights cannot get into London after 9 p.m.)

Hats off to Capt. S. Senthoorselvan who refused to budge in the face of immense pressure — not so much from the passengers as from high officials of the national airline. Tailpiece to the story is that these folks are tipped to get the GSA (General Sales Agency) for the national airline in Britain. What with a senior official from the airline about to join them after November 25 as their CEO.

Fishermen accuse minister of illegal fishing
Sri Lanka’s fishermen who operate in the deep seas have a new vocation when they are on land — carrying out protests.
Their complaint is over foreign multi-day fishing trawlers which register in Sri Lanka to use the national flag for their fishing operations. Hence the locals complain that the European Union is accusing them of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

One group that protested outside the Ministry of Fisheries was allegedly assaulted. Another group protested in Matara. These events prompted President Mahinda Rajapaksa to intervene. He directed that three ministries — Fisheries, External Affairs and Justice — get together to resolve the issue.
It was only then that the role of a Cabinet minister who is allegedly operating multi-day fishing trawlers came to light. He had been meeting a group of fishermen. One of them protested that they had been repeatedly complaining about the 16 trawlers which were regularly resorting to illegal methods. “If you cannot rein in all of them at least leave the six out and get the others,” said one of them.

The politician was infuriated. The remarks had drawn laughter from the other fishermen. All because of gossip that the politico owning six multi-day fishing trawlers. Thus the message was — if you don’t want to catch your own trawlers, at least get the others. Little wonder it is a fishy game.

Minister’s guide proposals lost in the wilds
Cabinet Ministers have frowned on a proposal by Wild Life Resources Conservation Minister Vijith Vijithamuni de Zoysa to recruit voluntary guides to the permanent cadre. These guides are now hired by the Department of Wild Life Conservation on a daily payment of Rs. 700 to accompany visitors including tourists to wild life parks.

The ministers noted that such a move would create “an unhealthy precedent” in the public service. Hence, these guides are hired only on a day-to-day basis. Most such guides are residents of the areas where the nature parks are located.

Ravi’s biting rejection of mayor’s toffee

It was a toffee that Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil tried to use to befriend his long time bitter rival Colombo District MP, Ravi Karunanayake and possibly to let bygone be bygone.  But Karunanayake did not dip his hand into the polythene bagful of toffees. Instead he passed it down to the next person and thus it went from one to another including the UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The occasion was the UNP Polling Agents’ rally at the Hyde Park last Tuesday. Karunanayake happened to sit next to Muzammil.
The polythene bagful of toffees had been handed to the Colombo Mayor by his wife Feroza, now back in the UNP fold after her omission from the party for the last Western Provincial Council elections.

Rumble in the jungle: Mobikes for 692 field assistants
The Government wants to provide motorcycles to some 692 forest field assistants. This is notwithstanding the fact that these field officers from the Forest Department are not included in the category of field officers identified by the Department of Management Services.

Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha who made the proposal said the Forest field officers were stationed in difficult forestry areas where there was no public transport. They are on duty both day and night, he has observed.


Nothing but the tooth

It has been a long time since Rajitha Senaratne the good dentist examined any teeth.
These days the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister is more preoccupied with saving Sri Lanka’s fishing industry from the jaws of death. The European Union recently placed the country on notice, for allowing large vessels to fish in the Indian Ocean without marine GPS.

Indian poaching in Sri Lankan waters is an additional headache. But Dr. Senaratne (who graduated as a dentist in 1974) had the occasion to look at some pearly whites again this week while attending a Nil Balakaya meeting in Payagala. Namal Rajapaksa, who leads the youth movement, showed him his incisors and asked for advice. Dr. Senaratne must have been thankful for a problem he can tackle, for once!

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