In the world of diplomats, the most protected are United States envoys serving their country in overseas missions. The importance of a US ambassador’s personal security has risen ten-fold following the death of the US envoy in Benghazi, in Libya at the hands of a militant gang that invaded the embassy premises. Therefore, anything unusual [...]


Diplomatic cover for Uguduwa at US ambassador’s residence


The Palm Civet or kalavedda captured at 'Jefferson House', Colombo

In the world of diplomats, the most protected are United States envoys serving their country in overseas missions. The importance of a US ambassador’s personal security has risen ten-fold following the death of the US envoy in Benghazi, in Libya at the hands of a militant gang that invaded the embassy premises. Therefore, anything unusual is always detected by the staff.

Alert personnel at ‘Jefferson House’, the official residence of the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, were therefore somewhat concerned about the noise that was emanating from their attic. It did not take long for them to identify the culprit-intruder.

Ambassador Atul Keshap tweeted; “This #SriLanka palm civet was living rent-free in the attic, but he will be relocated to more salubrious surroundings.” The humble Uguduwa as the civet is usually known, is described as a lithe bodied nocturnal mammal.

An embassy spokesperson said the animal was transported to “a less populated” area and was released. The animal appears to have enjoyed “diplomatic immunity” at least for a while.

Tight-lipped embassy officials refused to divulge the current whereabouts of their Uguduwa. His (or her) asylum application seems to have been rejected – or ejected, as the case may be.

Paddy mill diplomat gets special treatment
At least to some, the Foreign Service has never been that better. Not when the Government is finding it difficult, despite promises, to make it a truly professional service. Take for example, the Polonnaruwa paddy mill owner cum local correspondent for a television station. He was posted to a Sri Lanka mission in Europe.

After the report in these columns last week, a Foreign Ministry source whispers that the man had served in the European capital only for two weeks or just ten days leaving the weekends out.

Thereafter, he had come to Sri Lanka on home leave. The reason — to give his daughter in marriage! Even if others were denied leave though they had strong medical reasons, this one was a hot potato to handle. And so, it was promptly approved, said the source. One must not mess about with paddy mill owners from Polonnaruwa these days, after all.

All roads lead to Polonnaruwa
A recommendation by President Maithripala Sirisena to undertake two road projects costing a colossal Rs. 13 billion caused some flutter at last Wednesday’s weekly ministerial meeting. It came when the observations to the recommendations had been made by the Ministry of Finance and were questioned by Mr. Sirisena. The President was to complain that during the tenure of his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, he was unable to even have a road in the Polonnaruwa area repaired.

It took a while for Minister Karunanayake, with the help of his Ministry officials, to rake up similar instances in the past where observations have been made by the ministries in question on cabinet proposals. That was to ensure correct procedures were followed.

A smiling Mr. Sirisena agreed and his recommendation was accepted thereafter. One project was for the Polonnaruwa-Medirigiriya Road and the other for the Polonnaruwa town area.
All roads seem to lead to Polonnaruwa.

TNA rift seen in Thai Pongal no-show
The national Thai Pongal ceremony was held in Jaffna with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe presiding and Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in attendance. Several other dignitaries including former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and cabinet ministers were present.

But most of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) members, including MPs, decided to skip the event. In the past they skipped such events to show their protest against the government, but this time they were against their own party man – the chief minister whom they are at loggerheads with.

His own council members this week lashed out at him for trying to create a rift in the party. The TNA High Command, meanwhile, hit out at other pro-Wigneswaran provincial councillors N.K. Sivajilingam and Anandi Sasitharan for organising a black flag protest over the visit of government leaders from Colombo.

However, the TNA leaders were not to be seen with the visitors from Colombo because of the Chief Minister’s presence at the function organised by the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Affairs.

President going  to Germany
President Maithripala Sirisena will undertake a four-day official visit to Germany beginning February 13.
Foreign Ministry officials said his itinerary was now being worked out with their counterparts in Berlin. Though the entire delegation is not yet finalised, it is to include Faiszer Mustapha, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is also expected in Berlin days ahead of the visit to finalise arrangements.


Rajapaksa says visits  to FCID, presidential commissions routine now
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s most frequent outings in the past few months has been his visits to the FCID and the Presidential Commission probing large scale fraud and corruption.

This week when he was at a party hosted by Western Province Councillor Sarath Sumanasekera, another WPC member Merrill Perera asked the former President how he tolerated the repeated onslaught of allegations and accusations against him by the Yahapalanaya government. The former president replied: “When a man is beaten up by the Police, the first time he finds it very difficult to tolerate. The next time he becomes a little hardened and then the third time even more till it becomes no problem to him. I am also like that. I am well tempered now.” He added that visits to the FCID, the Presidential Commission and prison had become routine for him.


Ministers, stop this VIP plunder
Every time a worthy Sri Lankan minister sets foot at London’s Heathrow Airport to use the VIP Lounge, the taxpayer pays Sterling Pounds 1,750 or Rs. 350,000. That covers the cost of the VIP room as well as the facilities they used. For a handful, it is just a one-off trip whilst for others they are scores. Even holidays begin with an official engagement first.

The payments are made usually by the Sri Lanka High Commission, which forwards the bill to Colombo. It then passes down the line to the Treasury and then down to the taxpayer.

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