A hundred Chinese couples tied the nuptial knot this month in Colombo watched by their relatives and a distinguished audience. Later, there was a banquet for 600 guests at a leading restaurant in Battaramulla. The Chinese couples have gone back home after a brief honeymoon in paradise isle to live ‘happily ever after’ and their [...]


Wedding bells for Chinese couples: Who will foot the bill


A hundred Chinese couples tied the nuptial knot this month in Colombo watched by their relatives and a distinguished audience. Later, there was a banquet for 600 guests at a leading restaurant in Battaramulla. The Chinese couples have gone back home after a brief honeymoon in paradise isle to live ‘happily ever after’ and their relatives caught a glimpse of Sri Lanka during a near weeklong visit.

The drama behind the wedding, however, has begun to unfold only now. The mega event was arranged by a private company owned by the brother of an influential advisor to the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs. That company dubbed the event “The Royal Wedding Ceremony of Sri Lanka” (RWCS 2017) though ‘Communist’ China is in no way associated with royalty. The 100 grooms and brides who came for the wedding on December 17 were all ‘commoners’.

As the private company said it; the venue “Colombo Town Hall grounds” was “majestically decorated with pavilions and never before witnessed fanfare to celebrate the unique event including over 500 Chinese guests.” Needless to say that the Tourism Ministry’s backing took the project off the ground in a big way. Perhaps, it recognised the tourism development potential in the exercise besides the influence brought to bear.

However, things began to go wrong after the private company in question urged Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Udaya Nanayakkara to sponsor expenses related to the wedding and the grand reception that followed. As a witty official said “that would have made the state not only the kapuwa (broker) but also the magul gedera (wedding house) operators.

Mr Nanayakkara responded to that letter from the private firm by saying, “At a recent press conference held in Colombo, Hon. Minister of Tourism was questioned by one of the media personnel whether any financial commitment will be made by the Ministry or by any organisation under the Ministry towards this event. (Note: This came after the event was first reported in these columns)

“At that point, Hon. Minister informed the media that there is no financial commitment either from the Ministry or from any Organisation under the Ministry for this event. Therefore we wish to inform you that we are unable to forward your request to the Board of Management of the Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau seeking approval to sponsor the wedding reception.”

The matter did not end there. Tourism Minister John Ameratunga gave a written directive to Chairman Nanayakkara. He said that “we are fortunate” that the private company in question “is organizing an event of this magnitude which is a ‘shot in the arm’ for Sri Lanka tourism and a valuable contribution towards the ‘numbers’ (sic) as 100 Chinese nationals are expected to get married and 350 more Chinese friends and relatives will come to Sri Lanka…..”

Therefore, Minister Ameratunga said “While appreciating the efforts taken by this company, which is mutually beneficial to all concerned, I hereby recommend a contribution of 3 million (rupees) from SLTPB towards this unique event.”

Quite clearly, Mr Ameratunga has contradicted his own remarks, made at a news conference, in his bid to reward his advisor’s brother’s firm in question. Thus, the Minister’s public position and the private views to draw state funds differ. Bluntly put, he was conning to the public through the media.

Chairman Nanayakkara has made clear that such a payment, as the Tourism Minister ordered, cannot be made without the approval of the Board of Management or the approval of the Treasury. There it stands now.

Minister and NGOs in battle over beggars
About sixty beggars rounded up from the City of Colombo have been moved to a rehabilitation centre.Officials said yesterday that more would be rounded up soon and taken to the centre in Ridiyagama. As the operation continued, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka hit out at Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which said the action violated the liberty of the poor.

“We have found that the large number of beggars are mentally affected, drug addicts and admittedly some poor. There are also organised groups for whom this has become a business. Do the NGOs want this problems to proliferate?” he asked yesterday.
Minister Ranawaka said the organisations that spoke of the welfare of beggars should address their needs instead of pontificating to the Government what to do.


Rambukwella says no to leaping
Last week’s report in these columns about speculation of Kandy District SLFP rebel MP Keheliya Rambukwella joining the United National Party ranks drew a quick response.

Mr Rambukwella, who read the report at his Kandy residence, called a news conference the same Sunday morning. He declared that he had no plans to quit his party and join what he called a “losing party.”

Mr Rambukwella told the Sunday Times that a UNP north central province politician has been spreading the story about his possible crossover and that has led to speculation. “Even if I join, he (the politician) will be the last person to know,” he added. That was an interesting quote, though.

Who is the prime minister of Pakistan?
President Maithripala Sirisena addressed candidates of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at a meeting at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on Friday.

During the course of the speech, he made it a point to mention how he would phone or write to world leaders to get things done. One was a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin that led to Moscow lifting the ban on tea from Sri Lanka.
Then he referred to Pakistan’s prime minister from whom he sought fertilizer. He said he had spoken to Mohamed Shareef. The reference was obviously to the former Prime Minister of that country. Here again it was Nawaz Shariff. The present Prime Minister of Pakistan is Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.


Asbetos ban: Was Cabinet misled
The Russian ambassador went on record this week to tell a local daily (The Island) that the asbestos ban imposed by Sri Lanka — largely affecting imports from Russia, had nothing to do with the tea ban imposed on Sri Lanka by his country.

He says that the tea ban, now lifted, was purely meant to protect agricultural imports to Russia, especially wheat grain. While there was no evidence shown as to whether the larvae (not a beetle) found in a tea package from Sri Lanka originated from Sri Lanka, the question is why did the Cabinet ‘jump the gun’ and rescind the asbestos ban?

Who misled the Cabinet with wrong information — and will the asbestos ban be reimposed now?


Holiday on ice because of colleague
The upcoming local polls have gated a number of ministers from enjoying holidays overseas though some have been lucky enough to travel for different reasons.One minister, skilled in many ways but unable to take wings, rang the virtual owner of a southern coastal resort just 45 minutes’ drive from Colombo.

The man who has a fancy for any fruit from the citrus family was lucky. The virtual owner, who is out to win friends and influence people under the new disposition, was generous enough to tell him he could occupy the Presidential suite free of charge.

Just days later, another minister, this time one to whom education is everything and has his eyes set on becoming a party leader, asked a friend to call up the same virtual owner to ask for accommodation at the same hotel. He replied that the minister was welcome but added that the skilled colleague of the minister making the second request was going to be in the hotel at the same time.

“Oka innavanang mama enney nehe,” or if he is there, I will not come, the second minister shot back and looked for another hotel to spend his vacation.

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