President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hosted his predecessor Maithripala Sirisena to lunch at the Presidential Secretariat banquet room on Friday. It was to mark the successful conclusion of talks between the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to contest under the former’s name and symbol. Both are vegetarians. There was a [...]


Invitation, de-invitation, pension and Polonnaruwa monkeys: Stories that spiced up presidential banquet


President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hosted his predecessor Maithripala Sirisena to lunch at the Presidential Secretariat banquet room on Friday.

It was to mark the successful conclusion of talks between the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to contest under the former’s name and symbol.

Both are vegetarians. There was a wide array of dishes – largely curries – for both veg and non-veg. Most had served hummus (mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic) and Arabic bread. Others went for different salads.

Even before they could end the starters, an interesting conversation had begun at the table where among those seated with President Rajapaksa and Mr. Sirisena was Basil Rajapaksa. If one hoped for camaraderie to consume the mood at the luncheon, that was not to be. The conversations were overshadowed by candour and criticism wrapped in good humour.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was told not to come for the wedding of the then presidential secretary's son

At one point it centred on P.B. Abeykoon, whom President Sirisena named as his secretary after the presidential election in 2015. It was around 4.30 a.m on January 7, 2015 when the results showed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was headed for defeat. He was at Temple Trees and so was Mr. Abeykoon. By 6 a.m. Mr Abeykoon had left the then presidential residence in a hurry.

“The next thing we heard,” remarked Basil Rajapaksa is “that you (pointing to Mr Sirisena) had appointed him your Secretary. In politics, he noted, “we have learnt that there are asaamanya or abnormal people.” Mr Sirisena smiled as he nodded seemingly in approval. The moral – pick the right person for the right job.

President Rajapaksa chipped in. He recalled how he received an invitation for the wedding of Mr Abeykoon’s son from a different party. They had appealed to him not to take note of the father changing allegiance. “I did not think of that at all. I readily accepted the invitation since this was a social occasion,” declared President Rajapaksa.

Days later, he had received a message that Mr Abeykoon wanted to meet him urgently, said President Rajapaksa. He gave him an appointment.

“I was shocked at what he told me. He said, “I know you have been invited to my son’s wedding. Please do not come.””  “This is the first time in my life someone invited me for a wedding and later said I should not come,” President Rajapaksa added, while the others laughed.

Former President Maithripala: What happened to the monkeys?

President Rajapaksa did not stop at that. He said his government pension was getting delayed. “So, I rang Mr Abeykoon. He remarked that the papers were still in President Sirisena’s drawers. I called on a few occasions and got the same answer. ”

“Later, when I attended a seminar in China. Then Defence Secretary Engineer Karunasena Hettiaratchchi was also there. I told him about my encounters to get my pension,” President Rajapaksa said. Later, when he returned to Colombo, he had been informed that Mr Hettiaratchchi had put all the papers together and arranged everything. I began receiving my pension, he revealed.

That was not all. President Rajapaksa referred to Duminda Dissanayake (who was a guest on the SLFP side). He had noted that monkeys, elephants, stray cattle and peacocks were destroying crops in a big way. Mr Sirisena intervened to say that a random count showed there were a million monkeys in Sri Lanka. Even if one were to destroy one coconut, a million would be destroyed.

It was Basil Rajapaksa’s turn now. He related how, as a onetime Economic Development Minister, he apportioned funds to the Department of Wildlife Conservation. They rounded up a large group of monkeys from Homagama and were transporting them to be released in an islet in Maduru Oya. This was because they would not be able to swim back. The truck with the monkeys had stopped in Polonnaruwa for the driver to have tea. It was just outside a school.

When the school session was over, curious school children had opened the truck door and all the monkeys had escaped. He said he had to abandon the programme.

“What did you do,” he asked Mr Sirisena whilst pointing his index finger and laughing loud. “You told public meetings that I was sending rilaw and mee harak or monkeys and cattle from the South to Polonnaruwa.” There was loud laughter again. Even Mr Sirisena joined in.

Others on the President’s side at the luncheon were Lalith Weeratunga and P.B. Jayasundera. Accompanying Mr Sirisena were Nimal Siripala de Silva, Mahinda Amaraweera, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Duminda Dissanayake and Lasantha Alagiyawanna.

Easter Sunday attacks: Bombshell revelation about those in the know

In high level political circles, the talk is about what they call a ‘bombshell’ revelation that is to unfold before those probing the April 21 Easter Sunday massacres.

According to the story doing the rounds, a onetime bureaucrat who wielded clout, is to declare that there were political leaders who had been issued prior warnings about the attacks that led to the killing of more than 268 innocent men, women and children. Who are they? They remain mum when asked, but would only say the “fallout could be fireworks.”

Just this week, Colombo’s Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith told a news conference that even those above the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence were aware of the then impending attacks.

Who are they?

UNHRC sessions in March: No-show by ambassador-designate at high post committee

Columnist C.A. Chandraprema, who had been designated Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, was a “no show” before the Parliament High Post Committee.

He had been summoned on two different dates by the committee but did not turn up, said an official source.

Now that the Parliament sessions have ended, Mr Chandraprema is unlikely to take up the post.

Thus, he will not be present when the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva next month. However, it is likely he might still join the delegation to Geneva. If so, he will have to go as a private person. The US-backed resolution on Sri Lanka is due for discussion at these sessions though there will be no voting.

 Geneva veterans to join Dinesh

Two more political leaders will accompany Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena for the
UN Human Rights Council sessions
in Geneva.

They are Mahinda Samarasinghe who had also served in previous Sri Lanka delegations. The other is Nimal Siripala de Silva, who served in the last delegation.

Politics puts paid to supplementary vote

The Opposition proposed to move amendments to the government’s proposal to introduce a supplementary estimate to pay outstanding payments to contractors.

A government source said this prompted them not to go ahead with the vote. They said that the amendment was a way of defeating their move.

The source said the President was empowered to make such financial provisions if there is no functioning Parliament.

 Diplomatic protest over new envoy

The Foreign Office of an Asian country is in communication with the Foreign Relations Ministry in Colombo.

This is over Colombo’s nominee for Sri Lankan envoy to that country. The Foreign Office has cited some controversial comments made by the envoy designate when he served in another capacity in the country.

Omar Kamil to Jeddah?

Omar Kamil, a onetime Colombo Mayor is tipped to go as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.


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