ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 9, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 28

Odds & Ends

If a top politician taking massive delegations on foreign jaunts at tax payers’ expense is not enough, a new costly habit is being cultivated in the form of sending advance delegations to make arrangements for VVIP visits again at tremendous cost. Prior to one recent visit there had been not one advance delegation, but two - one after the other. In the first place Sri Lanka already has an embassy in many of those countries that can easily attend to such needs as in the past. This must certainly be a case of absolute power corrupting absolutely

Are INGOs becoming our new colonial masters? Several UNICEF officials taking part in a recent public demonstration was no isolated act. Some employees of an INGO serving violence torn regions were caught red handed openly plotting to send threatening letters to key Immigration and Emigration Department employees to get their visas expedited and some other nefarious acts. Some of them have had the nerve to do it after coming here on tourist visas and providing direct help to the LTTE. At least ten of them had been shown the door in the middle of last year.

But when it came to deregistering these organizations, everyone had been halted in their tracks, when it was indirectly threatened to reduce Sri Lanka to a pariah state in the eyes of the world. And imagine this had come from a group whose members are sometimes accused of being quacks, not even capable of treating an ordinary wound.

Sri Lanka may have been declared by the UN as being one of the most unsafe places for aid workers, but in this tiny isle some 1200 NGOs are registered with the NGO Secretariat and 300 to 400 are actively engaged in various activities. And Sri Lanka safe or not about 600 foreigners have had to be deported so far this year for overstaying, engaging in prostitution and even working here without proper visas

At least one powerful organization with foreigners is reportedly packing its bags after the recent ban imposed on the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, accused internationally as being a front for the LTTE. This NGO’s biggest fear is said to be the possible ban of the LTTE as in such an event it is unlikely to have a raison d’etre to be here any further. Its employees had asked that they be taken to the mother country of this organization in the event of closure. But all that they have been offered are six months pay and a letter stating that they worked for the organization.

On March 16, 2007, Foreign Minister Bogollagama told an audience in the US that as a result of extensive consultations by the APRC, Sri Lanka would place a comprehensive political package before the people ‘very soon’. Now, 2007 is coming to a close, and on December 6 APRC chairman announced that an ‘independent model of devolution’ would be ready ‘within two months.’ To prevent such contradictions in the Government's timeline, perhaps President Rajapaksa could create a new portfolio - Minister for Coordinating the Diaries of Other Ministers. This could be held out as an incentive to a potential long jumper from the UNP.

A formal release both from the Foreign Minister's son and from his Ministry says that the SAARC Summit next year will be held in Colombo on the 60th anniversary. Pray, 60th anniversary of what ? The media and the readers are expected to fill in the blanks. It must be the 60th anniversary of Sri Lanka's Independence for it cannot be the 60th anniversary of SAARC - or the Minister's birth, surely.

The release adds that the summit venue was fixed both on a proposal made by the Minister and because of the "confidence that SAARC leaders have reposed on Sri Lanka". But doesn't Sri Lanka get her normal turn to host the summit of the seven sisters ?

Who says the government is cash-strapped ? The normal practice followed by the Foreign Ministry/Finance Ministry when authorizing a car for the official use of Sri Lanka Ambassadors/High Commissioners abroad is to seta ceiling of about US$ 30,000 for such purchase. However, our High Commissioner in London has now been blessed with a special authorization to purchase a Jaguar Saloon car in excess of £ 50,000 (i.e. 3 times the normal amount). The super luxury vehicle has already been ordered and delivery is expected shortly.The request was based on the need to’have a comfortable vehicle for use of VIPs visiting London frequently.' So which VIP would like to turn that request down!

Have the Karuna/Pillayan boys become suddenly good as we no longer hear much about their staging abductions, extortions etc.. Far from it, we are told. It is just a case of them being banished to remote places away from the public eye. Their Siberia is said to be in Ceylon Harbour,a place in Batticaloa.

Another colourful Presidential quote during a discussion on the UNICEF/UNESCO issues after the Director General of the latter UN agency made adverse remarks in a statement on the bombing of the VoT. The Prez's response included a shot at our diplomats in Paris, the Minister and the Secretary. ‘Ara Rohithath ke gahawwa UNESCO eka eya dinala dunna kiyala. Ara anith ekkana kiyanawa eya thamai mahansiwela eyage contact walin dinala dunna kiyala. Palitha eyage UN contact araya meya kiyala kiyanawa. Habai UNESCO kaaraya statement eka issue karanna kalin eka draft karana, advise karana anith official lagen meka denaganna thibunane. Ai ewa karanna ape ayata bari?’

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