Talk at the cafe Spectator

Ravi rams Ram

There were tears of joy and sorrow on Thursday at Siri Kotha, the headquarters of the country's largest opposition party, the United National Party (UNP). Some were happy they would be candidates whilst others were disappointed they were not picked.

There were also fears among some. UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe sat with his top rungers to finalise lists for the nominations last Friday.

Western Provincial Councillor C.Y.P. Ram wanted a UNP ticket to contest from the Colombo district. Opposing the move tooth and nail was Ravi Karunanayake, who has switched from Kotte electorate to Colombo North as his main base for the April 8 parliamentary elections.

His leader, Mr. Wickremesinghe spent almost an hour trying to convince Mr. Karunanayake. It was of no avail. The latter said he would not contest from the UNP if Mr. Ram was a UNP candidate.

UNP leaders have now offered to consider Mr. Ram as a Mayoral candidate for Colombo after Mr. Karunanayake had his way.

Some of the onlookers were surprised. "See the amanapey (displeasure) over manapey (preference votes)," said one of them. However, a more senior type, who was bitter at what he saw, was more sarcastic.

"It would have been much better for the party if he (Mr. Karunanayake), as threatened, did not contest. He should not be allowed to blackmail the party and the leader," he said.

Yet, Mr. Wickremesinghe who knew Mr. Karunanayake's ways kept his cool, but Mr. Karunanayake had both his say, and his way.

CID sets field for Hashan

Cricketer Hashan Tillekeratne's resignation letter to UNP leaders in Colombo came all the way from India.

The party's Avissawella chief organiser said he was quitting since he wanted to support his one time Captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who is contesting on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket.

CID detectives say they want to interview Mr. Tillekeratne with regard to ongoing investigations into the Hicorp deal involving detained General (retired) Sarath Fonseka's son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne.

UN job for son; maybe minister needs one too

Judging by the ongoing battle over the past few months, there is no love lost between the United Nations and the Rajapaksa regime.

The world body and some of its senior officials have lambasted Sri Lanka for human rights violations and even accused the armed forces of war crimes.

Still, a senior Cabinet minister who has been interacting with the UN during the recent confrontations has written to a high-ranking UN official -- and on an official ministry letter head -- soliciting a job for his son in the UN secretariat. The confidential letter, with no tell-tale marks left behind in official files in Colombo, was sent to a junior diplomat at the Sri Lanka mission to the UN with instructions to personally hand it over to the UN official.

A Government source says considering the fact that this minister has a dog's chance of retaining his portfolio -- or for that matter, even his Parliamentary seat -- he should really be lobbying for a job for himself, not for his son.

Diplomatic job for bureaucrat

The talk in the corridors of power is about a move by a top bureaucrat to take up a diplomatic assignment. They say he is to be succeeded by another who is conversant in matters of power and energy.

From GSP to GTF; foreign policy flop after flop

From the diplomatic crisis of having lost the GSP+ duty concession from the EU comes yet another crisis. The British Government recognising a veiled pro-Eelam outfit Global Tamil Forum (GTF). Sri Lankan 'patriots' in Britain are angry with the Labour Government for trying to bolster its declining vote base at the upcoming general elections by attending the GTF meeting, but they are angrier still that the Sri Lankan High Commission in London was caught napping. Both the numero uno and his deputy were on election duty in Sri Lanka and therefore neglected their duty in Old Blighty.

Everything was foreign even to the Foreign Office in Colombo. It got to know of the event only after British Foreign Secretary, the proven Mr. Duplicitous, made a statement in the House of Commons no less about the event and their participation. A last minute howl from Colombo came too late to stop it all.How different times are since this same Government got that same Labour Government to ban the LTTE in 2001.

Now, a case against Danuna's father

The father of Danuna Tillekeratne, now wanted by the Police over the Hicorp deals, is to be questioned by CID detectives. This is to ascertain how he continued to be in service in the Army for 62 years, two years beyond the official stipulated period.

They want to record a statement from him before asking the former Army Commander, then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, how Brigadier Tissa Tillekeratne, retired from service, was allowed to continue for 62 years under pay and pension. Danuna is the son in law of the former Army Commander.

Many fathers behind Saudi success

Who should take the credit for the recent decision by Saudi Arabia to lift the travel ban on Saudis visiting Sri Lanka?

The credit has mistakenly been attributed to our new Ambassador Aflel Jawad but, according to diplomatic sources, the real credit should go to the Saudi Embassy in Colombo which has been painstakingly lobbying its government in Riyadh to lift the ban long before Jawad landed on Saudi soil.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that the ban was lifted just after Jawad paid a courtesy call on the Saudi king following presentation of his ambassadorial credentials.

At the same time, at least one Sri Lankan expatriate group in Saudi Arabia is also claiming it has been conducting a "long sustained campaign" with the Saudi government for months now to keep the oil-soaked sheikhs flowing into Colombo. As the old saying goes, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

Road thriller on way to nomination

UNF district leader Palitha Range Bandara, a former MP for the Puttalam district, had an inauspicious start for the Parliamentary elections in April. On Thursday he was heading from Colombo with the nomination list of the UNF to the District Secretariat in Puttalam. He wanted to be there at the auspicious time. However, at Katuneriya, off Wennappuwa, his jeep stalled due to a mechanical defect.

He got into a back-up van and continued the journey, but as they were speeding somewhere in Arachchi kattuwa (25 Km away from the District Secretariat), a tyre was punctured, placing the ex-MP and his supporters in a quandary. Mr. Bandara who is heading the list was still trying to make it in time. Two motorcyclists passing by were stopped and they came to his assistance.

The one time Police Inspector turned politician resumed his journey with his son as the pillion - rider. As they were approaching the Secretariat, there was more help. One of his party supporters offered the former MP and his son a lift. They were able to make it in time to hand over nominations at the auspicious time.

What the heck are the hackers up to

No so long ago, a hacker broke into Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader, Somawansa Amerasinghe's Yahoo e-mail address. A message originated, purportedly from Ameraisnghe, that he was on a visit to Britain and had lost all his belongings including the purse in which he carried money. Recipients of the e-mail were called upon to loan Sterling Pounds 2,500 or whatever little contribution they could make.

Mr. Amerasinghe was very much in Colombo. Moreover, he had lived for a long time in Britain and therefore had resources there if he was stranded.

This week, hackers abroke into the Hotmail account of a lady Army officer. This is what they said in an e-mail using her account:

"How are you doing? I hope you are doing fine, I'm sorry that I didn't inform you about my travelling to England for a seminar. I need a favour from you as soon as you receive this e-mail because I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money, and other valuable things were kept. I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently. I will be needing the sum of $2,500 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with. I will pay you back as soon as I return. I have trust on you. Please kindly let me know if you can be of help? So I can send you my details."

There was also another instance where a former senior official of the Central Bank found his e-mail account hacked. On that occasion too, the e-mail sent out under his name was to seek money saying he was stranded in Britain.

Is this an organised attempt to embarrass persons or is there a bigger motive behind? Perhaps, the Telecom Regulatory Commission should probe.

Karuna has his way, but not sister

The United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Nomination Board last week rejected a request by one time guerrilla leader and former Parliamentarian Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna to come on the National List. He was told he should contest a seat.

The former LTTE eastern commander took up the position that the Nomination Board cannot decide on his behalf.

He later appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was agreed that he would be nominated on the National List. However, the Nomination Board decided that Karuna's sister will not be given nominations to contest from the Batticaloa district.

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