Fore’s Tuk Tuk wins food Oscar, but someone’s got bad taste

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Just weeks after a Sri Lankan-origin baker won the most revered baguette competition in France, another Sri Lankan-origin Chef Sam Fore became a popular name in culinary circles this week after she was announced as one of the finalists in the James Beard awards, often considered as the so-called “Oscars of the food world” — the most prestigious culinary honours in the United States.

Her business, named Tuk Tuk, a Sri Lankan and southern pop-up restaurant, serves traditional Sri Lankan cuisine and her family’s time-tested recipes. Born to Sri Lankan immigrants, Ms. Fore was raised in Lexington, Kentucky and she is planning to open another snack shop later this year.

However, a new process introduced by “the Oscars of the food world” to vet the nominees with problematic pasts turned out to be an “interrogation” for Ms. Fore who had to answer questions posed by a private investigator on her both, private and public social media presence, according to a report published by the New York Times this week.

“I realise that my presence is a good look for Beard, but I cooked my way across the country to get to this level,” she said. “Now all I’ve done can be dismissed because someone on the internet called me a bully?” she was quoted as saying by NYT.

Despite her feelings about the investigation, Ms Fore said she still planned to attend the awards ceremony today (June 4) in Chicago. She already bought flight tickets and a ticket to the gala for her husband, and she “can’t get the tickets refunded.”

“These people have no idea what it’s like to be a woman of colour in this business,” she said. “What they don’t understand is that I exist despite them. Winning a Beard wasn’t even on my list of goals”.


Online passports and plastic ban: Deadline disaster for departments

In recent times, ambitious decisions are being announced by various government departments, but their timely implementation is questionable.

Last Thursday, the Department of Immigration and Emigration announced that there would be a new mechanism in place from June 1 to obtain new or renew passports online and it would be delivered through post. The decision was taken after the department struggled to process applications it received in recent weeks as many Sri Lankans opted to leave the country either for work or to migrate.

However, the much-expected online mechanism did not materialise as expected on Thursday. The following day, after several people called the department to know the status of the new mechanism, senior officials called for a media briefing and announced it would be in place after two weeks.

Last Tuesday, at the department’s Vavuniya office, at least ten people were taken into custody by police for allegedly charging exorbitant amounts from desperate applicants who wanted to get passports through the fast track process.

Police investigations revealed that these people had taken Rs 25,000 from applicants for new passports and Rs 5000 to secure a place in the queue — which used to form in the early hours until the recent announcement came from the department. The other blunder is on the ban on single-use plastic items which was supposed to be in force from June 1 after the Cabinet decision was taken in February. But the ban has been further delayed as new regulations have not been gazetted, according to senior officials attached to Central Environment Authority.

The production, import and distribution of single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, stirring utensils, spoons, yoghurt spoons, and plastic flower garlands were to be prohibited from Thursday, but all such items are available in the market currently as usual.

Whither Independence?

As part of festivities connected to Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence, the Janashakthi Community Centre in Nallur, Jaffna hosted cultural events this week. One of the exhibits that caught the attention of many was an artwork depicting the country’s current plight. Pic by N. Lohathayalan

Probe on VIP lounge fiasco that victimised Ven. Ajahn Brahm

One of the main problems with some government officials is their sycophantic behaviour towards politicians. They go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that every need of a politician takes precedence above all else. If an initial inquiry is anything to go by, this week’s incident which saw the revered Buddhist monk Ven. Ajahn Brahm missing his flight at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) seems to be one example of such behaviour.

The British-born, Australia-domiciled monk had arrived in the country at the invitation of the Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka. After spending nine days in the country taking part in various programmes, the Thera arrived at the BIA on May 31 to take a Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore and then onto Perth. He had been seated at the airport’s VIP lounge awaiting his flight.

Meanwhile, Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva, who was also taking the same flight to Singapore, had arrived at a different section of the VIP lounge. Minister de Silva had been unaware that Ven. Ajahn Brahm was at the VIP lounge.

It has been revealed that airport officials had escorted Minister de Silva to the Singapore-bound flight and left the monk still sitting in the VIP lounge. Essentially, the officials, in their haste to ensure that the minister was well taken care of, had forgotten about the monk who was waiting patiently in a different part of the same lounge.

It was only at the last moment that they had realised their blunder and though attempts were made to get the monk onboard, by that time, the plane’s doors had been locked and it was taxiing out towards the runway.

The organisers who invited him had then been forced to book Ven. Ajahn Brahm onto another flight to take him to Perth via Malaysia. He had been forced to spend another 12 hours, at great inconvenience to himself, waiting at the BIA for the new flight.

On the instructions of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake has now ordered a probe to identify the officials responsible for the embarrassing act of negligence.


Will US do unto us what it did to Bangladesh?

Last week, the US State Department announced that it would restrict visas for any Bangladeshi citizen who was “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in that country,” as part of the department policy of “Visa Policy to Promote Democratic Elections in Bangladesh”.

The matter came up in an informal meeting when a group of young politicians with high hopes for office met for dinner in Colombo. Most of them began their political career by signing nomination papers recently for the next local government elections which have been postponed indefinitely.

The discussion centred on whether the US would follow similar steps in the event Sri Lanka’s elections — be it national or local council — are further delayed. One of the participants reminded his colleagues that his party was among the political parties that extended unstinted support to postpone elections during the Yahapalana government of yesteryear.

What the ambitious young politicos were not aware of is how international politics works. US congressional leaders on Friday invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate on June 22 — one of the highest honours Washington accords to foreign dignitaries.

During the George W Bush Administration, Mr. Modi, who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was denied a visa in 2005 for failure to prevent riots in the state on the basis of barring individuals who are accused of “severe violations of religious freedom”.

There’s nothing permanent in international, or even local politics after all.


New look Police website sans key data

The Police Department’s official website was revamped recently with a new look but some key statistics which were available to the public in the recent past are missing.

Data related to crime, and daily situation updates are some of the key features that are missing from the new website. As crime incidents are on the rise, one concerned journalist contacted the police media unit regarding the missing data.

The response was: since the handling of the website has now been brought under the police media unit, all those data will be made available following the approvals from high-ups. When asked, when it would be made available, a senior police officer said, “Probably, in a couple of months”.

Jaffna law students Hague-bound, after President’s Office offers help

The Presidential Secretariat has stepped in to assist a group of Jaffna University law students who had been struggling to find financial assistance to participate in the International Criminal Court (ICC) Moot Competition in The Hague in June. The competition is organised by the International Bar Association (IBA).

Accordingly, the President’s Fund has approved the release of Rs. 1 million for the students to take part in the competition.
The University’s Department of Law has expressed its gratitude to the President’s Office for approving the release of the funds, noting that taking part in the competition will enhance the mooting and debating skills of its students.

Dark humour aimed at war heroes in politics

Last week, a war hero-turned-politico attended the premiere of a political satire at one of Colombo’s leading theatres.

The MP, who was among the special guests attending the show, was visibly taken aback by an exchange between two of the characters in one scene where they discussed national heroes who go into politics. The gist of the dialogue was that “national heroes” are created by politicians to achieve their ulterior motives.

The former officer-turned-politician did not seem to see the humour in it at all.

Indian poaching: Navy’s role questioned at DCC meeting

The continuing Indian poaching in Lankan waters was raised at this week’s Jaffna District Coordinating Committee meeting where Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda presided as co-chair.

The minister said the Navy did not have adequate resources to control the Indian fishermen who enter Lankan waters in big numbers with their mega high-powered trawlers. He pointed out that the Navy was not willing to arrest the fishermen who, despite prior warnings, entered Lankan waters to engage in bottom trawling. One reason, the minister said  is “political”, while the other is that Navy patrolling vessels cannot confront aggressive Indian trawlers because the Navy’s fiberglass vessels could get damaged by the steel-plated Indian vessels.

SLFP Parliamentarian Angajan Ramanathan asked: if the Navy cannot control poaching fishermen, how can it protect the country from foreign sea-borne threats?

A senior Navy officer said the Navy handled the issue on a “humanitarian basis”, therefore no shooting incidents occurred, but he admitted that when hundreds of trawlers enter Lankan waters, it was difficult to arrest them.



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