Photo finish for staff of president’s office

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The Presidential Secretariat has issued instructions to its entire staff telling them not to solicit or take personal photographs or selfies with any visiting head of state, VIPs or dignitaries in the future.

The staff have further been instructed that any information on such visits should be confined to the respective official media statements.

The instructions came after attention was drawn to Presidential Secretariat staff having taken selfies with French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Sri Lanka on July 28.

The posting of these selfies drew adverse comments on social media with few calling the President’s office to ask if this was protocol observed in the breach. Protocol among public servants is a matter that requires classes to be given by, maybe the Foreign Ministry.


Crime rate rises: Jaffna doctor vacates house after several attacks

Hardly any day goes by without ‘breaking news’ of murders, thefts and other crimes.

The rise in crime in recent times is largely due to the economic crisis although the police downplay the issue and accuse the media of giving undue coverage for such incidents.

The country’s law and order situation reached the level where a doctor’s family in Jaffna was forced to vacate their rented house this week after handing in the keys to the nearby police station. The house had been given under a long-term lease to the family of the medical professional and it came under attack multiple times by armed violent gangs who damaged vehicles and properties.

The house ownership is claimed by another party after the death of the owner. The family blamed the police that despite several complaints lodged on such violent sword-gang attacks and threats issued to them earlier, no action was taken.

Firstly, the family decided to hand over the key to the Secretary to the Divisional Secretary but since he refused to accept it, they submitted it to the police station where their several complaints are still pending and said to be “under investigation” by the senior officers.

Ex-soldier plays deadly game after death donation fraud

The Ministry of Defence has initiated legal action against a former soldier discharged from the army on disciplinary grounds but then allegedly sent forged letters from the Secretaries of the President and Prime Minister requesting him to be reinstated in his post.

The former soldier had worked as a clerk attached to the desk handling the death donation fund of a regimental centre. He was discharged on disciplinary grounds after a court martial found him guilty of fraudulently diverting funds meant for members to his own accounts for personal use.

The discharged soldier had then appealed to the Army Commander for reinstatement. When this was refused, he is alleged to have forged letters from the Secretaries to the President and the Prime Minister. The letters, with forged letterheads and signatures, had been forwarded to the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence requesting the Defence Ministry Secretary to direct his “urgent attention” towards reinstating the said soldier.

The deception has now come to light and the Secretaries have complained to the Ministry of Defence about the forged letters. The former clerk is now looking at possible jail-time if charged, and convicted.


Go fly a kite, but not near an airport

The Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited has warned the people against flying kites near airports.

A notice issued by AASL has said that flying kites or any similar device at a height above 300 ft. within a 5 kilometre radius of an international airport is strictly prohibited. This is on the grounds that they pose a serious threat to aircraft operations and puts lives and property in danger.

The notice published on Friday warned that those who ignore these warnings will be dealt with strictly according to the law.

UNDP praises outgoing SAARC Secretary Weerakoon for tips on diplomacy

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)’s outgoing Secretary General Esala Weerakoon is busy these days attending to farewell messages as his three years long stint in the regional body came to an end.

Mr Weerakoon is among the handful of well-known Sri Lankan diplomats. He once served as High Commissioner in India, Ambassador in Norway, Foreign Secretary and also as Senior Additional Secretary to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Esala Weerakoon (at the centre with a sash around his neck) is posing for a group picture with the UNDP staff in Nepal

Early this week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Nepal, where the SAARC Secretariat is also located, organised a farewell to Mr Weerakoon thanking him “for providing tips on strategic matters, negotiations, leadership and diplomacy,” according to the official page of the UNDP office in Nepal.

Mr. Weerakoon hands over his post to a senior diplomat from Bangladesh. Though it is Afghanistan’s turn for the post, and to hold the next summit, as the SAARC member-states have yet to recognise the Taliban Government in Kabul, it has gone to the official from Bangladesh.

Tourists’ flames light up Mihintale after CEB disconnects power

In recent times, the Mihintale Rajamaha Viharaya has been in the news for unusual reasons.

Criticising the government leaders for including religious sites in its cost-cutting measures, the chief monk launched a public donation march to collect money to cover Poson festival expenditure at the viharaya.

Weeks ago, it came to light that the temple had failed to pay an electricity bill of Rs 4.1 million to the Ceylon Electricity Board and a ‘red notice’ was also issued months ago.

Since the CEB received no payments, the electricity was discontinued on Thursday afternoon. Unaware of these developments, foreign tourists who were climbing the rock were assisted by locals who are well experienced with power outages to switch to the Sri Lankan way — burning branches as torch lights (pandan).

The hikers reached the temple by carrying these local torch lights. The photos of tourists carrying burning branches turned out to be gold for local meme creators.

The next day, the office of the Opposition Leader said the SJB paid the outstanding amount and the electricity was restored.

Mano’s town bus experience in Jaffna inter-city express train

Delays in Sri Lankan trains are not something new to everyday local passengers. They have got accustomed to these delays as part of their daily life.

On Tuesday, Tamil Progressive Alliance leader Mano Ganesan and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem boarded the KKS bound air-conditioned Yarl Devi Intercity train at 5.30 am from Wellawatte, planning to reach Jaffna by 12.30 pm to attend an event in Jaffna.

Transport and Highways Minister Bandula Gunawardena greets the passengers on board the new luxury train to KKS yesterday. The new train is an addition to the Yarl Devi Inter-city Express, which Parliamentarian Mano Ganesan called a ‘town bus’ after he travelled on it to visit Jaffna.

Just two weeks ago, the train operations to Jaffna from Colombo resumed after the modernisation of the track between Anuradhapura and Omanthai under the Maho-Omanthai Railway Development project.

Though it is an intercity train, it often stops in the middle of nowhere waiting for signals.

By the time the two minority party leaders reached Jaffna, however, it was nearly 1.30 pm., an hour behind schedule. Sharing his travel experience with the audience which included the Railway Station Master, Mr Ganesan said: “I thought it is an express train, but realised later it is a town bus. Anyhow, I enjoyed the trip”.

Sports complex move on restaurants leaves a bad taste

The Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority (SNSCA)’s Board of Management has taken steps to hand over the management of its eight restaurants to its welfare society.

Accordingly, restaurants at the authority’s sports complexes at the Sugathadasa outdoor stadium, the Sugathadasa indoor stadium and the grounds at Bogambara have been handed over to the Authority’s welfare society to manage.

Among the conditions cited by the SNSCA’s Board for the handover is that 90% of the profits made from the restaurants should go into paying for bonuses of the employees while 10% will go towards maintaining the restaurants.

Some employees, however, have questioned the legality of the decision to hand over the management of the restaurants to the welfare society.

They note that this means that both the electricity and water bills of the eight restaurants too would have to be borne by the SNSCA. Moreover, they claim that as per estimates, handing over the restaurants to be run by outside contractors would bring in monthly revenue estimated at more than Rs. 200,000 to the SNSCA.

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