ONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY
By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
When I returned to my office at John Keells head office in Colombo, I was eager to share my experiences and lessons learnt in Hong Kong as the Guest Executive Chef for a large Sri Lankan and Maldivian food festival. Based on my recent experience, I prepared a detailed checklist for organizing future food festivals, which I shared with my team. This checklist was very useful when I got opportunities in later years, to organize large Sri Lankan food festivals in Asia, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean. It is always helpful when checklists for the future are prepared when the relevant and recent experience is still fresh in mind.
Organizing large banquets and food festivals within the respective hotels under the same roof is easy. Outside catering done away from hotels is more challenging. I considered organizing a large food festival in another country as the ultimate challenge in catering. Everything had to be planned in detail, based on research focusing on the scarcity of special ingredients, logistics and support in the hosting country.
One day in 1981, Francis Dilip De Silva, a Lecturer of the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) called me. “I teach Food and Beverage Operations to the fourth and final year students at CHS. Our students would benefit from your experience. Could you kindly give a guest lecture at CHS?” I felt honoured with that invitation and confirmed a mutually convenient time slot for a two-hour lecture. I prepared a lot for this first-ever lecture that I delivered in my life. I spoke about the practical aspects of organizing successful events at resort hotels, and this lecture was well received.
After that guest lecture, Dilip hosted me for lunch at the training restaurant of CHS, which was located at Park Street in Colombo two at that time. A few of my friends were working as lecturers at CHS, including a couple of my batch mates who excelled in their studies. However, none of them had ever invited me to the CHS as a guest lecturer. I wondered if the reason was my poor academic performance during my student years at CHS from 1971 to 1974.
When Dilip became more familiar with me, he said, “To be very frank with you Chandana, I was warned by a few of the other CHS Lecturers that I was taking a risk inviting you to speak to the final year students. They told me that you were one of the worst students at CHS!” After a pause, Dilip added, “I then consulted Mrs. Pearl Heenatigala, the Principal of CHS, who told me to go ahead and invite you as you have done very well in the industry.”
On Dilip’s further requests, I did a few more guest lectures. I simply spoke about practical things I did in the industry, rather than using material from outdated textbooks written by academics without much industry experience. I delivered guest lectures about my recent experiences in training hotel staff, dealing with village problems, innovative guest relations, taking over management of hotels, opening restaurants, and organizing food festivals. I also shared my newly prepared food festival checklist with the students. Students truly loved my series of guest lectures and wanted more. I began enjoying lecturing.
A Surprising Job Offer
One busy morning while multi-tasking some urgent, operational matters of a few of the Keells hotels, as their Manager – Operations, my phone rang. It was Mrs. Heenatigala. “Chandana, I hear some great comments from our students about the ten guest lectures you have delivered at CHS on an honorary basis. Knowing how busy you are at Keells, I am very thankful to you and appreciate the time you devoted to give practical tips to our students.”
She then said, “We desperately need professionals like you to teach industry best practices at CHS. Would you like to join CHS as a full-time Lecturer?”. I was pleasantly surprised by her question. As a former student who was nearly expelled from CHS nine years earlier for very poor academic results during my first year, this was music to my ears.
The next day, I met Mrs. Heenatigala at her office. She had been involved in tourism in different capacities long before 1965, when it was first identified as an industry with potential for becoming a major, foreign exchange earner and employment generator for Sri Lanka. She was a pioneer of the industry within the public sector. In addition to being the Director / Principal of CHS, she was also one of the two Deputy Director Generals of the Ceylon Tourist Board. In that role she deputized the CEO of Tourism in Sri Lanka. She was extremely charming and had a visionary outlook. I liked her personality and she seemed to regard me very highly.
After some tea and a friendly chat, she made an offer to me, but I was not impressed with the salary scale for CHS Lecturers. “Madam, this offer of yours is exactly half of what I earn at John Keells. I simply cannot accept it.” She then explained that CHS salaries are tax free and lecturers usually get valuable overseas scholarships. I thanked her, but declined the offer.
A couple of days later, Mrs. Heenatigala called me again. “In consultation with the Chairman and the Director General of the Ceylon Tourist Board I have found a solution! We will match your current take home salary at John Keells by hiring you at our highest level – as a Senior Lecturer. This position is at the same grade as a Director of the Ceylon Tourist Board.” I was impressed. “Madam, please give me a few days to think about it.” I told her.
All the teaching staff at CHS were older than I. They were Assistant Lecturers or Lecturers. In the history of CHS for 16 years since its inception in 1965, only two Lecturers had been finally promoted to Senior Lecturers after teaching at CHS for 10 years. They were both five years my senior, had postgraduate qualifications/training in Germany and Austria and were my Lecturers when I was a student at CHS.
My wife did not think that leaving a senior managerial position at the head office of the largest group of companies in Sri Lanka to accept a government job was a good idea. “You will not have a company car, free gas and a good benefit package similar to what we currently have from John Keells Group”, she cautioned me. I thought differently and believed that, at times, one has to follow your heart and do things that will give greater satisfaction and sense of fulfilment. I considered that rich and diverse experiences were far more important than money and benefits.
When she realized that I was passionate about teaching, my wife said, “OK, let’s check your horoscope and consult a few astrologers.” Although that was a common practice for a majority of Sri Lankans in deciding on important changes and life decisions, I did not believe in fortune tellers. However, to keep my wife happy, I agreed to consult one famous fortune teller she recommended. He was well-known as ‘The Finger Tip Astrologer’.
The Fortune Teller
When my wife took me to meet ‘The Finger Tip Astrologer’ in Colombo five, I was surprised how crowded his waiting area was. He probably was the most popular and reputed fortune teller in Sri Lanka at that time. After an hour of idling, I was getting bored with the long wait and my wife was getting annoyed with my jokes and pranks while waiting for our turn. “Please be serious and don’t joke when we are called to his office.” she warned me.
Finally, when it was our turn, the old astrologer looked sharply at my face, fingertips, palm, and the horoscope. He said, “What a lucky man! Most of your life you have gotten things for free.” When I laughed at that comment, he felt that I was being sarcastic, and wanted to prove to me that he was right. He then said, “Young man, you did not spend any of your money to buy all of the items you are wearing today. That gold chain and the watch, your shirt, the pair of trousers, the belt and the pair of shoes, all are presents given to you!” He was correct.
He added, “even the car you drove to come here today is not yours, someone else pays for everything. All of the houses you lived in your whole life and are living in today are free for you. Free food and no rent. Am I correct?” I stopped smiling and under my breath said, “Yes, Sir. You are correct.” Now that he earned my attention and respect, he commenced predicting about the future. “Very soon, you will return the car you drove today to the owner, but someone else will present you with a car immediately after that. No worries.”
“Today, you have come to consult me because you wish to make a decision about a new job and a major career change. Don’t worry. Accept the new offer you have. This new job will open many exciting doors for you. Because of the experience you will gain in this new job, for the rest of your life you will have two options of careers. Accept the offer!” My wife and I were speechless as we were totally baffled. How could he know all of this? However, when the astrologer made his final prediction for my future, I could not help but respectfully disagree with him.
The astrologer further predicted that very soon I would commence studying and would never stop studying for various degrees and professional qualifications. He identified me as a late developer who will become a lifelong learner. “Sir, all of what you said before is accurate. However, I must tell you that your final prediction is wrong! When I graduated from CHS seven years ago, I decided that I would never ever touch a textbook or study for any examination for the rest of my life. I am a bad student and simply hate studying!” I told him. “Wait and see, I give you three months to commence a lifelong journey of higher education and learning. You will do well.” He made his concluding comment with a grin.
The same day, I signed my contract at CHS and gave notice to John Keells. My resignation shocked many well-wishers who thought that I would have a very bright future at John Keells Group. In spite of their disappointment, my Director, Bobby Adams and the Group Chairman, Mark Bostock gave me excellent testimonials. Mr Bostock wrote, “We will miss Chandana, but I am happy that in his new position, he will be able to make a significant contribution to prepare future generations of managers for the hotel industry.”
On my last day at John Keells, after a quick round of goodbyes, I returned the keys to my company car and came home with my father-in-law, Captain D. A. Wickramasinghe in his Keells company car. After coming home, he told me, “Go to the front driveway and enjoy your 28th birthday present from Ammi and I, which has arrived two months in advance!” There was a nice, old English car parked in the driveway. It was a 1955 Riley with the original wooden interior panels, and the rest upgraded recently with a beautiful, bottle green colour. The fortune teller was right in his first prediction.
Exactly 10 years after my joining CHS as a first-year student and seven years since I had graduated, I returned to CHS, now as a Senior Lecturer. One of my former bosses and five years my senior at CHS, France-trained Indrapala Munasinghe also joined CHS on the same day as a Senior Lecturer. On arrival at CHS we were snubbed by the only other CHS Senior Lecturer at that time. I clearly felt that he was unhappy to accept me as his peer.
After a quick orientation, Mrs. Heenatigala wanted to have a one-on-one discussion with me. “Chandana, I have a challenge with some of the senior members of the teaching staff, who strongly feel that you are not qualified to be appointed as a Senior Lecturer”, she said. I was quick to say, “That’s too bad for them. I cannot go back to John Keells as I have resigned from their employment!” She then said, “I have a solution. Don’t start teaching yet. We will arrange for you to obtain a postgraduate scholarship as soon as possible. Until then, just spend your time observing at other’s classes and labs.”
An ILO & UNDP Fellowship
My next formal meeting with the CHS Principal was held just before Christmas. That meeting was very different. She happily announced, “I have a great Christmas present for you, Chandana. I managed to arrange an excellent fellowship in Hotel and Catering Training and Teaching for you in four European countries over a period of over three months starting early January, 1982. This is a prestigious, fully-paid fellowship funded and arranged by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Your first five weeks will be at a high level ‘Training Methodology’ study program at the Turin Centre – the professional training and education arm of the International Labour Organization (ILO).”
As my wife was unhappy to be separated for three months, I successfully negotiated with Mrs. Heenatigala and obtained her permission for my wife to travel with me to spend the whole fellowship period in Europe, provided that I pay her travel fare. We planned our trip with study programs in Italy, Switzerland, Scotland and England. In between the official stops, we managed to travel by ship and train to eight other European countries with quick visits to meet with a few relatives, CHS colleagues, friends and former guests of Hotel Ceysands and Hotel Swanee.
We had a great time, but I had one challenge. I was compelled to study hard, do educational assignments and pass examinations particularly at the Turin Centre in Italy, ILO headquarters in Switzerland and the University of Surrey in England. Strangely, I ended up enjoying those study programs and examinations. I decided to do further studies soon after the fellowship ended. My lifelong learning journey which commenced in 1982, never ended as I embarked on back-to-back study programs in a variety of subjects in different countries over the next forty years. The fortune teller was indeed right in his final prediction.
Solidarity and Aragalaya: A few thoughts from an educationist’s perspective
by Harshana Rambukwella
Very little in Sri Lanka at the moment inspires hope. We are facing an existential crisis that was inconceivable just six months ago. Sri Lanka is also, ironically, just a year away from marking the 75th year of its independence. As we reflect on these seven decades of postcolonial nation building, and as we confront a future of extreme precarity, our scorecard as a country is not a proud one. Much blood has been spilt in the name of postcolonial nation building and the ethno-nationalist conflict that shaped almost three decades of that history and two youth rebellions against the state speak to a history of division and enmity. While our current predicament cannot be entirely attributed to this conflictual history alone, it surely played more than a small role in shaping our present misery. It is within this context that I want to offer this brief set of reflections on what I feel is an unprecedented form of solidarity that has emerged in Sri Lanka as the aragalaya took shape. While I do not want to romanticize this solidarity because it is a highly contingent phenomenon and is shaped by the extreme nature of the current political and economic conditions, it offers us as a society, but more specifically as educators, something to reflect on as we try to imagine our role in a society that faces a painful process of rebuilding and recovery (though my hope is that such rebuilding and recovery does not mean the repetition of the tired old neo-liberal script we have followed for decades).
Before I explore what I mean by solidarity within the aragalaya, let me briefly reflect on solidarity as a concept. Solidarity is a term sometimes deployed in geopolitics. Particularly in this time of global turmoil where not just Sri Lanka, but many other countries are experiencing serious economic challenges, we see nations expressing solidarity with or towards other nations. However, such solidarity is almost always shaped by instrumental motives. This is what we might call a form of ‘vertical’ solidarity where more powerful and wealthy nations extend a ‘helping hand’ to their more unfortunate counterparts. Therefore, when India says ‘neighbourhood first’ and expresses solidarity with Sri Lanka in this time of trouble one can easily discern this as a hierarchical gesture shaped by instrumental motives. It is in reality, India’s strategic geopolitical interests that largely dominate this narrative of solidarity though one cannot disregard the critical importance of the assistance extended by India and other such ‘powerful’ nations in this time of national distress.
Another form in which solidarity manifests is through what some scholars have termed ‘enchanted’ solidarities. This is literally and metaphorically a distant form of solidarity where intellectuals, activists and others extend solidarity towards a struggle they perceive as deserving their support but without truly understanding the context in which they are intervening. This has often happened with ‘first world’ academics and intellectuals expressing solidarity towards ‘third world’ struggles which they felt were ideologically aligned with their beliefs. One example is how many liberal and leftist intellectuals supported the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, believing it to be an anti-imperial liberation movement, only to become disillusioned with the movement as they began to see the full horror of the repression and violence unleashed by the Khmer regime. I think if we reflect on Sri Lanka’s postcolonial history, we can also find many such moments where enchanted solidarities were expressed towards various movements from people in the ‘metropolitan’ center with little understanding of the nuances of the politics on the ground.
Premised against both vertical and enchanted solidarities, scholars have also proposed what is called ‘disenchanted solidarity’. By this they mean a situation where diverse groups, sometimes with very different political and ideological agendas, come together to fight for a common cause. They are often critically conscious of their differences but face a common precarity that pushes them together to struggle and align in ways that were not possible before. Often such moments are also underwritten by anger, though the sources of anger or the objects towards which the anger is directed could be different. I would like to read the aragalaya through this lens of disenchanted solidarity. Particularly at the height of the Galle Face ‘Gota go gama’ protests – before the brutish May 9th attack symbolically ‘killed’ something of the ‘innocence’ of the struggle – there was a sense in which the different groups represented in that space were expressing solidarity towards a singular goal – getting rid of the Rajapakasas and a political system they saw as deeply corrupt – there was anger and a gathering of disenchanted solidarities. For many middle-class people, the aragalaya was a way in which to express their frustration at the lack of the basic necessities of life – be it gas, electricity and fuel – and how a corrupt political class had robbed them of their future. For those with longer histories of political activism such as the IUSF (the Inter University Students Federation) or youth activists from the Frontline Socialist Party or the JVPs youth wing or the many trade unions that supported the aragalaya, this moment in some ways represented the culmination, and perhaps even a vindication, of their longstanding struggles against a political, social and economic order that they consider fundamentally unfair and exploitative. Of course, within this larger narrative, there were and continue to be pragmatic political calculations, particularly from groups affiliated with political parties. At the same time, we also witnessed ethnic and religious minorities, often historically marginalized in Sri Lanka’s social and political mainstream finding a rare space to express their anger at the ways in which they have been discriminated against. However, the argalaya gave them a rare space to do so by channeling their anger as a form of solidarity towards the common goal of getting rid of the Rajapaksa dynasty and the corrupt political system as a whole.
But at the same time, we also saw the tenuous nature of these disenchanted solidarities in the aftermath of the 9th May attack on ‘Gota go gama’. Initially we saw another spectacular display of organic and spontaneous solidarity when health workers and office workers abandoned their workstations and rushed to ‘Gota go gama’ when news of the attack broke. But by the evening of that day the story had turned more insidious with a wave of attacks against the properties of politicians and others thought to have been involved in the attack against the peaceful aragayala participants. While we may understand and even empathize with this backlash, its violent nature and what appeared to be other instrumental motives driving it, such as the looting and revenge attacks, made it difficult to associate it with the moral principles that had animated the aragalaya thus far.
Thereafter, at the current moment I am writing, the aragalaya also appears to have lost some of its vital energy as the political configuration has shifted and the tragi-comedy of Sri Lanka’s realpolitik with its underhand deals and political mechanizations seems to have regained the upper hand.
However, what does this mean? Does it mean post May 9th the aragalaya has lost its meaning and purpose or can we push our analysis a little deeper. At this point I would like to introduce one final way in which scholars have discussed solidarity which I feel is appropriate to understand the aragalaya and the spirit that underwrote it and continues to underwrite it. This is what some scholars have called ‘deep solidarity’ – a situation where in today’s neo-liberal context where the vast majority of the population come to a realization of their common social and economic predicament and realize their common enemy is the symbolic ‘one percent’ or an insidious nexus between crony capital and political power that disempowers them. This is of course an idealistic conception but one which I feel holds true at least partially to this moment in Sri Lanka. People from widely varying social and economic strata, from different religious persuasions and people with wildly different ideological and political beliefs have been suddenly pushed together. They are all standing in the never-ending petrol and diesel queues, they are desperately hunting for the next cylinder of gas and increasingly many of them are going hungry. The privileges and the divisions that once defined them, no longer seem to be so ‘real’ and the one stark reality confronting them is a form of existential annihilation. I believe within the aragalaya we can glimpse traces of this deep solidarity and as an educationist I think it is our vital task to think of creative ways in which we might sustain this solidarity, grow it and nurture it, so that we can at least ‘imagine’ a better future. These are idealistic sentiments, but at least for me, such hope, is a political and pedagogical necessity of the current moment.
Harshana Rambukwella is attached to the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University of Sri Lanka
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies
No solutions to nation’s problems from draft constitutional amendment
by jehan perera
The three-wheel taxi driver did not need much encouragement to talk about the hardships in his life, starting with spending two days in the petrol queue to get his quota. He said that he had a practice of giving his three children a small packet of biscuits and a small carton of milk every morning. But now with the cost tripling, he could only buy one packet of biscuits and his three children had to share it. This is because their beloved country is facing one debacle after another for no fault of those kids or the larger nation. The latest is the failure of the government to make headway in accessing either IMF funding or other funding on any significant scale. Several countries have made donations, but these are in the millions whereas Sri Lanka requires billions if it is to come out of its vicious cycle of a dollar shortage.
There was much anticipation that the appointment of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would bring in the billions that are desperately needed by the country if it is to obtain the fuel, food and medicines to keep the people healthy and the economy moving. But things have not worked out in this manner. The pickings have been slim and sparse. The IMF has given the reasons after the ten day visit by its staff to Sri Lanka. They have specifically referred to “reducing corruption vulnerabilities” in their concluding statement at the end of their visit. The international community in the form of multilateral donors and Western governments have prioritized political stability and a corruption-free administration prior to providing Sri Lanka with the financial assistance it requires.
The pressing need in the country is for the government to show there is political stability and zero tolerance for corruption in dealing with the prevailing crisis. It is not enough for government leaders to give verbal assurances on these matters. There needs to be political arrangements that convince the international community, and the people of Sri Lanka, that the government is committed to this cause. Several foreign governments have said that they will consider larger scale assistance to Sri Lanka, once the IMF agreement is operational. So far the government has not been successful in convincing the international community that its own accountability systems are reliable. This is the main reason why the country is only obtaining millions in aid and not billions.
The draft 22nd Amendment that is now before the parliament (which will become the 21st Amendment should it be passed) would be a good place for the government to show its commitment. The cabinet has approved the draft which has three main sections, impacting upon the establishment of the constitutional council, the powers of the president and dual citizenship. However, the cabinet-approved draft is a far cry from what is proposed by the opposition political parties and civil society groups. It is watered down to the point of being ineffective. Indeed, it appears to be designed to fail as it is unlikely to gain the support of different political parties and factions within those parties whose support is necessary if the 2/3 majority is to be obtained.
In the first place, the draft constitutional amendment does not reduce the president’s power in any significant manner. The amendment is drafted in a way that the reduction of presidential powers will only occur with the next president. The president now in office, who has publicly admitted failure on his part, continues to be empowered to appoint and sack the prime minister and cabinet ministers at his arbitrary discretion. He is also empowered to appoint and dismiss the secretaries to ministries, who are the highest-ranking public service officials. In short, the executive arms of the government are obliged to do the president’s bidding or risk their jobs. This indicates the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose party has only a single seat in parliament, has no independent strength, but is there at the will and pleasure of the president.
In the second instance, the draft amendment was expected to set up a system of checks and balances for accountability and anti-corruption purposes. The pioneering effort in this regard was the 17th Amendment of 2001 that made provisions for a constitutional council and independent commissions. According to it, the members of all state bodies tasked with accountability and anti-corruption functions, such as the Bribery and Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Police Commission, the Public Service Commission and the appointees to the higher judiciary were to be appointed through the constitutional council. The 17th Amendment made provision for seven of the ten members of the constitutional council to be from civil society.
Unfortunately, in a manner designed to deal a death blow to the concept of checks and balances, the draft amendment sets up a constitutional council with the proportions in reverse to that of the 17th Amendment. It reveals a mindset in the political leadership that fears de-politicisation of decision making. Seven of the ten members will be appointed by the political parties and the president in a way in which the majority of members will be government appointees. Only three will be from civil society. This ensures a majority representation in the Council for government politicians, and the ensures government dominance over the political members. The composition of the constitutional council proposed in the Bill undermines the independence of the institutions to which appointments are made through the Council who will be unable to stem the wildly growing tide of corruption in the country.
It is no wonder that the furious people in the endless queues for petrol and diesel should believe that there is corruption at play in the continuing shortage of basic commodities. The government promised that ships would come in laden with fuel a week ago. Then, inexplicably, the information was disseminated that no ships were on the horizon. In any other country, except in a country like no other, the concerned leaders would have resigned. Due to the lack of fuel, perishable farm produce rots in rural farmhouses and markets in urban centres are empty and prices are rocketing up. In the meantime, the media has exposed rackets where the privileged, politically powerful and super rich, are given special access to fuel. It is patently clear that the government has failed to deliver on the results that were expected. The situation is getting worse in terms of corrupt practices.
To the credit of the Sri Lankan people, they are being patient. The bonds of social solidarity still prevail. But the anger at the self-seeking and incompetent political leaders is reaching the boiling point, as it did on 09 May. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged to set up an interim government in consultation with party leaders in parliament. However, he did not do so but appointed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and thereby ended efforts of other parliamentarians to form a national unity government. The president’s pledge, made in the aftermath of the cataclysmic and unexpected violence that took place that day, was to reduce his presidential powers, transfer those powers to parliament and to appoint an all-party and interim government of no more than 15 ministers. These pledges remain unfulfilled and need to be implemented to be followed by elections as soon as the situation stabilises.
Kehelgamuwa’s football skills and President Premadasa’s political sagacity
By Hema Arachi
T.B. Kehelgamuwa, the cricketer who needs no plaudits from anyone, is well known. He represented then Ceylon and, later, Sri Lanka as a fearsome fast bowler during the pre-Test era. His contemporaries still talk about Kehel with great respect. Once S Skanda Kumar, the well-known cricketer, cricket commentator and former High Commissioner for Sri Lanka to Australia, proudly told me about his playing cricket with Kehelgamuwa. Bandu Samarasinghe, a Sri Lanka film star, on a TV programme vividly demonstrated how he faced Kehelgamuwa in a Sara Trophy game. That was the top-level tournament in the country.
This note is to share my watching Kehelgamuwa playing soccer when he was not so young. Then, though his grey hair was visible, he ran fast and played hard like a teenager. This was during President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s tenure. Returning from The Netherlands, after my postgraduate studies, I lived in Pelawatta, near the Sri Lanka Parliament and my workplace – International Irrigation Management Institute headquarters. I used to enjoy walking on Parliament grounds. That day was unique because the game between the President’s soccer team, comprising parliamentarians, and the Sri Lanka Police team, was played there.
President Premadasa was well known for his political sagacity, especially in manipulating any situation in his favour. For instance, the day Anura Bandaranayake became the Opposition Leader, Premadasa, praised Anura stating, “Anura is the best Opposition Leader we have.” He further requested that Anura join the ruling party and become a minister and also marry a girl from a prominent ruling party family. But within weeks, he was critical of Anura. One day an Opposition member asked him, “You said Anura was our best Opposition leader a few weeks ago but now criticise.” His reply was this: “Yes, I said so because Anura is the best Opposition leader for us, the ruling party, not for the Opposition. For the Opposition, the best leader is Sarath Muththetuwegama!”
A few weeks before the scheduled encounter between the Parliamentarians and the Police football team, there was a game between the Parliamentarians and the Colombo Municipality team. Premadasa captained the Parliamentarians and kicked the winning goal. I remember a cartoon in a newspaper where the Municipality team goalkeeper withdrew so that Premadasa could score the goal at his will.
During the game against the Police, Premadasa did not play but visibly played the role of the coach of the Parliamentarian team. Unlike the Municipality players, the Police played the game seriously. Kehelgamuwa represented the Police team that scored five goals by halftime, and the Parliamentarian team was nil. At halftime, Premadasa replaced the Parliamentarian goalkeeper with Jayawickerama Perera. Yet, the Police team recorded a sound victory.
I thought Premadasa was upset due to this defeat for his team. But no. Premadasa claimed victory: “I am happy that my team won the game by beating the Parliamentarians today! Being the Executive President, I do not belong to the Parliament. However, as the Commander-in-Chief, the Police come under my purview, so my team won today!”
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