The story, said to have been related by former Sri Lanka Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala, about Sri Lankans in hell, needs to be recalled in the context of the times.
In hell, there are hell holes emanating scorching fires where sinners are incarcerated. Each nation has a particular hell hole assigned to it. Satan it is said had assigned guards to each such hell hole to prevent sinners from escaping but the Sri Lankan hole had no such guards. A visitor to hell, when he queried why there were no such guards around the Sri Lankan hell hole, had been told: Sri Lankans simply cannot escape. When one tries to get out others pull him back by his legs.
This has been our tradition preventing any Sri Lankan achieving distinction even at the highest levels, most of the time. In the seventies, a brilliant Sri Lankan, diplomat Shirely Amerasinghe achieved the rare distinction of being elected Chairman of the Law of the Seas Conference. When his term of office expired, the then UNP government refused to nominate him to the same post, because of the petty jealousies of our then leaders. The UN, however, realising that our representative was indispensable, took the rare step by electing him as the Chairman of the conference once again, on their own.
The second instance was more recent when Jayantha Dhanapala, who had the honour of being elected to chair the UN conference on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and did so successfully, had the opportunity of being appointed as Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA). But petty jealousies of PA leaders resulted in him not being nominated by his country. Once again the UN, Secretary General Koffi Annan himself, immediately afterwards appointed Dhanapala as a UN Under Secreray General for Disarmament. It is said that he has a chance of being elected the next Secretary General of the UN but it does appear that Sri Lanka will not nominate him. Instead, Mr Tyronne Fernanado, a person virtually unknown in UN circles is likely to be our nominee. We have apparently not learnt a lesson of the mulish effort by the PA government of running a Sri Lankan academic as candidate for the post of Secretary General of the UNESCO against all advice of experienced diplomats. He got only two votes.
Sri Lankas UN frolics continue. In a letter published in the opposite page, a Sri Lankan who had been an international civil servant for the past 25 years writes about being amused and saddened by the latest political feuding between the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumara-tunga and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe. Our performances have already made us the laughing stock of the UN he says. He points out to the hilarious instance of Sri Lanka putting forward two candidates for the post of Special Rapporteur in the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva last month. Not surprisingly both were unceremoniously kicked out says the writer pointing out that no other country puts forward two candidates for the same post!
The Secretary General of the UN Koffi Annan has invited heads of state to address a special session on HIV/ Aids but our representative will be only the Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando. The UN civil servant points out that it will be a discourtesy to the UN Secretary General himself. This is particularly so, if the head of state and head of government are both present in New York.
And when the General Assembly begins its sessions next week in New York, will Sri Lanka create history by having two persons, each claiming to the head of state? If so, we will be uncontested NO 1 jokers of the world. At the time of going to press there is no news about any decision of who will address the Assembly as head of state of this country.
Despite this Tom and Jerry battle for leadership, it has been reported that Sri Lanka will not be represented at a conference which is of prime importance to Sri Lanka: A conference on terrorism which will be held during the General Assembly sessions and addressed by Koffi Annan himself. The Island reported on Friday that an estimated 10 to 20 heads of state are expected to participate but as usual there has been no response from the government denial or clarification. Sri Lanka should have been at the forefront of this conference telling the world of the plight of this nation after 20 years of terrorism.
It is indeed a pity that this nutty state of affairs should prevail when both the president and prime minister are educated and cultivated persons with impeccable backgrounds. From the United Nations to the humble Pradeshiya Sabhas this pinch and punch show goes on with disastrous consequences to the nation.
Even if they cant give up this penchant of going for each others jugulars on home grounds, let it not be exhibited in the international arena. As the writer, who had worked in UN institutions for a quarter of century, Somar Wijayadasa, whom we have quoted above has said: Sri Lankans can play their games of Byzantine politics and native intrigue on their home soil.....Dont carry these intrigues to the international arena.... You will damage the international credibility of Sri Lanka at the United Nations and in the international community at large.
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