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Infighting at High Commission



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This week too we continue with the long email sent by Asoka Weerasinghe and his battles not only with the LTTE in Canada but some of his fellow Sri Lankans. It is historical and that is why we want it read by one and all. 


However, before we get to Asoka, I would like to reproduce an email sent by veteran Sri Lankan supporter Daya Hettiarachchi is response to Assignment Toronto 


It was heartening to hear from Daya after a long time. 


"I am 87 now and tend to be careless and tired. Hence, the delay in replying you earlier!


 I am reading with delight your; Assignment Toronto’ regularly in The Island.


Please do not forget to add "York Police report on STONING the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team" and also how you attended the Tamil Sinhala New Year celebration  barefooted. Your first community participation. This was organised by the Tamil Cultural Association headed by Mithran and the group.


Thanks


Daya


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Excerpts of Asoka Weerasinghe’s letter (Continued from last Monday)


After that meeting, Ottawa Police video-taped Anikka, who was three-years old to have a record of her in case the Tamil separatists kidnapped her to shut me up. We have a copy of that video. I fully expected Jeannie to tell me, "Listen, you are endangering our family with this shit you are involved in. You either give it up or I will meet you at the Divorce Court." She didn’t and I knew she supported my fight with the Tamil separatists to save the good name of Sri Lanka. Great for a non-Sinhalese woman! I am indebted to her and so is Sri Lanka.


  During the last week in May, 1989, I was asked by DFO to attend a workshop at Ottawa U on Communications. That week Anikka, who was almost five was sick and Jeannie was with her. During the 10 o’clock tea breaks I called Jeannie to find out how Anikka was. On the 25th when I called her she tells me,


"Please phone Bull, he is bugging me as he wants to talk to you urgently." I dismissed his request and told Jeannie, "He can wait until Monday. I’ll phone him when I get back to office." Around 2 o’clock I was in class and a lady tiptoed in with a piece of paper with a note written on it which said: "It is nothing to do about your daughter but please call home immediately." So, I went out and did. Jeannie said, ‘For God’s sake call Bull. He is bugging me. He wants to speak with you." So I did. Bull tells me "Congratulations Asoka you have been appointed Deputy High Commissioner effective from 1 June." My immediate reaction was: "What’s all this Bull, are you pulling my leg? I never asked for the job." "No, it’s true. I’ll send a clerk with copy of the telex to your home this evening." And he did with a letter signed by him.


 I wasn’t sure what this was all about and I told Bull that I will not give up a very good job with the Public Service and earning a good salary as an IS6 (one step below becoming a Director), unless I meet up with President Premadasa to find out what it was all about. Nor am I prepared to pay my way to Colombo unless he provided me with an air ticket, I told him. That could be arranged, he said. So I went down and was taken by A.J. Ranasinghe, his wife Sita and I met President Premadasa at


Mahiyangana Gam Udawa. I also met Sirisena Cooray and a few others there.


I had never met President Premadasa before. He knew what I could do to help him in Ottawa, and I relished the idea of giving back five years of my life to Sri Lanka, not having worked in Sri Lanka before. I left home for London as a youngster. President Premadasa and I came to an agreement about the salary, and it included a rental allowance and an entertainment allowance. The total came to $20 less than what I was earning in Ottawa, a month. But here is what was unfortunate about this oral gentleman’s agreement. I left the Public Service and took up the job at the High Commission. And when the letter of appointment arrived, they had refused to give me a rental allowance and an entertainment allowance, and I lost $1,800 a month in wages from what I would have earned with the federal government. You do your arithmetic, and you will find that I lost almost $108,000 in wages during my five year contract with the Sri Lanka Government. Seven months down the road, Jeannie and I figured out that we would go bankrupt without the second monthly pay cheque when we started pulling out our savings to run the house, so Jeannie went back to work and got a babysitter to take care of Anikka after Montessori school until I went and picked her up after work.


You may ask, "Are you bitter, Asoka". "Of course, I am bitter and livid, and Jeannie will never forgive the Sri Lanka Government. And I will never ever work for the Sri Lanka Government even for a salary of one million dollars a month." But I did an honest job for the country to the point that I got under the skin of the Tamil separatists and they had a major demonstration against me, not the government of Sri Lanka, in front of the Mission on Range Road. They came in buses from Toronto and Montreal to join the Ottawa crowd. Their gripe was that I was destroying their Tamil community in the eyes of the Canadians.


But what may shock you about my appointment to the Mission as a diplomat was that there was a petition sent to the Canadian Foreign Ministry signed by 9 Sinhalese-Sri Lankans and 1 Tamil-Sri Lankan pointing out that I am a Canadian and should not represent my Motherland. One of the Foreign Ministry persons whom I knew quite well phoned me about it and told me, "Asoka, you better keep an eye on your community members as they are not all friends of yours." I know the 10 people who signed the petition, and three of them had phoned me and congratulated me on my appointment. I will let you know about the outcome of the petition later, and from then on I did not know who my Sinhala friends were in Ottawa. I was been careful, but I got on with my Mission work to help Sri Lanka. Nothing fazed me out. "Pox on these Sinhalese-bastards" I said and dismissed them as my enemies.


When Kalugalla was the High Commissioner, he shot poison darts at me because I was interviewed on TV and not him on the Sri Lankan Tamil Eelam issue and my letters constantly appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.


 While Ronnie De Mel, the Finance Minister, was visiting Ottawa, he had told Deputy A. J. Ranasinghe and Minister Counsellor Francis Jayagoda that he would "kick me out" if I tried to meet De Mel at the Mission. So, I was warned not to come to meet him by AJR and FJ. However, A.J. asked me for a favour. Whether I could arrange a meeting for de Mel with the Press at the Press Gallery and I did. On the day of the meeting De Mel wanted me to meet him for breakfast to brief him and also accompany him to the Press Gallery for the 3:00 meeting. I did have the breakfast meeting at the Chateau Laurier where he was staying. When I went to meet him around 2:15 to walk him to the Press Gallery, there was a message at the receptionist saying that he had gone for a walk after lunch and to go up to his suite and wait for him. I approached the elevator and pressed the going-up button. The door opens and the only two persons inside were Kalugalla and De Mel. I had a problem, as I wasn’t sure whether I should get in not knowing whether Kalugalla would ask me to get out, but I took a chance and got in. The elevator door closed and Kalugalla looks up at de Mel and says, "Meet Asoka Weerasinghe, the only Sinhalese-Canadian who is waving the Sri Lankan flag in Ottawa." Ronnie De Mel’s response was, "I know, I had a breakfast meeting with him this morning." And I told under my breath looking at Kalugalla who looked rather stunned, "You bloody spineless idiot."


Autumn 1996 rolled in and Minister G.L. Peiris was visiting Ottawa. The Minister Councellor (Weragama) had been compiling the list of Sri Lankans who were going to be invited for a cocktail at the residence of the High Commissioner (Ananda Goonasekera) to meet the Minister. Third Secretary Ratnapala had looked at the list and not seeing my name had told Weragama, that he should have included Asoka Weerasinghe’s name as the first person to be invited who has been fighting for Sri Lanka for a long time. Ratnapala told me what Weragama’s response was, "The administration has changed and we could do whatever we want. Weerasinghe’s name will not be included in the invitee list." And I was not invited. This is when I decided that enough was enough, and to Hell with you bastards and told Ananda Goonasekera to take my name off the Mission’s Directory as "I did not wish to brush my shoulders with a bunch of foolish Tin Gods at the Mission". That comment didn’t go well with Goonasekera.  Weragama was responsible for Communications as I did. He was in Ottawa to educate his son at Carleton University who is now domiciled in Waterloo. Weragama apparently was the brother-in-law of Menikdiwela and had been working in the Tourism Department.


(To be continued next Monday)


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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