18 October, 2017

CHOGM Balance Sheet

By Bandu de Silva

Bandu De Silva

Bandu De Silva

One might say it is too early to draw up the balance sheet of the CHOGM held in Colombo between 15th and 17th November 2013 and other events which were associated with it which the Government of Sri Lanka claimed were all part of the CHOGM programmme. This is because the results of some of the extraneous events like Commonwealth Investors’ [Business] Forum might take time to gestate and produce results. Many wheels would have to turn before the Investment Forum could bring results. What would have happened at the Forum is mere exploratory talk as usual with such events. One is familiar with BOI’s past claims and performance. If what was said by it all true this country would now be flooded with foreign investments. For example, how many investors’ forums have we had with the major investor country Japan in Asia but not a single full scale investment is yet to materialize from that country.

It is then just as well that with available information that one tries to draw up at least a tentative balance -sheet to see if the grandiose spectacle for whose success the government placed all its aces in recent times was not what our small time businessman would call “Jaan bera-gattha” or, on the contrary,  “Athatath Paadu-una” affair, but one with rewarding results as the government might wont to present it. As some say, it has been very rewarding to a few. Let’s not talk about that here. For the risk taking business community, big or small ones, such risk-taking experiences are not unusual. They consider the risks are worth taking, “Giyoth Satha pahay: Aavoth JP Pattamay”, as our erudite scholar Late Prof G.P Malalasekera often repeated. In this case, of course, the ‘going” (giyoth) stakes were not “satha-paha” for the postage -stamp but billions of Rupees, enough to build two more sea ports or such big ventures, not forgetting the closed-down over hundreds of schools for lack of funds to maintain them; and “coming” (Avoth) is the far more prestigious Chair of CHOGM for two years. Cannot one see the accolades coming from the provincial politicos with their “maharajaneni” posters and full page newspaper advertisements, of course, done with tongue in cheek, hoping for a better pattama for them next time, like a promotion to central politics with a deputy Ministerial post at least, to start with. Such is the greed for power and climbing in the country.  Remember the Sinhalese adage “Vaedi Aacharaya Hora”. That helps to understand the poster people today with their own picture (stamp size) down below that of the larger portraiture of the President leaving much climbing space in the means while, both literary and metopherically speaking.

For our current purpose, I shall take up a few issues where the results are already manifest. A number Ministers who Rambukwella and Peiris were prominent among them) tried to explain to the people the benefits of holding CHOGM in Colombo spoke mainly about peripheral matters such as economic [financial] benefits like increased hotel occupancy as a result of a large number of CHOGM delegates arriving. The expectation was about 4000 such delegates. Rooms in major Five Star Hotels in Colombo were block-reserved by the government accordingly, not permitting the Hotels to take in any other visitors during the period. A report published in Sunday Times of 17 November quoted the spokesperson of the Hoteliers’ Association saying that only 2000 rooms were occupied against the reservations which resulted in a loss of income by 50 per cent. The occupancy rate during the two previous months had been around 30 per cent and 40 percent respectively but during the CHOGM period the occupancy rate rose to 50 per cent. However, this gives a false evaluation, as the Association says, in the month of November the normal occupancy rate rises to between 70-75 per cent, this being the peak tourist arrival period. The block reservation by the government had deprived the hotels from accepting other clients.

Besides, the Hotels Association says hotels had had to incur heavy expenditure on refurbishing before CHOGM which would mean their loss in real terms would be greater. The hotels had also to restrict room charges to the level of those charged at the last two CHOGM venues. Whether this brought any advantages to the hotels is to be seen. It is 4 to 2 years since the last two CHOGMs were held and costs have increased since.

Another point about the Colombo CHOGM is that food and drinks were offered free to all delegates from participating countries. Since the food and beverages bills would be met by the government eventually and hotels will not be at a loss on that account, yet it is a loss to the government/country. This is a practice not followed by other CHOGM hosting countries. Could it be seen as extra hospitality offered by Sri Lanka, or as a wag says, a kind of bribery offered? Let us not speak about the food and beverages imported for the occasion, including Canadian Salmons and Tasmanian crayfish, river oysters  and asparagus, just to mention a few items. Lets not forget the Burgundies and Cru Bourgeois Medocs from the best of Chateaus of Bordeaux, or the Grand Crux St.Emilions from Chateau La Fleur, or even Pommerel Espiciale for exclusive connoisseurs. All at state expense! Well stocked in advance. Hope Minister Peiris did not have to look for them in the Foreign Ministry wine-cellar maintained by one of his erstwhile predecessors who once reminded this writer when asked if he could order some wine for lunch at the restaurant, “What are you asking? Didn’t you know we are in a Muslim country?” I had to remind the Minister, Yes Sir, the best French wines are from Algeria and I learnt to choose wine from the Secretary of the Ministry of Justice in Algiers, who was my very good friend. Then I showed him waiters carrying wine to the tables. Before I could stop, came the order from him.” Then you order some wine. You know so much about it”.

It is yet to be seen if any of these benefits were offered to others participating in other events like Investors’ Forum and Youth Forum.

Consequently, what it points to is that what External Minister G.L Peiris and his colleague Keheliya Rambukwella repeatedly told the country about an immediate short term benefit of playing host did not materialize.

Youth and Peoples’ Forum

This was also an area on which the Sri Lankan leaders made much noise in advance. However, in the end it was reported that the Sri Lankans in the Drafting Group of the Declaration withdrew as the Declaration had been subverted by British interests. There has been very little comment on the outcome against early enthusiasm.

Attendance 

No CHOGM had enlisted one hundred per cent participation at the highest level, i.e Head of State or Head of Government level but the degree of participation had varied from venue to venue. CHOGM held in South Africa attracted one of the highest participation at highest level. That was understandable after South Africa gained release from Apartheid rule and under President Nelson Mandela embarked on the path of reconciliation.  Next CHOGM event well represented was held in Edinburgh. The CHOGM held in Perth, the Capital of a state in the Commonwealth of Australia too enlisted a large number at the highest level. The Colombo CHOGM was attended by 26 Heads of states or Heads of Government, which is the lowest on record so far. (Two countries of Africa, Uganda and Nigeria sent their Vice Presidents).

This should not be taken as a reflection on the hosting country but in changing circumstanes  and ecconomi woes of many member countries including Britain. It cannot be denied that Canadian Prime Minister’s declared opposition to the holding of CHOGM in Sri Lanka on grounds of alleged human rights violations as well as Indian Prime Minister’s intransigence over attendance and the refusal of Prime Minister of Mauritius which was the next agreed country to hold CHOGM (since withdrawn the offer) could not have had some effect on the level of participation. Canadian Prime Minister, Harper, was seen a few months earlier visiting a number of Caribbean and other states in the neighbourhood though it was not clear if he engaged in anti Sri Lankan politics. These states are increasingly coming for attention as recipients Canadian aid. A zone of Canadian influence is in the making.  The lower level representation from these countries at the Colombo CHOGM except for Bahamas which was represented by its Prime Minister cannot be missed.

External Minister Peiris’s wooing of African countries too does not seem to have yielded much positive results. South African President’s participation cannot be attributed to his efforts. The South African leadership has to be credited for it. Both Ugandan President’s excuse that his brother ‘s illness has to be accepted if the recent exchange of visits at heads of level between the two countries are to be remembered. He was represented by the Vice President. Nigeria too which country vowed to have close relations with Sri Lanka recently after it had voted for the US Resolution in Geneva, was represented by the Vice President. If there had not been pressing local compulsions or special reasons to frown at CHOGM as Kenya had reasons for, it would appear that Minister G.L.Peiris’ recently commenced Africa policy has not brought the intended results. Diplomacy cannot be started overnight. Sri Lanka has lost the credibility she once enjoyed as a leading NAM nation!

The lower level of representation need not be seen so much as a protest against the host country, but a growing realisation that the organization is rapidly losing its relevance and the frequent meetings are longer a reason for member countries to give priority over their domestic issues. The learned Editor of Sunday Island thought these meetings was too close apart and might be spaced out to once in four years. There is a truth about this suggestion when one considers that nothing much really happens by way of progress to be reviewed at the fooling summit.

The diminishing attention/interest was clear of from the absence of India’s Prime Minister, as much as of Canada’s Prime Minister though the latter was trying to hide it under Human rights issue. Maldives had her domestic reasons not to be present at all. Even if the incumbent President could not have left in view of impending second count of the Presidential elections, why even the High Commissioner in Colombo did not represent the country is puzzling. Mauritius can be discounted as a client state of Tamil Nadu.

A popular view

The government itself would be reeling with satisfaction at the way the ceremonial part of the extravaganza proceeded without any hi-cups from the grand opening ceremony at Nelun Pokuna to the end. Even the elephants assembled to greet the visitors at BMICH grounds, each decked in the colours of participating states saluted in perfect unison. This is what the Sri Lankans always take pride.

The cost was very high, nevertheless. The Colombo Mayor is waiting to receive a promised cheque from the Ministry of External Affairs for over 800 Million Rupees spent on City and Road beautification programme. That is only part of it. He has carried on the work taking Bank Credit. I doubt if the results could be reduced to Cost-Benefit ratio type of analysis. As some say, “Keeya giyath wede lassanata keruna ne.” (Already “Maharajaneni” Advertisements have appeared in newspapers and posters published by psychopath politicians who want to climb up on the President’s popularity are appearing in the streets eulogizing the President for “bringing the world to Sri Lanka’s door-step”).

There is a point about the admiration expressed about the spectacle. I do not think any CHOGM extravaganza anywhere reached such spectacular proportions. For this all who were concerned deserve credit. That said, was CHOGM all celebrations but without content? That is to be seen, after taking into account the Colombo Declaration, and how the CHOGM Charter adopted last time would be implemented under the new Chair of President Rajapaksa. A dissenting villager, however, might quote the old adage “Loketa parakase, gederata mara gathe.” The country will be eventually paying for the debts incurred. This is already to be seen from the Annual Budget that was presented. Take a small example. Senior pensioners are to reeive Rs.350 increase in C>O.L. allowance. But it has been taken away from the other hand by increasing the price of karavadu(dried fish) and dried Sprats  and pulses (Mung eta) which form the main items of daily meal of these pensioners. So there we are! Real “gederata maragate” situation!

Human Rights issue

The human rights issue, by raising which the British Prime Minister tried to play spoil sport, though effectively retorted by the President, the rhetoric on both sides had not kept this matter having reverberation at the Colombo summit. This is seen from the report that the Human Rights Commission is to be reactivated soon to receive complaints on human rights violation (torture) and a Commonwealth team of experts is to arrive soon to set up the machinery. This points to serious deliberations having taken place between the Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma and the Sri Lankan government on the side lines on this issue. Advice would have also come from well-meaning Commonwealth leaders about the need for putting this issue behind for the Sri Lankan government to move on progressively towards development goals. A point to be taken note of is China’s unexpected statement advising Sri Lanka to address the human rights issue. As a friendly country, China‘s advice might be in consideration of the fact she see this issue having an eroding effect on Sri Lanka’s progress, however, stubbornly Sri Lanka may be wanting to resist it.

This is not to speak having had to yield ground to India on the issue of abolition of the 13th Amendment on which the govt. vexed eloquence and had to hold NP elections before CHOGM in order to save it. That is now a foregone conclusion. To what result? To have Indian P.M boycotting the summit! Deyyo Saakki!

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    Has the old diplomatic war horse Bandula de S, usually quick to jump to the defence of the Rajapakse regime, suffered a sudden attack of goodness? Is it because “his valuable services and experience” was not availed of during the recent CHOGM.

    The narrative of the usually well-informed BdeS is well-structured and sound. Except, he appears to have erred in misleading himself Mauritius has a larger percentage of Tamils. Why else would he mischievously accuse that country of being a “client State of Tamilnadu” – whereas most Mauritians of Indian origin come from outside the TN State.

    The tasteless Rajapakse tit-for-tat on the Chilcott Report is both irrelevant and misplaced. Advisors to the President should have remembered the old adage two wrongs do not make a right. The Brits have sufficient reason to justify their being part of the Coalition of the Willing in going to Iraq – a country under that hated dictator Saddam Hussein provided so much resources to on the 9/11 attacks in New York. There is much evidence the large stock of chemical weapons of WMD now in the hands of the Syrians are those that Saddam moved across the Iraqi border to Syria before the Coalition forces arrived in Iraq.

    F.N. Stein

    • 1
      0

      Moral of the tale is that the Commonwealth of Clowns, a British colonial relic, is not only obsolete and irrelevant – but positively detrimental to democracy and world peace since today it has become a platform for third world dictators – like Mahinda Rajapassa and Museveni of Uganda.

      The Common Poverty of Nations should be SHUT DOWN for good.. The colombo CHOGM circus was a massive waste of funds, and the debt incurred to wine and dine Charles and the rest will have to be paid by the people of the Lanka who are already heavily indebted – $2,300 per capita.

      • 0
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        A Sri Lankan is telling to shut down Commonwealth. Do you think any body will take it seriously. After all you are Sri Lankan

  • 0
    2

    One HUGE benefit to SL is the 2 warships it received from Australia for free.

    Without mentioning them the balance sheet is NOT complete.

    • 0
      2

      Who is this Bandula character?

    • 0
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      These are old customs vessels which were salvaged from junk yard ]. Value 2.0 million each. That is less than the price of an average house in Sydney. Wait and see how much Sri Lank is going to spend on servicing this ship and for spare parts. This is how these countries take Sri Lanka for a ride. The tax payers are the losers. Australia has to spend a good some to dispose these ship otherwise. Sri Lankan is not only a junk yard with people with junk ideas.

  • 1
    0

    [Edited out]

    We are sorry, the comment language is English – CT

  • 1
    0

    You are 110% correct there is no balance sheet , the all are wearing bed sheet because they lost entire CHOGM

  • 2
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    GLP was seen waxing and waning in parliment that the Govt had received some money from Pakistan and two ships from Australia. As if CHOGM was held to recieve donations and hand me downs from other countries. Hopefully we are not beggars, laying out a free spread and expecting guests to give us something.

    If CHOGM was to achieve something it should have instilled confidence in the investors and foreign governments that everything was right about democracy, human rights and governance in Sri Lanka. Instead there was a public display of attacks on the opposition, media repression, denial and conflict with the UK, India and Canada with several other countries making apologetic statements. It remains to be seen if investors and tourists will be impressed by the show. Otherwise it will only increase the suffering and indebtedness of the common man.

  • 2
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    This is not a balance sheet, this is a debtors’ statement !

  • 1
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    A good whitewash of the expensive tamasha called CHOGM which gained srilanka only notoriety as all attendees would have become aware of the actual state of governance & wastage of funds while many citizens live below the poverty line,the captive legislature and judiciary and the disregard for human rights by state actors.
    Where is it written that a serious political meeting of heads of state to review the progress of ‘commonwealth values’ should be staged with pomp and splendour while many citizens do not have roofs over their heads,eat only one square meal each day,and have to behave so as not to upset the minions of state every day.
    State repression was ongoing during the tamasha and even recently three citizens have been shot dead by police under various pretexts.
    Gunmen in civvies have attacked homes and vehicles of local elected leaders and clergy because they grieved for their dead.Heads of cows had been left on gateposts.
    The CHOGM attendees are not fools.They would have come to know how the country is run by one family with hangers-on who would have been identifiable by all attendees.
    They would have surely read the local tabloids and newspapers.
    Sharma kept a low profile knowing that his bluff has been called by citizens and the press.

    Now the expenses incurred – some invisible – hang like a millstone round the necks of lankan citizens.

  • 2
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    The writer uses many Sinhalese words.He should be advised to give an English translation within brackets so that those are not privileged to
    know the Sinhala language may know what the writer is talking about.

    • 1
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      It is the frailty of the feeble CT, who denies publishing any Sinhala words used in it’s comments forum while being permissible on the contrary towards it’s distinguished opinion punters.

  • 2
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    Having CHOGM as a tea party for a get together of head of states and influence each other is one thing, but spending money at this scale is another thing altogether. This is an utter waste that there is no way to be recoup. Mind you, I am not talking about the physical infrastructure development. I am talking about the waste and extravaganza. One seeming shortcoming of Rajapakses is waste and extravaganza. They tried to jump into a soup of commonwealth games a few years back. For some luck we didn’t get it.

    • 0
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      “They tried to jump into a soup of commonwealth games a few years back. For some luck we didn’t get it.”

      That was all because Ponzi Cabral messed it with his Conga dance and saucy, hired Indian actresses. However, in the end, the night was hot, the Prince had a good time and all was not lost for Ponzi and his cabaret of jokers.

  • 2
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    Dear Bandu de Silva -………………………………………..
    ………………………………………………….

    The Balance sheet is for those who Pay. The People …………………….

    The Enjoyment is for those who Benefits, the Maras, their Shills and their goons, who were a;l right with the Coronation of their Master. ……………………………………………….

  • 1
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    Procuring in your own eloquence?
    Deiyyo Saakki!!!

  • 1
    2

    I wonder how those who don’t understand Sinhala will get the impact of the forceful exposition of the truth in the article.

  • 2
    0

    He is another dip-low-mat.

    SL has many of them. But always gets bashed at international forums. :)

    • 1
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      Fat-‘shit’-ma, just like how you get bashed by many of us on this forum.

    • 0
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      “He is another dip-low-mat. SL has many of them. But always gets bashed at international forums. :)”

      Like the latest fellow – No-No-Nonis? Reminds me of Dr No.

  • 1
    0

    Fukushima,
    CHOGNM or NO-CHOGM, the two ships would have come anyway. Didn’t you know that the boat people have become a real headache for successive Aust. govts. The Labour who lost at the recent Federal elections, failed to stop it despite pronouncements. Now the coalition under Tony Abbot has promised to deliver the goods. If you followed what Aust. govt had been dealing with Indonesia you will not be surprised about the boats offer to Sri Lanka. That is what they did In Indonesia by helping that country in capacity-building to stop boats originating from there/using Indonesia as a transit point. Even rewards were offered for people giving information about movement of boat-people. Public exposure of things like this incensed the Indonesian leaders who alleged that Aust govt was trying to challenge Indonesia’s sovereignty by doings like that. There was a controversy during Abbot’s Indonesian visit and later the Indonesian President himself asked Ausi govt. to stop trying to make capital out of it.

    So pl. disabuse yourself that the gift of two boats came as a result of CHOGM. Of course, Tony’s other statements in Colombo were to please Prez Rajapaksa and get the SL govt to re-double efforts to co-operate with them.

    Down-underer.

  • 0
    0

    Pl.do not hold C/T responsible or posting the article with Sinhala expressions. without English translations.I take full responsibility for the omission. The article was first written one or two days after the closing Of CHOGM for a Sunday newspaper in Colombo in the hope it would be accepted for publication on 27th November. But it did not appear either because it was not in line with editorial policy or it was too long from their standards.

    It was lying there. I was thinking of deleting it when I had a second look and thought it was too good not to be shared with the public. Hence my approach to C/T and I thank the Editor for accepting it. I did not take the trouble to offer free translations of the Sinhala phrases I quoted. (The original had to be got across quickly not to be time-barred).

    I give below the free translations of the Sinhala phrases those the real meaning can be appreciated only in the original language.

    1.”Jaan bera-gattha” = (Managed to square the expenses).
    2.”Athatath paaduy” = (big loss or could not even recover expenses.It has some relationship to the earlier phrase.
    3. Giyoth satha-pahay, avoth JP pattamay” (one spends only five cents [meaning postage] but if the response is favourable, one could get an award of JPUM>. Literally, it is worth spending that little money to get an exalted status like a JP-ship.
    4.”Loketa parakase; gederata maragathe” = Doing publicity [to the world] while [there is hunger] death is approaching death at home.
    5.Deyyo Saaki” This is an expression among villagers in circumstances which are un-explainable. Literally it means “let god bear witness”

    Bandu

    • 0
      0

      Dear Mr Bandu,

      Why only Sinhala-English translation? We need a Sinhala-Tamil also. Don’t forget that Tamil is also an official language of the country. Or, is this only meant to be a joke?

  • 2
    0

    Very good narration of the after effect of the circus – CHOGM. If GLPeris look at Africa with his open eyes he should have approachedAfrica in a different way. Africa is dominated by Indians and where ever you go Africans call all Indian origin people including Sri Lankans ” Baniyanis” means business people, and they hate them as Indians has treated them very badly. On the other hand India represent mostAfrican countries with carrier Diplomats and not with failed politicians, Army Officers, or failed Admin Officers like Sri Lanka.
    I worked and lived in Africa , countries like Kenya, Uganda ( the present President of Uganda worked with me in Kenya and I helped him at the initial stages when he came running to save his life from President Idi-Amin), Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and travelled widely to other countries. My experience with the African is that if you like to do business you should have a good knowledge about the subject you are going to discuss, as mostAfricans are well educated and mostly having education qualifications from Harward or other good Universities in develop countries.
    By sending Politicians or Army Officers you can, t win them to do business. If the Sri Lankan government need to improve the relations with Kenya, SL should appoint a very experience carrier Diplomatas Kenya host two UN Headquarters, UNEP, HABITAT and Tanzania host the AFrican Union. Extending Diplomatic officers for the sake of sending someSTOOGE to be the HC or Ambassador is not going to get friend.
    I like to state hear that. I was ver please that I as the Secretary of theSydney Anti- Apartied movement managed to get the then PM of Australia and the Chairman of the Commonwealth to organise sanctioned against the then white South African regime and helped to dismantle the Apartied in South Africa.
    Diplomacy is not to post stooges of Rajapaksa Regime to these new out -posts and expect returns in opening aDiplomatic Mission. G.L. Peris is unfit to advice President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the External Minister.
    CHOGM fact sheet about expenses may hit the bellies of the Poor people very soon, when they loose the Savings in the NSB very soon if DS Gotabaya failed to pay the Rs 900 million borrowed from the Bank.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Mr.Sampanthan,

    This was not a govt. document to be presented in all official languages. I wrote in English and quoted a few Sinhala adages/sayings which I am familiar with. This is not to mean that I would not have avoided quoting some Tamil phrases if my competence was sufficient to do so. Please accept my assurance that I have the highest regard for the Tamil language which I consider a far richer language, now raised to the state of classical languages of India.I wish if I could have quoted a few Tamil adages also because I know the Tamil language is very rich in them. For example, the saying the English equivalent of “the cat that has defaced on a rock’ is one I first learnt in Tamil in Batticaloa before I heard its Sinhalese equivalent. My little knowledge of Tamil was gained by working with our Indian Tamil employees in the tea estate for 25 years but that is not considered high class Tamil, as you know. I wish I could have been like my relative, Dr M.H.Peter Silva who was an acknowledged Sinhala-Tamil scholar who has brought the beauty of the Tamil language to Sinhalese readers through his numerous translations, like Manimekalai and Silapaddikaram(Nuru-val-teda), Vira-Soliam (grammar) and others. That includes translations of ancient Tamil medicinal literature done for the Department of Ayurveda at the request of the former Minister. He was a scholar of the Kumaratunga mould (Hela) as the title of his translation of Silappadikaram shows. He was one who taught Tamil students in the University of Ceylon including the late Appapillai Amrithalingam and Prof.Sivathamby who were my contemporaries and enjoyed much respect from the Tamil scholarship.I am not trying to climb by using my relative’s competence but to impress that respect for the Tamil language is part of our family tradition.
    Thank you for your interest.
    Bandu

  • 0
    0

    There are more than shades of Dayan Jayatilleke in
    what Bandu de Silva writes. Other than that, he is
    only trying to show off his knowledge about French
    wines. Who cares when there are so many in Sri Lanka
    will be so happy with their gal arakku. Here is
    a foot board passenger who is trying to jump the
    UPFA express bus.

  • 0
    0

    Bundu

    The balance sheet has to be looked at not just in terms of any Financial Gains ( there arent any) but also in terms of putting Worlds attention on Sri Lankas dismal Human Rights Record.

    1) Financial Gains: The Hotels were empty and there was no benefit as more than half the delegates stayed away. No new investments planned as even Britain is planning to impose sanctions. The involvement of the Security Forces following every one prevented people from vising places they wanted to visit. No one wanted to visit the South.

    2) Putting Worlds attention on Sinhala Lanka: Sinhala Lanka has unwiitingly attracted Worlds attention and the World has now seen Sinhlala Lanka for what it is.

    A RACIST GENOCIDAL STATE.

    In terms of the effect

    Negative Impact 87% ( Same as what TNA polled)
    Benefit 13%

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