Defending the wining and dining at Colombo’s five-star hotels by newly appointed President’s Counsels (PCs) on the night of Friday 26th even as Sri Lanka struck by unprecedented death and destruction following massive floods that was the worst in a decade, lawyer and member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Saliya Pieris said that the Colombo Telegraph story on the PC celebrations was ‘utter nonsense.’
Engaging in a Facebook conversation when the Colombo Telegraph story was shared by Hafeel Farisz, Pieris said ‘Do you seriously expect these events to be cancelled and you think the hotels are going to refund the money?’ He said it was hypocritical to talk like this when he was sure that he had come across those ‘sharing’ the story also at five-star hotels. Pieris however ignored the whole point of the story which was not that five-star hotels should be boycotted at all times but that it was in the interests of basic decency not to celebrate at a time of national despair. Also Pieris conveniently bypassed the fact that many hotels do indeed refund moneys when a national calamity occurs or agree to re-schedule with only a small extra cost. In fact Colombo Telegraph would like to know if any of the PCs who celebrated in this indecent way even tried to see if this option was available. During the time when the tsunami struck many years ago, parties were in fact canceled.
Joining in the conversation, some said that raising these issues amounted to ‘moral policing’ but others pointed out that ‘they talk as if they work for the country. But here is the truth; Marlon Samaratunga asked ‘Were you at one of those parties Mr. Pieris? If so just say you were and then argue. Applying for a position and being awarded it according to the change of government doesn’t mean a lot, but it (would) be great if you could justify what nonsense this really is.’
By Friday night, at the same time that the PCs were celebrating in style, close to 100 persons had died, another hundred had been reported missing and thousands were left homeless. During the days that followed, the death toll climbed to 194 while another 99 persons were reported missing.
Saliya Pieris was also among the PCs appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena. He was also an office bearer in the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) when Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC was the President when BASL spent millions of money holding conferences on law and good government funded by the USAID in Colombo’s five star hotels.
The Colombo Telegraph is putting this conversation on record in the public interest, given also that Pieris is a member of the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL). It would be a good question to ask if this is the same attitude that the HRCSL adopts in responding to the human rights condition of Sri Lanka’s poor people.