22 January, 2018

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Why Daham Sirisena At UN Is A Big Deal

By Nalaka Gunawardene

Nalaka Gunawardene

Nalaka Gunawardene

When the first signs appeared of the new Yahapalana (=well-ruled) government going astray some months ago, I tweeted: “Good governance must not only be done, but also be SEEN as done”.

Optics or appearances do matter. They are especially important in this social media age when every action of the government and its top leadership is closely monitored and commented upon by many citizens.

For reasons of governance and optics, President Maithripala Sirisena taking his son Daham Sirisena to UN General Assembly in New York is wrong. We presume that the young man’s travel and accommodation was paid for with public funds. Yet he has holds no public office; it was completely out of his league to be seated with the president, ministers and diplomats who had official reasons to be there.

It was not good that the officially released photos showed an all-male, mostly Sinhalese delegation seated at the main UN assembly hall.

It did not help matters when the President’s media director tried to explain that the son was a “member of the president’s personal staff”.

And it certainly was not helpful when Daham himself offered a feeble defence on his Facebook page (and giving us definitions of nepotism in the process).

As far as I know – and I have studied how the UN works – the UN Secretariat does not invite individuals to attend the General Assembly. It is the right of member states (which Sri Lanka has been since 1955) to determine who will be on its official delegation. This decision is typically made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consultation with the President’s office.

And if the Sri Lanka delegation needed youth representation, there should have been an open process to select one or more suitable young men and women. There are very capable young people in Sri Lanka some of who have been participating in UN youth engagement activities locally and globally.

We have nothing against the eager young man (we wish Daham well). It is just that images of him at the UN remind us of the former regime taking planeloads of assorted supporters to New York ostensibly for official business. We are only belatedly finding out how they squandered public funds. We are reacting sharply because we don’t want even a teeny weeny repetition of that.

We are still recovering from what I call Sri Lanka’s Decade of Darkness (2005-2014) during which nepotism and cronyism were nauseatingly high. We voted for President Sirisena as Common Opposition Candidate to end that decadence and megalomania — and not to continue it in any reduced or milder form.

Yes, in the bigger scheme of things, a presidential brat tagging along to New York may not be such a big deal. But the optics of it can be quite damaging: it is as if the Yahapalana President is beginning to go down the same slippery slope.

The Daham@UN episode has shown up our mainstream media as well. None of them had the courage to comment on this matter, or at least report the widespread social media condemnation of it. For some, the first time they ever mentioned it was when they carried Daham’s ‘explanation’ on Facebook.

Is it because our media has been suppressed for too long that, even now, they cover the President, his family and other political leaders with too much deference? Why do most of our media treat the head of state as a feudal lord — when the incumbent has said he does not wish to be treated as such?

Is it that parrots who have been caged for a decade do not want to fly away when released, so they just hover around repeating what the former master/captor taught?

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Latest comments

  • 25
    6

    What the writer states is absolutely true. Although it is not a big deal it completely goes against the grain of ‘Yahapalanaya’. Furthermore it gives Sri Lanka a bad image as no other head of state had offspring tagging behind them

    • 13
      2

      Once bitten twice shy – what I can say the people are worried of Daham s participation in the UN:

      President has to explain the audience what was the rationale behind this issue. Why the delegation or Prez could not plan it before well. Europeans when going to International Assemblies, they prepare making all lists almost few months earlier so that nothing will go wrong, so why the lanken counterparts cant do so – with all the internet facilities intact in the country today `?

      • 9
        3

        You may be right.

        Our people dont discuss things beforehand as is the case with Europeans. They need to go through checklists – a president who would not behave as had been his predecessor – dont deserve to get attacked this way. Something naive should have gone wrong withthe UNO meeting arrangemetns. I dont think that anyother leaders took their daughters or sons to international forums where the latter have no entity. Anyways, these are good lessions for the new elected president though telling to have collected experience over 49 yeras.

      • 3
        12

        I think you are wrong. He is an Executive President. As far as the office goes, our Executive Presidency is probably one of the most powerful in the world.

        He does not have to (and will not) explain anything to anyone. Least of all to the gullible, foolish public that elected him. Some are still howling here about MR’s excesses, even going so far as to justify the slippery slope that MS has stepped onto “give him a break”.. “only one time” etc. etc.

        We DO get the leaders we deserve. Mark my words. This is just Mahinda Chinthanaya with a different Trade Mark.

        • 4
          0

          BUT PEOPLE are not that stupid as had been before.
          They react sofort – quick – being that sensible to these issues.

        • 6
          0

          “”even going so far as to justify the slippery slope””

          Domino Effect or Slippery Slope fallacy/theory does not apply when there is `bad logic` as with the Americans or English or singlish.

          It just grabs the food like a starfish.

          (kavun kanna yodaya: glutton)
          but the donkey is great and full of shape shape poo.

    • 7
      1

      I believe, had the Pres and delegation discussed the issue with PM and cabinet before making decisions- nothing would have ended up this way. Now MY3 is being criticised by many sometimes, no for good reasons.

    • 7
      2

      Dr. Senevirtne,

      While it is true that this goes against “Yahapalanaya”, and exposure is indeed the right thing to do, I think there are few reasons that dictate prudent judgment, particularly journalistic judgment.

      • Is this such a foreboding transgression (setting aside the foolish and meek-ish Facebook response) that deserves six, seven, eight relentless CT articles, inevitably diverting or displacing issues of other national interests for discussion?

      • While there is this rush to cite “”Yahapalanaya” for bench-marking idealistic democracy, how many were even remotely as diligent in measuring MR’s performance against his own celebrated “Chintanaya” on similar grounds? Why not?

      • More importantly, with such aggressive explosion of criticism on an issue that many including you agree is not a “big deal”, isn’t there a real threat that such sensationalist journalism would only go to help MR’s clan use this as an excuse to defend and bury their own crimes that were at least thousands of folds worse than Sirisena’s modest indulgence? It may even seem logical to assume that some of these expressed rage could very well be feigned by MR supporters exactly for that reason!

      While the exposure of Sirisena’s failure would certainly help nip in the bud or at least discourage any similar intentions of nepotism or other indulgence in the future, I think over-playing this issue could turn out to be a blessing and a convenient “out” that MR is praying for!

  • 4
    18

    Mr. Gunawardena, the very reason why you had to write this piece shows that natural justice is being served to people like me! In case you didn’t get it, your decision in voting and/or supporting this current treacherous illegal lot is backfiring in your face! Serves you right!

    • 4
      1

      Eds,

      Your type mutts waiting for an opportunity to attack MY3 and Ranil duo for any thing, right ?we know that ! yes this is wrong , MY3 shouldn’t have taken his brat as a part of the UN delegation , people who have voted for him , shoving their displeasure over this latest fiasco , but wait , how about your Mafia king’s annual UN pilgrimage , how many dozens of “Nikamos” indulged in super luxury comfort in 7 star hotels in NY ? in case, if you have forgotten how they enjoyed their stay in NY , Let me give you a glimpse of what they accomplished during their stay in NY , deluxe room with a mini bar coupled with 24×7 Pornographic movies , dining in at the most expensive restaurants, chauffer driven Limousine , shopping spree etc ..etc, guess what ? all these had been done on our money (Tax Payers) and in return MR lot had gained nothing , Ah.. i’ve almost forgotten , MR got us in to the North korean league at the end of each UN session .

      • 4
        6

        @srilal

        So you are saying “yes, we know this is wrong of MY3 but let us ignore it”

        Isn’t that exactly how MR also started ? No one asked the questions or condemned the act.

        What are you trying to do here ? Encourage such behaviour in our current and future politicians by looking the other way ??

        So far, we have NO IDEA (beyond vague assurances that it was not 5-star) about where MY3 and entourage stayed, how they got around and what they did in New York.. Until that information comes out, lets not be too hasty in claiming that they must be staying in cheap hotels and taking the bus !

        • 4
          0

          Not to ignore just wait until what he has to say about this.

          I think he as the prez should learn a lot – believe me, people would have said nothing if MR brought over100 people with him as everytime he travelled through the globe.

          I think no doubt that any sane would find his son to have sat with him in the audience, just behind the seat of Prez was not okay. Mangala and Mahinda Samarasinghe should explain this to lankens on their return.

        • 4
          0

          Maalumiris ,

          Oh , you are back ,good ! Hmmm let me see , what are you on about this time ?

          “So you are saying “yes, we know this is wrong of MY3 but let us ignore it””

          where have i said such a thing Amu- miris ? on the contrary i have stated some thing opposite to what you claimed ?

          here, read it again !

          “we know that ! yes this is wrong , MY3 shouldn’t have taken his brat as a part of the UN delegation , people who have voted for him , shoving their displeasure over this latest fiasco”

          where exactly have i said “let’s ignore it ” ?

          unlike you guys , we who voted for MY3 never consider him as a god or some thing ,in fact , if and when he makes a blunder , we will be the first ones at the firing squad , when MY3 made his brother as the top man of SLT , we were the ones who criticized MY3 at that time . even this non entity Daham brat taking centre stage of an extremely important international event , we have opposed his conduct ;thus, genuinely believe that he will learn a lesson . point being what should be the focal point of this extremely important event ? hadn’t MY3 saved MR and his brother’s A…. ? hadn’t MY3 saved the top military officers’ a…. ?

          and then you go on to

          “So far, we have NO IDEA (beyond vague assurances that it was not 5-star) about where MY3 and entourage stayed, how they got around and what they did in New York.. Until that information comes out, lets not be too hasty in claiming that they must be staying in cheap hotels and taking the bus ! ” this rubbish !

          please don’t exaggerate things towards your favour , please state facts !who said SL president is going to stay in a Bread & breakfast hotel and going to take a bus ride , MY3 is a very simple Gamarala type down to earth man , he will never pretend to be a king unlike your Kakkille king.

          • 1
            1

            @srilal

            Don’t worry. No need to do a backflip ! It was just that the entirety of your post was a diatribe against MR starting from “but wait”

            You are right, you did not explicitly say “lets ignore it” but it seemed to me to be nothing but a feeble attempt to whitewash the MS-Daham issue by dragging out the sins of MR. Might I remind you that it was YOU who brought up the Chauffeurs, 5-star hotels and large entourage of MR.

            Perhaps you are privy to information that the rest of us mortals are not, Perhaps your simple “Gamarala-type” has put up the entire Sri Lankan mission at the New York YMCA and that they are taking the #42 Bus to UN Headquarters !

            Meanwhile, Yahapalanaya chugs merrily along adding Brothers, Daughters and Sons as passengers so far.. Who knows what passengers will board the Bandwagon in the future – you might want to dig up more MR sins in order to offset the MS ones !

            • 0
              1

              Maalumiris ,

              Are you one of the guys who lose sleep over Daham’s UN participation ? go on , continue what you had been doing , scream from top of your lungs , make him aware that we all are not happy with his conduct , i’m right behind you Malu miris ! by the way have you had some spare time to read the latest UN resolution , at last sigh of relief , now we can get on with our lives without worrying about this possible war crime charges , right ? now all the war criminals who had been accused before by numerous commissions will have to think seriously , this time round , it’s SL judges who are going to convict the real culprits , don’t worry your King would never be convicted as he had done nothing wrong , remember how he asked all the foot soldiers to carry the human right charter in one hand when they were engaged in the battle field , who can forget that Guinness record , remember MR declaring that magic number , zero civilian causality figure soon after the war ,oh my goodness , with those sort of solid backing who can convict MR ? Gen SF going to take the whole responsibility over the war related matters , tell me why would MR or Gota worry about this war crime charges now ? it’s our turf , our umpires ( May be foreign third umpires watching ) ,what the heck Malu miris , MR was the one who said once , ” i’m even prepared to go to the Electric chair to save my country ” it’s time for action Mr Rajapakse , people are watching !

        • 5
          0

          It’s a pity your family never took you to a vision of the world for several millennial. Bipeds are emotional mammals that produce…even the elephant goes back to his ancestors birth place to die.

          That King David who was alternatively cruel and generous……like Buddhist Hindian Asoka. King Solomon the very image of wisdom who could not do a thing about his son….
          passion overcomes reason.
          Blessed are the idiots for they are the happiest people on earth.

  • 14
    0

    “And if the Sri Lanka delegation needed youth representation, there should have been an open process to select one or more suitable young men and women. There are very capable young people in Sri Lanka”

    President Sirisena should have taken Kumar Sangakkara who was offered the UK High Commissioners post by none other than the President himself, if he wanted youth representation instead of his uneducated brat.

    By the way has the president sent the official appointment letter to Sangakkara as promised.

    Ranil and his Cabinet ministers who are bending over backwards to please the President should have the courage to show their displeasure to the president about this whole saga.

    • 3
      0

      This will definintely, happen on his return. Today s situation, it will not be easy president or any others to be away from media. Like or not, he will have to respond to the nation.
      Besides, current Prez is not a person who would not listen to anyone. He is very thoughtful unlike the man -MR we all hateed for any of his actions.
      You may be right saying it would have been okay if KuSangakara would have been taken instead – but alone that was according to me not okay – I mean offering him the post of a carrier diplomat. What qualifications has KuSankgara possess to represent the country in diplomatic areas except his popularity as a crickter. It is simply like appointing an unqualified pilot to mihin air or any other airline..

  • 1
    10

    Are you suggesting that Sirisena should be fired? He
    is the one who took Daham in the Sri Lanka delegation
    to UN!! What a joke from the godayas.

  • 9
    0

    Well said Nalaka.

  • 8
    0

    Ah! Sri Lanka will always be Sri Lanka. I’m 40 years old. All I have seen throughout my life is just a rosy picture painted to the people without any progress being delivered. Yet again, this happens with “Yahapalanaya”

  • 7
    0

    “Is it because our media has been suppressed for too long that, even now, they cover the President, his family and other political leaders with too much deference? “

    You are sourpuss in baldies buruland- `your vote` for the next face of dictator within your culture- shape shape shape like the bad English logic.
    Your culture is not English (which you most willing say when cornered)to resign when found guilty.

    Run across any hall of honour, with statues of the great men of history lining the corridor, and you will perceive that the rationality of conduct is probably the last thing to be recalled from their lives. ….

    It’s plain that `passion` rather than reason rules the world at large??

  • 10
    3

    I completely agree with the author, Nalaka Gunawardene. President and the government should take our protest or concern into consideration. Thanks CT for raising the issue. The author NG has given a balanced view.

    • 6
      2

      May be the current issue will teach them all that People today are not that stupid as had been in the days of previous regime.

  • 9
    1

    MY3 is not highly educated person to understand the social media and the new world. A drunken Daham assaulted a DIG’s son and two police officers in Pasikudah beach back in 2013. MY3 abused his power to intervene in that case. Seeing both who are not highly educated people in UN assembly which is a symbol of peace, shame for Sri Lanka.

    • 2
      6

      oho… you call in highly educated ?

      Dont underestimate, please listen to his speeches, he addresses every aspects in his speeches. Mostly not attacking anyone as had been the case with Wimalweerawanses step father -Mahinda Jarapakshse.

      • 1
        5

        oho you call it HIGHY EDUCATED ?

      • 2
        0

        rarityminds,

        Kalante (fainting)

        Don’t be too smart.”

        ආදරේ වැඩි කමට love overweight) not Andere CJ.

        • 1
          1

          Mr. Sirisena may not be a graduate from Sorbone/Oxford/Cambridge or any other renowned Uni/Collge. But as a lanken who spent over 0.25 century in Europe, I have the feeling Mr Sirisena ‘s speeches are best. I agree with Rminds above.

          • 3
            0

            Does the Russian or Chinese president bother about the English language? No
            Neither did the Hindian PM.

            So why are you barking about him having lived 25 years with the mafia art of europe?

            Was Bush of English heritage able to converse effectively.

            Lanka does not need orator anymore it is in orbit- learn Hindi your new master.

            The Yakkos turned all knowledge upside down from 1948 and the ambude banda in 1956 destroyed the english stream and culture but had the `passion` to send his family to purchased seats at Oxford and Sorbonne (these are places even local middle class cannot afford) and scholarships to the Americas were nicked by `idle all day like a fool Buddhist` Civil Servants for their children and relatives.
            With this the last of the western links were forced to leave (all estates confiscated etc) 1968.
            The Yakko has to pay the price (Samsara)

  • 6
    3

    Ok, I agree for the most part. But what I can’t stand is calling the last ten years a decade of darkness. That is a stupid remark. So when the ltte was alive and well it was a time of prosperity? Rajapaksha may be corrupted. But learn to give credit where it is due. A person in your stature must know that above anyone else.

    • 5
      1

      Sanjaya elvitigala

      “But what I can’t stand is calling the last ten years a decade of darkness.?”

      No it was a period of lightening and thunder.

  • 4
    2

    I agree for the most part. But what I can’t stand is calling the last decade a decade of darkness. That was a stupid remark. So when the ltte was alive and well it was a time of prosperity? Rajapaksha may be corrupted. But learn to give credit where it is due. A person of your stature must know that above anyone else

  • 1
    1

    Nalaka,
    This is only a hint of what really is to come from the jahaplanaya.
    From 2005-2014 only the LTTE and the NGO’s had a dark period you are free to choose to which you belong.
    You’ll soon see what dark days for the country really mean!

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