Thursday, November 3, 2011

The importance of being able to satisfy those in high and low places

The day in the office is unpredictable from the morning. Even before I sat at my desk, the boss called, saying he had to attend a press briefing on the proposed bill on the expropriation of private property. The government was trying to quietly pass it with unseemly haste. He would comr to the office, prior to going for the briefing at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, at 30 Sir Marcus Fernando, Mawatha. I quickly gathered details, along with a copy of the hastily prepared bill. Briefing notes were made along with the newspaper cuttings from relevant papers.

Once in the office, we discussed which aspect he would speak on. One speaker was expert on economic consequences as it relates to withdrawal of foreign investment from SL, the other would talk about legal aspects due his expertise and the boss would talk about the political ramifications. It will be possible for anyone who is out of favor with the rulers, to have his property or business nationalized, at any time akin to the 1970s Mrs B govt. It was felt that the public should be made aware of the grave consequences to the industrious citizens of the land, which would sap any degree of entrepreneurship if the bill in its current form were to pass.

Once Boss departed for the media briefing we got down to the normal order, beginning with the mail. Later in the evening the highlights of his speech were broadcast on Sirasa TV and the following day’s papers, Mirror, Divaina, Rivira, and Lankadeepa carried the event in detail, which we extract and file.

The usual requests for help and assistance are put on one side for evaluation, and today we had an urgent request from a Pradeshiya Sabha member for financial aid to a grandchild of a party worker, who is a gymnist who had to raise her own funds for travel and subsistence to represent the country in Singapore. In typical fashion, no explanation accompanied the faxed request, and I had therefore first to speak to the sender and then to the mother of the child before I prepared a note along with the request for the biss to determine an appropriate contribution.

We also had a letterheaded handwritten (in quite illegible handwriting) request by a principal of a primary school in the constituency, for 5 copies of a daily paper to be provided free for 21 students in the school presumably at the senior most level. We discussed the suitability of this and determined that it is unlikely that students that age would read or even be persuaded to read the daily paper, and this request was unreasonable in light of the circumstances. It would be more than likely that the teachers’ common room would benefit from this more than the students, and we will have no control over their use or abuse! I had to draft the letter of regret.

There were a host of people who came into the office to meet the MP, who were told to wait until the press briefing ended, after which he returned and attended to their requests, such as employment for a daughter of a former staffer.

We then had an employee of the Boss's family company drop into the office with a CD for us to give our ad for a sports souvenir to send kids between 15 and 17 to Chennai for a football competition. We had previously agreed to purchase a one page ad to help with the fundraising.

We then discussed the draft of a speech to be given on a future date, along with our legal secretary, which was typed in Sinhala and we decided to amend some of the particulars to give it more of a contemporary flavor bearing in mind recent developments, so that the message can be understood by the audience to which it would be presented.

I then went to lunch with the boss and discussed the schedule for the rest of the week till Sunday, and checked with the Coordinating Secretary of the District on the time to be present for the first function on Sunday. It must be noted that much of a politician’s constituency work happens during the weekends when people are able to be present at various gatherings.

I then went through the papers, something I usually try to do first thing and highlight all the sections that need to be cut and filed for future use. It was then that I noted that in the last page in the life section of the Mirror, by crutches were visible in the photo with my nemesis Rauf Hakeem who was being handed the first day cover of the Dudley Senanayake stamp. I was seated two away but only my tie was visible in the shot. These were the photos of the event that took place a few weeks prior, along with those of the reception held post the lecture.

I sent a staffer earlier to Sri Kotha, the party HQ to get some information we needed for our work, some data on names, addresses. When he came empty handed, I had to insist that we get the information from them by the following day.

I then sent the staffer with a letter to the editor of the leading Sinhala paper, which my boss had emailed me. It was a request from the MP directly affected by the aforementioned appropriation of property bill. His sugar factory was also in the schedule to be taken over and looked like a revenge move against a businessman of the opposition. We requested that this be inserted in today’s paper which it was.


Anonymous said...

I was saddened when heard about this proposed bill. I am planing to come back to SL and teach, since teachers salary will not even pay for the gas, I decided to take over the tea lands that we had. They were leased (or what ever the term used in SL)some companies and the leases are up pretty soon. I am to dabble in growing tea (of course with great support from many experts)and I think I will be able to pull it off to supplement my income. Both my parents come from tea back grounds. My fathers side who were tea growers in SL and my mothers side is a well known tea family in Japan. So was thinking / dreaming of bringing the two tea cultures together in SL. when I read about this bill and learning that any industry could be taken over by whims of some politicians, ah huh, no! This is from some baboons who have no idea of economic consequences of such a bill. My Japanese Grand Pa is already growing tea in Taiwan and is very successful and with the current situation in Japan, his tea is being sold even before packed.
My father already sighed when he heard about the bill and my Grand Pa will say Come over son let us grow tea in Japan and you can teach over here too. It certainly will be better because my Japanese is much better than Sri Lankan languages. My Mom was adamant that we learned Japanese when we were kids and on the other hand my Dad did not know any Sri Lankan languages either.
But this bill sucks (I have not read it yet :)) and like you said will drive out investors.

Anonymous said...


It seems you've found some very interesting work.

I noticed that the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry has been instructed by the President to provide drivers of MPs from Colombo, Gampaha, and somwhere else training on good driving. I thought this must have been inspired, in part, by your ordeal, as the President is known to be a reader of your blog.

Carry on, and please keep the updates coming..

Anonymous said...

The president is known to be a reader of your blog?

Are you serious?

If we all think that this is the case, it is important that raja take a non-biased angle in his writings.

Maybe MR will listen to advice.

This is the most important thing. We all hope for what is best for SL, regardless of who is in power.

Let the right decisions be made. Who cares about the party. My personal preference is for a change in government.

But if that is not possible. It is best if the government in power makes the right choices.

So Mr. President!

Please listen to this blog. Make the right choices. You can not be in power forever. Do the right thing and the people will always be with you.

May the triple GEM bless you Ranjit.