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.