5th Column

Not very diplomatic

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My dear Ali Sabry,

I didn’t think I would have to write to you so soon after writing to your namesake from Puttlam who was found to have been involved in some hanky-panky, smuggling several gold bars while returning from overseas. Somehow, it seems as if overseas travel is not healthy for all Ali Sabrys!

Your namesake was caught gold-handed at the airport. In contrast, you managed to make headlines while still overseas. That is by having your son with you while you were representing the country at the United Nations. Not only did you defend what you did, but you were quite proud of it too!

To be honest, I am not sure what is worse: Whether it is having your son as part of that official delegation or your robust defence of it. Of course, you are not the first minister to try and get privileges for your offspring and you probably won’t be the last, but we expected better from you.

There was a time when the sons of ministers such as SB and Mervyn made headlines for all the wrong reasons, being involved in brawls at nightclubs regularly. We also had Keheliya walking into the Royal College Principal’s office, demanding that his son not be punished for his misdemeanours.

Sabry, you will argue that those incidents were different because those boys had committed offences, your boy was only assisting you. That is not the issue here. The real issue is that in all of this, ministerial fathers are abusing their position on behalf of their sons.

In defending what you did, you say your son offered his ‘expertise’ as a research assistant and a draft writer to help you with your busy schedule. Your ministry speech writers burning the midnight oil drafting your speeches must be thrilled at what you said. This did not cost a single rupee to the local taxpayer, as he is already in America pursuing his studies and he offered these services to you voluntarily, you claim.

That may be true, but many other young Sri Lankans studying in America would have relished such an opportunity too – but they didn’t get that chance, nor was it offered to them. Your son was chosen, not on merit, but because he was your son. That is what this hullabaloo is all about, in case you haven’t still understood!

Look at the Cabinet. Dinesh is in it because he is Philip’s son, Vidura is in it because he is Ratnasiri’s son, Prasanna is in it because he is Reggie’s son, Kanchana is in it because he is Mahinda’s son, Ramesh is in it because he is Richard’s son and Jeevan is in it because he is Thonda’s great-grandson.

Then, in young Sajith and Namal, we also have the sons of two former leaders who want to be our next leaders. Thankfully, Vimukthi, Daham and Manoj haven’t said they will follow in their parents’ footsteps; not yet, anyway. Given the state of the country now, can you see why people are annoyed? But at least they got elected to public office.

As a country, we have long had a tradition of power being passed from father to son, mother to daughter and even from one brother to another. Of all those who assumed power because of whose who they were, there was only one who was loved by the people after he left power. That was Dudley.

If you haven’t realised by now, Sabry, people are sick and tired of politicians taking them for granted, enjoying undue privileges and getting special treatment for their families while the rest of the country suffers. That is why there is such a backlash about your son accompanying you to the United Nations. Don’t you ‘get it’?

Correct me if I am wrong, Sabry, but there was a time when you contemplated resigning when Gota maama’s government didn’t allow burials for Muslim Covid victims. Later, you offered to resign as Finance Minister after just a day in office. Now though, it looks as if you are here for the long haul.

If you are, you have a lot to learn, my learned friend. When you are the Foreign Minister of a country, you don’t volunteer to open your mouth and put your foot in it – needlessly on behalf of another country. That is exactly what you did, taking India’s side against Canada. Even the Indians have been more diplomatic than you.

We don’t agree with everything Trudeau says about us. Still, that doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to lambast him for what he says about India. Then you tell him that you ‘don’t think anyone should poke their nose into other countries’. Yet, by telling him that, you are also doing exactly that!

That makes me wonder, Sabry, whether you considered your son’s ‘expertise’ and ‘research’ before making those remarks. If you did, the young man is not suited for the role you chose him for. Foreign Affairs is clearly foreign to you still. Be sure brain is in gear before engaging mouth, like in a court of law.

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: Don’t worry, Sabry, we have short memories and the ‘scandal’ about your son at the UN will blow away in a few days. That is not the worst deed you have done either – nothing will beat defending Gota maama in the case over his American citizenship, allowing him to be elected President!

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