Shall we meet the President?

Friday, 24 August 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Arrived at the Pearly Gates four months early. Better to play it safe as monumental traffic jams are prophesied for 21 December. Checking in was unexpectedly swift; my host at the stately abode better known as the Temple Trees was expecting me. An air of tranquillity and affability greeted me instead of a militarised, regimented milieu expected around the country’s most powerful man.

The simple conference room was buzzing with local entrepreneurs who have created their own legacies unfazed in the midst of plump corporate super powers. President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a quiet entry and immediately made his visitors feel comfortable.

The near four-hour session was testimony to the impressive knowledge of the country’s Chief Executive.

He displayed a deep understanding of the economy’s core sectors and was at ease in offering eloquent responses on diverse issues.

But then he has got to be tired of his job, especially the part that requires him to meet hundreds of people nearly each day, each with a story to tell and a solution to seek.

 Does he really listen to yours? Well, his muted response doesn’t tell you that.

I put on the two-toned 3D frame which was part of my pitch and I got his attention. It was well past lunch time and he said he was hungry, but was gracious enough to allow my spiel.

He allowed me to walk up to him, even wore the 3D lenses as I tried with my forceful style to drive home the need to dress up Sri Lanka if we are to have any chance of attracting the attention of the world.

Sri Lanka hasn’t really cared to listen to my clarion call and I am really not sure if it will now! But for now, democracy was in full swing and his patience with me proved it.

Perhaps, his style is different and he may find the time to study my proposal.

 My audacious modus operandi makes me a far cry from a babbit and it did ruffle a few feathers.

You’ll be the first to know if I get invited to Temple Trees again, if the President hasn’t had enough of me already!

Islanders have a knack for blowing things out of proportion and judging by the adverse travel advisory from Britain painting us as a nation of rapists and muggers, the Brits seem to be able to do that even better. An insider says that the folks at the British High Commission are no longer seen in their party shoes or beach shorts, largely staying indoors fearing for their lives. The Brits gave us tea but we can certainly do without any ill-favoured storms in our cup. Try a little and we can even be good friends.

Linda, an old friend from England, called. She said the Brits were still basking in the glory of a triumphant Olympics. The possibility of terrorist attacks hung over the games as an efficient security dragnet made sure the world’s biggest party ended on a high. The world descended on London sans travel warnings alerting visitors to a high element of risk. All we the islanders want from the world is a fair chance at life after a protracted conflict which robbed three decades of our future.

Called the King of Swaziland to see if he remembers the names of all his 13 wives. He couldn’t come to the phone as he was busy dealing with all the mothers-in-law.

(Dinesh Watawana is a former foreign correspondent and military analyst. He is a brand consultant and heads The 7th Frontier, an integrated communications agency which masterminded the globally-acclaimed eco tourism hotspot KumbukRiver. Email him at