The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

When I was 9 or 10, the president of Sri Lanka was Ranasinghe Premadasa. I remember boasting in school that my family met him when he was the prime minister.

The story went like this: my father being a diplomat, was in Japan in the '80s, when both President J R Jayawardene & Prime Minister R Premadasa came a-visiting, spouses in tow. I remember they were put up at the Imperial Hotel, and we all got another room somewhere in the hotel to prepare.

So yesterday evening, when ITN decided to show President Mahinda Rajapakse's Japan visit highlights, I watched with nostalgia. As he and his wife entered the hotel - horror of horrors - an eight-or-nine year old, dressed in a white, ultra-frilly dress gave the President some flowers and scooted off. That's it. No hint of the kid being Sri Lankan at all save for her skin colour. Nothing at all for the First Lady. Someone had managed to get the Kandyan dancers though, to escort them inside.

I was shocked, as was my mother, to whom I related the event. When Jayawardene and Premadasa came, they decked my sister in a proper redde & hatte (and my mother still tells us how difficult it was to prepare such costumes in a foreign land) and she garlanded the President, while a young boy of equal age and height presented the First Lady with a bouquet of flowers. For the life of me I can't remember what he was dressed in though. This ritual was standard fare when any dignitary came visiting.

I know this incident may not seem like much to most people, but to some of us former diplomats (or their family members), it is a shocking lapse in form, style and decorum. It is unthinkable that in this day and age, embassy officials in Japan failed to find an appropriate national costume for the child used. It is worse still that nobody thought it necessary to greet the First Lady in some manner.

This is yet another sign that today, we have all the wrong people in the all the important places. We can get Kandyan dancers, but we are unableto get a simple costume, garland and a flower bouquet right. Style over substance, as always. What hope is there for diplomacy?

4 comments:

why should they give a damn abt mahinda mama???? he's a big joke amoung all the other country governments.

I've been reading through your previous posts, you have a very interesting blog, keep writing.

Enjoyed particularly the post on the Suntel saga.

I wonder whether half of the people working in foreign embassies knows even the important facts about the country they are in?

Anonymous:

a) It is PROTOCOL. Who the president is is irrelevant.

b) Mahinda is hardly a joke - like Premadasa, he is not from Colombo and doesn't cater to Western powers. It can be called a lot of things - positive and negative - but 'joke' isn't a word I'd use.

Jack: thanks. I was incredibly surprised at the popularity of the Suntel saga!

Azrael: You're probably right. We have very few good diplomats left now. But how many of our school children know the history of our country? I was speaking to a lady yesterday who was bitterly complaining that we should give the LTTE a federal solution, but to see, she knew nothing about a federal solution except that anandasangaree asked for it, and knew absolutely nothing about the 13th Amendment.We are quitely becoming a nation of idiots, and the foreign service (and Bogollagama) are mere reflections of it.

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