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World Affairs







 This is Paradise


Who says self-advertising does not pay


IT has been that kind of week. Running here, running there, trying to collect security passes, accreditation cards and a hundred other things that need to be done before preparing to see and hear, if not actually meet, the glorious leaders of the South Asian region.

The Pachoris mahagedera (ancestral home) has been turned topsy-turvy, hunting for this paper and that to meet the requirements of added security. The only paper nobody wanted to see is my marriage certificate which has upset the better half (well, half anyway) and added to the strained bilateral relations in the Pachoris household.

Back at Paradise Club the ever attentive Siribiris has been polishing the mahogany expecting Manmohan Singh to make even a brief stopover at our watering hole seeing how often Indian affairs and Indian adventurism and duplicity are discussed over war and peace in the place.

I told Siribiris that poor Manmohan has enough troubles in his own Lok Sabha and with his coalition partners to think of spending even a moment at Paradise Club. In any case even if he thought of coming our way he would be there with hundreds of Black Cats (not to be confused with Black Tigers who are into other kinds of activities that are best not talked of in civilised society).

On tenterhooks

With everybody including the local media being on what are called tenterhooks (for what reason I do not really know) on whether poor Manmohan would make it to Colombo which would have been sad now that Musharraf himself has shied off, it would have been, to use a clich‚, like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

With all this koloppan about high security zones, low security zones, disappearing palpath in Glennie Street and other places, I have had little time to read the various media with my usual Sherlock Holmesian care and contemplation.

So I missed some of the things that have been going on, especially in the media sub-culture (and quite often even lower than that) called websites and blogs. Had it not been for the ever vigilant Kosala "The Fixer" Kehelmala, the man for all political seasons, I would not have not known of the self-advertising and self-promotion that is going on in that other class of people also called our diplomutts by those who would hardly qualify as a second secretary in our mission in outer Mongolia, if we had one there.

There I was one day last week, sipping my double-distilled and looking into the distance with a jumble of thoughts passing through my mind with kaleidoscopic sharpness when Kosala slipped into the next seat, greeting me with the usual camaraderie.

Make poverty history

"So Pachoris, all set for the big day when the leaders of the region will gather and make poverty history over a good seafood lunch at Mount Lavinia or wherever they would retreat to contemplate the condition of society and our great history," he said trying to dispel the look of gloom and doom reflected in my eyes.

"Well I don't know Fixer. There are some good signs in the region. Nepal has kicked out the monarchy (some think the Brits should do the same), Bhutan is going democratic, Pakistan has rejected absolutism, democracy survives in India, the Maldives wants a bit of the democratic action too. And we are our usual democratic self. So all is not lost . Yet..."

"Yet what, Pachoris, speak out man," Kosala, egged me on.

"Not now, Fixer, not now, there are many miles to go before I can speak," I said trying to dampen his eagerness.

"By the way the promotion of self by officials and others seems to be spreading like the flu."

"What are you talking about," I asked

"Why, haven't you been reading that website called Asian Tribune?"

"No, I am somewhat behind in my monitoring of the media. What has it done this time?"

"That my friend is a good question. You remember the Colombo Municipality has been searching high and low for some place where it can dump the city garbage. Without much success I believe. Now if the CMC had the equivalent of the Asian Tribune, the garbage problem would be solved and the people of Colombo could live without the stench that assails the nostrils and the ungainly sight of piled up rubbish."

"I say Kosala, you are not suggesting that the Asian Tribune is a dumping ground for rubbish, are you?"

"That is exactly what I am suggesting. From a website with a fairly serious intent at the start, it has now become one where everything from unwanted material which others will not publish to nondescript items are given prominence as though they are literary masterpieces or the products of great journalism."


"Isn't that being rather unfair. I mean it does publish the words of great thinkers like our Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona who sacrificed a position in the UN to come and teach our diplomats all about diplomacy. It was the Asian Tribune that published all this."

"That is just my point, Pacho. What nobody else would print ends up in Asian Tribune. Which brings me to what I was going to tell you. Even routine transfers of our diplomats are splashed across the website as though this is some earth shattering news. The most routine of meetings between our diplomats and some low level official of a foreign country is elevated to the level of some scoop."

"That is not quite correct, no. The other day the Daily Mirror carried almost across the whole page a story of our new ambassador what's his name to Washington meeting the Deputy Secretary of State. Who is the fellow, Jaliya somebody or other?"

"This is the whole trouble. Today we have a whole tribe of politically appointed heads of missions and others who are falling over each other to tell the public of their great patriotic doings under immense hardship, for the sake of the country. The slightest move, the smallest step for man is blown up like some giant step for mankind as the politically-appointed become their own publicity agents. They seem to be competing with each other for media space. Even if the more professional media ignore such self-flagellation there is always the Asian Tribune which will publish anything."

"But is it that bad as you say," I asked.

"Look Pacho, tell me of any responsible, professional media that would publish the nonsense that the fellow called Walter Jayawardhana writes from London? He writes about everything that is happening in the rest of the world. He has even improved on Ozymandius who was the lord of all he surveyed. This fellow is the lord of things he does not even see."

"So what are you trying to say?"

Disease spreading

"What I am trying to say my friend, is that this disease of self- promotion and self-advertising is spreading ominously to the career service too. The other day there was a long write-up about a career diplomat setting out almost every post and every posting he has had. What is more it ended by saying that he has a wife and two children, a son and daughter. It looked like somebody had been shooting off his CV from some file to the Asian Tribune which shamelessly published it without even basic editing. Then there was another one saying how another chap was really on top of the pile and virtually suggesting that he should be given a post as an ambassador in an Asian capital."

"So what do you suggest?"

"What do I suggest? Well, very soon the Foreign Ministry will have to open an advertising agency and put a director-general in charge. Or maybe Kohona himself can run it, no. Then he can write his own self-promotional copy."   

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