It must be that blasted bug
that’s bugging me still. I don’t have to
tell you that bugs have this nasty habit of
bugging us in more senses than one.
There I was seated
comfortably on my 200-year old sofa when I
was nearly knocked off my perch on that
historical piece of furniture.
For a moment I thought the
bug was returning to bug me just when the
Pachoris household had thought I was over
the worst of it.
Having taken a firmer grip
of my seat I wrestled with the idea of
returning to bed and propping myself up with
a couple of pillows and the day’s
newspapers. My return to our favourite
watering hole, Paradise Club, which I had
not frequented for days, was obviously out
of the question even if I felt fit enough.
One civil war in the country
was quite enough. I did not want to open
another front at home especially since there
was not enough room to advance one square
yard into enemy-held territory, leave alone
one square kilometre because the rest of the
household, armed with broomsticks and pales
of water had taken control of the strategic
A9 that leads to the front door and out into
I might have considered a
feint and then a flank attack but since my
supply route had been cut off earlier I
thought a tactical retreat, as a good
drubbing is sometimes termed to avoid
ignominy, I returned to headquarters for
some rest and recuperation.
Having ‘snugged’ (as some
modern wordsmiths say) myself in bed, I
picked a morning daily for recreation.
There, staring at me like some bright-eyed
reptile was the headline "Lanka turning
to Asian donors — Kohona."
There was no doubt who the
newspaper meant. For beside a stamp-sized
picture of the secretary to our Foreign
Ministry was a quote by him. Always a man
after a good quote, I Pachoris, read it with
"There are ways we deal with
each other, perhaps a quiet chat but not
What profundity, what a
superb encapsulation of Asian values. At
last a Daniel come to judgement, I thought.
Well a Daniel anyway!
What mastery of the
understatement. Palitha Kohona, the ultimate
diplomat, the exponent par excellence of the
quiet chat, the pride of the foreign
service. While Professor Rajiva Wijesinha
and Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleke are manning
the battlements and firing at anybody who
fires, not necessarily at them, Kohona — The
Quiet, has decided to return to traditional
Surely the New York Times
to which prestigious newspaper he had been
speaking would have been suitably impressed.
Not for him the finger-wagging of a Dominic
Chilcott, a Robert Blake or a Jurgen Wurth
from the Fourth Reich. No sirree.
Kohona — The Quiet believes
in quiet diplomacy, the quiet chat, to use
his words. But hold on a minute. Is this the
Asian way or did Kohona mean the Sri Lankan
way when he said there are ways we
deal with each other? As happens sometimes
there is ambiguity in what he says,
consciously or not.
If, in fact, he means how
Sri Lankans deal with such situations then
he has been unfair by his countrymen (lest
there be any ambiguity here I mean Sri
Lankan not Australian).
As my fellow habitués of
Paradise Club will say in one voice, the Sri
Lankan way is much more subtle, sneaky and
venomous than Kohona has given us credit
for, which is unfortunate in the extreme.
Sri Lankans, and I
generalise here for the sake of clarity,
have a much better way of dealing with
people they don’t like — their bosses, their
friends and even their enemies.
There is nothing so
productive as a whisper campaign. It might
entail spreading stories far and wide or
just whispering in your boss’s ear, or
passing on information to the spouse or
leaking information to the media about your
boss, an intellectual superior or someone
you think might replace you.
If this system of character
assassination has yet not been introduced to
the Foreign Ministry, Kohona should actually
start a pilot project to test its efficacy.
This is a time-tested method
which has proved so effective that many are
the persons who have fallen by the way side
as a result of its implementation at various
levels of politics, administration and
I, Pachoris, can vouch that
this method which has been handed down from
generation to generation from the days of
Mervyn Silva’s ancestor Dutugemunu, has been
turned into a fine art by ambitious
mediocrities that have crept into positions
they should never have occupied.
This way of undermining your
enemy and your boss could hardly be learnt
at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy. This is
essentially home grown.
As my university professor
never tired of telling me, always buttress
your argument with appropriate examples.
So lets try this for size,
as they say. Say you don’t like your
minister, never mind the reason, though I
could cite many. He has a penchant for
travelling and meeting people many of whom
are not worth meeting.
He is grabbing the limelight
more than you, though you would like more of
that light to shine on you. So what should
First begin by whispering
things into your big boss’s ear. If the big
boss blows a temporary fuse but then does
little because he cannot waste time over
somebody’s shenanigans, why leak enough
stuff to the press, first in driblets then
in larger doses after having a quiet chat
with a few journalists and pretenders to
If we might, on behalf of
the habitues of Paradise Club, offer a piece
of well meaning advice to the secretary to
the ministry he could ask some poor sap of a
‘journalist’ to start undermining a couple
of ambassadors here and a high commissioner
or two there. That way one can test the
Talking about the quiet chat
approach apart, I noticed that Kohona had
spoken of the move away from traditional
donors to cultivate new ones in Asia.
Perhaps the Middle East too, though he has
not mentioned it to the NYT.
Donors, as far as I could
tell, were those who donated — gave away
things free or, at worst, at nominal cost.
In my school days I used read of the Sri
Lanka Donors Meeting usually held in Paris —
and so called the Paris Club — to which then
Finance Minister Ronnie de Mel would
faithfully go and tell the world how much
the donor’s pledged as aid because of our
sound economic policies.
Since we became a
middle-income country all that has stopped
except for a trickle from this one or the
other, or the GSP Plus concession which is
in danger of withdrawal.
According to the learned
Palitha Kohona the new donors "are
neighbours, they are rich."
Maybe climate change has
rearranged the geography of our
neighbourhood. But can you honestly see
‘rich’ neighbours? One would have thought
that SAARC represented our neighbourhood.
Can anybody really see a rich neighbour
there, unless Kohona is referring to India?
Behind Sri Lanka
India might have a new
entrepreneurial class, many millionaires and
a growing middle class. But in terms of
social indicators India is behind Sri Lanka
which is anyway going down the drain in some
Kohona refers to India’s
contribution growing to some $500 million
this year and later refers to investment by
Now I am no Gamani Corea or
Lal Jayawardena, not even an accountant like
the Central Bank governor. Yet I would have
thought there is a difference between a
donor and an investor; an investor being
interested in tangible profit. Unless, of
course, through the goodness of his heart he
donates all that to our government which is
Kohona also says that
Chinese "assistance" has grown fivefold to
nearly $1 billion eclipsing Japan.
Here again the word
‘assistance’ is not clarified. Does it mean
outright grants, or credit-at low interest,
commercial rates or what ever? Could any
part of this be like the donor-recipient
relationship that existed?
In any event China is hardly
a neighbour, not unless Kohona’s
understanding of geography is as elastic as
perhaps, his imagination.