New York slapping incident
Posted on October 6th, 2014

By Sunday Times Political Editor -Courtesy Sunday Times


There was heavy embarrassment for President Rajapaksa over a New York incident. It only remained a secret for a few hours. One local television channel still broke the story followed extensively by the social media. The moral in the story about the attempted blackouts is the fact that such cloaks of secrecy or giving spins to gain temporary advantage is no longer possible. They have a way of getting into the social media and reaching a wider audience. Such reportage is not always accurate and tends to cause even more damage to the Government’s credibility.

The incident was at the New Jersey residence of Dilan Ariyawansa who now represents Sri Lankan Airlines in New York. Guests who arrived on the night of September 23 (Tuesday) were Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Monitoring MP for the Ministry of External Affairs (EAM), Kshenuka Senewiratne, EAM Secretary, Thanuja Geethendra Usliyanage, Minister (Political) at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC, Chamithri Rambukwella (daughter of Media Minister Keheliya) and an official of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Guests saw Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to United Kingdom, Chris Nonis, and Ambassador to the United States, Prasad Kariyawasam, arriving together. Golden Chimes, a Sri Lankan musical group was playing local music and the tempo increased as hours went by. In the process, dinner was delayed and another day (Wednesday) had dawned.

High Commissioner Nonis, who had walked in, sat at the bar table and was speaking with Ms. Ariyawansa. He was thrilled with the music and told her that it was very entertaining. Guests heard Vass Gunawardena making what were described as highly inflammatory” barbs at Nonis. One of them said that every sentence began with the f…. word.” Thereafter the Monitoring MP walked towards Nonis.

More inflammatory words flowed with the f….” word. Vass Gunawardena then asked Nonis why he had called Senewiratne a half baked b****h?”
Nonis replied that he had never made such remarks. Don’t put words in my mouth,” he said. Then Vaas Gunawardena said something like; What are you looking at me like that”, and landed the hapless High Commissioner with a weighty slap on his left cheek.

Another weighty slap on the left cheek followed from Vass Gunawardena. Thereafter, he dealt a blow on Nonis’ right ear. Witnesses heard the Monitoring MP exclaimed Don’t think you can come in and out of Sri Lanka every week. You think you have the President’s support. You are only a f*****g High Commissioner. I am a street fighter. I will have you f*****g thrashed.”

Months ago, External Affairs Secretary Senewiratne had complained to colleagues and friends about High Commissioner Nonis insulting her. However, she had not formally raised issue over the matter by making an official complaint or calling for Nonis’ explanation.

It was nearly 2 a.m. now and Nonis did not wait for dinner but hurriedly withdrew to his hotel. Later in the morning, he proceeded to a New York hospital to get himself examined. He was having difficulty in hearing. Later in the day (September 24) he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and gave him an account about what had taken place. Rajapaksa was busy that day readying his speech which he delivered at the 69th sessions of the UN General Assembly, but assured the High Commissioner that he would attend to the complaint. Nonis was also to have a second meeting with the President on the same day before boarding a night flight from New York to London.

One source familiar with the goings on said that trouble between Vass Gunawardena and Nonis had been brewing for some months. It was not just over alleged remarks against Ms. Senewiratne. It began boiling over the night before, i.e. the night of September 22 (Monday). This was when several members of the Sri Lanka delegation had attended a dinner party at a New York restaurant. Among those who took part were Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa and Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Palitha Kohona. The source said Vass Gunawardena was making taunting” and inflammatory remarks” at Nonis. He was riling the High Commissioner and trying to embarrass him, the source added.

Nonis, as our front page report confirms, said yesterday that his resignation has been accepted from October 3, It meant the decision to accept has been made by President Rajapaksa whilst in Rome. This is the first time in post-independent history of Sri Lanka that a Government MP has assaulted a High Commissioner or Ambassador representing the country. That too by a parliamentarian who was officially designated to monitor work in the External Affairs Ministry (EAM). It is no secret that Vass Gunawardena virtually runs the EAM overseeing postings and transferring personnel he is displeased with. No questions are asked about his actions or transactions. The External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris does not have any control over such matters, nor does he seem too worried.

Not so long ago, Vaas Gunawardena hired a string of public relations companies in the United States, notwithstanding the existence of a permanent diplomatic mission in Washington DC, to undertake measures reportedly to ward off human rights violation allegations against Sri Lanka. Millions of rupees were paid to these firms without the approval of the Cabinet of ministers. He even fronted a private address linked to him for these official transactions. Last year, a group of thugs hurled stones at Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, when he was in the Ambalangoda electorate. They surrounded his official car and made an attempt to harm him. It turned out that Vass Gunawardena had been responsible for arranging that reception.” President Rajapaksa instructed him to apologise to Wickremesinghe. He did so on the telephone. All these factors notwithstanding, Vass Gunawardena is conspicuous by his presence when President Rajapaksa has meetings with heads of states, governments and other high ranking dignitaries.

On Thursday, Vass Gunawardena joined President Rajapaksa’s official entourage to fly to Rome for the meeting with Pope Francis. Government sources said High Commissioner Nonis was asked to travel to Rome for a meeting with Rajapaksa to sort out issues related to the slapping incident. This was particularly with the presence of Vass Gunawardena. However, there was no official confirmation and the High Commissioner was not present. Nonis is learnt to have sought a written apology from Vass Gunawardena.

Upon his arrival in London, instead of going to his office, Nonis drove in his official vehicle to the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham. President Rajapaksa is learnt to have telephoned Nonis in London on Friday from Rome and asked why he had raised issue with a leading Catholic prelate in Sri Lanka over the slapping incident. He had charged that this was a move to discredit him with the Catholic community. He had then terminated the call. Nonis is a staunch Catholic and has the backing of the clergy. His family is well known to Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. One source said they took exception to Vass Gunawardena being in the Sri Lanka delegation that met Pope Francis.

It was External Affairs Minister Peiris who picked on Nonis to be Sri Lanka’s envoy in the Court of St James’. All Ambassadors and High Commissioners to the United Kingdom are received at this royal court for the sovereign. Just this week, however, he told friends and colleagues that he has not been happy with his own choice. Peiris complained that despite many a warning, Nonis had continued to focus more time promoting his family business. In fact, he had left station (London) without informing the Ministry of External Affairs and had to be warned by Secretary Senewiratne. Peiris’ remarks are an indictment on himself. Here is an External Affairs Minister complaining about his own High Commissioner.

During last November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Nonis succeeded in having Prince Charles land in a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter at the Mackwoods Tea Estate in Nuwara Eliya. All members of the Prince’s entourage were given gifts of high grown tea.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/141005/columns/121297-121297.html

17 Responses to “New York slapping incident”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    The last 3 sentences summarizes what I’ve been telling, DIPLOMATICALLY.

    NO QUESTION about Vaas. He should GO after disaster after disaster in external affairs.

    But there is another person involved by the name Nonis who is not as clean as some want people to believe.

    Thank you publishing my comment.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Sorry, last 3 paragraphs subtly summarize what I’ve been telling.

  3. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    aaaah the wonders of an empty stomach, too much hard liquor and a bad attitude.

  4. helaya Says:

    Peris does not have a backbone. Worst foreign secretary in history. Why we need a MP to oversee the ministry. These jobs were created to reward henchmen. You scratch my ass and I will scratch yours.

  5. Sarath W Says:

    I have been a staunch supporter of President Rajapaksa for saving our country from the terrorist scum and standing up to the western thugs like Clinton, Milliban Kaucher and Cameron. But now I am loosing respect for him because his unconditional support for our local thugs like Mervin Silva and this Vaas Gunawardena. Like many others I am now inclined to believe the President is controlled by these low class henchmen. Like Sadam, Mubarak and Gaddafi the resident should not take things for granted the people will support him at any cost, and get rid of these goons from the parliament at the next election and earn the respect once mnore from the voters.

  6. cassandra Says:

    According to the article, GLP is now not happy with Nonis, his own choice to be the HC in London. If this is indeed the case, it seems to demonstrate that GLP must have an unfortunate knack for making ‘bad’ choices. After all, was it not GLP who also recommended Shirani Bandaranayake for the position of CJ?

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    The President’s response to Dr. Nonis is entirely understandable. Let me explain.

    MR expects diplomats appointed by the Govt of Sri Lanka, and representing him as the Head of State, to work within the system of governance, not through external lobbies to bring pressure to bear upon him on various issues and problems.

    MR was in the process of resolving the personnel problem created by the spat between Sajith Vass and Dr. Nonis. It is very likely that MR would have resolved it amicably WITHIN THE DIPLOMATIC ENVIRONMENT in some way acceptable to everyone, compensating Dr. Nonis for the humiliation he suffered. But that process was short-circuited when the good Cardinal Malcolm Rangith involved himself in the process, with or without instigation by Dr. Nonis. I very much doubt that Dr. Nonis did nt encourage the Cardinal to speak directly to the President on his behalf!

    If I were MR, at that point I would be miffed by Dr. Nonis too, and fired him just as MR did for short circuiting the official process of resolving the problem. As a diplomat, Dr. Nonis should have known better; that was a very undiplomatic thing to do, to embarrass the President of the country by going outside the system when he had already brought it to the attention the President himself.

    I do not wish to address all allegations of mis-administration in the Foreign Office. However, I find it extremely unfortunate that due to missteps on Dr. Nonis’s part and the alleged unwarranted misbehaviour on the part of Sajith Vass, we have lost the services of an able diplomat working to defend Sri Lanka on the global stage.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:

    Also, as Lorenzo points out, Dr. Nonis is not entirely blameless either! Wheels within spinning wheels … me thinks!

  9. aloy Says:

    There is a concerted effort in eliminating Sinhala businessmen from the scene. Dr. Nonis should concentrate on his businesses. This may be a god sent opportunity.

  10. Raj Says:

    I am surprised that an article from ‘Sunday Times’ which is an ardent anti – govt newspaper , has been allowed in lanka web. Also readers commenting here should understand that anti govt comments are made by people disguised as sinhala Buddhists, when they are Tamil sympathisers of ltte, and UNPers. Do your research to find which of these regular ‘first to comment ‘ people reply to sinhala write ups. They can’t read or write sinhala and live abroad. Lanka web is gradually being invaded by anti government forces.

  11. Nanda Says:

    (මහ) Raj,

    You will notice one common attribute of most commentators is aspiration for a better Sri Lanka, whether they write the comment in Sinhala or English. We are not here to pay tribute to the non-existent excellent government , LTTiers or UNPeeyers. You should know that there were 20000 Sinhalas ( while there were only 10000 Muslims) in the North before the war but the government has not settled even a 150 properly, where as taxpayers money is being used to build the North and 15000 houses are being built for Muslims ( 50000 for Tamils using Indian money). Shouldn’t the Sinhala’s criticise the government ? Please tell me.

    Who knows ? Some LTTiers might be good in Sinhala too . You should appreciate that.

    මහ රජතුමා හෙලුවැල්ලෙන් වඩින විටේ
    මෝඩයො අගයනව එඇඳුම අපේ රටේ
    එතුමගෙ හෙලුව පෙන්නාදී මගේ තොටේ
    නොබියව බලය පෙන්නව් සිහලුන් ගෙ කටේ

  12. Ananda-USA Says:

    Raj,

    You said “Lanka web is gradually being invaded by anti government forces.”

    Yes, INDEED! Unfortunately this is quite true, and I am appalled by this change!

    Where are the PATRIOTS of Lanka who used to be the majority of people commenting at LankaWeb?

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    Nanda,

    Telli is referring to me as well. ALL TNA MPs can speak in Sinhala. Even VP, Anton Balla could speak in Sinhala.

  14. Marco Says:

    There is a big difference between “anti national” and “anti government”.

    The word “Patriot” has been totally devalued in Sri Lanka. It’s become the butt of all jokes since the current regime has high jacked the term for political purposes.

    It would be foolish to say 43% of Sri Lankans are anti government and hence not patriots.

  15. Nanda Says:

    Ananda,

    “Where are the PATRIOTS of Lanka who used to be the majority of people commenting at LankaWeb?”

    I used to be a supporter of the government but more than that I defended against those who attacked Sinhala Buddhist Lankan culture and bogus LTTE claims. This is what I do now too. If my comments are anti-government now it means government is becoming anti-Sinhala.

    It is the natural trend. There were no comment allowed during RUIN-ill /Chandrika time. But if there were, how would have the comments been ? Not much different to now.

    By the way RUIN-ILL has asked for an interview with LTTE spokesman there and did not get. He wants to make sure he get the Tamil votes and he will, even without LTTE. TNA is talking to Jihadists to direct votes into one channel they like. MR is praising Koran and Bible and completely leading un-Buddhsit life. He will go against the Sinhalas in search of Tamil and Muslim votes and loose.
    We are doomed with this bugger. We need a new leader urgently and fast.

    “There is a big difference between “anti national” and “anti government”. – Much bigger difference between anti “Sri Lankan” and anti government. Even LTTiers can be pro “National” on 50-50 basis or 70-30 basis (70 to them).

  16. Lorenzo Says:

    Telli tries to get support for the president at Colombo Telegraph and ALL commentators REFUSED him.

  17. Nanda Says:

    I wonder how ever if Mahinda Rajapakse would have contemplated those very words “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones” when he betrays the Sinhale by sitting in the big seat , drunk and drugged with Thanha(greed) and lust.

    How can a Sir Lankan woman is paid $10,000 per month maintenance by a junior government minister ?

    This is the questions that people like Ananda USA , Charles Perera ( if they too are not paid ) should ask them selves , before committing 100% unconditionally ( as they imply by their statements).

    In my view time has come for a good man or woman to take over form these great sinners who using the innocence of Sinhala people to completely destroy Sinhale for ever. These buggers are the worst in out whole history.

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