In Focus – Life Abroad Pt. 110 – Pigeon Hearted Act
Posted on December 25th, 2014

Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

What inspires a writer to continue with his/her work depends on the amount of feedback one receives from the readership with both positive and negative comments. Such annotations will naturally help him/her to sharpen his/her faculties with inspiration. It is usually said that writing is akin to sharpening a pencil all the time – ‘more often you hone it, pointed and refine it becomes’!

In that respect the writer has been providential to have passable feedbacks from the readership of this column, which has contributed towards its uninterrupted continuity. Acknowledgments and merits in this regard should go to a few avid readers of the column for feeding the writer with interesting anecdotes and their personal experiences abroad always making the light reading aspect much more palatable than the high brow politics all the time!

Last week the writer received the following feed back from a Sri Lankan lady, based in London, who had been working at the BBC world service for several years, who expressed her thoughts in the following manner:

Feedbacks

 Many thanks for daunting and comical incidents, bringing back nostalgic memories of SL HC in late 1960s, when Dr. Malalasekera, of revered memory, and his lovely wife and faithful cook-housekeeper, were in residence.  He refused to serve liquor, and I watched with wry amusement as male invitees took turns to pop out ‘to check on the car’, returning in more convivial mood.”

More somber note, after I met my husband, we both worked at the BBC Overseas Service, and his close relatives and friends (of all communities), I became aware of undercurrents of hostility.  It led me to ponder, and say that if all communities did not work together, some day would see the outbreak of bloody civil war.  Since I had not visited the country, I was laughed at, but my fearful forebodings were borne out in 30 years of dreadful events. I appreciate your articles – the one bright spot in the DN!”

In a complete contrast, another email hit my letter box from Peter Wijesinghe, who has been featured in the Life Abroad column quite a few times with his own experiences surrounding the activities of the Sri Lanka High Commission where he held the record of being the oldest and the longest member of staff from its very inception – from day one, when The Ceylon House” was formally inaugurated   by the late Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, on 22 October 1948 and functioned from 25 Grosvenor Square, London W1, up to his retirement from 13 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 .

Peter, who is 86 years of age, now spends his retirement in Kandy. In episode 103, a note from him was reproduced when he touched on ‘ Tamil separatists and the ‘fifty –fifty’ mongers who ran their bucket shops under various manifestation from 85 Albion Gate, London W2. Also he added that ‘so much could be revealed about the LTTE (from his personal experiences) that would fill volumes’!

He continued: One day in the future, if I am still alive, and if there is to be a Commission of inquiry into the workings of the Ceylon High Commission, I would love to be able to tell the story of the Ceylon/Sri Lanka High Commission in London from its birth. Declaring so, he had signed the note exposing his postal address in Kandy.

The article, under discussion on the High Commission, touched partly on his personal life which said, Sir Oliver Goonatilake’s father in Kandy had adopted him as a young kid in Sri Lanka and his special relationship with the High Commissioner Sir Oliver Goonatillake and his father’.

Injustice

 Another vital area that got exposed in the article was how Peter Wijesinghe had written to Queen Elizabeth II in England, Head of the Commonwealth, as a last resort when the Sri Lanka High Commission had treated him unfairly on his PSPF funds after working for the   government for record number of years, which finally ended up in an appeal court in the UK; A tedious and a winded battle squashed the case finally due to a ‘so called diplomatic officer’s (clerk promoted to diplomatic status) enigmatic duplicity  having connived with a ‘local Sri Lankan solicitor’ against him!

This news item which appeared in the column evidently has managed to hit a raw nerve of an old guard, who used to serve at the High Commission in London from 1980- 1984, who now appears to be in retirement in Sri Lanka.

 Peter Wijesinghe says he received an anonymous letter by post highlighting various sections in the article (such as his bond with Sir Oliver Goonatillake family etc.,) pointing a finger at him and calling him a devious and untrustworthy character that, undoubtedly, has managed to distress and offend him.

In his first accusation, the critic had disputed his adoption as a young boy in Sri Lanka by the Goonatillake family and his special relationship with the High Commissioner Sir Oliver Goonatillake and his father etc.”. He had gone further stating, quote: You worked for HCSL for over 50 years-but showed no respect or gratitude, and you took your religion and temple to Court, insulted the HC and humiliated yourself by talking about an unfair dismissal”.

In Defence

Peter Wijesinghe submitting all the documentary evidence (scanned documents relating to the incident, including the copy of the postal envelop with date stamp) wishes to place matter in the right perspective and straighten records by calling the whole issue as a spineless act by a coward, who is afraid to come clean and own up to his statements, and puts very boldly that    most probably this individual may not have even conceived when I was fetching and carrying for Sir Oliver Goonatilake, his father and the Goonatilake family”!

In response to the third accusation of the challenger’s ‘unfair dismissal’, Peter Wijesinghe, denies that he had never used the wordunfair dismissal’ at any time in any of his statements with regard to the Court case, but points a finger at the ‘so called officer’ who shamelessly humiliated the prestigious High Commission Office during the appeal case hearing byclaiming diplomatic immunity’ and running away from facing the truth; the worst being going to the extent of bragging publicly about  Sri Lanka High Commission winning the case, which he claimed  was a fib!

For all intents and purposes, Peter Wijesinghe wishes to emphasise that his appointment to the Sri Lanka High Commission in London was made by the Public Service Commission at the time, because there was no other authority could have appointed an applicant to a government post other than PSC during that period.

As regards the critic’s accusation of his insulting the High Commission, he reiterates the fact that, as a Sri Lankan, he always upheld and kept the dignity and respect of the High Commission, as good as any other self respecting citizen of his motherland.

In an interesting postscript, he subtly poses the question whether this ‘faceless person’, who took all the trouble to write and post a letter to his Kandy address, could be the same old guard who cunningly manipulated with the Sri Lankan solicitor treacherously at the time of the appeal case by instructing the lawyer to sit on the papers deliberately to cause a time lapse and to make the case null and void, and of course, thereby claiming diplomatic immunity!

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel”- Bible

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One Response to “In Focus – Life Abroad Pt. 110 – Pigeon Hearted Act”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Being a relative of OEG I may have set or seen Peter.We too had our ancestral home in Grosvenor Sq. where my ancestors lived.OEG was an honest gentleman and we must be proud of him. I doubt he ever allowed petty bickering among his employee. It’s the people like OEG,Sir John and DS brought any type of prestige to our country. He bought much help to our country to name a few is to set up the second stage of the Norton Bridge hydro power station and under Colombo Plan all the Canadian railway Locomotives which are still running good since 1953.
    Unlike the present day political scoundrels they never made money for themselves and retired and lived a humble life in the western counties. Thanks to the colonials, they inculcated good values on these leaders. Today our politicians play to the gallery of the stupid people by dressing up like clowns, hiding behind religion and culture which is not known to be progressive, making money and live a double life.
    During my recent 3 months, which was very wasteful and non productive spent 7 funerals of several friends and relatives were in hospitals and they are truly in a bad shape,some of the sicknesses were due to polluted air of the town where the impotent road was closed due the Maligawa that is been run as a business, where people have to dive further 5 miles around the lake to bypass it.It’s ok for the cronies of the government(which ever party they came from) to use their vehicles but not for the tax paying public.When I visited the ICU unit of War12 of the Kandy hospital they make you remove the shoes and make you walk the filthy floor, where half who go there doesn’t remove due to some connections with the people who work there and in one case the governor’s private secretary’s family was allowed to visit their families wearing shoes. Though I was angry the way I was treated fell sorry for the inmates and the walls were filthy and promised tp pay for the coat of paint for the walls. Since I needed to carry out the work I recruited a talkative tuk tuk man to take the 20 Litres of paint in 4 cans and entrusted him the money for labour to get the job done but he never turned up to get the job done and vanished with the paint and my money. Same thing happened with my contractors where they made me stay 3 months to do the building work that could have been done in 3 weeks. Electrician ran away with my money paid in advance. People are truly lazy and dishonest and bad politicians are the result of our present culture.
    We have another horrible culture developing where when anyone admitted to a hospital, one is forced to keep someone 24 hours a day to attend to the sick patient which is cruel.Poor people can’t afford minimum of 2000 rupees a day and the funerals that I attended in two occasions had to pay for two funerals where the parents of one young man had exhausted their money looking after their young man who had kidney failure due to drinking highly toxic water in Polonaruwa. In all these funerals I visited that it was bad enough to pay for the coffin but for the Malabatha that is consumed by ‘visitors’ that never or ever visited the young man were suffering without money during his short life time. People are truly greedy and cruel.
    I have gone off the above subject a bit because I am angry with the present culture of the country.I have been helping several old people to be settled in old people’s home where I have met their expenses to some extent.I am very angry now because I got a call from Kandy today that one of my friend(old man) been asked to leave the old people’s home and the hospital refused him treatment to his paralyzing stroke. He had been asked to get himself admitted to the aruvedic hospital in Kundasale where he has to retain persons costing Rs 3000 per day plus other expenses for his treatment. This is only the tip of the iceberg in the island and the politicians are not truly serving the people and the people are also stupid not working long enough to save for a rainy day.All the people I knew have poor work records as and when they get their salary, as much as over Rs2000 per day.don’t turn up next day until the money runs out. I was disgusted so much by my experiences bad work ethics, asked a hotel manager how he get his work done and he replied that they hire Indian passport holders and confiscate the passports until they fall in line and work regularly. So the Middle Eastern Arabs must be right. We should give our attentions on this web to the weaknesses and faults of the county instead for batting or criticizing our roughish politicians who all the same.

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