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With nothing much to do, I decided in 2012 that I would travel. The last purely personal target I would like to reach in my life is to have visited a hundred countries, and I realized that the intense work of the previous years had precluded any significant progress in this ambition. I had been to a few countries in the preceding years, including thankfully to Syria before the West set about destroying it, while at the Peace Secretariat and in Parliament. But in 2013 I thought it was time to travel more intensively.
I went to ten new countries in 2013, beginning with Bhutan over our New Year holiday period in April. I had a SAARC Travel Permit in my passport, which meant I did not need a visa. I had been told travel in Bhutan could otherwise be expensive, since tourists were expected to spend quite a high amount every day, but in fact I found the prices quite reasonable in the very comfortable inns at which I stayed.
I went with an Indian friend, and had a programme arranged through a contact of a cousin who did some work with Druk Air. We had an excellent driver, who was quite game to travel all over the country, though he noted that most tourists saw only about half of what we covered in the week we were there.
The Dzongs, monasteries that were also fortresses, were spaced at convenient intervals through the country. We saw half on the way east from Thimpu, to Tashiyangtze, and the other half on the way back. The monks who lived in the Dzongs were delightful and friendly, many of them students who were quite uninhibited in their playtime. Football was a favourite pastime, and I have some lovely photographs too of youngsters pushing each other in a wheelbarrow. But their serious side was also impressive, wonderful chanting in richly decorated shrine rooms, and occasionally drumbeats that reverberated in the courtyards.
The scenery too was fantastic, snow covered peaks and waterfalls, and yaks in abundance. We would have lunch at small wayside cafes, rather as I used to do with Ena in our meanderings at home. I rather enjoyed the cheese with chili that we had at every meal, but I’m afraid my Indian friend was not so adventurous and preferred chips whenever we could find them. In the evenings we would huddle with our drinks near the fires all the inns provided, though often of a morning I would brave the balconies with my coffee to watch the sun rising over the hills. Read the rest of this entry »
It was towards the end of 2012 that I began to feel that my shelf life was in a sense over. After 20 years of working for one or other government organization, there was no more that I would be able to do in terms of public service. It seemed then that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government would go on for the foreseeable future, but after what I felt was effective service, ever since he had unexpectedly asked me to head the Peace Secretariat, in 2007, it was clear that I was no longer wanted.
I should perhaps have sensed this in 2010 when I was not made a Minister. But I had after all been put into Parliament, which I thought then meant something. Though he had not kept the Peace Secretariat going, to work in Reconciliation as I had suggested, I thought that was the result of different persons with greater influence in government having other ideas. But then he had appointed me as his Adviser in Reconciliation and, after the emerging threat became clear, with the publication of the Darusman Report, he had put me on the team to negotiate with the TNA.
He had also asked his Secretary to put me on the Committee to implement the interim recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee. But Lalith Weeratunge had been persuaded by Mohan Pieris not to make the appointment. But Lalith did fall in with my suggestion that I monitor the work of that Committee, and this was duly put into my terms of Reference as Adviser on Reconciliation (which finally arrived in the middle of 2011, Lalith having managed to twice lose the terms of reference I had previously drafted, when the appointment was made earlier in the year).
All that should have made me realize the stage was darkening, but Mohan Pieris, with consummate hypocrisy, did feed me crumbs from his table, to indicate that he was making some progress with regard to what he saw as the important recommendations of the LLRC. The number of those in detention, which had come down from over 4000 to 2000 during the period when, as Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, I chaired the relevant committee, had been reduced to quarter that figure eighteen months later.
And the President still seemed to want my services, for in September 2011 he asked me to go to Geneva. This was when the Americans, through the Canadians, first sought to bring a resolution against us at the Human Rights Council. I refused, and then refused again in March, though I finally agreed when he asked me a second time on that occasion. But the chaos I found in Geneva, where our Permanent Representative, the potentially very effective Tamara Kunanayagam, had been sidelined by the enormous circus taken to the Council by those advising the President on strategy, made me realize nothing could be achieved there. Read the rest of this entry »