Academics, scholars, readers and other users of the Lakshman Kadirgamer Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies are urging President Mahinda Rajapakse to take the institution under his control as its regular activities are disturbed as Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is using the premises.
As The Island had revealed earlier, the high minded security guards of Minister Bogollagama have the habit of closing the institute and chasing away those who are inside when the Minister arrives there frequently. There have been several incidents where senior academics and retired and serving diplomats have been verbally abused and shabbily treated by the guards at the Institute.
The latest episode of this black comedy took place last Saturday Morning when members of the Government`s advisory board on the Sethu Samudram project, which included two Ministry Secretaries, went there for the final rehearsal meeting before the bilateral technical summit beginning tomorrow. They had been chased out by the guards, who claimed that they couldn`t go in, as the Minister was having his breakfast at the Institute.
According to a Board source, the group comprised 30 members, including senior scientists, environmentalists and other experts who voluntarily came forward to serve the country by offering their services free of charge.
The source said that some members, lecturing at outstation universities, such as Eastern University at Baticaloa, Peradeniya University and the Ruhunu University in Matar, had come to Colombo using their own fuel and sacrificing the Saturday Holiday for a national cause, but were chased off like lepers and were not even allowed to park outside the premises.
The source said that a Ministry Secretary, who presided over the board meeting, tried to explain to the guards that they had reserved the premises for their meeting. But Bogollagama`s bodyguards had allegedly abused him in filth and ordered him to get out, warning that he would be thrown out if argued any further.
He said that the situation had irked many university lecturers, scientists and environmentalists, who went back boycotting the meeting.
The source said that he and several other board members parked their vehicles at a distance and waited till the minister left and at about 11 a.m.
Bogollagama had left the premises with his heavy security, followed by a catering truck of a leading five star hotel.
He said that when the meeting was finally held, there were only 12 members, despite the fact that it was held as a rehearsal for today`s technical sessions, where several important matters such as the project`s impact on environment, fisheries and how it would affect the Jaffna peninsula in a future tsunami situation are scheduled to be taken up.
When The Island contacted the Foreign Ministry, an official said that they haven`t so far received any complaint about such an incident.