Politicians and canines have one thing in common. (Of the two, the latter are the better in most respects!) They raise a leg wherever they feel like doing so with no concern for the objects they cause to stink in the process. (Remember some years ago a minister, sozzled to the gills, got into hot water by mistaking a hotel swimming pool for a urinal.)
Our comment is, however, not on a mistakenly polluted pool but an intentionally sullied think tank.
The institute founded by the late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to promote specialised training in international relations and strategic studies has, as we have pointed out previously, gone to the dogs. Today, it has come to such a pass that not even scientists, opinion leaders, academics and mandarins can meet there, without being harassed by a pack of hyenas aka the security personnel of Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama. Yesterday, we reported how a recent gathering of intellectuals, who volunteered to defend Sri Lanka`s rights vis-à-vis the Sethusamudram Project at a top-level conference, had been disrupted by those asinine guards, who denied them entry into the institute on the grounds that the Minister was having his breakfast! They had been kept waiting and many of them had left in a huff.
This newspaper forewarned on several occasions that the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) was heading for disaster, as the incumbent Foreign Minister was planning to use it as his private property. The government didn`t heed our warnings and now the institute has been reduced to a ministerial suite of sorts. It has been robbed of its raison d`etre. As someone said recently, today it has become an empty tank sans any thinking with a bunch of uniformed yakos running riot. The presence of a gang of rowdies in hobnailed boots has given the institute the look of a garrison.
Kadir was one of the few Sri Lankans who realised the need for the country to specialise in international relations and strategic studies as a small nation caught in the vortex of globalization. He wanted the LKIIRSS to be a rendezvous for experts and students alike so that the country would gain from their intellectual and academic pursuits. But, unfortunately, today, instead of being a fountain of knowledge, the institute has become a source of culinary delights?God knows what else?for a minister!
Sri Lanka`s biggest handicap in defending herself against threats to her sovereignty and territorial integrity is her inability to reach out to the rest of the world effectively. Never mind the far away countries. She cannot even influence the thinking of those who fashion the foreign policy of the neighbouring India. Diplomats have pathetically failed to counter the highly influential and sophisticated anti-Sri Lanka lobby operating in New Delhi. They are a bunch of misfits saddled with the task of promoting the country`s interests. How can one win a derby with a donkey? That is a task for men of great stature. Kadir achieved that feat single-handed. When he spoke, the world listened. That was why he was felled so brutally.
Political frogs in the well of myopia have failed to see the potential of the Kadirgamar Institute and the need to fully tap it for the good of the country. Foreign Ministry potentates are riding rough shod over the institute`s staff in a bid to smoke them out so that they could expand their empire. Only a fraction of the funds pledged to the institute has been made available, though billions of rupees are being dissipated on political events and vehicles for politicos.
When statesmen pass away, their mantles weigh heavily on their successors. When that happens, petty minded politicians consumed with inferiority complex and attendant hubris seek to obliterate the legacy of their illustrious predecessors. That`s why politicians get statues demolished and nameboards pulled down. Perhaps, what has befallen the Kadirgamar Institute could be explained in that light.
Simply because the LKIIRSS comes under the purview of the Foreign Ministry, Minister Bogollagama cannot do whatever he wants with it. He is only the custodian of that place and not the owner. All ministers have been given houses at a tremendous cost to the public purse. Some of them have got more than one. So, why can`t they have their meals?or anything else?at those places? If they have problems at home, we can only sympathise with them. They must pluck up their courage to sort out their problems, without being a burden on the public.
It is surprising that President Mahinda Rajapaske has let the grass grow under his executive feet despite many a complaint against the way the Kadirgamar Institute is being run. At least at this late stage, he ought to sit up and take notice of the sorry state of affairs there. His intervention is urgently called for to prevent further desecration of that institution, named after a great statesman who died for this country.
The LKIIRSS must be brought under the President and the Foreign Minister and his bovine guards kicked out forthwith. It must be managed the way Kadir wanted. Kadir must be turning in his grave! Don`t disturb him in his sleep!