Principal par excellence – The Island


By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

“Since we are here in the Emerald Islands, let me quote the bard, William Shakespeare,” media darling and former president well known for his oratory, Barack Obama said at COP26 in Glasgow. While Scots in the audience would have found it insulting, to others it would have been hilarious! He was wrong on two points and although he could be excused for the reference to Shakespeare, to confuse “Emerald Isle” is an inexcusable blunder, as it is well known that “The Emerald Isle” refers to the ‘Ireland. Certainly William Shakespeare, the English playwright is widely regarded as the greatest English language writer of all time and the greatest playwright in the world. He is often referred to as the English National Poet and the “Bard of Avon”, or simply “the Bard”. However, in Shakespeare’s time (1564-1616), England and Scotland were different nations; the two were not joined, by the Act of Union, until 1707. The Scots consider Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), also known as Rabbie Burns, their national bard and is often referred to as Bard of Ayrshire .

Imagine what would have happened if Donald Trump had made such a statement! However, because it was their darling Obama who blundered, it was hardly reported in the British press. It wasn’t until I watched the BBC satirical news and current affairs show “Have I Got News for You” that I learned of this blunder four days later. A Google search after that produced very few results, one being in “The Scotsman” on November 9th. Although it is titled “Barack Obama in ‘Emerald Isles’ blunder at COP26 Glasgow speech,” in the body of the article, it is the speechwriter who has been blamed! Certainly, it is the speaker’s responsibility to ensure that what is written is correct.

When our president visited Glasgow for the same summit, the Tiger Rump staged a protest which was largely unsuccessful as most educated Tamils ​​living abroad now realize that more could be done by negotiating with government only with hollow protests. However, they ran a full page advertisement in the Scottish newspaper “The Herald”, which the “Tamil Guardian” website reported: the world, goes on to state that Rajapaksa, who has been nicknamed “The Terminator”, and the forces Sri Lankan armies are accused of Tamil genocide ”!

This ad is full of many quotes, the most notable being that of Barack Obama; “The UN has failed to prevent the ethnic massacre in Sri Lanka.” I wonder on what basis did Obama come to such a conclusion? Perhaps, for a man who thinks Scotland is “the emerald island”, it is easy to confuse “defeating terrorism” with “ethnic slaughter”! Or, maybe he spoke “on the other side” like the current US president did at the top! It was well known that the rump of the tiger contributed to Obama’s election campaigns. To her credit, Hilary Clinton returned the contributions when it was pointed out that they came from the remnants of a terrorist group, but Obama refused to take action saying he did not know who is contributing and which contributors would not get any favors. But this statement proves that he too speaks for money! Isn’t that first-rate dishonesty?

Politicians are known to produce a lot of gas in their speeches, but according to widely disseminated information in the UK, President Biden passed a lot of gas to the other side at COPE26 in Glasgow. It had been so long and so hard that it bothered Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall who was sitting next to him. It amused her so much, it was the topic of conversation with her friends for days, it was reported. Maybe poor Mr. Biden didn’t know what was going on because he seemed to be dozing most of the time, during COPE26!

Our politicians can take comfort in the fact that there are also political jokers in the world. In fact, they would love what is going on in the UK and maybe could say they have learned from the mother of all parliaments! It revolves around the second job most UK parliamentarians have. A lawyer, who represents a very secure Conservative seat, has made millions giving legal advice and showing up for a British Overseas Territory known for its dubious funds but apparently didn’t break any rules! Now there is a clamor to prevent MPs from getting a second job, but it is far from being implemented. It is not just our lot that is keen to earn money quickly by entering Parliament!

Ever since I wrote “Corrupt Cameron” (The Island, August 14) as I guessed, other “Camerons” appeared, but the worst part is the saga around Owen Patterson, which Boris Johnson’s government pathetically handled, causing a turnaround. After the infamous “Questions for Money” case that arose during John Major’s tenure, when numerous malpractices such as fraudulent expense claims came to light, an independent body was set up to investigate the misconduct of Members of Parliament.

Owen Patterson, a former cabinet minister, was a paid consultant for a clinical diagnostics company and a meat distribution company, earning a total of £ 100,000 a year on top of his MP’s salary. After being recognized by the Independent Standards Commissioner for breaking the rules on paid plea on multiple counts, the Standards Committee recommended a 30-day suspension of Parliament, an action that could lead to a by-election if over 10% of voters signed a petition reminder. Although such recommendations are generally accepted without discussion, in a futile attempt the government ordered its MPs to vote for an amendment to stop Mr Paterson’s case on the pretext that it was considering revamping the standards system. . They seem to learn a lesson or two from us!

However, many Tory MPs rebelled, public outrage coupled with opposition fury resulted in a turnaround within 24 hours, severely shaking Boris Johnson’s prestige. Having no choice, Owen Patterson resigned, but if it hadn’t been for a bang, he might have returned to Parliament after the suspension. In the UK, ruling politicians turn around when they make mistakes, but everything in Sri Lanka is continuous arrogance.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, who has been accused of giving Covid contracts to buddies, only resigned after being discovered cheating on his wife. He was caught on CCTV kissing an assistant, breaking his own rules on Covid! Once again, the government was talking about opening an investigation to find out who leaked the CCTV footage to the media, but that seems to have calmed down!

Politicians of Sri Lanka, I bring you good news: there are political pranksters, cheaters and daylight thieves all over the world, just like you! You might not be the best!