Diplomacy: Consul General Jeff Goonawardena

" In the middle of the cultural program, the Consul General himself had come back stage and requested them to cut short the Sri Lankan cultural program to make room for his “Hollywood Show”.
by Gamini Edirisinghe

(March 04, Los Angeles- CA, Sri Lanka Guardian) We, the members of “The Sri Lankan Patriots”, based in Los Angeles California have been observing the strange twists and turns of the consul General of Sri Lanka to Los Angeles , Mr. Jeff Goonawardena for some time. We note with utter dismay the manner in which he has gone out of his way to bring about embarrassment and disrepute upon the Government of Sri Lanka, its people and the expatriate community living in the United States of America . The situation created by the actions of the Consul General is unprecedented.

The Sri Lankan American community in Los Angeles is still reeling from the debacle they witnessed at the 63rd commemoration of independence of Sri Lanka held on February 05th at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach , California which was planned and organized by the Sri Lankan Consular office of Los Angeles .

The commemoration program was in two parts; the formal recognition of the event which was followed up with a cultural program. The event was begun late, nearly an hour from the scheduled time. The official ceremony was turned into a childish adoration of the Consul General, ignoring the significance of the national day and the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the audience.

The house full gathering was bored and frustrated by the incessant bombardment of “how great Jeff is” parroted by several selected persons including non Sri Lankans, which went on for more than an hour. One such person mentioned that he was not just there to congratulate Sri Lanka but also to say thank you to a friend and went on to praise the CG with unsubstantiated statements. The Consul General in his barren speech went on to glorify him self rather than emphasizing the importance of the occasion.

Organizing the cultural program was delegated to, “Serendib Foundation for Music and Performing Arts”- a Los Angeles based non-profit public benefit corporation, which has earned a name for staging quality cultural programs upholding Sri Lankan traditions and culture. The CG had made many attempts to undermine their program by insisting to include “South American” dancers as part of the cultural show. Serendib Foundation and other local Lankan performers had vehemently objected and threatened to quit. The CG, having withdrawn it, had subtly planted a “Hollywood Show” at the last minute without informing Serendib Foundation beforehand.

The cultural show had a participation of 175 performers, who were all Sri Lankan Americans living in Southern California belonging to various performing groups; majority of them being young members of the Sri Lankan community. They had rehearsed for two and half months. In the middle of the cultural program, the Consul General himself had come back stage and requested them to cut short the Sri Lankan cultural program to make room for his “Hollywood Show”!

The CG made no mention of the Sri Lankan local artists and the organizers of the event though he called the person who sang CG’s praise a ‘true friend’ and thanked him. The commemoration Souvenir thanks the “Hollywood Group” for their time, with no mention of the 175 local artists, many of whom were little children, though the list of names was provided well ahead of the Souvenir went into print.

Adding insult to injury is Mr. Jayam Ratnam who emails a news letter titled “Good News” which sings the hosannas of a beleaguered Consul General. Mr. Ratnam who reviled all political activities some time back, now declares that the Ponnambalam brothers started the Sri Lankan independence movement and Mr G.G Ponnambalam and SJV Chelvanayam later joined the struggle. According to him, the Consul General is making a “difference” and striving to put Sri Lanka on the map.

Sri Lankans in LA are simply at a loss, wondering why this man was appointed to high office. Erecting a bill board, purportedly advertising Sri Lanka , on the opposite lane of proceeding traffic, by the Consul General in a locality where nude dancers perform, and “Good News” claiming that thousands are flocking, just to see the bill board will not absolve the Consul General of the wrongs he commits.

Again we emphatically state that a Consul General of this caliber is an embarrassment to all of us and the attempts of ‘Good News” to anoint and sanitize the CG remains futile.

We request the President, to step up to correct the situation and honor us, by appointing people of character and strength to these positions.

Tell a Friend