Volkswagen is Sri Lanka’s National Car
Japanese, our dear friends, had got angry with Sri Lanka. They questioned why Sri Lankans had become so ungrateful. Japanese ambassador questioned, “Haven’t you forgotten that we gifted you a 1001 one bed hospital at Sri Jayawardanepura Kotte? If it’s mismanaged, is it our problem? Have you forgotten that we introduced television to Sri Lanka and Rupavahini is our gift. We even let you show Oshin and make money off the programme”. Dear Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe responded, “Mr ambassador, It is my uncle who asked for a 1001 bed hospital. You built it at Sri Jayawardanepura Kotte. I am no Jayawardane. Remember I am a Wickremasinghe. When you gifted the television station I had just entered politics. By the way, I haven’t even watched Oshin”.
Prime Minister’s advisors told the ambassador that Wickremasinghe knew history very well and it was very undiplomatic for him to try to teach him history. The gentle ambassador was puzzled and saddened. He drove all the way to Polonnaruwa to meet with President Sirisena who was ruling Sri Lanka from Sirisenapura in Polonnaruwa, as promised. He hardly came to Colombo. He had told reporters he hated Colombo and its people and all the pollution.
Cartoon googled and added by TW
However, when Foreign Minister Samaraweera politely asked the Japanese ambassador to travel to Polonnaruwa with his deputy Acharya (Dr) Harsha de Silva, the good ambassador became very angry. He said, “I am sorry minister. Japan got nothing to do with your deputy minister and we will never deal with him”. He even warned that Peace Envoy Yashushi Akashi will visit Sri Lanka in the coming months to resolve the problems between the two countries. Samaraweera was puzzled. He instructed Foreign Secretary Esala Weerakoon to appoint a committee as well as to commence discussions with the Sri Lanka Japan Friendship Association.
The Joint Opposition and the JVP and the Weerawansa faction were adding fuel to the fire. They were not helping the government. Joint Opposition was planning to send MP Bandula Gunawardane to Japan to organise protests in the country in support of Japan. JVP had already contacted some revolutionary party in Japan and collecting funds to carry out a poster campaign. Weerawansa had threatened that if the government of Sri Lanka was not ready to help Japan, he would commit harakiri in front of parliament. It was chaos and even Minister Rauff Hakeem had threatened to import ice cream from Tokyo. Arumugam Thondaman. Douglas Devananda and Karuna were looking for ways to capitalise on the situation. TNA had planned a hartal with the support of Wigneswaran and imported Japanese masks from a diaspora shop in Toronto.
The ‘civil’ society and the ‘uncivil’ society were at loggerheads. Many supported Japan and others supported the stand taken by the government of Sri Lanka. Even the nurses union came out in support of Japan together with the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and the parents of SAITM students. They all sang the same song for the first time. Former senior diplomat Nanda Godage said the ambassador to Japan, Prime Minister’s friend Dissanayake must be recalled if the problems between the two counties cannot be resolved. He was on the side of the Japanese Ambassador and sympathised with him. Former Foreign Minister Professor GL Peiris issued a very long statement and briefed the editors of newspapers over coffee and cake. He said that the Prime Minister as a member of the Western backed International Democratic Union didn’t understand the importance of Japan. Well known economist Dr Arjuna Mahendran questioned as to how Sri Lanka could continue without the support of its biggest donor Japan. He said no bond could save Sri Lanka without the help of Japan. He warned that the issue must be resolved ASAP and those who created the problem must be sent to Sentosa island in Singapore as punishment.
The ‘trouble shooter’ of the government Minister Malik Samarawickrema was nowhere to be seen. His deputy Senasinghe didn’t respond to any viber messages. Arjuna Ranatunga pleaded with the Japanese ambassador to approach former big lady Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga before meeting with the President. This is the transcription of that telephone call, “Sayonara CBK. You know the problem. Why have you done this to Japan? Is it right?” Kumaratunga ever so undiplomatic, snapped back, “Hapo Ambassador. Don’t tell me your problems. My parents were only close to China and India. I have many friends in France. Even my duty free Toyota land cruiser is under repairs and I cannot help you”.
The ambassador had no alternative but to go and meet the President. He told the President, “What have you done to our relationship? This isn’t fair at all. Why have you ordered your citizens to destroy all Japanese vehicles. Your Finance Minister has banned all imports of Japanese automobiles to Sri Lanka. This is a disaster”.
A thoughtful President Sirisena told the Japanese ambassador, “Aney Mama danne hehe. (I don’t know) I used German vehicles, BMW and Benz. I never had a land cruiser. But, last week even my cars were taken away and I read in the newspapers that Prime Minister and I and everyone in Sri Lanka have to use only Volkswagen cars made in Kuliyapitiya, Sri Lanka. Now it has become our national car. Finance Minister sent a circular that we cannot repay our loans if we don’t use Volkswagen cars made in Sri Lanka”.
The ambassador fainted