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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2966

Chandrika off to a flying start, but will she hold up international flights?

Colombo, 28 October, ( Chandrika Kumaratunga, former president of Sri Lanka is off to flying start, heading towards Delhi next week on her first assignment as the newly appointed Senior Consultant to UNESCO for Education in Asia.Cynics believe that Chandrika Kumaratunga has found a job in right place that fits her talent for mismanagement.Cynics believe that Chandrika Kumaratunga has found a job in right place that fits her talent for mismanagement.

During her term as President, Air Lanka had two flight schedules: one in which tickets was sold to the passengers and the other was determined arbitrarily by her, depending on the time she was ready to board the plane. Invariably she was very late holding up international flights inconveniencing passengers who missed connecting planes at various points of landing.

As a UNESCO consultant she will be flying high, business class (free) armed with a UN diplomatic passport. Apart from the dollar salary she will be entitled to per diem. She is used to high living with a predilection for French wines.

The appointment came on heels of a controversial book published by her former political ally, Victor Ivan, editor of the Ravaya, a Sinhala language weekly. The book contained allegations of corruption, running a death squad, wastage of public funds, cronyism etc.

Political circles in Sri Lanka remarked that Sri Lanka's loss is no gain for the UN. Eyebrows were also raised as to how a political leader with a dismal record could be appointed to a position in the UN - most of all, to improve education in Asia. Of course, UN is riddled with corruption, mismanagement, wastage of funds, over-sized bureaucracy, cronyism, and above all, having Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi officer oppressing and persecuting occupied territories, as Secretary-General.

Cynics believe that Kumaratunga has found a job in right place that fits her talent for mismanagement. She is also not known for managing her tongue diplomatically to avoid embarrassing collisions with those who disagrees with her. She has also been caught denying in the evening what she had said in the morning.

Her appointment is also problematic because she had asked to be exempted from dealing with Sri Lanka, despite the fact that Sri Lanka is a part of Asia. UNESCO is an organization meant to serve all nations. This exemption is a curious puzzle. Does it mean that the UNESCO's education services will not be available to Sri Lanka because of her? It is doubtful whether there can be a conflict of interests. If so UNESCO should not have appointed her at all.

The excuse trotted out by UN officials, as reported in the media, is that Sri Lanka literacy rate is very high (in the region of 92.5%). Besides, Preethi Perera, Director General of the National Commission for UNESCO is quoted as saying that the country was already benefiting from education reforms she introduced in 1994 as the then President.

So does this mean that she has nothing to contribute to the Sri Lankan education as a senior consultant? However, some educationalists contest the claim that she made a contribution to the education of Sri Lanka. In fact, they point out that reforms had to be introduced to undo her reforms.

It is speculated that she is avoiding Sri Lanka to escape embarrassing news leaks about her high living style when she parks herself in 5-star hotels in Sri Lanka. All in all, Asia can look forward to a controversial educational period under the new Senior Consultant from UNESCO. At the end of the term, her report card is expected to provide interesting reading.

- Asian Tribune -

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