By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Leader for the National Freedom Front (NFF) and Housing and Construction Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s costly and extravagant trip to New York cost US$ 19,000 (approx. Rs. 2 million) each for himself and his young son Vibhuthi to travel first class on Emirates Airlines.
Weerawansa traveled to New York to participate in the 2600 Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi celebrations at the UN headquarters on May 16 where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had also graced the occasion.
Addressing the gathering at the UN headquarters, he had said world bodies like the United Nations Organization have given up their responsibility of protecting the rights of their member countries. He had then spoken of Buddhism and its teachings to build a just society.
Nevertheless, it was the protest organized by Weerawansa and senior officials of the Sri Lankan Mission in New York, Dr. Palitha Kohona and Major General Shavendra Silva to mark the second anniversary since the end of the war in the backdrop of the Darusman Report that became the focus of attention last week.
The protest organized outside the UN office on May 18 at 11.30 a.m. envisaged the participation of several thousand Sri Lankans residing in New York. However, by the time of the protest only a few dozen Sri Lankans had arrived at the venue.
According to reports, only 20 Sri Lankans had participated in the protest, five of them had been bodyguards of Dr. Palitha Kohona and Major General Shavendra Silva and another five persons were employees of the Sri Lankan Mission in New York.
Weerawansa had arrived at the venue around 12.30 p.m and was embarrassed to see the low turnout. He had shouted a few slogans and left after giving a voice cut to the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation cameraman covering the event. The next day Weerawansa and his son visited Niagara Falls.