- Ranil Wickremesinghe on a holiday binge!
By Faraz Shauketaly in Koggala, Southern Sri Lanka
Side stepping the question as to what happened to vast sums of monies donated to the United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the failed leader of the UNP, took a break from politics to relax at one of the most expensive hotels in Sri Lanka last Wednesday. His choice of hotel to relax in, was ‘The Fortress’ in Koggala near Galle.
Wickremesinghe was booked into Suite 27 and Room 28 for a stay that was due to start on Friday evening. He had previously been at the hotel Wednesday after which he checked out on Thursday to return to Colombo. The Suite and the other standard room was re-booked at The Fortress from Friday May 28 to Sunday May 30. However, Ranil Wickremesinghe had not booked into the hotel even by Saturday morning. There was also no cancellation of the booking. The cost of the suite at the lowest rate advertised was Rs. 90,000 per night and the standard room was on offer at Rs. 20,000. The combined total per night without drinks would be Rs. 110,000.
‘The Fortress’ is the ultimate in chic and luxury and counts amongst its owners, companies controlled by businessman and former BOI Chief, Dhammika Perera. At one time The Fortress also had the distinction of serving the world’s most expensive dessert – which came complete with a gemstone which one got to keep.
An appetizer costs from Rs 1,000, a soup Rs 500, a main course dish Rs 1,200 and the box standard rice and curry a staggering Rs 1,500 all subject to taxes and service charges. A plate of devilled beef or fish would set you back Rs 1,500. The bar list is equally upmarket. A shot of Cognac ranges from Rs 650 to Rs 2,500, Arrack Rs 400, Whisky Rs 750 and the Scarlet Pimpernel cocktail Rs 700. Again plus taxes and service charge.
A managerial source at the Fortress, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that The Fortress was the preferred R&R spot for the beleaguered Leader of the Opposition. He said that Wickremesinghe was a frequent visitor, coming at least twice a month.
Our source confirmed that the rooms are billed to the client at a special corporate rate which is standard for consistent and regular usage. Wickremesinghe does not get the rooms complimentary but is given discounts as any regular and or corporate user would be able to negotiate.
The Ocean Loft suites and the Fortress Residence suites are the epitome of luxury living. It comes complete with state of the art technology in terms of TV and sound systems and naturally has its own infinity pool for complete privacy. The open plan designs give spectacular views on to the Indian Ocean and the cordon bleu cuisine together with the spa is said to help to enhance and relax the senses. At Rs. 155,000 per night for its top rated suites and an occupancy level averaging 50 per cent, The Fortress is clearly a winner.
Wickremesinghe and his entourage enjoyed the sumptuous luxury that is the Fortress, ignoring apparently more serious business of state and party alike. In terms of governance, there has been hardly a murmur towards the government plans to tinker with the Constitution and enable the President to contest an election for more than the presently permitted two terms. Regarding party administration, Wickremesinghe has not quite adequately addressed the issue of accountability of the monies he has received as party leader – stating however that he has “given The Sunday Leader Rs 11 Million”. Issues of calling for elections for various posts within the UNP have also not been finalised – possibly stuck at one of Wickremesinghe’s preferred solutions: the famous “committee” stage. Certainly the role of Leader of the Opposition has its perks as does being Leader of the UNP. One is said to provide the material benefits and the other the kudos and the almost enforced by force “respectability”.
Details of Wickremesinghe’s high-living comes amidst claims that the UNP was having difficulty meeting its debts and running costs. However, the party itself is not without support from its supporters. Wickremesinghe therefore is not without financial assistance. It is the distribution that is seriously flawed.
Stalwarts complain that the system in place is manifestly and significantly unfair and inequitable in practise.
While Wickremesinghe languishes in five star comfort very little attention is being given to the fact that the party’s headquarters ‘Sirikotha’ is running on a stringent budget unable to even meet electricity and telephone bills, the laws by which this country functions is being tinkered with and even fine tuned with an opposition that is more at ease being a silent witness but nevertheless partying in their own inimitable style in luxurious and chic surroundings that has privacy and discreetness as its cornerstones. Ranil it is clear, continues to wait for Godot.