Sirisena victory delights Sri Lankan expats in Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 January 2015
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Sirisena victory delights Sri Lankan expats in Saudi Arabia

There was widespread jubilation among the 500,000-strong Sri Lankan expatriate community in the Kingdom as they savored the victory of Maithripala Sirisena over incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential elections on Thursday.
For the expatriates, it was a long night on Thursday. Such was their excitement that they remained glued to their television sets until the wee hours of Friday.
As soon as the results were declared and it became clear that Rajapaksa had lost to Sirisena, there was a flurry of congratulatory messages on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
A majority of expatriates attributed Rajapaksa’s defeat to his dictatorial attitude.
“Yes, Rajapaksa did a lot of good things, but then he became a little arrogant and stopped listening to the grievances of the minorities, especially the Tamils, Muslims and Christians,” said prominent Jeddah-based Sri Lankan community leader H.M. Rafeek.
“The anger of the minorities against Rajapaksa was reflected in the massive turnout in the country’s north and east ... There was a 70 percent turnout and it was overwhelmingly against Rajapaksa,” he said.
Rafeek said Sri Lankans were looking for change. “The minorities want equal rights, and freedom to practice their religion,” he said.
“Sirisena is a down-to-earth person. He has with him people from different backgrounds and that inspires confidence among all sections of the country,” he said.
It was not only members of the minorities who voted against Rajapaksa. The Sinhalese, who form the country’s majority, also felt uneasy with him. They voted for Sirisena in substantial numbers.
However, Riyadh-based Dilan Bandara, a Sinhala expatriate, was not happy with the result. “Rajapaksa will always be remembered for defeating the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. For me, and many like me, Rajapaksa was the best president ever,” said Bandara.
Sarath Perera agreed with Bandara. “Rajapaksa was our war hero,” he said. “He brought peace to our country. He defied Western pressure to finish off Vellupillai Prabakaran and his terrorist gang.
But the Tamil expatriates, like the Muslims, were ecstatic at Rajapaksa’s defeat. “Rajapaksa did not show any interest in resolving the political problems of minority communities such as the Tamils, Muslims and Christians. Now, we feel we have a chance to build national unity,” said Alkhobar-based T. Mahesan, an engineer. “We look forward to a new era of peace and prosperity under President Sirisena.”
“Political reconciliation and maximum devolution of power to northern and eastern provinces should be a priority for the new president,” C. Kunarajah told Arab News. “He should remove all forms of racial discrimination.”
The new prime minister got the thumbs-up from expatriates. “A real gentleman has become the premier of Sri Lanka,” said Ibrahim Jiffry, referring to the appointment of Ranil Wickremasinghe as the new premier.
There was also praise for Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya and Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon for holding a peaceful election. No major incidents of violence were reported at this presidential election.
One expatriate had a key word of advice for the new president.
“Competent career diplomats should be appointed to Gulf countries,” said Indika Gunasekara from Jubail. “Rajapaksa has been sending political lackeys as diplomats to work at Sri Lankan missions in the Middle East. This practice has to stop. Only talented diplomats can protect the interests of Sri Lankans abroad.”
Gunasekara said migrant workers in the Gulf need strong diplomatic support from the embassies. “We request the new president to overhaul the foreign service,” he said.
Sri Lankan Muslim expatriates were seen exchanging greetings and embracing each other after Friday prayers. “I couldn’t sleep the whole night out of excitement,” added Rafeek. “You can say we voted for change. We voted for a new, inclusive Sri Lanka.”


‘I really don’t care’: US First Lady Melania Trump jacket stuns on migrant visit

Updated 26 min 28 sec ago
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‘I really don’t care’: US First Lady Melania Trump jacket stuns on migrant visit

WASHINGTON: Melania Trump surprised the world by visiting child migrants on the US-Mexico border Thursday, but it was her choice of clothing for the trip that stunned the Internet: a jacket emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care, do you?“
A tone-deaf sartorial decision or a hidden message from the first lady? And if so, to whom?
The images of Melania Trump sporting the olive green khaki jacket as she boarded a flight to Texas which immediately went viral surfaced as the White House struggles to calm international anger over the practice of splitting migrant children from their parents.
Asked about the military-style jacket with large white brush-style lettering apparently sold for $39 at Zara, according to Daily Mail which first spotted the odd choice of outfit the first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said “there was no hidden message.”
“It’s a jacket,” Grisham said. “After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”
“#SheCares #ItsJustAJacket” Grisham tweeted later on, as speculation swirled online.

By the time she arrived in McAllen, Texas the first lady had changed out of the controversial garment into a cream button-up safari-style jacket.
Melania Trump’s unannounced trip to a youth shelter for migrants and a border patrol processing center came one day after President Donald Trump made a sudden decision to end the practice of splitting immigrant families that has left more than 2,300 minors separate from their parents or guardians.
Images and recordings of distressed children held in enclosures akin to cages have sparked global fury.
The first lady herself called for political compromise to end the stripping of children from their parents, the result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy against illegal border crossings, in effect since May.
It was not the first time Melania Trump raised eyebrows for her fashion choices when out in the field: last year she wore needle-thin high stiletto heels to observe the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey.