Amazon, British Council, Chanaka Amaratunga, Clive Taylor, Council for Liberal Democracy, Dudley Senanayake, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, Hugh Fernando, John Keleher, Lalith Athulathmudali, Liberal International, Liberal Party, Maldives, Marcus Gilbert, Margaret de Silva, Neil Kemp, Ravi Karunanayake, Rex Baker, Sarath Fonseka, Sharmila Perera, Urs Schoettli
A mark of what I can only recall as the overwhelming generosity of the officials I worked with at the Council initially was the fact that they also sent me to the Maldives when we took one of the drama tours there. Zem told me later that, in the brief period in which she had looked after culture, she had done all the work, but the Assistant Representative had decided that he would make the trip to the Maldives himself. Rex and John were very different in that regard. So in fact was the Assistant Representative who joined them for the bulk of their period in Sri Lanka, Marcus Gilbert, a bright and energetic young man who later found his career stymied, doubtless because of his commitment to the countries in which he served. He was to take early retirement, as John Keleher did too, and also the idealistic Clive Taylor who had succeeded him, but who fled early from the horrors of Neil Kemp.
One reason the Council was able to send me abroad frequently, with no cost to the British taxpayer, was that we ran a large training initiative, called the Technical Training Cooperation Development (TTCD) programme, on which we sent about a hundred government employees to Britain for long or short periods of training. It was handled, under Marcus’ supervision, by a British lady called Margaret de Silva, a locally engaged member of staff as we were known, an expatriate married to a Sri Lankan. She drove a hard bargain with the airlines on our behalf, mainly KLM, and got a number of free tickets for the Council which were used for training programmes. This was how Rex ensured that we were able to send a lot of our locally engaged staff for training, without using up funds on airfares.
The Council was also generous about leave to travel for the Liberal Party, which Chanaka and the rest of the Council for Liberal Democracy officers decided in the course of 1986 that they wanted to establish. I was I think the only one against it, because I thought we were essentially a think-tank, but I agreed to get involved if the others went ahead, and also to be one of the Vice-Presidents, which was the position I held in the CLD. When I came back from my voyage round the world however, early in 1987, it was to find that I was the President. Hugh Fernando, who had been President of the CLD, had decided to join the SLFP.