An Affaire & Liaison with the Canadian Visa Counter!
I appreciate very much the films and documentaries produced in Canada , some of the outstanding works of fiction and criticism, and also a vibrating theatre movement in that country. My responses to these have appeared many times have appeared in Lankan newspapers both in English and Thamil during the past four decades or so. In fact, when I was a permanent resident in the U.S. between 2002 and 2004, I had visited Toronto three times, two of such visits were on invitation to be honoured there.
During May 11 -14, there was an International Conference on Thamil Studies organized by the English Departments of the Universities of Toronto and York. I was invited to register for the Conference, if interested. I did. Lanka born academic Chelva Kanaganayagam who taught English in the University of Yaalpaanam is now Professor in English at the University of Toronto. He is a scholar. On enquiries, he responded to give me four nights accommodation free during the seminar. Since I was interested in meeting and listening to some of the scholars participating in the Conference, I wanted to go to Canada and on my return visit Cincinnati in the U.S. I have many relatives living and also friends living in various parts of Canada.
I applied for a temporary visa to that extremely cold region producing all the documents required for admission to that country. But the Visa officer rejected my application on the following grounds: that I did not have sufficient funds to stay in Canada during my visit, that I would not return to Sri Lanka, that I have no permanent job in Sri Lanka, that I didn't have any bank statements, and a letter from the employer indicating my monthly salary. Naturally I was disappointed because I submitted all the documents asked for along with my application.
How that is the Visa officer did not duly pursue my application, when the visa counter clerks accepted my submission? I suspect a foul play executed at the Visa Counter. Intentionally or otherwise either one or all three of them at the desk seem to have juggled my application and documents before submitting to the Canadian officer. Those sitting at the counter were three local women. In the past, there had been many complaints against most local employees handling the visa applications in most of the foreign missions. The many letters written by distinguished Lankans on the misuse of power by local employees were published in the press. Even if the foreign employees would vie applications objectively, the locals could interfere in promoting their own interest. This had been spotlighted in the press no and then.
I had myself served as an FSN (Foreign Service National) in the then USIS in Colombo as an Information Assistant along with well known journalists Dharmasena, Benedict Dodampegama, Gamage, Janaka Perera and Anthony Fernando in the Press section of the United States Information Service during the late 70s and early 80s. All of us did not earn a bad name for the institute we served.
At the visa counter in the Canadian embassy were three women busy working? I heard all of them speak in Thamil too - one with a Sinhala accent, another with a phoney accent which was neither British nor American nor Lankan, and yet another who was busy typing. Have a feeling that the local ladies might have deliberately detached my relevant documents mentioned above and merely submitted my application along with my passports (there was the old one and the new one. I do so because in the letter sent to me by the visa officer as a reply to my query why my application was rejected, there was no mention of the required documents I had submitted.
I strongly feel that an injustice had been committed by the Canadian embassy in rejecting my application for a temporary visa (I annexed a Bank Draft too for processing my application) by not carefully processing my documents. I feel sad because I missed an important conference relating to my academic and journalistic interests.
I hope that readers of this column would take notice of what had happened to me because among them might be academics and journalists who could be faced with similar situations.
Even though the Canadian Embassy unjustly rejected my application for temporary visa to visit that country for a purpose, the U.S. Embassy granted me a visa to visit that country. And I was in the U.S. between May 08 and May 23 and returned safely and went back to teach as a permanent employee at a leading educational institution that is a gateway to progress and advancement.
Facts are stranger than fiction.
English with phoney accent!
Talking of phoney accents, I encountered to my irritation listening to phoney accent by anther young woman in my flight to Colombo from Singapore in our national career. While most of the crew members were polite and obliging, this particular pseudo westernized young woman with a short crop must have of me as a 'country fruit' or a 'godaya' who could not speak English. When I asked her where the lavatory was (that's how the enclosure is displayed in the plane; and I know very well terms like 'toilet' and 'restroom' are also euphemistically used), she said 'Sorry, you mean the toilet?' and pointed me a place where it was located. Her speech was like some of the presenters over the radio and TV stations. There was no clarity, no accepted pronunciation and were an 'acharu' of American slang and Lankan accents.
Despite the training given by veteran broadcasters like the late Jimmy Bharucha and Arun Dias Bandaranaike, some of the hostesses flying in our airline ape the phoney accent. They must be also trained on etiquette and courtesy. They can learn from the crew in Japanese Airlines for instance.