It was a lavish, fairy-tale wedding for more than 1,500 guests at one of Sri Lanka’s best known addresses on Thursday (Aug 30)
Chatura, the son of Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, and a parliamentarian himself was given in marriage by his father Rajitha Senaratne at a gala wedding ceremony at ‘Temple Trees’ – the official residence of the Prime Minister.
The reception was held at the new block built by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa next to the old bungalow cum office and used for mass receptions hosted by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and now by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Though previous Presidents or Prime Ministers have attested marriage registrations, there has been no full blown ceremony at the Temple Tree venue, raising questions if the same facility would be made available, henceforth, to the ordinary people who are often cramped for places to hold weddings.
Crowned “Suwapathi” (Chief of Health) at a national ceremony just last month, father Senaratne, one of the official spokespersons of the coalition, may have had to pay Rs. 450,000 for the new hall adjoining the main building – the price for renting the space for functions.
Minister Senaratne told friends that he had to choose ‘Temple Trees’ as the venue only because he could not obtain a booking at any of the leading hotels in Colombo. True. They are full on such occasions since those hiring it book it many months, often a year in advance and pay cash down.
Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, businessmen, military officers and close supporters of Minister Senaratne and his son attended the ceremony. The wedding invitation was in an opaque glass box with artificial rose petals. The décor in the hall gave the ambience of a ‘Maharajah’s Palace’, said a guest. The catering was from a star-class hotel.
The table decoration was a collection of fruits – apples and oranges among them surrounded by flowers. The cake was tall, and all but touched the roof.
If social media lambasted Senaratne for the extravaganza, the Minister was not ruffled. During a speech, he took the opportunity to take credit for bringing the yahapalanaya government to power and vowed he would deal with those corrupt.
Video clips went viral on WhatsApp. In one, a caller’s voice is heard reportedly calling ‘Temple Trees’ with a photo of the Premier’s official residence in the backdrop. He asks how much it would cost to book the premises for a wedding and what kind of food was being served. A female voice who replied gave the name of a colleague and directed the caller to make inquiries from her.