05th May 2002, Volume 8, Issue 42
It is highway
people know where Gelanigama
is, but by the end of this year most of us will. But sadly, by that time,
there will be no Gelanigama. For this little village off Bandaragama would
have by then been swallowed by the gigantic highway that will go crashing
mercilessly through it - in its heartless journey from Kottawa to Matara.
hundred and twenty houses, countless paddy fields, rubber plantations, bird
and plant life will be gulpled down by this eighty metre wide, monster
highway in the name of development.
Leyasingho is from a bygone era. But he still is king, over here in
Gelanigama, for he spends his days in his paddy field. Clad in his old
sarong, the last thing Leyasingho can do in the evening of his life is to
bask in retirement.
fact, these days he can barely sleep in the nights either. "I keep
having nightmares of our home being broken down and my paddy fields being
cemented," he confided. "The first settlement in this village is
recorded in 1700 and now they are planning to destroy it all," he said
do we go to? Who will listen to us?" asked a senior and important
citizen V.D. Dickson. "I am the only male in my family of eight and now
we are threatened with being shown the street," he said his brows
knitted with worry. "We don't know what to do. How can we leave our
homes? They are trying to make animals out of man. We like this road, but we
do not want to lose our homes," he added.
Nanayakkara leads a committee of people on behalf of these farmers
"Nobody told us about this road. Nobody told us not to buy land here.
And now suddenly they are coming here to survey our land and raze our houses
to the ground. How can they be so cruel? How can they let this happen. These
are our homes - this is the place where we live, eat and sleep..."he
these people of Gelanigama, their houses and their source of income and
living are blended in a beautiful unison. They work in their paddy fields,
vegetable plots or rubber plantations and come home to rest and then go back
to work again. They do not have offices and they do not have fans. They are
only fanned with the breezes that bring a sense of relief to their minds
that a day's work is done.
soon they will lose it all. And can we watch it happen.
when we see people like Priyanka. Carrying her one and half year old son
Tharindu and clutching the puny hand of her four year old daughter Hirani,
who could easily be mistaken for a two year old, Priyanka cries tears of
fear. "They want us to go but where can we go to? I can't imagine
having to lose our home. My sister is mentally retarded and it is my old
father and my husband who make ends meet by working day and night in the
paddy fields. I leave my children with my mother and go to work in the
rubber plantations," she lamented.
the people sat waiting, their chins buried in their palms with thoughts of
destitution wreaking havoc in their minds, Gelanigama fanned their broken
hearts with its countless green trees. Birds sang every little song they
knew to lift these human hearts. But nothing could console the villagers of
Gelanigama even on that bright, blue-skied May Day morning
the villagers knew that the trees would come down and the birds would have
to go away.
paddy fields and the oviti only saw sadness and tears in every heart and
this farming community is the home of Cyril Mundy, retired banker who has
worked for the HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Italy, Japan and
Saudi. This expert who had been instrumental in developing the credit card
business in Sri Lanka chose to nestle his retirement home in the heart of
for three years and just finished, Mundy's home sprawls on a huge bare land
and reaches out to nature, for this is how it is made. No gruesome
destruction, for every construction seems to blend with the surroundings.
Down below from the patio is a view of paddyfields, countless paddy fields -
there will soon be none.
soon, Mundy's home to which he and his wife put their hearts and souls and a
lot of money to build, will have to make way for the road too.
RDA is very sneaky about this project," said Heather Mundy. "We
understand that the Matara-Colombo highway was designed by international
consultants to go in a location about three and a half to four kilometres
away from this village of Gelanigama," said Heather.
also said that as far as she knew, this highway was suppposed to run closer
to the coast through marshy lands.
for some unknown reason it was moved here. This road will destroy about 320
houses instead of 20 as per the earlier schedule," she pointed out. It
is learnt that even in 1995 the villagers did not know that such an idea
villagers say that the only person who has so far listened to their woes is
Lands Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.
hundred and twenty homes and about 200 acres of paddy countless trees of
rubber and a wide and varied bird life are expected to be destroyed in the
name of this new highway. The deeds of lands in this area are reportedly so
ancient that they are written in Thombu. But
development, it seems, wears sunglasses.
naval ship visits Colombo
American naval ship,
the USS Hopper (DDG 70) under the command of United States Navy
Commander Ken Auten, visited Colombo on April 30, for a ten-hour refueling
stop. Assigned to the United States Pacific Fleet and based at Pearl Harbour,
the USS Hopper is one of the latest Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile
Hopper's mission is to operate offensively in a high density, multi-threat
environment as an integral member of a battle group, surface action group,
amphibious task group or an underway replenishment group.
ship produces its own fresh water - upto 24, 000 gallons per day - has three
electric plants and can stay out at sea for an indefinite period if supplied
with fuel and food. The maximum speed of the ship exceeds 30 knots. If
needed, the ship can leave a port in under an hour if an emergency arises.
It can also have helicopters land on its deck.
ship was last in battle in 1998, taking part in operation 'Desert Fox.'
There are 25 officers and 300 crew members on board; about 30% of whom are
women. Half of the officers are women, making it a mixed-gender crew. All
the members of the crew are trained for combat.
the brochure distributed among the media personnel by the crew of the
Hopper, the ship is described as, "One of the most capable warships
ever built. Through the teamwork of its crew and the sophistication of its
combat systems, Hopper will protect the interests of the United States and
its allies deep into the 21st century."
weapons on board the Hopper consist of 90-cell VLS for standard MR
SM-2/Tomahawk/VLA (ASROC); eight Harpoon anti-shipping missiles; one
five-inch 54-cal DP Mk 45 MOD 1; two 20-mm Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons
Systems) 4500 rounds/min; six 12.75 inch Torpedo tubes Mk 32 (2 triple).
electronic warfare system consists of SLQ-32 (V) 3 counter measure set,
SLQ-25A NIXIE Torpedo counter measures, MK 36 MOD 6 decoy launching system
(six launchers). The sensors are SPY-ID 3D search/track radar, SPS-67 (V) 3
surface search systems, SPS-64 (V) 9 surface search radar, SQS-53C hull
mounted sonar, SQR-19B towed array sonar system, and SQQ-28 LAMPS shipboard
Hopper is named after Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer
technology and one of the earliest female admirals in the United States
Navy. She also developed the first computer programming language and
computer compiler that helped revolutionise the world of computers. Grace
Hopper was born in 1906 and died on January 1, 1992. The ship's motto of 'Aude
et effice' which translates as 'Dare and do,' is a phrase that Admiral
Hopper frequently quoted and the lozenge on the crest, traditionally used in
the coat of arms of women, honours her too. Also added to the crest is a
single star that represents Admiral Hopper's distinction as the first female
line officer to achieve the rank of rear admiral.
blue and gold colours of the shield are traditional navy colours. The lion,
a symbol of strength and courage, stands for the USS Hopper's
characteristics of survivability and alludes to the ship's motto. The lion,
adapted from the arms of Scotland, refers to Admiral Hopper's heritage and
the trident symbolises her love for the United States Navy and her naval
service. Gold stands for excellence and blue for devotion to duty.
lightning bolts framing the bottom of the shield connote the image of a
ship's hull cutting through the sea. They also represent the sophistication
and power of the AEGIS war ship, in large part made possible by Admiral
Hopper's work in the computer field. The wreath consists of laurel and oak,
representing honour and strength. red denotes courage and sacrifice.
Ken Auten, Executive Officer Dave Cela, Officer Courtney Rogers, and
Navigator Matt Cader along with the crew members expressed their delight at
being in Sri Lanka after a long time. "We're glad to be back after
eight years. It's a beautiful country and I hope we get to stay for a while
next time," said Auten. Auten will call on senior Sri Lankan Navy
officials during the ship's time in Sri Lanka.
crew went to great lengths showing the media personnel around the ship
whilst explaining their various duties and what it takes to run a ship on a
day-to-day basis. "We do have fun sometimes, it's not all work. There
are some movies, TV, radio and we occasionally have movie nights and games
too," said Officer Courtney Rogers.
Ambassador Ashley Wills, speaking about this being the first American ship
to visit Sri Lanka in eight years said, "The visit of the USS Hopper is
emblematic of the friendship between the people of the United States and the
people of Sri Lanka. I am especially pleased that we are again seeing an
American ship visit Colombo after such a long time."
ship is headed West after it leaves Sri Lanka to what is called the central
command area of operations. It will join the central command's fleet
afterwards and patrol the Western Indian Ocean as part of operation
home and dialysis unit for kidney patients
Kidney Patients' Welfare Society (KPWS) has drawn up
plans to mobilise much-needed public funds to make
available better facilities to kidney patients by way of a transit
home in the close vicinity of the Sri Jayawardenepura Hospital, and a
dialysis unit at the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila.
dialysis unit will come under the direction of Prof Devaka Fernando and Dr.
Kamini Wanigasuriya. The transit home will, on the other hand, afford
accommodation to low income group patients from the outstations who seek
treatment in Colombo.
approximate sum of Rs. 20 million is needed to set this operation in motion,
said Prasad Galhena, the president of the society at a media briefing in
as a charitable organisation, the Kidney Patient's Welfare Society seeks to
alleviate the suffering kidney patients in this country have to undergo,
especially those down trodden patients from the outstations who face untold
patients die of renal failure and even more suffer disability throughout
their lives. Renal disease, including chronic renal failure, is a critical
cause of disability and death among many patients in Sri Lanka.
is estimated that around 1300 chronic renal failure patients and a large
number of acute renal failure patients require dialysis therapy to either
save their lives or prolong their survival. Haemodialysis through dialysis
machines are an essential mode of therapy in the management of these
patients. Furthermore, there are around 1300 - 1400 new patients each year.
the 48 dialysis machines available in Sri Lanka are insufficient to cater to
the increasing number of patients, as the country requires more than 150
dialysis machines in operation.
said that the Kidney Patient's Welfare Society thus appeals to the public
for donations to make the transit home and dialysis unit a reality.
Donations may be sent to The Secretary, Kidney Patients' Welfare Society,
32/5 Terrance Avenue, Mt. Lavinia or to a/c No. 654889001 of the Seylan
Bank, Mt. Lavinia.
By Sonali Samarasinghe
you thought my life's experiences with the dentist were somewhat
remarkable, let me regale you with a tale of my
visit to Doctor K my general physician. This is the chap, as you
know, who looks after our condition in a general sort of way, while being
peculiarly special in his fees.
hallooed to him cheerily the other day at the local supermarket. He waved
back with a sad smile, staring vacantly at some snow peas.
I was not inclined to blurt 'Well meet by moonlight,' unlike Hamlet
to Ophelia, or Lysander to Hermia or neither to either. Between meeting a
doctor in his clinic and meeting him at Woolworth's, there is a real and
will see you soon,' I promised. Speaking clinically (not socially). 'You had
better,' he replied, glancing down at my shopping cart where a bag of rice
rested happily on a bed of tins of coconut milk, drizzled over with packets
of desiccated coconut and pork.
exhausted our obviously extensive topics of conversation, we stared at each
other awkwardly. He smiling like an idiot, me goggling hopelessly. Isn't it
funny that outside of the consultation room, one lapses into verbal
bankruptcy in the presence of one's physician? A man mind you whom one has
cheerily disclosed one's intimate personal medical conditions to. A man
let's face it, who possibly already has or one day in the future will, see
one in one's birthday suit lying on one's back.
you get caught up in the visual imagery of those last wild sentences of
mine, let me quickly continue with the story. So there as I say we were.
Staring. Vacantly. At each other. The silent tete a tete was thankfully
interrupted by a buxom Australian hampered in her mission to get at the
lettuce. As the first strident ''scuse me please' wafted into our ear lobes
we jerked ourselves from our reverie and biffed off. I to the fresh seafood
counter and he to continue his dialogue with the snow peas.
next day I called Doctor K's clinic and spoke to the blithe young
receptionist. Her lilting voice floating over the wire.
By the timbre I gathered she was extremely bucked about something.
'I've got a raise,' she squeaked. 'Thanks to Doctor Kay.' 'Pish tosh, my
young wild receptionist,' I scolded. Don't thank him, thank me. Have you
seen my medical bills lately?
she continued to bubble like a kettle on the boil. Anyway I got the
appointment and loped into the
bally money guzzler's consulting room.
Kay', I lamented. 'I can't recall who said 'well meet by moonlight' to
whom.' He looked puzzled for a mo. 'Shouldn't you be confiding these
confidences to your literature lecturer rather than to your medical
practitioner,' he said. 'I can't remember anything,' I told him. I'm losing
my memory. Do you think a tumor is pressing on my memory cells.'
thought for a moment. 'It's just stress dear. Not tumors. What you need
is a session of hypnosis. That'll help. 'Won't a scan do?' I ask. 'No
no. hypnosis or nothing else'. 'But I always thought that one is most
vulnerable to being possessed by little demons when one is under hypnosis or
when one has just sneezed a big one and no kind soul screams 'bless you'.
had the feeling doctor kay had just been to wildest Africa and learned some
new skills which he wanted to practice on me. 'Doesn't hypnosis tend to
produce sleep? I mean to say one could suggest all sorts of things which my
vulnerable brain would absorb as Gospel. Doesn't it facilitate suggestion
no dear,' he soothed but I was not convinced. So I toddled out of the room
still suffering from bad memory but deeply fascinated with this idea of
ever there was a moment in my life where I was in two minds about something,
then this moment was that moment.
Baba' is no more
Niroshan, dubbed `the
giant baby' (Yodha Baba)
is no more. Yodha Baba from Dimbulagala who made news headlines a few
years ago has died due to acute asthmatic attack that led to heart failure.
Few years ago, the oversized youngster became the centre of a media frenzy
as thousands gathered to see him. This not-so-small wonder was born to a
farming family in Dimbulagala, in the Polonnaruwa district.
about the last few hours of the giant baby's life, the doctor who was on
duty at the ICU unit of Polonnaruwa Hospital said the child was brought in
to the ICU unit for treatment at around 12.15 on the 23rd. "Umantha
suffered from breathing problems. The doctors entered a tube in to Umantha's
respiratory track in order to help ease the breathing.
to the doctors, at birth Umantha had not been any different from an average
child. However, after three months of age Umantha had shown signs of
developing in the most unnatural manner. "Umantha weighed around 68
kilo's at just five years of age. Weight wise it is quite abnormal for a
child of that age to grow to have
the weight of a fully grown person. In Sri Lanka, especially in the rural
areas such as Dimbulagala, the average weight of a child of around five
years of age would be between 12- 15 kilos" explained the doctor.
abnormal growth had been due to a hypothelamic disorder in the brain which
results in the imbalance of the production of certain growth hormones.
According to Umantha's doctors, when it comes to the health of children with
similar conditions, even the slightest infection can be fatal.
doctors kept Umantha's parents informed of the various difficult health
conditions their child will be experiencing as he grows which is inevitable
for a child with such a abnormal growth. The reality being what it is, full
of many undesirable truths, Umantha's parents were clear on the fact that
his chances of a long, healthy life were very slim. His parents were given
support by various government and non governmental organisations who came
forward to assist them in taking care of the Yodha Baba.
was necessary for the family to bring him in for constant medical check ups
as even the slightest cold would lead to asthmatic attacks and other
respiratory problems" said the lady doctor who treated Umantha at the
being constantly fed, Umantha used to complain all the time saying he was
hungry. A small lunch time snack for Umantha meant eight buns and several
bananas. Underneath his skin there was
a fat layer that was about five
inches in thickness," explained the doctor.
coming to terms with their grief, Umantha's parents can take refuge in the
knowledge that they did their best to give him a normal life," said
Ven. Aththanakadawala Janathalankara thero in his sermon atYodha
Baba's funeral. According to Ven. Janathalankara his sudden demise was due
to bad karmic effects in his previous birth.
is only a week before he died that he was adjudged the winner at Singithi
Avurudu Kumaraya contest held at his school, Maha Ulpatha Vidyalaya in
Niroshan, the Yodha Baba's funeral took place in Dimbulagala on the 27th,
amidst a large gathering of friends and relatives who came to bid farewell
to the wonder boy.
up the children's ward at Cancer Hospital
Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
has its ups and downs, times filled
with light and sunshine and times filled
with gloom and darkness. This is when the saying "It is by far
better to light one solitary candle than to curse the darkness," would
come to mind.
operations of the Association For Lighting A Candle (AFLAC) proves the
veracity of this statement. Established by Elmo Jayawardena more than two
decades ago, AFLAC plays a major role as candle makers who then provide
light for those in need.
term 'in need' could be looked at in different perspectives. 'Needs' differ
from each individual - some would need financial assistance while some would
need medical attention, but the most common thing that anyone would need is
love and affection. Ironically, it is this love and affection that costs
nothing at all that is hard to find and get.
you walk in to the Cancer Hospital in Maharagama it is love, affection and
kindness that is needed in every nook and corner. You turn to one corner and
see a few faces looking hopefully at you. Hoping that someone will stop by
and speak to them, comfort them and most of all show them that though not
well, they too are human beings who need to be loved. Their faces seem blank
but it is their expression filled eyes that show what they really need. They
need love, someone to touch them and speak to them kindly and to spend some
time with them. For these patients, hope is what life all about.
live with the hope of a brighter tomorrow. For some, a human touch is of
paramount importance as they feel that it is their disease that drives
people away. For them, they are the forgotten ones in society.
is the children's ward that would tug the deepest strings of the heart. The
little ones just run around and spend time playing in the play pen - built
by a lady who lost her son to cancer. The play pen is now maintained by
AFLAC and a young girl employed by the association spends half a day at the
play pen with the children. Some children have become great friends as they
sometimes spend three months at the hospital.
not suffering from the illness, knowing that their much-loved child is
suffering from an illness, which might take away their child is cause enough
for an enormous amount of stress to
parents. They too sometimes yearn for someone to talk to, someone to tell
their woes to. After all, they too are human beings. The mothers who stay
with the children sleep on the floor next to the child's bed, sometimes for
the story of one parent was so sad that it made me wonder of the others who
were there. Their story could be similar to this or far worse. The father of
a young girl of about two years went on to say that his daughter fell ill
and then suddenly lost her eye sight and became paralysed. It was then that
they found that the child was suffering from Leukemia. Hailing from
Batticaloa, now the parents are with the child in Colombo. The father who is
a teacher has given up his job and is now with the child. At night, the
mother sleeps with the child in the ward while the father sleeps in the
nearby temple. The child is still blind.
most of the children who were at the hospital were from the north and east.
A reason could be that they have no option but to stay in the hospital till
they have recovered, as they cannot travel often for treatment. But, living
in a war torn area also seem to have taken its toll as stress too is
considered a cause for cancer. It is at such times that one would see what
harm it has done to the younger generation. At least, now one could rest
peacefully as the guns have been silent. And one would also wonder as to why
all this could not have happened earlier and saved so many innocent lives -
specially the young ones at the Cancer Hospital.
look around the hospital and the one question that would come to mind which
also happens to be the one question that no one can find an answer to, is
why? Nobody knows and for that matter, no one might ever know. Some would
say it is the law of cause and effect which is the root cause for this. But,
the best way to face it is by facing reality. Everyone has lost someone to
cancer at some time and this thought - the suffering, pain and death,
lingers in your mind. It is this that sometimes prevent people from
accepting reality and from getting the courage to walk into the Cancer
Hospital just to spend some time with the ones yearning for love.
is not much that we can do for these people. But, we definitely can bring a
smile to their faces. This smile could last not more than a minute, but, at
least they were able to forget their woes and laugh. If you live for
yourself, you've lived your life in vain. But, if you live for others then
you've lived a life. It is not about doing something extravagant. A little
smile on their face would show that you haven't lived your life in vain.
say we have problems and fuss over the most trivial things. But, it is at
places such as these that we see what life really is. The children, their
parents and the adult patients of the Cancer Hospital are the true heroes in
life. They've got the courage to accept reality, build up hope and most of
all, manage to smile and laugh.
No. 14 of the Cancer Hospital - a ward that accommodates upto 45 people,
mainly from poor families, was refurbished and now being maintained by
AFLAC. Recently, AFLAC also donated a lunchroom to this ward. Once a month
AFLAC has also taken steps to organise some entertainment for the children
by getting down popular personalities, which is much enjoyed by the kids and
even the parents.
hospital on the whole could do a lot with a facelift. Some patients have no
beds to lie on. They have to lie on benches. Some wards are quite gloomy and
this doesn't help the patients one bit as they need to have some sunshine to
where they are and to their lives. As you walk down some corridors the smell
of urine is so unbearable that one would wonder how the patients survive
there. It is sometimes a sorry sight to see the state of the hospital and to
know that for some patients this hospital is the last place they would be in
before they depart from this world.
all these problems all what these people need is someone to talk to them,
show them that they matter and the human touch. When someone walks in, the
children and the adults greet you with a smile, as to say 'we were waiting
for you.' That is it they spend life in hope, waiting. Waiting to be cured,
waiting to go home and for someone to come and spend some time with them.
from these, AFLAC also have other projects that cover different areas -
helping destitute families, library projects, vision pro- ject, shelter
project, clothing project, gift a meal programme, assisting visually
handicapped people, etc. Apart from initiating these projects, AFLAC also
makes sure to maintain and constantly supervise the operations of the
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