13th October 2002, Volume 9, Issue 13
A twin brother and a disabled brother wait for
sisters of Mattumagala tragedy to come back
Those they left
By Ranee Mohamed
Tears wet the broken floor as 11-year-old Silindu Prabath crawls all over. He has never walked in his life, except with the help of his sister. She had always shown him around - and tried to make him a 'man of the world.' "Don't worry and don't be frightened Silindu," she had often consoled him, "I will always be there for you," she had assured him. But took life's final journey at a pedestrian crossing opposite their school, Karunaratna Buddhist College on Friday, October 4, without a goodbye.
ramshackle home at No. 178/32 down a long winding bylane in Gunasekera
Mawatha, Mattumagala, Welisara is flooded in a sea of tears.
"My son is waiting for
his sister to come home and we cannot bear it. We had two children last
week and this week we have only one," cries poor Anulawathie, who
tries to make ends meet with her husband Ignatius Sahabandu's Rs.3000
income a month. With this money the family had to educate two children and
Silindu had to be taken to school everyday in a three wheeler. Their elder
daughter, 13 year old
Amalka Mihirani was their greatest hope - they consoled themselves
thinking that she would look after her
disabled younger brother after their parents died. But just before
blossoming, she withered at a time when her mother was excitedly waiting
for her to attend puberty.
It had been Anulawathie's
sister Somawathie who had always come to the family's rescue. But today
she could not talk, her voice was hoarse from crying, another of
Mihirani's aunts was suffering from shock. Seated in one place, she was
staring into nowhere, pausing from time to time to let out a long sigh.
"My daughter liked to
eat good food. She loved to go out. But we could not give her even the ala
thel daala and the pappadams she liked to eat," cried Anulawathie.
"She never used to have breakfast, but on the day she died, she told
me that she was hungry and asked me for a little rice and her last meal
was one of beans, rice and pol sambola. I am so glad she had a meal that
day," says Anulawathie. "She begged me for Rs.20 on that day and
I just couldn't afford to give it to her. How I wish I could have given
her everything her young heart desired - nice clothes, good food and fun
trips here and there," cries her mother in regret.
Instead of having fun, this
young teenager was cooped up in this little house, doing the chores and
helping her crawling brother to get up. "It was she who did the bulk
of the work for her brother, helped him in his schoolwork, took him to the
bathroom and helped him. She even rested his bulk on her shoulder and
helped him to go and see boys of his own age at play," recalls
Anulawathie. "How I wish I had the means to help this child get
better, because he is not going to have anyone, now that his sister is
gone." she laments.
Not in class
Anulawathie was told by a
father of another student that a girl had been knocked down by a bus. When
she had run to the school she found that her daughter was not in the
class. "Then I took a three wheeler to the hospital. There I
overheard nurses talking that nobody from the second child's family has
come to hospital. I ran to them and asked them where my child was. There
were many people receiving treatment in the hospital because of
some outbursts that ensued. But my child was nowhere. Then they
showed me a trolley covered with a white cloth. When they moved the cloth
aside I saw my baby lying there, her white uniform stained with her own
blood, her blood drenched face fallen down. I fainted and when I regained
consciousness there was a funeral in my home," recalls Anulawathie.
Mihirani had been pulled out
from under the bus and most of her bones had been jutting out.
On the same side of the main
Negombo-Welisara road, turning off from a store named Bosco is
the lane in which Ariyawathie Gunasekera and her four daughters
lived. But from last week she lives with only three daughters. Her
the one she bore and nestled last was snatched away from her arms
on the same day as Mihirani, on the same pedestrian crossing.
"She was my youngest
daughter and it seems like yesterday that I brought the twins home,"
recalls Ariyawat- hie.
Harshini Gayanthika is the
other victim who was hit by this bus and she leaves behind
her twin brother Gayan Harsha. The 18 year old boy cannot talk.
"He spent the night reading his twin sister's books and sitting by
her empty bed. He was kissing her coffin all the way to the
cemetery," said Ariyawathie.
Gayan did not utter a word.
Twins they say share a special bonding and to have one of them ripped away
like this is undoubtedly shattering. One can easily say how devastating
this separation has been by taking one look at Gayan. He stood there like
a zombie, not uttering a word, his eyes filled with tears.
"My daughter Harshini
was always laughing. From the time she came home she used to keep her
little nephew on her back and go all over the house pretending to be an
elephant. My husband died in 1998
after being paralysed and I had a hard time looking after my
daughters. I used to take Harshini to the Ragama station every Saturday
and Sunday at 5.30 a.m. for her to go for classes at Gampaha. I did not
send her alone anywhere. She went to school with her friends," cried
Ariyawathie is unable to
talk. "I used to plait her hair every morning and all the time she
used to talk about something or the other. She never stopped talking and I
still keep hearing her voice," she cries.
Harshini had wanted to study
hard and get well employed so that she could look after her mother.
If 18 years is not an age to
13 years is not an age to die at all.
Uncertainty of life
These two teenage students
died when a CTB bus
driven by Rampahage Namal
knocked them down while they were trying to cross the road at the
pedestrian crossing opposite their school in Mattumagala, Welisara
on Friday, October 4 . By going into eternal sleep,they have
awakened us all to the uncertainty of life itself.
The tragedy stirred the
entire neighbourhood of Welisara, but as the town settles down to life
itself; in the homes of these two teenagers, the sorrow is etched and the
real meaning of their death has begun to set in with each passing day - as
their white uniforms hang empty, their plates wait to be picked up and
their books wait to be turned to a new page. We read this story and flick
this page over not knowing how deaths as sudden as these rip living beings
geniuses of destruction
By Asgar Hussein
A few months ago, Abdul Kalam
assumed duties as the new president of India. Although a Muslim, the
campaign to appoint him to this largely ceremonial post was spearheaded by
the nationalist BJP government. Kalam enjoys immense public support. In
fact, he is India's most celebrated scientist - for this is the man who
developed the nation's ambitious missile programme.
His popularity, in a sense,
is understandable. India has already joined the so-called 'nuclear club,'
and upgrading its missile capability will act as a deterrent to enemies
such as China and Pakistan.
But the irony here is that
Kalam hails from a nation with a long tradition of non-violence and
passive resistance. Two of India's greatest sons - Gautama Buddha and
Mahatma Gandhi - preached against violence. Yet, the Buddha's view that
hatred can only be overcome by love, and Gandhi's successful campaigns of
passive resistance against the British, appear to have been disregarded.
But then again, this is not
surprising. There are times when eternal truths are ignored. The fact that
Buddhism is firmly entrenched in Sri Lanka has not prevented bloodletting
on a massive scale. Consider this - ours is the only country in the world
depicting a violent creature on the national flag.
Many believe that aggression
is an innate human behaviour. War has always plagued mankind, and it has
largely defined national borders. This is precisely why even scientific
knowledge and inventiveness have been callously applied for destructive
The sad fact is that some of
the world's most brilliant minds have been engaged in building a
frightening arsenal of atomic, biological and chemical weapons. Wouldn't
humanity have progressed vastly had their energies been directed towards
more constructive purposes in other domains?
Even developing a doomsday
device is not impossible - a 50,000 megaton cobalt-salted device could
wipe out all mankind, except those living deep underground for more than
Perhaps, some soul-searching
is necessary. As the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung said, "We need
more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that
exists is man himself...... His psyche should be studied because we are
the origin of all coming evil."
These words are profound and
disturbingly true. Just consider the fact that there are already enough
nuclear weapons to end life on Earth many times over!
Since early times, military
technicians have been devising new weapons to kill and maim. The
compressed air blowpipe, for example, manufactured over 2200 years ago by
the Greek Alexandrian engineer Ctesibius, evokes the gun.
Even before, the Chinese are
known to have engaged in gas warfare - they produced rudimentary bombs and
grenades using a combustible base like wax or resin, dry lacquer, a strong
lung irritant, arsenic and lead oxides. These were set afire and hurled
towards their adversaries, who suffered from the toxic vapours emitted by
the scattered fragments.
It was also the ingenious
Chinese, who well over 2000 years ago dug tunnels beneath enemy positions
and diffused dangerous fumes into them.
It has also been postulated
that they discovered both black gunpowder and the principle of rockets
over 700 years ago, for historical accounts describe flying bombs which
made a terrible noise. In 1241 AD, the Mongols (most probably taught by
the Chinese) successfully used rockets at the battle of Legnica in
Silesia. Some decades later the Arabs launched rockets to attack Valencia
The Chinese also used
crudely-devised landmines in the 13th century, followed by seamines which
appeared in the 14th century.
Weapons have since advanced
greatly in terms of sophistication and explosive output - today's nuclear
devices are terrifying to say the least. In 1961, the former USSR
detonated a thermonuclear device with the power equivalent of 57 megatons
of TNT. The resultant shock wave circled the world thrice. It was about
3800 times more powerful than the first atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima,
Japan, by the USA in 1945, killing and injuring over 130,000 people.
The nuclear age dawned after
Albert Einstein, certainly the greatest scientist of the 20th century,
propounded his theory of relativity. Probably fearing that Nazi Germany
might make a nuclear weapon first, he also wrote to US president Roosevelt
promoting the construction of the atom bomb.
In the postwar years,
however, he actively advocated nuclear disarmament. He was saddened by the
terrible effects of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is indeed lamentable that
some of the most brilliant physicists had wasted their time working on
nuclear weapons. They include such men as Enrico Fermi, Andrei Sakharov,
John Von Neumann, Hans Bethe and Edward Teller. Had they concentrated on
other areas in physics, the world would have been a better and safer
The prospect of a nuclear
catastrophe will continue to haunt us. Rogue states could acquire nuclear
weapons, and a serious conflict between two warring nations could trigger
a nuclear exchange.
In 1963, during the Cuban
missile crisis, the US and USSR came dangerously close to such a
confrontation. The development of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan,
each highly suspicious of the other, is also a cause for concern. This has
ramifications for the whole of South Asia including Sri Lanka, as an
all-out war between them could threaten regions well beyond their borders.
And what would happen if the
unthinkable occurs? It could lead to what is called a 'nuclear winter.'
The prevailing weather conditions would be adversely altered by dust from
nuclear explosions and smoke from ensuing fires. Sunlight will be greatly
reduced and temperatures will drop significantly in the months after an
encounter. This will have extremely serious ecological effects and will
lay waste crops.
Yes, a nuclear war cannot be
won, and is self-destructive. Have we advanced so far only to eliminate
ourselves, or return to the caves and start all over again?
Frightening advances have
also been made in the fields of biological and chemical warfare.
It was around 500 years ago
that the Italian Leonardo da Vinci, who at one time worked as a military
engineer, actually contemplated attacking the enemy with missiles carrying
a liquid extracted from the saliva of a mad dog or pig. This genius of the
Renaissance even proposed placing toad and tarantula venoms into bombs,
although this was never carried out.
However, today the threat
from biological weapons is real. Researchers are developing new strains of
disease-carrying, highly-virulent microorganisms for use in warfare. These
organisms could be incorporated into bombs or missile warheads, or else
added to the enemy's food and water supplies.
Great strides have also been
made in chemical warfare. As far back as the 4th century BC the Chinese
attacked their enemies with weapons that released toxic vapours, but the
recently developed poisons can even circumvent gas masks and penetrate the
skin. The lethal VX nerve gas, for example, is very dangerous - as little
as one milligram is sufficient to kill a man.
Throughout the course of
human history, the efforts of scientists and military technicians have
been diverted to destructive pursuits. The result has been an awesome loss
of life and resources. Even great men like da Vinci and Einstein have been
Humanity has accomplished
much in the recent past. We cracked the genetic code, split the atom,
explored the psyche and unravelled the secrets of the cosmos. Yet we have
failed to grasp a simple truth - that there is a huge difference between
intelligence and wisdom, for the wise do not have an urge to kill.
after our children
By Shezna Shums
It was the first of October
that was Children's Day.
To mark the importance and value of children's rights and freedom,
the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) put up a new unit to carry
out investigations and follow-ups on cases of child abuse.
Earlier the NCPA had only two
police officers working with them to take action against these offenders.
However with the number of cases gradually going up every year,
these two officers were not enough, says Chairman, NCPA Professor Harendra
With the new unit at the NCPA
there will be 12 police officers specially trained to detect and prosecute
offenders of child abuse.
There will be an equal number of male as well as female officers on
duty, says DIG of the unit, Sirisena Herath.
Professor Silva says child
abuse is rampant around the country and the cases they get to investigate
are only the tip of the iceberg.
When the two officers handle
a case of child abuse, they get held up with their respective cases and
court proceedings. When other cases come up de Silva finds that these
officers' hands are tied with their current work, and cannot carry out
investigations on the new cases.
These officers are specially trained to monitor, detect and
apprehend the offenders of child abuse.
Speaking of child abuse
cases, Professor Silva says that most of the time it is the blood
relatives, parents and people known to the minors, who are the offenders.
It may be a boy or girl under
the age of 18 that comes under the category for child abuse.
Such cases are reported from all parts of the island, from all
types of communities and religions.
However de Silva says that child abuse is more prominent in the
Boys also affected
Girls as well as boys are
affected although people are very much aware and concerned about the
welfare of girls. However many boys are also affected by such abuse.
According to de Silva the community is however not as sensitive as
they should be about child abuse towards boys.
There is a common background
to many of these cases. When one parent leaves the country to go abroad to
work, the child is then left to be looked after by either the other parent
or a relative. In such instances the child may undergo physical, verbal,
sexual or mental abuse.
It is noted that in very
densely populated areas there is a very high rate of abuse cases reported,
such as the shanty areas and coastal areas around the island.
Villages and even outstation
towns have significant numbers of child abuse cases; this is due to the
fact that many males take to alcohol, and when they are drunk they commit
Children living on the
streets of Colombo and other outstation towns are also prone to such
and institutes are also places where children are at times beaten, abused
sexually, mentally or verbally.
Children taken in as servants
are also very much in the list of child abuse cases.
Another major issue is the
situation of child soldiers - taking young children to war is
unjustifiable and also comes under the category of child abuse.
Professor Harendra de Silva
says that a few years ago child abuse cases were not usually reported.
However with more awareness
the police are now better equipped to monitor, detect and investigate into
such abuse cases.
In more than 15 districts
scattered around the island there are regular complaints of child abuse.
The NCPA is concerned about this and hopes that they or other trained
professionals will be able to curb this unjustifiable crime.
Even in schools around the
country child abuse is present. What many adults say is that when they
were young they were beaten or punished in school and they turned out
this is the wrong attitude says Professor de Silva.
Beating children and verbal,
mental or physical abuse cannot be justified as legitimate.
According to DIG Sirisena
Herath the police monitors child abuse cases by reports from neighbours,
relatives and sometimes the victims call in to the unit and also petition
Last year there were 1200
child abuse cases handed over to the Attorney General's Department.
This figure though, is as
professor de Silva says only the tip of the iceberg.
However with this new unit
the number of child abuse offenders taken to courts is likely to go up and
hopefully reduce the number of children who are victims of such crimes.
take five minutes
By Shehara Samarasinghe
George W. Bush works for his
living. So did Adolf Hitler. Marilyn Monroe and Mozart were full of grace
but Queen Elizabeth is full of woe. Chandrika is loving and giving. This
brief personality analysis is based on the well known `Monday's child
is...' rhyme and around the world many cultures hold beliefs about the
connection between an individual's day of birth and their personality and
temperament. The Ashanti of Ghana go so far as to actually name their
children according to the day of the week on which they are born. The
issue becomes more complicated as astrologically minded people also
consider the exact time of birth significant...imagine being called `08:32
That said, I have always felt
that the 'logic' in 'astrology' is somewhat misplaced. However, even
intelligent, well educated people give much credence to birth charts and
the like; astrology sites which offer personalised analysis of birthdays
are some of the most popular and one can find this information for every
more or less famous person. Whilst my attitude towards this pseudo-science
has never been tolerant, from an anthropological point of view, astrology
and birth charts are strongly linked to the human reverence for time and
the seemingly intrinsic need to elevate single moments. Even in cultures
where time is not seen in the linear, progressive form that is common in
the West, isolated incidences are held to be important and the urge to
equate one's own birth with such incidences is great.
Early Christian writers
stressed the importance of individual historical events that would not be
repeated. History, they said, did not move in cycles. On the contrary,
creation took place at a particular point in time; Christ had died on the
Cross but once and had been resurrected from the dead on only one
occasion. Finally, at some point in the future, God's plan would be
completed, and He would, once and for all, bring the world to an end.
Islam and Judaism have
similar credos and even the cyclical patterns of Buddhism follow this
model as rituals are perfectly ordered and the division of sacred and
secular time is strongly defined.
The high status of time in
human society is singularly perplexing. History was 'created' by strongly
religious individuals recording important events. The precision and
reliability of clocks stems from medieval monks concerned with praying on
time. We may not know what time is or if it indeed exists, but it seems to
live in us all.
Perhaps the reason that time
has not been adequately explored - for instance, the correlation of the
menstrual and lunar cycle has been brutally ignored by scientists - is
that in our primarily man-made environment, it is mainly a culturally
determined experience. When human beings were still in tune with natural
rhythms and were governed by the sun and the seasons, time was an
internationally accessible concept. Nowadays our behaviour is governed by
schedules, age norms and by the 'open' hours of our local mall.
"It is impossible to
assume that man is born with any innate 'temporal sense'" observes
Irving Hallowell, author of Temporal Orientation in Western Civilisation.
His 1974 study showed that infants flex their limbs and move their heads
in rhythms matching the human speech around them. By the time a child is
three months old it has already been temporally enculturated, having
internalised the external rhythms
to its culture. These rhythms underlie a people's language, music,
religious rituals (the Buddhist mantra, for instance, is not only one's
personal prayer but one's personal rhythm) and also serve as a basis of
solidarity: humans are universally attracted to rhythm and to those who
share their cadences of talk, movement, music, and sport.
And that's where the problems
start. Last week I mentioned how my somewhat relaxed approach to time
infuriates certain friends of mine whose internal clocks are rather more
rigid. Cultural attitudes to time are varied and depend on a number of
values. Show up an hour late in Brazil and no one bats an eyelash. Keep
someone in New York City waiting for just 10 minutes and you have a lot of
explaining to do. Robert V. Levine, social psychologist at California
State University, began research into the diverse concepts of time in
1988. As a visiting professor in Brazil, he discovered that college
students there had a very different attitude towards time compared to
American students. When he arrived 20 minutes late to his first class he
entered an empty classroom. However, this did not mean that the class had
already been there and left, as it would have in the United States, but
rather that the students had not even arrived. After the class they hung
around for about half an hour instead of leaving immediately. Levine went
on to conduct a so-called 'pace of life' study in 31 countries.
In A Geography Of Time,
published in 1997, he describes how he ranked the countries using three
measures: walking speed on urban sidewalks, how quickly postal clerks
could fulfill a request for a common stamp and the accuracy of public
clocks. Based on these variables, he concluded that the five fastest paced
countries are Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Japan and Italy and the five
slowest are Syria, El Salvador, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.
Thinking of the saying
"In Mexico time walks, in America it runs or flies" it is easy
to dismiss the findings as pandering to stereotypes. Indeed, the data was
often quite clear cut: the Japanese scored highest in all three tests
while the Indonesians had the slowest walking speed and least accurate
clocks. However, a number of sociological factors come into play. For
example, in Brazil being late is perceived as a privilege of the rich and
Likewise, Italian streets may
be bustling and their clocks accurate, but anybody who has ever attempted
to buy a train ticket in Italy will know that the Italian pace of life is
adagio. Train station employees see nothing wrong in gossiping or lazily
drinking a coffee and delight in closing all but one window when faced
with a line of customers similar in proportion to the Great Wall of China
- of course, they know that only the tourists will complain, the locals
will be too busy gossiping themselves or flirting outrageously with their
Despite these differences,
there is such a thing as a universal concept of time: it flies when you
are having fun. A watched pot never boils. Time sometimes stands still.
Our internal clocks work independent of culture and are more or less
If you think this article is
interesting, for instance, then the time spent reading it will pass
quickly. If, however, you cannot suppress your yawns, then it will drag on
for ages. This is a quirk of a stopwatch in the brain that marks time
spans of seconds to hours. The internal timer helps you figure out how
fast you have to run to catch a ball, when to clap your hands during your
favourite song and how long you can lounge in bed after the alarm goes
off. It functions in connection with the higher cognitive powers of the
cerebral cortex, the brain centre that governs perception, memory and
conscious thought. When you approach a yellow traffic light, for example,
you time how long it has been yellow and compare that with a memory of how
long yellow lights usually last. Then you decide whether to apply the
brakes or to continue driving.
The neurotransmitter dopamine
creates these interval memories and is said to make a unique time stamp
for every interval imaginable. Stephen M. Rao of the Medical College of
Wisconsin, USA is hot on the trail of dopamine and how it is controlled.
He conducted examinations on patients with Parkinson's disease and found
that the condition lowers dopamine levels meaning that the interval clock
is slowed down. Drugs like marijuana have a similar effect. Adrenaline and
stress hormones, on the other hand, increase the availability of dopamine,
making the interval clock speed up, which is why a second becomes
'eternity' in an unpleasant situation. States of deep concentration or
extreme emotion may flood the system or bypass it altogether, which is why
time seems to stand still or not exist at all. And now you have reached
the end of this article - that was quick wasn't it? How time flies when
you're having fun!
"The Opera Ghost re-ally
existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination
of the artistes, the superstition of the managers, or a product of the
absurd and impressionable minds of the young ladies of the ballet, their
mothers, the box-keepers, the cloak room attendants or the concierge. Yes,
he existed in flesh and blood, although he assumed the complete appearance
of a real phantom; that is to say, of a spectral shade." Stated
Gaston Leroux, the man who first gave the Phantom life.
It is 1911 and the contents
of the Paris Opera House are being auctioned off. Raoul, the Viscount de
Chagny is now 70-years-old and in a wheelchair. As the auctioneer displays
the Opera House chandelier, he explains that it is connected with the
legend of The Phantom of the Opera. With a flash of light, the audience is
flung back in time, when the Paris Opera was at its height.
We are thrust in the middle
of a rehearsal for the opera Hannibal.
Monsieur Lefevre, the retiring manager of the opera, is showing the
new managers, Monsieurs Firmin and Andre, the great stage when a backdrop
falls to the floor, nearly killing the prima donna, Carlotta. Christine
Daae who has been taking lessons from a mysterious teacher, then takes
At her triumph in the opera,
is Raoul, a nobleman and patron of the Opera House. Raoul recognises
Christine, his childhood sweetheart. He comes backstage after the
performance to escort her to dinner, but Christine refuses because her
teacher, "The Angel of Music," is very strict. When Raoul leaves
Christine's room, the Phantom appears and lures her to his underground
The Phantom then sends a
series of notes to the managers of the Opera House, as well as to Raoul,
the ballet mistress Madame Giry, and Carlotta, instructing that Christine
have the lead in the new opera Il Muto.
However, the refusal of the
managers to comply with the Phantom's demands angers him. And when the
Phantom witnesses Christine and Raoul pledge their love to one another he
is further enraged, especially at Christine's betrayal and he causes the
final disaster of the night - the mighty chandelier comes crashing to the
The second act opens at a
grand Masquerade Ball at the Paris Opera House. No one has heard from the
Phantom in six months. His absence causes relief to everyone after the
series of mishaps, which seemed to place a curse on the Opera House.
Christine and Raoul are secretly engaged.
However, the Phantom suddenly
appears and delivers to the managers a score from his opera, Don Juan
Triumphant and insists they perform it.
At first, the managers refuse
the strange, disturbing opera. Then with the help of Raoul, they devise a
plan to trap the Phantom, using Christine as bait.
Confused between her growing
affection for both the Phantom and Raoul and not wanting to betray either,
Christine visits the grave of her father hoping for an answer. But there
on the grave stands the Phantom, beckoning her to join him when Raoul
appears and takes her away after confronting the Phantom. At last, the
opening night of Dan Juan Triumphant arrives. The Phantom takes his place
on stage after murdering the lead singer and escapes once more with
Christine to his labyrinth below the Opera House.
In a last confrontation, the
Phantom gives Christine a choice: stay with him forever, or he will kill
Raoul. Her decision brings to an end the story of The Phantom Of The
Prepare yourself for a
spectacle more bizarre and astounding than your wildest imagination!
Jerome L. De Silva and the
Workshop Players (headed by Romesh Devanesan this year) bring to you
Andrew Lloyd Webber's word-renowned opera, based on the book by French
novelist Gaston Leroux (1868), The Phantom Of The Opera.
A production so complex and
yet so simple it will make you laugh, cry, seethe with rage and cringe in
fear, leaving with you the perpetual memory of a man's haunting face and
an insatiable thirst for this black angel's music.
After 18 years Jerome will
play the lead in a production of his, when he portrays the haunting
Phantom. Serela Athulathmudali will play Christine; Raoul will be played
by Dushyanth Weeraman, Sean Amarasekera and Manoj Singanayagam; Carlotta
will be played by Kumudini David and Natalie Gunaratne; Madame Giry will
be played by Shanuki de Alwis and Mario Pereira, and Monsieur Firmin will
be played by Sean Amarasekera, Shiyan Jayaweera and Pagan Kumarasinghe.
The production team includes
Jerome L. De Silva, Surein de S. Wijeyeratne. Thushan Dias, Soundarie
David, Ranga Dassanayake, Yoshita Abeyesekera, Buddhadasa Galappaththi,
Nimal Bulathsinghala, and Lou Ching Wong.
Since their inception in 1992
the Workshop Players has staged many sensational musicals such as Lost In
The Stars, Cats, West Side Story, Les Miserables and Lion King.
Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, this production of the Workshop
Player will go on the boards at the Lionel Wendt Theatre from October
17-28 (box plans are now open).
Youth Orchestra takes
off next week
Over 100 young musicians from
ages 10 to 25 years will perform at a special concert on October 19 to
celebrate the 10th anniversary of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) at
the Vishaka Vidyalaya Hall.
The National Youth Orchestra
is undoubtedly the premier launching pad for many children who learn to
play orchestral instruments. Since its inception 10 years ago, the
National Youth Orchestra has trained over 500 young musicians.
The main object of the NYO is
to take Western music to all parts of the island and encourage rural
school children to participate in orchestral performance instead of
restricting it to privileged schools in the city.
This is the aim of the founder of the National Youth Orchestra Maya
Abeywickrema, consultant to the Ministry of Human Resources, Education and
These young musicians of the
NYO have regular training programmes on Saturday under the baton of well
known conductors like Ajith Abeysekera, Dayananda Fernando and Manilal
The programme for the concert
offers a wide variety of music ranging from popular music to Broadway and
classicals including Mozart's Jupitor Symphony and Titus Overture and
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The National Youth Wind Ensemble will also be
performing at the concert. For further information contact Dilan on
Minister's vision pays dividends
I am extremely happy that the
performing arts are being given pride of place in the national agenda. We
all know what countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are doing with
the international performing arts and I believe that Sri Lanka must follow
suit if we are to take our rightful place in the world.
I also believe that we have
something those countries don't have and that is a native born orchestral
conductor with proven international credits.
Our prime minister has stated
that he wishes to transform Sri Lanka into an international entertainment
hub for the region and is most supportive of The Philharmarmonic Society of
Sri Lanka, of which I am a trustee.
The mere fact that the prime
minister and his wife hosted a 'tea party' recently in honour of the longest
serving administrator of a major British arts organisation bodes well for
this country and it is already paying dividends. The Philharmonic Orchestra
has agreed to conductor Rohan Joseph's request to convert the vast
non-performance areas of the Royal Festival Hall on the days of his concerts
into exhibition space wherein Sri Lanka and selected businesses can display
their services and products with a view to attracting greater up market
tourists and investment to Sri Lanka.
One has only to ask SriLankan
Airlines or the few Sri Lankan companies trying to compete in the lucrative
UK market as to how expensive advertising rates are in Great Britain, but
here is an unique and economically viable opportunity and it is being
provided thanks to the performing arts.
Even when Sri Lanka
participates in international trade fairs it is just one of many countries
and any possible impact is lessened in the face of stiff competition. But,
because of just one Sri Lankan musician, the entire Royal Festival Hall
becomes Sri Lanka's on Monday, December 9, 2002 and again on April 26, 2003.
This is a priceless showcase
for Sri Lanka and its selected businesses. Just imagine the editorial
coverage this will attract for our country in the British media.
- Anton de Alwis
ear to Little Sapuni
By Ranee Mohamed
Five year old Sapuni hears no
evil. That is because she cannot hear.
She does not overhear her parents lamenting over their little
daughter's inability to hear - she cannot hear her mother Nelum Perera
pleading with every well-to-do friend to help her buy a hearing aid for this
"The hearing aid costs
about Rs.75,000 and we are poor people," said the girl's mother.
"I have a five month old baby and it is impossible for me to even to go
work and think of collecting this money after years," she confided.
Chamani's husband has a small stall in a market.
who underwent a test has been defined as having a profound hearing
loss bilaterally. "Iot is recommended that Sapuni consults an ENT
surgeon for possible medical intervention and clarification' notes the test
results. She has been advised to resort to appropriate amplication
subsequent to medical clearance.
Sapuni's greatest desire is
to be able to hear. She touches her earlobe and outstretches a palm - asking
her mother to buy her a hearing aid to fit her ear lobe. What she cannot
hear is the muffled sobs of her mother at their own poverty -
the helplessness of not being able to buy their child a dire medical
necessity. Granting this family their most urgent wish, is a kind of charity
that will make a little girl hear the sounds around her for the rest of her
lives in hope - she hopes that this article will stir some
individual, some organisation, that will help her little girl to hear.
Sapuni and her parents, together with their five month old baby live at
212/14 Nelum Pedesa, Kalapaluwva, Rajagiriya.
clearance to Premadasa
Mr. Premadasa understood that
the economic policies of the post 1977 government benefited only a fraction
of society - the business people, the commission agents and the Colombo
elite. He was born and bred among the poor and the downtrodden; he also
worked for and with them. So he understood the problem of poverty very well.
He was seriously concerned about the growing disparities. He felt that the
growth that took place during this period by-passed the poor people. He
believed that the problem was one of wealth distribution. He wanted to
improve the quality of life of the people. With his Housing Programme he was
trying to ensure that the poor people had access to the basic necessities of
life, such as the ownership of a house.
Mr. Premadasa had his own very different approach to developmental issues; his notion of slum clearance is an example of this. Usually slum clearance means the forcible eviction of the people living in slums to areas outside the city and developing these city locations for commercial purposes. You can see this happening now. This is both a political mistake and a human tragedy. Most of those people would have been living in that area for a long time. They work close by; their children go to nearby schools. If you uproot them from that environment and put them elsewhere they feel alienated. Their work, education and social life get disrupted. What Mr. Premadasa meant by slum clearance was improving the quality of life of slum dwellers by providing them with better housing and other basic facilities. That eventually became the official government policy. Only a very few people were removed outside their original habitats and that too was not done forcibly. We obtained their consent. (That was not from Colombo Central; it was done under the Canal Development Scheme. We took these families to Badowita, in Ratmalana. They are doing well now).
* * * *
After the victory of the UNP
in 1977, I went to Pottuvil and from there to Yala from there, through the
jungle. Mr. Premadasa as usual knew my movements, and there was a message
waiting for me when I got back. When I met him he gave me a list of the
institutions under his Ministry and wanted me to make suggestions concerning
who should be appointed to head these institutions; he also told me that JR
Jayawardene said to give me any one of these. Mr. Premadasa had then said
that I wanted to go abroad. I never expressed such a wish. What happened was
that during the campaign Aloysius mudalali told me: "you are working so
hard. What are you expecting to get after we win". I told him that I
did not expect anything and that after election victory I wanted to get out.
What I meant by that was that I wanted to get out of Colombo. In fact I had
already made the necessary preparations for this shift. I had sold my house
in Chandralekha Mawatha and brought a property in Badalgama, in Katana. I
was going to go there with my family and set up an agricultural farm. I knew
that if I stayed in Colombo I would not be able to stay aloof from politics,
that I would get involved again some how or other, whether I wanted it or
not. And I wanted out. That was what I told mudalali. That man misunderstood
what I said and went and told Mr. Premadasa that I wanted to go abroad.
Naturally Mr. Premadasa did not want me to go abroad. But if that was what I
wanted he was good enough to let me go. So he told me: "I told Mr.
Jayawardene that you wanted to go abroad and that I wanted a diplomatic
appointment for you; he agreed but wanted me to tell you that it may take
During this time Mr.
Premadasa was constantly discussing the appalling conditions in the Colombo
slum gardens with me. The situation had taken a turn to the worse with the
nationalizations, since these people were left with the responsibility of
maintaining the garden and they were too poor to do so. During this time Mr.
Premadasa came to my house practically twice a day to talk about this
situation. He also told me about the Common Amenities Board,
---how it was underutilized
and its potential. One day he gave me a file. In it there was a letter from
the UNICEF to the Common Amenities Board offering assistance. It was not
even replied. After I went through the file he took me to the office of the
CAB. I could see that the place was completely disorganized. Eventually he
told me: "Sirisena can't you take over this place even for a short
while and do something with it?" By this time I was also becoming
interested in the issue and I thought I would be able to do something with
the institution. I agreed to take the job for six months, on condition that
I am not paid a salary or given a car. He consented. I stayed there for one
There is a difference between
tenement gardens and shanties. Tenement gardens are what we call gardens (watte).
They are legally built houses and the dwellers are mostly tenants. Slums are
unauthorized structures. Under the UF government many of these gardens were
'nationalised', though the residents were not granted ownership. Instead the
state became the owner. These occupants were given ownership of their houses
as part of Mr. Premadasa's urban housing programme. During the early days
under the Municipal Ordnance the landlord was held responsible for the
maintenance of these gardens. The houses had to be colour-washed annually.
In every garden one house was given to a scavenging family. Early morning
they would go around collecting the refuse. The Municipal used to be very
strict in the observance of these laws; if they were violated, action would
be filed. Gradually things deteriorated because the landlords started
bribing the municipal employees. The situation got even worse when the
government took over the houses - because there was no one responsible for
their maintenance. When we came in the situation was very bad. Mr. Premadasa
was looking for a way to deal with this problem and he came up with the idea
of using the Common Amenities Board (CAB). The CAB was set up by the UF
government but it was not used properly during this period.
In that one year I inspected
364 tenement gardens. Our aim was to provide these residents with the basic
minimum facilities. And based on the interest already expressed by the
UNICEF in this matter, I decided to request its assistance. Prof. Willie
Mendis was an advisor to the UNICEF at that time. I talked to him and other
UNICEF people. Tarzie Vittachchi was also there. I remember talking to him
as well. They were very cooperative. So the UNICEF also got involved. We set
up a Community Development Centre in each garden. It was of, by and for the
people of the garden. We were careful to keep politics out of it. In one
year we managed to clean up 358 tenement gardens. The fact that I knew
something about the subject was also helpful. Our first priority was the
provision of basic requirements such as decent sanitation facilities,
running water and paved roads.
I was also helping Mr. Premadasa with his political work in Colombo Central during this period. After the victory Sucharitha was filled with thousands of people every day. When I came back from Pottuwil I found the place in a state of complete chaos. I took over the task of re-organising the place and arrangements were made to meet people every day at the Sucharitha Hall. A long table was placed on the stage and Mr. Premadasa accompanied by several of us used to sit at it, attending to the people who came in their thousands with problems to be solved and requests to be granted.
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