prayer for my daughters...
Shezna Shums and Dhananjani Silva
The mother who gave birth to
the conjoined female twins can hardly speak of her joy
before tears well up in her eyes, knowing......
mother of Habarana gets a new bundle of joy
in the home: A medical point of view
different kind of a May Day
the path to natural fibre crafts...
of all labour
Thiranagama: A true heroine of our times
thought for working animals
for a movie - A'must do' thing
Marcos and the scandal of the shoes
prayer for my daughters...
mother in tears and Twins are conjoined from the abdomen
Shezna Shums and Dhananjani Silva
The mother who gave birth to
the conjoined female twins can hardly speak of her joy
before tears well up in her eyes, knowing the uncertainty that
surrounds her two in one bundle of joy.
The parents, Priyadarshini and Tharaka
were shocked when they were told that the twins were
conjoined. "We were expecting twins, but we didn't know
that they are in this condition," said Priyadarshini, a
worried mother in tears.
When The Sunday Leader caught up with
her she was only thinking of her first born babies who were lying at
the Lady Ridgeway Hospital surrounded by a number of doctors and
nurses. However, the infants were without the warmth of the mother
as young Priyadarshini was at the De Soysa Maternity Hospital
Pain and anxiety
Priyadarshini overwhelmed with emotion,
simply could not speak, but her face spoke volumes of her joy as
well as pain and her anxiety to be with her children - to feed them
and to look after them in every possible way.
She could hardly tell the names she had
chosen for her children as tears were streaming down her face,
longing to be with her kids. Even a couple of kind words could not
console this mother who wants her children's lives to be saved and
for them to be healthy.
The conjoined twins were born on
Friday, 22, through Caesarean surgery at the De Soysa Maternity
Hospital and were transferred to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital on
Monday. It was later that their mother, Priyadarshini was sent to
the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.
"I took my children to my arms
only twice before they were transferred to the Lady Ridgeway
Hospital," said Priyadarshini speaking to The Sunday Leader,
while at the De Soysa Maternity Hospital.
Also with Priyadarshini was her mother,
R. M. Malani who complained that she did not even get a chance to
take the babies in to her arms.
Priyadarshini's mother-in-law, W.
Leelawathi too was grieving at the plight of her grandchildren.
"We keep on praying for these two innocent kids. There is
nothing that we can do other than have faith in god and
doctors," she said, wiping her tears away.
All of them had such longing and
searching looks in their eyes, hoping that someone will give them a
better reassurance about the future of the twins. In fact all three
women in a way are also a strength to each other at this crucial
moment. The three women said that they are happy about the birth of
the children, hoping that everything will be done to save the twins.
Priyadarshini is a housewife but her
husband, Tharaka Sanjeewa works as a helper in a shop. Despite the
challenges he has, this traumatised father constantly visits the
hospital to see his new born infants.
The conjoined twins who were screaming
at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for their mother's warmth least
realise that not only are they the centre of attention of their
immediate family members but the whole country and the medical
No baby shirts
They lie in the hospital bed wearing
only nappies as all the baby shirts that were made for them are
single, and will have to be altered and stitched together to fit
both their bodies.
The conjoined twins have certainly made
their mark and will certainly be prayed for by many people for their
health and well-being.
Hailing from Sapugaskanda, this family
is praying in one voice that the doctors can help them take both
girls home in good health.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader about the
twins, Director Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Dr. R. Wimal Jayantha said
that their first task is to investigate the position of the organs -
that is to see if they share the same liver, the heart etc.
"According to the information we have received the conjoined
twins are only 34 weeks - being premature they have to be treated
until they are stronger.
"We are doing an echo test and
these investigations are important to identify the required standard
before carrying out further treatment. After these investigations we
will be able to decide if we are in a position to perform surgery,
and at what age, whether we have the facilities and doctors
necessary to perform surgery here, or if we need to send them
abroad," Dr. Jayantha said.
The doctor said that they would be able
to take a decision in another three to four weeks time. "Even
in six months we cannot perform surgery. We have to allow them to
mature and for that we need time," he added.
Apart from the premature status the
doctors are confronted with additional problems such as feeding.
According to the doctor, exclusive breast-feeding during first four
months and interaction between the mother and the child is of great
importance. "We don't normally separate the mother and the
child, which is why the mother who is undergoing treatment at the De
Soysa Hospital should soon join her babies at the Lady Ridgeway
Speaking about previous conjoined
twins, Dr. Jayantha says that in his 10 years at the Lady Ridgeway
Hospital he has come across three such cases, this being the fourth.
However he noted that the three previous conjoined twins had not
survived because they had shared some of the main organs.
"Presently tests are being carried out to see if these twins
have separate organs or are sharing some of the main organs,"
However, the hospital authorities are
concerned about the mental trauma of Priyadarshini and Tharaka and
are taking care of the babies to the best of their ability to
reassure them that they are striving to save the twins in every
These poor parents need the support of
society to ensure the future of these rare twins. And then to
continue the treatment thereafter will all depend on the love, care
and concern that we, human beings are willing to give them.
had three little brothers: but they died before you were born"
mother of Habarana gets a new bundle of joy
Ranee Mohamed in Sooriyagama, Habarana
Twenty six-year-old Palakotuwagedera
Asoka Kumari who experienced the horrible nightmare of losing
her three sons to a bomb when they dug up and pulled apart the
hidden 'treasure' which they watched a neighbour bury; is today
lying on the same floor on which her three sons played - with a new
But there seems to be no joy in her
heart, no smile on her lips and no complete happiness in her life as
she sits there mourning for her lost sons while holding close her
In the house are framed photos of Asoka
Banadara (11), Nishath Sandun Bandara (10) and Anushka Sanjaya
In her anguish she says she has got her
youngest son back in the form of her new baby. "So I named him
Anushka Sanjaya Bandara, my three year old baby who died while I was
away in the Middle East," she said. And in the same breath she
goes on to explain that this new baby is her second son Nishath
Sandun Bandara. "Three months before this baby was born I felt
my second son come to me and hold me around the stomach. I woke up
with a start and still felt the heaviness around me. This has to be
him," she goes on.
Losing a child is a nightmare, but
losing three children, the only three children that you had is an
anguish that cannot be compared.
"When I look around this house, I
see my sons playing. Sometimes when I sit on the floor holding this
baby, I see my three sons walk into the home, one by one, but they
never talk," she cries. Thoughts of our children may give us
great joy, but for this poor woman in her 20s, thoughts of her
children seem to guarantee a lifetime of sorrow.
'A problem at home'
Asoka Kumari who went to Lebanon in
October 2003 was recalled home two months later in December, because
of 'some problem' at home. "My salary for the month of October
was paid to the agency and the salary for November was sent home. It
had brought immense happiness to the family and with it they were
able to buy essentials for the three children. The pair of shoes
that was bought for the scholarship examination of my son Sandun is
lying in this house. It has been worn just once," she cries.
Clad in pink, Asoka Kumari arrived in
Sri Lanka on December 11, 2003. It was when the bus she was
travelling in stopped in the town of Habarana that she saw the death
notices of her three sons pasted all over the road.
When she came home there was more
heartache, for in three little coffins lay her children, waiting for
her, as if they were fast asleep. Just like they were just before
she left her on that sad day in October.
"It was a bomb belonging to the
government, it was brought by a soldier called Roshan Pradeep but no
one came to see us or comfort us or explain things to us. This bomb
ripped the lives of my three precious children but nothing has yet
happened to the man who brought it home. He says he brought it and
buried it in the backyard to take vengeance over a family
feud," went on Kumari. Money cannot replace lost lives,
especially lives of children, so this may be why the issue of
compensation has never been considered by the authorities.
Asoka Kumari's three children had
watched the soldier bury the bomb. When they had asked him what it
was he had told them that it was a balloon. The children had later,
in a burst of adventure dug out the bomb and had been prying into it
when it exploded killing two children on the spot and fatally
injuring the youngest, three-year-old Anushka, who later died in his
No children, no life
"My youngest son Anushka was being
breast-fed when I had to leave in search of a better life. Today, I
have no money, no children and no better life," said Asoka
Kumari. Here in her poverty stricken home in Irigeoya, Sooriyagama,
Habarana, she sits on the floor of a house held together by concrete
"I try to make a living by making
these concrete blocks. I have a machine, but there is no
electricity. We do not have any money in the house. We borrowed
money to have the funeral and alms giving of our three sons, today
we have nothing to spend on this new born," explains Vijitha
Bandara who just returned from the chena.
"But everything we have is spent
on this littlest one. Everything that is picked from the chena is
sold and the money is used to buy baby rusks for our little son. I
will not be going anywhere. The search for employment is over. I
will not be going abroad again," cried Kumari.
Kumari who says that her decision to go
overseas to earn money made her lose her most precious possessions.
"It is the most regretted decision of my life. I will regret it
and cry for my children for as long as I live," said Kumari.
"It is hard for us to live with
the memories. We are very poor people and our greatest happiness was
our children," said Vijitha Bandara.
It is easy to imagine this house set in
the jungles when dusk falls - there will be darkness all around -
quiet and still will everything be, till the dark nights fill in all
the blank spaces - ironically a fitting setting for Kumari and
for that is how one will describe the lives of this poor couple, who
lost it all when they lost their children.
in the home: A medical point of view
Battering in the family environment has gone on for ages, in all
societies. It is therefore not a culture based phenomenon - it
happens all over the world. Many years ago, the famous Radiologist
Caffey described non-accidental injuries after querying into the
aetiology (cause) of the many x-rays of bones that were referred to
him for review. This came to be called Caffey's syndrome.
Since then, pediatricians all over the
word have become mindful of his report, and learned to be conscious
of the possibilities of parental or non-accidental injuries. At the
same time, there was much discussion regarding sequential action.
Police action and court proceedings were initially avoided unless
there was a recurrence of such non-accidental injuries in the
patients. This was done usually to preserve the family unit - along
with counselling, probation and childcare.
Confidentiality was strictly observed
to avoid publicity, with the expectation that there would be a
change in the behaviour of the offender. It was only when there was
a murder that court action became necessary.
As a pediatrician of many years
experience, I have come across some of these non-accidental
injuries. These include head injuries, broken thigh bones, burns,
etc., which I have reported in medical journals. Other parental
violence recorded includes putting an infant in a drawer and closing
it on the child. Colleagues would agree that as medical
practitioners, they have seen much of such non-accidental injuries.
Consequently, we cannot necessarily say that this is of Western
influence or that domestic violence is a Western concept.
There are parents who fly into a rage
and abuse their children. A friend of mine of British origin (who
was the chairman of Accidents in the UK) once told me the story of a
soldier, who put on his army boots and stomped on his child's
abdomen, because the child was noisy one Sunday afternoon when the
father wanted to sleep.
In Sri Lanka, child abuse (especially
the abuse of girls) has increased in terms of incest and rape.
Especially due to the heightened incidence of narcotics and alcohol
usage from monies received from migrant workers in the Middle East
etc. Furthermore, incest is not at all uncommon, even in the
villages. In crowded homes, with the whole family sleeping together,
fathers make mistakes about wives and daughters.
Once, there was a case of a father who
brought his pregnant daughter for a consultation. On delivery of the
newborn, he gave his own name as the father of his daughter's child.
His words on the subject were "She belongs to me. I can do
anything with her or to her." Those were his words. Many
gentlemen in this country would be shocked by such sexual abuse by a
Why should we blame the United Nations
for resuscitating the incidence of domestic violence, as has been
done in the newspapers of late? Many of us have come across domestic
violence in our daily experiences as doctors and have gone on to
research this phenomenon.
My own work on the subject found that
domestic violence is another determinant of malnutrition. In
studying positive deviance, my research team chose two schools from
the lowest socio-economic growth in an urban area. Those
malnourished were identified by scientific standards. Trained
investigators were specially chosen for their experience with and
previous performance of social interviewing (with consent). We
discovered that 50% of the latter came from homes that had fathers
battering their spouses. The psychologist who helped me had to
observe utter confidentiality.
individuals were called up without publicity, and interviewed within
closed doors. No nurse was allowed to enter the room, in which the
interviews were carried out, and the interview had to cease
temporarily if the door opened. Nor did the staff know the nature of
Even though women in these situations
of domestic violence leave their homes, temporarily, to seek refuge
in their own parental homes, they end up going back to their
families - to be battered again and again. These women return for
the sake of their children and to avoid publicity about domestic
violence. Furthermore, they are in economically unstable positions.
The children were traumatised and anorexic (not eating).
Effects of slaps on the face
But this is not only a phenomenon
affecting the poor. Orthopaedic, as well as ear, nose and throat
surgeons see the effects of slaps on the face in the form of burst
and bleeding eardrums and resulting deafness (if not repaired).
Broken noses are horrible to see. Women come to hospitals,
accompanied by their husbands with stories of falls, knocks on
concrete poles etc. where it is only after gentle persuasion, and
deep history taking, that the diagnosis is made and corrective
surgery accepted. Violence occurs in higher socio economic groups as
well, and does not always end in divorce. A professional once told
his mother-in-law who requested for non-recurrence of violence:
"I will beat her black and blue and leave her on your
Some victims of domestic violence
plunge into silence, and the violence continues unabated.
Physical problems that arise as a
consequence of domestic violence include chronic pelvic pain and
disease, premenstrual distress and inadequate or excessive parental
weight gain. I am quoting from the Health Network when I say that
adverse mental effects include emotional problems such as
depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse.
The effects of domestic violence are
also evident when it comes to reproductive health. Women are
vulnerable to HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases
without any knowledge of the source. Because, in many instances of
domestic violence, as a recent health journal describes it,
"there is a lack of free choice in the decision to engage in
The WHO quotes that the overall
percentage of sexual abuse in the family is 25% for girls and 8% for
boys - although these figures differ in different populations.
However, this quotation is made only for statistical purposes, and
not because we follow UN organisations blindly. Although in the same
breath, I say, that successive governments rush to international
meetings, and are signatories to various conventions, but there is
very little or no follow-up activity.
I regret that the Family Health Bureau
is not very effective in this direction. I have participated with
women's groups in Kalutara, Kurunegala etc., where family health
workers seemed to be well aware of this problem. However, sometimes,
these women are chased out of their homes. It is still another
onerous duty for them and they are helpless. I have heard many
depressing stories, including one of a father, who delivered seven
children on his own, and bathed one newborn in a nearby river, with
the result of neonatal death.
Obstetricians have also noted physical
injuries during pregnancy for known or unknown reasons indicating
that domestic violence occurs even when women are pregnant. The
incidence of Chlamydia infection and low birth weight babies are
also documented in African and Sri Lankan MD dissertations.
How can we train our doctors to screen
for domestic violence at outpatient consolidations/admissions, or
A study in Peru, discusses how men are
encouraged to reflect on their behaviour, and trained in techniques
to avoid violence, and resolve conflicts with women and children.
This is one possibility that needs to be explored. We suggest
adequately trained counsellors, who should be able to counsel men on
alternative means of alleviating anger and frustration rather than
through resorting to violence.
Violence in school
In the Committee on Monitoring
Children's Rights, we have worked against corporeal punishment. One
principal in Colombo has set a wonderful example of avoiding
violence in school, with strict discipline. Others are unwilling to
participate, though Dr. Tara de Mel has sent out repeated circulars,
reminding them. This of course is not domestic violence - but is one
instance where violence is recognised as an unacceptable phenomenon
in our society.
The empowerment of women as well as
respect for women needs to be encouraged in schools and at all
religious levels. Christ had a special interest in the welfare and
empowerment of women. So did the Buddha, who recited stanzas on the
usefulness of educating women.
This review cannot be prolonged for the
lack of space. But let us all meet and design strategies to help men
(and rarely women) to abandon violence against their spouses.
Children must be provided with a happy and peaceful environment in
the home. Religious and other leaders need to take domestic violence
seriously and lead the way in reducing this phenomenon. Then only
can we have a society to be proud of in our wonderful land of Sri
- Prof. Priyani Soysa
different kind of a May Day
As political parties in the island
gear up for May Day celebrations today, for the crowds in
Colombo, this year's celebrations are dull.
Just four months since the December
devastation with thousands of victims continuing to live in
temporary camps and welfare centres, for many, this year's May Day
is a day of mourning, remembering the thousands of workers that were
washed away by the massive tsunami waves on December 26.
Day of mourning
With thousands of rupees spent on
political campaigns and rallies and separate venues selected for
each party, for those who have lost their livelihoods as well as
their loved ones, this year's May Day only brings with it memories
of the previous year where the May Day was spent with their friends,
fighting for their labour rights.
For A. G. Thilak, life has never been a
bed of roses. Working for 10 hours each day for a salary of Rs.
3500, May 1 is a day of significance.
Thillak used to attend political
rallies and campaigns with his brother and friends for more than 11
years, but this time he will spend this day at a temple, offering an
alms giving for all those who have lost their lives.
"May 1 is a day for labourers to
fight for their rights. Therefore due to this, it was a very
important day for my friends and me. We are supporters of the United
National Front and each year I took part in various campaigns and
rallies along with my brother and my friends. However, this year I
am all alone as I lost my brother and many of my friends due to the
tsunami. Therefore, I decided not to attend May Day celebrations
this year," Thilak says.
Thilak also adds that the idea of
spending thousands of rupees on political campaigns is a waste of
A foolish act
"With thousands of people still
residing in over heated camps, it is foolish for the government to
spend money on political campaigns. Instead of having May Day
celebrations this year, we should all protest against the government
and their lack of help for the tsunami victims," Thilak says
According to 57-year-old Charles
Royster, he will not participate in any May Day rally this year, but
will spend that day at home with his family.
"I stopped participating in May
Day rallies ever since the assassination of Ranasinghe Premadasa. He
was a true leader and if he was alive today, he wouldn't have
allowed the people to suffer this way. Today, all parties have spent
thousands of rupees on political campaigns. Instead of shouting at
the top of their voices at these campaigns, this money should be
spent to build permanent homes for the victims living in
tents," Royster says.
While Thilak and Royster will boycott
May Day celebrations today, they will be joined by many in
remembering colleagues and friends who were present to celebrate May
1 celebrations last year.
of May Day
In 1889, over 400 delegates from Europe
met in Paris on the 100th anniversary of the French revolution
at the Marxist International Socialist Congress to fight for
their 'eight-hour rights.'
The congress passed a resolution,
introduced by the French delegate Lavigne, calling for a
"great international demonstration" to take place
for the eight-hour day. The demonstration was to take place on
May 1, 1890 "in view of the fact that such a
demonstration has already been resolved upon by the American
Federation of Labour."
The call was a resounding success. On
May 1, 1890, May Day demonstrations took place in the United
States and most countries in Europe. Demonstrations were also
held in Chile and Peru. In Havana, Cuba, workers marched in
the world's first May Day demanding the eight-hour day, equal
rights for blacks and whites, and working-class unity.
While the 1889 resolution called for a
one-time demonstration on May 1, the day quickly became an
annual event. Around the world, workers in more and more
countries marked labour's day on May Day.
May Day was celebrated for the first
time in Russia, Brazil and Ireland in 1891. By 1904, the
Second International called on all socialists and trade
unionists in every country to "demonstrate
energetically" each May 1 "for the legal
establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of
the proletariat, and for universal peace."
Chinese workers celebrated their first
May Day in 1920, following the Russian socialist revolution.
In 1927, workers in India observed May Day with demonstrations
in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. By that time, May Day was
truly a world workers' day.
While May Day picked up momentum across
the world, it lost steam in its country of origin, the United
States. The AFL had begun a rightward turn as early as the
aftermath of Haymarket; by 1905 it had disavowed May Day
altogether, celebrating instead Labour Day on the first Monday
of September - sanctioned by the federal government in 1894.
From that time onward, May Day in the
United States was organised by the left wing of the labour
movement, against the hostile attitude of the more
conservative labour bureaucracy.
the path to natural fibre crafts...
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Natural fibre and hard leaf crafts have undergone many evolutionary
stages and is today an industry that has developed with much space
for more improvements.
Mat weaving occupies a predominant
position in the natural fibre craft industry.
Mat weaving used to be practiced by
every female villager because the craft was considered a necessary
domestic accomplishment. Mats, after all, were essential items, used
as both floor and bed coverings.
A cottage industry
Today, mat weaving is still popular
among villagers but is a cottage industry with few established sales
outlets. Instead, weavers generally peddle their mats at festivals,
fairs, and pilgrimage sites. Visitors may see them during the Kandy
Perahera in July, when the pavements of the city are colourfully
lined with rolled up mats for sale. The mats of the highest quality
with the best designs are made in the villages of the Dumbara valley
in the Kandy District. These mats are traditionally woven on a
simple loom using fibres from the bowstring hemp, mostly of white or
black colouration. Often they are decorated with stripes or bands,
or animal or floral motifs.
Dumbara mats, also known as kalala or
Dumbara rata paduru are today produced in a solitary village known
as Henavala in the Pata Dumbara Division of the Kandy District. The
traditional mat-weavers known as the kinnaras who inhabit this
village still employ an age-old weaving process to produce the mats
from the fibre of the hana or sann hemp (Crotalaria juncea).
Although Ananda Coomaraswamy observed
in his Medieaval Sinhalese Art published in 1908 that the Dumbara
mats were made from the niyanda or bowstring hemp (Sansevieria
zeylanica) this no longer appears the case, as we found out in our
visit to Henavala early this month. The reasons attributed to the
decline of niyanda by the villagers were the scarcity of the plant
and insufficient fibre for large-scale manufacture.
The fibre extracted from the hana leaf
is processed and dyed to enable the weaving of colourful mats and
wall hangings. These are gaily decorated with stylised floral,
animal and geometrical patterns preserved through generations of
craftsmen. The new generation of craftsmen also produces cushion
covers, hand bags, shopping bags, letter holders, fans, screens etc.
to meet the demands of contemporary society, mostly using the same
traditional designs and motifs.
Strips extracted from a bark of a two
year old hana tree is used to weave Dumbara mats. The strips are
dried for two days before the fibre is extracted using an instrument
known as the 'gavilla.'
Once the fibre has been extracted
begins the process of weaving.
Convenience and time efficiency
As for dying, the traditional weavers
used locally manufactured dyes. As a result, they had to make do
with a limited number of colours - blues, yellow, red, white and
light green. Venivelgeta, tumeric powder, patahangi wood, kora kaha
leaves, aralu, bulu, bark of damba trees, etc. were used to
manufacture the dyes of their desired colour.
However, today the industry has evolved
and due to convenience and time efficiency, weavers prefer to use
ready made dyes available in the market. This has resulted in the
availability of a wide variety of colours for the weavers to work
Craftsmen (and women in particular) in
the Kandyan region also specialise in making utility household
articles from tala leaves - from a locally grown variety of a palm
tree. Mats, shopping bags, food baskets, grain storage bags etc are
produced out of this leaf or using other locally grown reeds, such
as vetake and pung.
The tender leaves of indikola or wild
date palm is boiled and used to produced coin purses, summer hats,
Leaves of the Talipot palm is also used
to produces ola books, mats, market bags, hand bags, etc.
Cane works also fall into the category
of natural fibre crafts as the cane is naturally grown in Sri Lanka.
Cane work has been practiced since ancient times. Radawadunna near
Pasyala on the Kandy Road is famous for these crafts.
for a movie - A'must do' thing
There is nothing I like better than
watching a good movie. One essential requirement is
that both protagonists are exceptionally good looking. Various
imaginary situations can be thought out which include the gorgeous
guy featured. Nothing wrong with wishful thinking, is there?
Nowadays movies are on disc and easily
accessible. So youngsters can go to someone's house to watch a
movie. We, poor deprived things, had to go to a cinema. So going to
a movie every weekend was a "must do" thing. First, we
would eagerly scrutinise the newspapers. Then, after a lot of
discussion and consultation, we would decide on the best option. One
of our parents provided transport. On some days, we would walk back
home after the film. We would stroll along, chatting animatedly,
stopping for a snack in between. It sort of rounded off the perfect
Not one, but three!
Sometimes we would watch three movies
in a day! I Know this sounds crazy, traipsing from one cinema to the
other, but we loved it! At the movies you never knew whom you might
bump into, so the thrill of anticipation was there as well. I used
to wear round, blue tinted glasses, which I thought made me look
real cool. I also tried out weird hairstyles, and had a fondness for
very bright coloured clothes! I must have looked an absolute fright,
one wonders that my friends didn't refuse to be seen with me!
Once, we had planned to go for a movie
after a concert practice. Alas, we had to repeat certain items. It
happened to be a day that all the musicians were free, Sister
Principal sat through the proceedings, supervising us with an eagle
eye. Finally, we decided to slip away, one by one, so that
suspicions wouldn't be aroused. After about three of us left, Sister
asked the next one, "Where are you going?" extremely
loudly. Of course, she just ran outside without an answer. Someone
was sent to investigate. The rest of us were in a quandary. We had
to do something drastic! So we counted, 'one, two, three.' and
Sister thundered after us, "Will
you all get back here 'immediately!'" We all acted hard of
hearing, and throwing all caution to the wind ran shrieking and
giggling up the road ! After frenzied discussions, we decided we
were in trouble anyway and we might as well go the whole hog. Raced
to the cinema, since we were late, the only seats available were in
the gallery, right in front! Making a quick decision, even though we
were a wee bit scared, we decided to go for it.
So there we sat, amidst all the rowdy
characters, our necks at an unnatural angle since the screen was
almost directly above us! After we had relaxed a bit, some of us
even joined in the whistling and catcalling! The next day, we had to
troop into Sister's office individually, to give an explanation for
our atrocious behaviour. She said it was worse since there were
outsiders present, we showed we were indisciplined and unruly. She
said she would have allowed us to go if we explained matters to her,
though I am not too sure of that!
On another occasion, Woodstock was
being screened at the Liberty cinema. We decked ourselves out,
flower power style, peace pendants and all! We gathered in a bunch
at the foyer, and in walked this rock musician, who had a huge afro
hairstyle. He was supposed to be 'interested' in one of my friends.
He saw us, and started coming over maybe to try and speak to her. We
all glanced wildly at each other, and dashed off shrieking in a
stampede upstairs, leaving the poor guy looking bewildered!
Everybody kept accusing the other of starting the dash. So uncool!
Needless to say, he avoided us like the plague after that!
A friend of ours had to take her
naughty brother along to the movie as her parents were going out. We
reserved box seats. We found out it was the worst thing to have
done. He had brought his catapult together with paper pellets, which
he kept firing at regular intervals. The people in front of us kept
glaring at us and in the end we were forced to hide as we simply
could not control him! Yet another hasty exit was made! Hope there
are good movies this week.
of all labour
By Lakshman de Silva
All work is full of dignity and
nobility. Ever since the beginning of history man has been struggling
to improve his lot. In this world either a man works or he and his
family will starve. Man has to work in order to live.
Work can be of two kinds. Mental or
manual. White collar workers are those who use their heads.
Unlike in other countries in Sri Lanka
white collar workers generally regard themselves superior to manual
workers. The higher and the middle class are apt to look down upon
those who do manual work.
By dignity of labour is meant work done
mentally as well as manual work. In these hard days when the
struggle for existence is getting keener and keener, the old ideas
about respectability are fast giving place to new ones, yet school
educated young men are still very slow in appreciating the dignity
of all labour.
They would rather starve than earn
their living by honest labour by taking to humble pursuits like
dairy farming, poultry etc., in which illiterate people have been
No servant class
When we mean manual work it is the work
done by the cultivator, the artisan or the craftsman. Even for the
food we eat, we are dependant on the hard labour of the farmers.
In the Western countries people do
recognise the dignity of labour. There is no servant class in the
West. No profession by itself is high or low, dignified or
The achievements of science in various
fields are the fruits of continued human effort. Man, a small, weak
creature, is today the master of the world, because he has worked
hard. He has always gone on advancing in to new worlds.
He has tamed the air, the sea and the
land. He has conquered the animal world. He has brought out marvels
such as rockets that soar into the sky. Airplanes that can fly in no
time. Massive ships and aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines
and sea planes.
In the land, cars, trucks, trailers and
bulldozers help to ease the work in less time.
For the workers in offices computers
are a marvelous invention which helps them in their work and in many
other ways also bringing instant information from around the world
plus easing the postal system through e-mails. Television brings
instant events to the viewer.
Thiranagama: A true heroine of our times
D. B. S. Jeyaraj
More than 15 years
have passed since Rajani Thiranagamanee Rajini Rajasingham
was brutally gunned down at Thirunelvely, Jaffna on September 21,
1989 as she was cycling back home from the Jaffna university. She
was professor of anatomy at the Jaffna university medical faculty.
The 35-year-old mother of two daughters
was also a human rights activist, feminist, critic of narrow
nationalism and opponent of irresponsible militarism. No one has
officially claimed responsibility for her killing and several
attempts have been made by those close to the perpetrators to
deflect blame elsewhere. Despite these moves the people at large
know who the killers were though not many dared to say it publicly.
Murder not forgotten
A decade and a half however fails to
erase the indelible memories of Rajani among those who knew her. Her
brutal murder has not been forgotten. Whenever the human rights
violations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are
referred to in detail her name always crops up. Whenever the tragic
plight of women caught up in Sri Lanka's long drawn out 'Machismo'
war is highlighted her murder is usually focused upon. Whenever the
story of the Tamil liberation struggle going terribly wrong is
discussed the murder of Rajani Thiranagama is always an issue cited.
She was truly a heroine of our times
and an unforgettable symbol of its enveloping tragedy. As former UN
Special Rapporteur on violence against women and current
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr.
Radhika Coomaraswamy observes, "Rajani had a vision for her
people, the Sri Lankan Tamils. She envisioned a time when they would
live in peace and dignity, enjoying democratic rights and freedom.
Standing against oppression and brutality in all its forms, she is a
beacon of light for a community living in fear and struggling for
self-respect. She will never be forgotten; an icon for everyone in
Sri Lanka fighting for freedom."
One agency that has remembered Rajani
is the National Film Board of Canada. The land of the maple leaf has
made a name for itself in the realm of documentary films. No More
Tears Sister - the anatomy of hope and betrayal is the title of an
80 minute film on the life and times of Rajani Thiranagama produced
by the Canadian Film Board. It is written and directed by Montreal
based Canadian Film Maker, Helene Klodawsky. The narrator is Michael
Ondatatje, the Sri Lanka born reputed author now domiciled in
Canada. A novel feature in recreating the life of Rajani is the
portrayal of her mother by Sharika, the younger daughter now in her
The Canadian feature documentary will
have its world premiere at theHot Docs International Documentary
Film Festival being currently held in Toronto.
Unlike most recreations of a
contemporary personality, the story of Rajani provided a stiff
challenge for the filmmakers. There was very little documentation or
authentic correspondence. Many of those who knew her or were
associated with her were too scared to be filmed. Moreover filming
in Jaffna where Rajani grew up, lived and died was out of the
question because of the political climate. One also supposes that an
element of secrecy had to be maintained at all times due to the
sensitive content and theme of the film.
Despite these problems that would have
defeated most film makers of cinema verite Helen Klodawsky has
accomplished her task well. She was fortunate that family members
and a few fellow human rights activists and feminists were
courageous enough to come out openly. Rajani's parents the
Rajasinghams, sisters Nirmala, Sumathy and Vasuki, daughters Narmada
and Sharika, husband Dayapala Thiranagama and some unnamed activists
have all been interviewed and the life of Rajani unfolds on screen
through their accounts mainly.
The vivid and perceptive comments made
by Nirmala and Dayapala are the chief
strengths of the film. The story of Rajani is inextricably
inter-twined with that of her elder sister Nirmala, a political
activist cum feminist in her own right. Rajani's story cannot be
told without relating the story of Nirmala. In that sense this film
is as much about Nirmala as it is about Rajani. Nirmala has broken
her long 'public' silence on Rajani's death in this film. While not
dwelt on forcefully the film leaves no doubt in the viewer's mind
about the forces behind Rajani's assassination.
Dayapala Thiranagama comes off very
well. Both Rajani and he came from contrasting, different
backgrounds.He provides many fresh insights into Rajani's life. The
scenes showing Nirmala and Dayapala in conversation are
illuminating. A revealing moment of truth for anyone familiar with
the rise and fall of the Tamil liberation struggle would be the one
where the comment is made that political activism is no longer the
armed struggle but that of upholding human rights.
Women and war
The story of Rajani is interwoven with
the violence of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. What made Helen
Klodawsky, the daughter of a concentration camp survivor herself
take up this tale? This is what she says - "I wanted to
understand how ethnic conflict and national struggles impact women -
be they victims of war, militant fighters or peace builders. I
wondered whether there was a feminist critique of both state and
guerilla violence. It was well known that the Sri Lankan military
and the opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were both guilty
of torture, illegal detention, disappearances and extra-judicial
executions. I wanted to explore whether women were, on the one hand,
torn between loyalties to their ethnic communities and on the other
hand the community of women. Did oppressed minority women imagine
fighting injustice in different ways than their male counterparts?
"The story of Rajani Thiranagama -
her courageous life, unique vision and tragic assassination -
offered a compelling narrative to pose many of my questions.
Rajani's evolution into a spirited champion of the Tamil people's
rights in the '70s and '80s paralleled the escalation of ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka. Moved by her people's complex struggle
against ruthless state violence, she believed Tamil militancy was
the answer and joined the liberation movement. But when she
witnessed the corruption and cruelty within, she felt compelled to
document what she saw and urged her people to resist blind adherence
to any leader or movement. Embracing feminism and a belief in human
rights, she felt that women in particular were the primary
casualties of war.
"I believed that by following
Rajani's life story and the circumstances surrounding her untimely
death, several themes could be explored. Nationalism,
anti-nationalism, the lives of women as both participants and
innocent victims of war and the belief in armed struggle vs a
critique of militarism.
"Though No More Tears is set in
Sri Lanka, a similar story might have been explored in Africa, other
parts of Asia, the Middle-East, Eastern Europe or Latin America. In
the '60s and '70s, Rajani was part of a generation of young
political activists in post-colonial societies around the world -
activists who dreamed of radically transforming their societies to
achieve equality and justice for all. But this idealism continues to
be ruthlessly thwarted by narrow nationalist agendas in countless
"Cinematically, I wanted No More
Tears to reflect the passion and beauty of Rajani's ideals. Together
with my talented team including Francois Dagenais (Director of
Photography), Patricia Tassinary (Editor) and Bertrand Chenier
(Composer) I aimed at making a film that is political, feminist and
thought for working animals
By Risidra Mendis
A monkey on a leash trailing behind its
master, a cobra in a basket waiting
next show or a cart bull trying hard to cope with the heavy load in
the cart behind are just a few occasions where innocent animals are
exploited to the maximum.
Similarly there are instances where
domesticated elephants, dogs and horses are also used for work
purposes. However, the animals most exploited and put under severe
pressure are the cart bulls, the domesticated elephants and cobras.
Domesticated elephants are forced to work during the day, carrying
heavy logs from one place to another while cart bulls have no choice
but to drag heavy loads for hours under the scorching sun. Monkeys
and cobras most often owned by gypsies are trained to perform at the
wave of a stick.
But while animals continue to be
exploited by humans irrespective of their rights and the mental
trauma forced upon them, strict laws to protect animals in Sri Lanka
are yet to be implemented.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, an
animal rights lawyer and activist said the use of animals for
intense labour work is not a necessity anymore. "I cannot
address the cultural areas such as peraheras and other religious
functions where animals are used as this is a very sensitive issue.
In the past animals were used for hard labour because there wasn't
any alternate transport at the time. But today, especially in the
urban areas since there are alternate transport arrangements,
animals should not be used for hard work," says the animal
According to the animals rights lawyer,
the latest machinery available in the country can replace the hard
labour that elephants are put through every day. "Machines can
be used to transport heavy logs and other equipment from one place
to another much faster than an elephant. The work carried out by
cart bulls can also be replaced by modern transport
facilities," the animal rights lawyer said.
Used and abused
But despite the constant criticism by
animal rights activists and animal rights organisations with regard
to the rights of animals in Sri Lanka, animals continue to be abused
and exploited for man's selfish gain. While the Animal Welfare Draft
Act (AWDA) was last updated in 1955, the amended AWDA is expected to
be implemented end of this year.
The new AWDA if implemented will
envisage higher penalties and imprisonment for violation of animal
rights. While the current AWDA penalty for the violation of animal
rights is Rs. 100, the new penalty would be Rs 50,000. Also
imprisonment for animal rights violations will be increased from
three months to three years.
Marcos and the scandal of the shoes
Imelda Marcos, the long-serving First Lady of the Philippines, will
always be known for the 3, 000 pairs of shoes she left behind in
Manila when she and her unscrupulous husband, Ferdinand, were driven
from power in 1986.
However, these are a symbol only of the
scandalous self-indulgence of a regime that had systematically
robbed the National Bank of billions and had the temerity to gun
down the opposition leader, who was returning from exile, in front
of a plane-load of journalists.
Ferdinand Marcos was born in Luzon in
1917. In his highly fanciful autobiography, Rendezvous With Destiny,
he claimed that he had distinguished himself as a highly decorated
resistance leader during the war against the Japanese. In fact, he
had collaborated with the Japanese, but that did not matter: as
President of the Philippines, he could give himself any decoration
he liked. Not only that, as a fervent anti-communist and one of
America's few allies during the Vietnam war, he forced the Americans
to award him the US medal of honour, as well as a vast amount of
foreign aid, even though they knew the truth.
Marcos, as a politician
As a politician, Marcos had already
done the seemingly impossible. He had got himself elected to
Congress after being convicted of murder. Jailed for killing a
political opponent, Marcos had used his incarceration to study the
law. He had passed the Bar exams and argued his own case in front of
the Supreme Court. There he got lucky. The chief justice himself had
been convicted of murder at the age of 18 and had successfully
argued his case in front of the Supreme Court. Marcos walked free.
Marcos first met Imelda when he gave an
address at her high school in Tacloban, on the island of Leyte.
Although she was one of the island's powerful Romualdez clan, her
side of the family was poor. For a time, they had lived in a car
port and, as a child, she had gone barefoot - which might explain
why she needed so many shoes later on.
At 16 she was considered a beauty. She
fell in love with Victoriano Chan, the heir of a wealthy Chinese
family. They considered her unsuitable. Then she was pursued by a
rich saw-mill owner, Dominador Pacho. To escape his attention, she
fled to Manila with just five pesos in her purse.
She got a job in a bank, where one of
the customers was Ferdinand Marcos. He paid her no attention.
However, the editor of the Sunday supplement This Week noticed her
and put her picture on the cover of the magazine's Valentine Day's
issue. Suddenly, she was a star, an a welcome visitor at the Manila
home of her kinsman, Congressman Daniel Romualdez. There, she was
courted by an up-and-coming young politician named Benigno Aquino.
But when he learnt of her humble origins, he dropped her.
In an attempt to make her way in the
world, she entered the Miss Manila competition. Her family, who were
strict Catholics, were shocked. They assumed that she would have to
sleep with the judges. Presumably she didn't, as she lost to
20-year-old Norma Jimenez from Pangasinan Province.
Realising her mistake, Imelda appealed
to Mayor Arsenio Lacson, who was well
his wide-ranging interests. It was said that he took 'Chinese
tea' every afternoon with two Chinese girls thoughtfully provided by
a constituent - a case of two for tea, perhaps?
When Lacson tried to overturn the
judges' decision, it was assumed that Imelda was his latest
conquest. However, the judges stuck by their original choice for
Miss Manila, so Lacson simply named Imelda the 'Muse of Manila.'
Both girls went forward for the Miss Philippines' contest, but
Imelda consoled herself by becoming the
mistress of Ariston Nakpil, one of Manila's wealthiest men.
Unfortunately, he was married.
It was then that she met Ferdinand
Marcos once more at an ice-cream party. He began pursuing her. The
following week, when she took off to Baguio with two girlfriends, he
followed with a marriage licence that he had already signed just in
A religious girl, Imelda would go to
Mass each morning. Ferdinand would sit beside her and tell her how
golden their future would be together. She did not believe him,
until he took her to see his bank deposit box, which contained the
best part of $1 million in cash. They had a small, private wedding
conducted by a justice of the peace. From meeting to marriage had
taken just 11 days. Her wedding ring had 11 diamonds set into its
white gold, one for each day of their courtship.
Imelda thought her father would be
angry about the marriage, but he took to Ferdinand immediately and
forgave his daughter - provided they had a proper church wedding.
Marcos did better than that. He arranged a wedding in the cathedral
in Manila in the presence of the President of the Philippines, Ramon
Magsaysay. Imelda wore a couture gown, comprising acres of white
satin and tulle, embroidered with seed pears and sequins. Among the
3,000 guests at the reception in Malacanang Park, across the river
from the presidential palace, were numerous senators and
congressmen. The wedding cake was a mode of the Congress building.
"It was a very political
wedding," said Imelda's sister, Conchita.
The Marcoses had a very public
honeymoon in Baguio. This was vital since there was already one Mrs.
Marcos. Her name was Carmen Ortega. Four years before his marriage
to Imelda, Ferdinand had offered to sponsor Carmen for the Miss
Press Photography contest. When she became his full-time mistress,
he moved her into the house he shared with his mother, Dona Josefa.
Marcos even announced their forthcoming nuptials in the press.
Neither a civil nor a church wedding ever took place, but around
Manila she was known as Mrs. Marcos. Even Imelda knew her as such.
Marcos had once brought her into the bank where Imelda worked to
withdraw $50,000 for a shopping trip to the USA and had introduced
A political mistress
Dona Josefa considered Carmen her son's
real wife. Imelda was merely a political mistress in her eyes. At
the time, Marcos was planning to run for the Senate. He needed the
backing of the Romualdez family, both politically and financially.
This fact was brought home painfully to
Imelda. While they were away on their honeymoon, Marcos had Carmen
and their three children moved out of the family home into a larger
house in the suburbs. Imelda would now move in with Marcos and Dona
Josefa. If the associations with Carmen there were not bad enough,
the house was on Ortega Street. Imelda insisted that they sell up
and move immediately. Marcos and his mother refused.
Worse, Marcos continued to see Carmen.
Imelda paid her a visit and insisted that Carmen stop seeing her
husband as she was destroying her happiness. Carmen said that it was
Imelda who was ruining her happiness. At the time, Carmen was
pregnant with Marcos's fourth child.
Imelda was now between a rock and a
very hard place. In a Catholic country like the Philippines, she had
no chance of an annulment, so there was no chance of making another
lucrative match. She had no money of her own, and she could not stop
her husband seeing his mistress.
Imelda had a nervous breakdown. Marcos
sent her to New York for treatment. She spent three months in
Manhattan's Presbyterian Hospital, but no amount of therapy changed
the situation. She must either leave her husband and return to a
life of penury or bite the bullet.