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8th  May, 2005  Volume 11, Issue 43

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Review

Sivaram - the final chapter

By Ranee Mohamed 

Dharmaratnam Sivaram who  wrote great stories for us will be greatly missed by his wife and children in the coming nights, for every evening, before going to bed he told......

More......


Review more articles

> Lost down memory lane...

> Serving the people of God...

> Captain Lakshmi surges ahead...

> Four jobs in America for the tsunami 

> Imelda Marcos and the scandal of the shoes

> Millennium Villas for the quality conscious

> How they have grown! (....Balder dash)

> Waters of the Kandy lake were consumed two...


 Sivaram - the final chapter

By Ranee Mohamed 

Dharmaratnam Sivaram who  wrote great stories for us will be greatly missed by his wife and children in the coming nights, for every evening, before going to bed he told them stories too.

There are many ways in which courageous journalists have died in recent times, but none of them have been due to natural causes.

And Sivaram who ate and drank and led a full life enjoyed his food, drink and life here in Sri Lanka.

The last thing that Dharmaratnam Sivaram who was abducted and killed on the night of Thursday, April 28 expected was death at that moment, for it was a moment of great happiness for him.

'Tragic event'

"We never expected a tragic event like this from a casual meeting," said journalist Kusal Perera who was with Sivaram minutes before he was abducted.

"We were talking about past anecdotes, things that we could laugh about now, the troubles we got in to." recalled Perera.

"Siva, what is the situation right now?" I asked Sivaram with regard to the joint mechanism as we sat down for a drink that Thursday night," recalled Kusal Perera.

Sivaram had told the journalist that it was a 'dead issue' and gone on to say, "When you come for a drink, we have come to enjoy." Dharamaratnam Sivaram has said as the bottle was opened.

And that was the last drink that this 46-year-old journalist had - for he died that same night.

As his dinner got colder at his home in Muhandiram Avenue, Ratmalana, Dharmaratnam Sivaram was killed in cold blood at the break of dawn. His body was found in the high security area near the parliament in Sri Jayewardenapura.

"He ate and drank and lived a full life, and the last thing he expected was death," said his brother-in-law, David Poopalapillai, of this great journalist who researched intensively on the international involvement in the Sri Lankan ethnic issue and wrote enlightening articles about Sri Lankan politics. Sivaram was on the editorial board of the TamilNet website and also wrote an unbiased analysis under the pseudonym Taraki for the Daily Mirror.

This brave journalist had multiple visas to the United States of America and to the United Kingdom. But he chose to live in Sri Lanka - and die here.

"Appa Appa Appa!" said his elder daughter, 16-year-old, Vaishnavi as she hugged on to her younger sister 13-year-old Vaitheki. This was all they could say about their father and at this time of great grief, it seemed to sum it all up.

A loving father

"He never beat the children, never yelled at them and never punished them. He was a very loving father and a husband who believed that children ought to be showered with love," said brother-in-law David Poopalapillai. "He had close friends in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia. He could have chosen a better life in any of these countries. There is a professor from the USA who always called him over there to reside, but Sivaram chose to live in Sri Lanka," said Poopalapillai.

This great journalist was by no means a rich man, but rich in heart he was. He chose Sri Lanka as his home and preferred to travel by bus and eke out a monthly salary to feed and clothe his family.

Sivaram, just two days before his death had taken his family to a film called Sandramugi. "It is a wonderful film - this is why I say that we must not beat our children," he had later reviewed the film happily with his wife.

He loved his family very much and had spent his evenings with them. Taking a keen interest in the studies of his children, Sivaram went through their books almost every night. But never had he on any occasion picked on their mistakes or chided them.

Whether it was success or failure, it had always been applause from this father.

Phone calls

"He did hint that there was a threat to his life and about some telephone calls, and we advised him to take time off," said Poopalapillai.

"My husband had thousands of friends from all walks of life. He moved around with the intellectuals, politicians and the poor alike," said his wife, Herly Yogaranjini.

A poor woman from a shanty dwelling was also present at the funeral. She was wailing at the loss, not so much of a great journalist, but of a great human being. "I am a poor woman, one day I invited him to an important family function, but I knew he would not attend. He was a respected gentleman. But he came to our poor abode with his whole family and it lighted up the whole area and our lives too," she wailed.

Happy family

Dharmaratnam Sivaram, like all journalists, had friends from all walks of life. But he moved with all with equal ease.

A soft, quiet man, Sivaram who did not even chid his children; never showed an iota of violence at anytime anywhere in his life. A believer of compassion and love, Sivaram had taken his wife and children to show them the Taj Mahal earlier this year.

On Sinhala and Tamil New Year he had taken his family to Pottuvil, Thirukovil and other areas to show them the family land. "He made sure that we learnt something from each trip. He had planned it in such a way," said his daughters.

All of us have some striking qualities, and those striking qualities of Dharmaratnam Sivaram are so soft that they never struck us - till he died. Soft and gentle, this great journalist however was fearless with his pen as he was in his thinking.

Gentle Sivaram chose kindness and advise when dealing with problems. This father who did not believe in punishing his children, did not believe in punishment at all.

But does this mean that those who gunned down this  veteran journalist ought not to be punished?


Lost down memory lane...

How we spend the day...", Matron Kanthi Rathnayake, Raththaran and Krishna Jina de Silva

By Dhananjani Silva 

Old age is also called the second childhood. But sadly, for most, much of this second childhood is spent in loneliness. It is a time to be 'looked after' by the children. Yet, there are thousands of parents who have nobody to look after them - they are helpless people without a voice. They feel lonely, they feel sad but they have no one to talk to. They have no one to share their grief with, nor do they have anyone to share their happiness with. Unable to live alone, they seek help from strangers and confine the evenings of their lives to places called 'homes.'

Today The Sunday Leader takes a closer look at the lives of these human beings alone. Some of them do learn to be happy in their surroundings.

Ladies only

Sarvodaya Suwasetha Wedihiti Nevasaya in Ratmalana is one such home that started in 1991. It provides accommodation for 25 persons. Its inmates are ladies who have had a happy past. What is significant about this home is that it is not "for the rich" but for those who are "poor and helpless." In this home they seem to be happy and relaxed. As we walked in they greeted us with happy smiles - happy about having a visitor.

According to the Matron, Kanthi Rathnayake, there are some mothers and women here who have been brought 'home' from the road. "Sometimes old people come all alone and tell us that they are poor and helpless and that they have no one to look after them. They plead saying that they cannot go back and that they want to stay with us. Even their children cannot afford to look after their parents due to their own family problems," she said.

"We also have a day care centre to look after the elderly parents while their children are at work," she added while acknowledging Neetha Dharmachari Ariyarathne for the assistance and encouragement given to them to make this home a success.

"Working here gives me pleasure," Rathnayake said. Just as I joined here I was very distressed to see the plight of these senior citizens. But very soon I realised that there is no greater happiness than caring for them. These senior citizens are so precious to us," she went on.

Disciplined and obedient

Matron Rathnayake told us how disciplined and obedient they are. Not only that they are disciplined but they are also people with varied talents, she told us - crochet, embroidery, arts and crafts - they are capable of doing all that.

They sew their own clothes, and the end products are not only beautiful but very neat. "Every year we have an exhibition to display their talents. Apart from that we organise many other activities  in order to keep them occupied. We organise an Avurudhu Uthsavaya, an annual trip, a function to mark the Elders Day that falls on October 2 and so much more," she said.

Suddenly a group of charming ladies walked into the main hall. It was time for the  music class which is on every Tuesday.

Music for them

"We love to sing old songs. They are very meaningful and are connected to our lives. We go back to our past while singing them," they told us.

Some even play games - just like little kids. "They say they do not feel that they are aged when playing games like this. They play for sometime and then are offered biscuits. Immediately after they run to their friends and share the biscuits, just like little children," said Rathnayake.

Meanwhile old Krishna Jina de Silva joined us to tell her story. "I have neither a husband nor children to look after me. I was a nurse in the days gone by and I still remember how I used to look after the patients. May be that is why I am being looked after really well here," she said.

Among them was Marry Odie who immediately exclaimed, "Ah, The Leader, that is my favourite! I am single and I have some relatives who are abroad. Since I have nobody to look after I came here. Life is not hard here, but I prefer if I had freedom, and if I had a family life and a home of my own. I read a lot when I am free. I am also an animal lover so I keep two cats and a dog," said Mary.

Ninety eight-year-old Soydahamy was trying to greet us even with much difficulty. In this home she is called "Raththaran."

She has been here from the inception, the others tell us. Raththaran would not have ever thought that she will someday end up in a home like this. She has one daughter but she cannot look after the mother as she too has family problems. the story of Soydahamy began to unfold little by little - It was a sad story however.

"Bring me rice with fish to eat next time," she tells us while kissing our hands lovingly.

"Come again," she says as we are about to leave.

The few hours with them filled me with a sense of sorrow as I began to wonder if these grand old ladies will continue their child-like existence forever - living with their memories. For them, a visitor is a luxury for seldom does anyone have the time to visit a home for the aged.


Serving the people of God...

Recently, on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Congregation  of the Sisters of the Holy Cross (Menzingen) in Sri Lanka, Sr. Consilia Mariampillai, a member of the same Congregation was interviewed by Dr. Janet Le Vally, Professor of Psychology lecturing in American College University, Colpetty.

Consilia, as a teacher of English and English literature renders her service to many of our younger generation at St. Joseph's College, a leading Catholic school in Colombo.

Q: Sister Consilia, the world has so much to offer, so many opportunities for happiness in diverse forms, Your Holy Bible tells that God created the world and He found it was good. He wanted Adam and Eve to enjoy this life and be happy, to have children and fill the earth. But when I see you sisters, in your dark habits, working under the hot, tropical Sri Lankan sun, I wonder if you are fully exercising your options for happiness. Your life-style and appearance might be considered weird, an enigma to some of us. What motivates you to embrace this odd way of life?

A: You are correct, in saying that God wanted man and woman, and for that matter He wanted every human being to be happy on this earth. Happiness being found only when a man and woman live together is a faulty assumption. Happiness is a relative term. There are so many bachelors and spinsters living all alone today. And they say that they are happier than so many married couples.

All human adults choose a way of life, in which they think, they would be happy. Marriage is a call; a vocation; a way of life. Likewise, there are people who choose to live as celibate, poor, obedient through a commitment to God and live in community; this life too is a vocation; a call. Those who respond to this call find happiness in this way of life - a life dedicated to God as a love response to every one who needs their service and in whom they see their God who is love itself.

Down the history of the Church, the Church has given birth to numerous religious congregations, each of which consists of numerous mini-cells of communities. They came into existence primarily motivated to serve the people, whom God has allowed to come into their lives. Freedom of choice entwined with renunciation; a choice by nature is single made out of many things. In doing so you automatically let go of the other, which is less valuable before the one you choose.

Q: If I am correct, you belong to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross (Menzingen). Can you tell something about your Congregation?

A: My Congregation - Sisters of the Holy Cross was founded in October 1844 in a village called Menzingen in Switzerland. Anna Maria Heimgartner, Cornelia Mader and Feliciana Krammer were first three girls who after going through the religious formation training, made their first vows before their Mentor and guide Fr. Theodosius Florentini OSF. The latter became the founder and Maria (Bernarda) Heimgartner became the foundress of our Congregation. They were primarily teachers.

The primary purpose of the Congregation was to arrest the moral degradation, illiteracy and to uplift the standard of women at that time. We'll be well enlightened if we only turn the pages of European history in 18th century and how Europe was at its lowest ebb economically, spiritually and morally. Within nine years from coming into existence, with the increasing number of sisters, they were running 34 primary schools, four private schools and one teacher training college.

Their early life was marked with such difficulties, sufferings, poverty and misunderstanding between the founder as well as with other clerical men ( at that time women had no voice in anything and no right). It is precisely because of their difficulties and hard path that they had to trod, they called  themselves as " Sisters of the Holy Cross" and their motto was " In the cross is salvation."

In 1833 the Congregation began sending out missionaries to South Africa and other continents. The arrival of first group of missionaries to our company was on July 25, 1955. They began their service not as teachers but as nurses in civil hospitals in Kayts and Jaffna. Until 1955 the Sri Lankan sisters were under the jurisdiction of Indian Province. Rev. Mother Aloisia Roosli, the then matron in Jaffna Hospital became the first Provincial Superior to the newly set up Sri Lankan Province on March 3, 1955. In 1962, the young province had to face a great insurmountable difficulty.

All nursing sisters working in government hospitals were expelled from their service and all foreign missionaries below 60 years were asked to leave the country at short notice. This left only six European sisters to remain back to guide and care for the young province. It is in this year, the first batch of local sisters were making their final vows - this indicates clearly how young at that time the province was. Today, we have grown and 93 members are engaged in various services serving in many parts of the isle.

Q: Could you tell something about the various mission projects you are involved in presently?

A: Although the purpose of the Congregation initially was purely dedicated to education, in keeping with the founder's motto "the need of the time is the will of God," our sisters saw the need of the people in the Northern Province at that time for nursing; so quite a good number of European sisters together with four or five Indian sisters began working in the hospitals as nurses and matrons. It is creditable that sisters were quite open to the needs that were unfolding in the society. Thus young apostolate and social work too were started in Colombo.

With the termination of the nursing sisters working in the government hospitals, sisters began working in private nursing homes such as Michael's Nursing Home in Colpetty, and the second branch of it in Havelock Town-Anderson Road and Health Centre, Jaffna where the sisters work as gynaecologists, anaesthetists, pharmacists, radiologists and lab technicians besides nursing. They also branched out to render their service in the fields of teaching - montessori, primary, secondary and even in university, besides, social work, refugee work, caring for the elders and so on.

Q: There are so many Congregations in Sri Lanka like Holy Family, Good Shepherd and Holy Cross and many others. All of you seem to be engaged in almost the same activities more or less. What is it that differentiates you from the others?

A: All of us belong to one Church and serve the people of God in order to communicate that the God who is love, loves all and whatever the congregation we may belong to, all of us are religious. It means that we live a committed, vowed life. The difference comes in the purpose with which each of the congregation came into existence and the spirituality, which blossomed forth consequently. Almost all the congregations, except a few, like the Franciscan in 12th century and the Jesuits in 16th century came into existence in the 18th and 19th centuries. Moral, spiritual, decadence, economical political confusion and contention and religious suppression were quite common in Europe at that time.

In Switzerland, teaching of religion in schools was prohibited, convents were suppressed and Jesuit missionaries were expelled and children of seven years and women were employed and exploited in the factories and so on.

Charles Dickens describes the period in cynical terms and in antitheses in his novels (especially in A Tale Of Two Cities). It is in this situation our Congregation came into existence with the idea of arresting the prevalent social maladies of  society through education and formation of young women by which means to put society on its right footing.

To tell you about the spirituality, for example the Holy Family Sisters have the Incarnational spirituality, while the Good Shepherd has the spirituality of the Good Shepherd and we have the spirituality of the Cross. The Cross is a sign of folly to some and to still others is the sign of redemption; it is the wisdom of God. Looking at a Cross, one immediately associates, suffering, death and humiliation, which creates a gloomy, depressive feelings.

But the Cross of Christ goes beyond this, shedding light and love, bringing life and joy, after Good Friday comes the joyous day of Easter Sunday - the resurrection. We, the Holy Cross Sisters, take a long look at the Cross, which promises life; thus our lives become a living service and not a deprivation; it brings life both to the giver and the receiver. So it is this charisma that differentiates us from the other congregations.

Q: What is your future orientation? How do you propose to continue making an impact in modern society?

A: Well, it is simple. We have learnt through experience of our Sisters present in other countries, going for big institutions in the long run becomes an unbearable baggage to be tracked on.

Moreover, it consumes a lot of energy, time and money that could be very well used for the loving service, which will not only transform lives but essentially also the whole society. Hence, our province is committed to have small communities and not big institutions and serving people at the grass root level. Secondly, our main thrust is to assist people to aim at inner liberation and to grow into freedom of the children of God.

-  Consy


Captain Lakshmi surges ahead...

Captain S. D. Victoria Lakshmi

By Ranee Mohamed

There are many things in life that we take on with us, but for Captain S. D. Victoria Lakshmi, it is a whole chapter in her life that will always lighten her life ahead.

"It is my training and time in the army," says Captain Victoria who was on April 2, honoured for her excellent leadership by the Sri Lanka Army Ex Service Womens Corps Association, when the association celebrated its 10th anniversary in the presence of the ex-women officers of the army.

Eight years in the army, its training and life has created a whole new path in civilian life for Captain S. D. Victoria. "The training included physical fitness, weapon training, current affairs and accounts," said Lakshmi. 

On leadership

Having been acclaimed for her netball and pistol firing talent, Captain Lakshmi says that be it a man or a woman, a leader will always be a leader - one who will stand out and be recognised. Lakshmi played netball for the Sri Lanka team and brought honour to the country. She was also pin pointed to go to Australia for pistol training with male counterparts.

"I have made many leaders and it has made life easier and more organised for I did not have to personally do everything. I detailed them to several groups and group leaders and the tasks were done," explained Lakshmi. "Leadership is not merely about telling people what to do, but about identifying talents and giving certain people certain tasks. One must not feel that this or that person is unable to do such a job. But this is a very difficult job for a power hungry person. A power hungry person will want to take on the leadership himself. He will never want to give it over to anybody," pointed out Captain Lakshmi.

Speaking of life in the army, Captain Lakshmi airing her personal views said that she did at times feel that men seem to be more superior. "I have felt that men are superior. Even in civilian life I wonder whether women in management positions are getting the essential support from men," she wondered.

Paying a tribute to the media, Captain Lakshmi said that she is moved by the impartiality of journalists. "I admire journalists because they are not jealous, they want to do the best for us, if the best does exist," she said.

A content life

Speaking of her life, Captain Lakshmi said that for her there is no turning back. "I am so happy in life. I am what I am today because of the support I received from my husband. For a woman to succeed, she needs her husband's support. And women also ought to be able to balance everything. A woman must remember that she cannot pass on her responsibilities as a mother to someone else," said Lakshmi.

Her advise to women is to be flexible. "Women tend to dwell on the past. We must think about the future," said Captain Lakshmi who went on to say that men ought to learn to respect women. "After all, all of us have a mother and she is a woman," she pointed out.

Captain Lakshmi said that she is amazed at the support she is receiving from Commander, General Shantha Kottegoda and his wife Sonia Kottegoda. It is learnt that Sonia Kottegoda formed a Seva Vanitha unit in the association so that the public will be benefited.

Captain Lakshmi went on to appreciate the efforts of  Major Ramani Kangararachchi who formed the association in 1995. "She was the president for a continuous seven years," said Captain Victoria who was the winner of the Major Ramani Kangararachchi Challenge Trophy. "Only one person can achieve this once in a life time challenge trophy," explained this ex-army officer.

Ramani Kangararachchi who was the first Womens Corps officer to retire from the army, formed the association on the invitation of General Denis Perera.

A special tribute was paid to this retired major when she captured the life of an army private in a book on the life of Private Devi. The book captures the life, trials and tribulations of a woman soldier's life in the army.


Waters of the Kandy lake were consumed two decades ago...

No reverence for the environment and The Kandy Lake - a place of scenic beauty

The Kandy lake is undoubtedly one of the factors that enhances the beauty and integrity of the Temple of the Tooth Relic - Sri Lanka's most revered monument. Recently, the Ministry of Irrigation has taken steps to reconstruct this beautiful lake, which is gradually getting choked up with mud. This initiative has to be commended not only by the citizens of Kandy but also by all Sri Lankans.

The Kandy lake, surrounded by the 'cloud wall' built by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, is an unforgettable sight for local as well as visitors from overseas. It is spread across 19.10 hectares of water, is 3.37 kilometers in circumference and has a maximum depth of 18.24 meters. Historically the water from the lake was used by the royal family, and later by ordinary citizens for their day-to-day consumption and agriculture.

Currently a vast amount of money is being spent on the reconstruction work, which is being carried out by the Ministry of Irrigation. The intention behind this project is to make this lake a true resource for the people of Kandy, and to rejuvenate the 'Milk Sea' that comforted the city with its cool breezes.

Lake water

But clearing the mud from the lake bed alone will not be sufficient to achieve this goal. The cleanliness of the lake water too should be taken in to consideration. There is also a great need to protect the water springs and nourishing areas.

Water from the Kandy lake was in a condition to be used for daily consumption since the time of the kings until about two decades ago. But due to over population as well as the decrease in moral and social values in general, the respect and care given to the Kandy lake has diminished. Becoming proud owners of pipe borne water, we have come to disregard the value of natural water resources - underground and other wise. People who once worshipped water, are now in the habit of releasing filth in to waterways.

The consequences of this unfortunate situation are slowly becoming evident.

But still not much attention has been given to rectify this situation. The final outcome of this is not only the pollution of the sacred city of Kandy. It also means ill-health for the hundreds of thousands of people visiting and living in that area.

Stench

It is the duty of the more intellectually advanced human animal to protect the right to life of all mankind as well as the right to life of all water creatures. But according to recent newspaper reports, many aquatic animals and fish were seen dead and floating in the Kandy lake, due to water poisoning. A girls school nearby had to shift its classes elsewhere because of the unbearable stench created by this situation. Even though it was the main topic of conversation for many media institutions at that time, the heat died down after a while without a proper solution being found to the problem.

But the pollution of the lake continued. Anyone walking around the lake will immediately notice what comes through the drains that bring in the water to the lake. All the garbage disposed by the hotels and buildings around the lake is directly washed in to the water. In some places sewage tanks too are opened up to the lake. There is hardly a need to state the consequences if such things had happened during the time of our kings. But thanks to democracy that we enjoy, taking action against this situation will only culminate in long legal battles.

The author of this article who met an official of the Kandy Municipal Council was told that despite many warnings people did not care about the condition of the lake and therefore the Municipal Council had to take legal action against some of them. This is the story that came from the Municipal Council.

However, another person stated that the two gullies in the Kandy city were not sufficient to dispose the polluted water. Some others said that due to the high cost involved in disposing water through the gullies, it was cheaper to not use them at all. Another argument was that the smallness of the city streets, gardens as well as the buildings in Kandy created problems when managing the gullies. 

It is important for the environmentally friendly citizens of Kandy to realise what generally happens when dealing with environmental conservation activities in the country. There are many Sri Lankans who specialise in environmental issues. They contribute their services to the motherland. But those with ulterior and selfish motives, hoping to avoid any disadvantages to themselves, constantly challenge the knowledge and skill of these specialists. There are many known occasions where such people have interfered in the work of these experts when they tried to solve environmental crises together with the government. These people hide their true intentions and try to mislead the public. People should always distinguish between the true friends of the environment and the imposters. There might even be politicians among them whose sole aim is to increase their number of votes. There are many examples of this in recent history.

Whenever governments in the past initiated projects for the good of the country with the help of experts, there have been people trying to put a stop to it. But when the projects succeeded these same people have been there to reap the benefits.

Warning

This is the time to pay more attention to water and its cleanliness. Scientists the world over have warned that the decade immediately following the next will see the world immersed in a water crisis.

Clearing up the Kandy lake alone will not solve the water problems of this city. Due to polluted lakes and waterways, people in the villages are suffering from an acute drinking water shortage. There has to be more public awareness. Because of the presence of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, it is best to start this campaign from the Kandy lake, in the historic city of Kandy. The wave created at the Kandy lake should sweep over the entire country.

- Pathmaraja


How they have grown!

Do children of today actually have a childhood? I mean, just listen to them talk!

Even girls as young as 12 years have boyfriends! And have you seen them greet each other, just like professional socialites! "Haaaai!" they trill to one another effusively, whilst enveloping the other person in a fond embrace, kissing the air on both sides, Mmmwah! Mmmwah! Gosh! Are they so fond of each other! When we were that age, we would not be caught dead doing anything remotely like that!

About love

And boys, are they super sophisticated! One conversation between two 12-year-old girls goes like this. "How's your boyfriend, darling?" "Which one? Oh, him, he's my ex now," "But why, what happened?" "He was so boooring, so I had to drop him!"

"Poor you!" Then there was this 15/16-year-old couple. They broke off their special friendship because the girl said there was no spark in their relationship! Gulp! I definitely know that we were not looking to ignite anything at that stage of our lives!

Last week I had to watch my two daughters buy very low slung jeans. Apparently this is how simply everyone wears them now. I mean, they were Levi's! I told them they were not stepping out of the house unless their T-shirts were up to their hips!

"I do not care how others dress, kindly do not over expose yourselves," I told them. "As if we ever get to do that, with you around, with your convent mentality!" Huh! No respect for the older and wiser, these kids. My mother or older sister trimmed our hair, we kept it clean and neat. But have you seen the things these children do to their hair? And what about the exorbitant amounts they spend at the salon?

Hair styles

Young children tint, perm, straighten, re-bond (a procedure I became acquainted with only recently) and behave like mature, sophisticated movie stars! In my opinion, they look like a bunch of clones sometimes! Going to a party means going to a salon before for some of them! Wow!

Then what about their nails? Exorbitant sums are paid for manicures, and some of them have nail art done on them at special parlours! It never fails to amaze me that their parents finance all this trivia and some of them proudly announce it in public. If it were me, I would keep it a dead secret! At one of the kid's parties, my husband came downstairs and asked me, "Are these all our children's friends, or are there some older children? Aaaah? The same children who came last year? Their classmates? How they have grown!"

The girls are so glamorous, beautifully dressed and perfectly accessorised, and would you look at their jewellery! Long, dangling, glittery earrings, enormous hoops, rings, necklaces, you name it they have got it!

Boys, on the other hand, the scruffier the better! Very baggy pants, worn very low, (so that the underwear can be spotted) the crotch of which is almost at their knees! Shirts or t-shirts are several sizes bigger than the wearer. Hair is either non-existent, shaved off or gelled into weird shapes, sticking out like antennas of very large insects. Sometimes the antennas are coloured! Also, they wear bead chains and earrings! That is apparently very 'in.'

Mobile phones

And last but not least, something which they simply cannot live without, their cellular phones. You can see them walking all over, having animated conversations, like business-men closing in on a very important deal. Or else, the thing which irritates me no end, texting! They can eat, sleep, talk, sing, close their eyes, but continue this 24 hours of the day! Confiscate their cellulars or refuse to pay their bills, one would think a loved one has died, they are so totally devastated! These phones are treated very lovingly the way we used to treat our favourite doll or teddy bear!

Due to overexposure to television most young girls have adopted affected drawls. Sometimes, their normal speaking voice is heard, but accidentally, otherwise their friends will think they are not "cool," God forbid! They do not realise how comical they sound, sometimes I have to bite my cheek very hard to stop from bursting out laughing loud! Anyway, they say laughter is the best medicine!

- Honky Tonk Woman


Four jobs in America for the tsunami

She is young, attending university and is doing at least three part time jobs as well as organising several fund raising activities to raise money for tsunami victims, miles and miles away from her home.

The untiring efforts of 19-year-old Kate Everson from Quedgeley, England to travel to Sri Lanka to help tsunami victims were highlighted in a British newspaper recently and journalist, Easwaran Rutnam spoke to her via e-mail and the telephone to find out why she is trying so much to help a country she has absolutely no connection with.

Kate Everson says she always wanted to physically and financially help a country hit by poverty or disaster and the December 26 tsunami gave her that opportunity.

"I wanted to do something to help the victims of the tsunami as soon as I heard about the tragedy. I remember hearing about it on the radio on Boxing Day and thinking 'I wish I could actually do something to help those affected,' Everson told The Sunday Leader.

But the teenager was not too sure where to go and how she could help so she sat in front of her home computer and began surfing the internet for charities.

"I signed up for several organisations who ran sorter trips to see if I could do something" Everson said.

In March she got the break she was looking for when a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) called AidCamps International sent her details of a trip to Sri Lanka to help tsunami victims.

"When I got the info I decided the trip was perfect for me. As well as working in a tsunami affected area, the day trips and supplementary activities, will enable me to learn more about Sri Lankan culture which was very appealing," she said.

However, the cost involved for the trip was another factor Everson had to deal with.

The trip would cost her around ú1400 altogether, which meant she had to do several part time jobs as well as fund raisers to collect the money.

"Because of university I am already in around ú5,000 worth of debt, so I had to do three jobs to try and ensure this debt does not increase. However, I felt that it was worth the money, and have been working extra hours in a few bars and a call centre. I have also started fund-raising to try and ensure that I do not have to spend too much money myself," she explained.

Among the fund raisers organised by Everson is an event where she and her friends will dress up like nurses and walk around the Quedgeley Town with buckets in the hope that people will donate money.

"I am also going to do bag packing in a supermarket at university, as well as a sponsored event, although I have not decided exactly what I am going to do for this. I also contacted the local paper in my home town, and they ran an article on my trip and asked businessmen and individuals if they would be willing to donate money to help me," she added.

Kate Everson says she is really looking forward to the trip and hopes it will help victims of the tsunami in the areas she plans to tour in Sri Lanka while also enabling her to learn a lot about a different culture and meet many interesting people.

Everson will be visiting the coastal strip of Colombo, between July 9 and July 31 and will also tour Kandy, Sigiriya, Ratnapura, and Uda Walawe.


Imelda Marcos and the scandal of the shoes

There was only one thing a good Catholic woman could do. She flew back to the Philippines by way of Portugal, where she visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima and prayed for fertility. She gave birth to her first daughter, Imee during Marcos' congressional campaign the following year. Two years later, their second child, Bong Bong was born. Their third child, Irene, was born during Marcos's 1959 senatorial campaign.

Imelda suffered migraines and other recurring psychiatric symptoms, but she clung on. By the time Marcos was running for the presidency in 1965, Imelda was warning up the audience at his political rallies with stirring, patriotic Filipino songs. During that campaign Imelda emerged as a political figure in her own right, but she was still not used to the rough and tumble of political life. When the opposition circulated a nude photograph of her, claiming that it came from Marcos's private collection, she collapsed in a state of shock. Marcos supporters insisted that Imelda's head had been superimposed on another woman's nude body.

For Imelda, the best revenge was to be installed as First Lady in the Malacanang Palace. Nevertheless, Imelda remained unsure of herself and demanded inordinate deference from all those around her. When the Beatles turned up in Manila in 1966, she invited them to come and perform in the Malacanang palace. They respectfully turned down the invitation, but invited her to come and see their public concert like other Filipinos. Imelda took this as an insult. They found themselves unceremoniously expelled from the country. As they left, they were punched and kicked by Imelda's hired thugs on the way to their plane.

The nude photo scandal had revealed a weakness in Imelda that political enemies sought to play on. The Governor of Negros, Alfredo Monrtelibano Jr installed a two-way mirror in the lavatory of his hacienda. When Imelda came to his house for a party, he invited a number of guests into a back room to watch the First Lady pee. He took a photograph, which was circulated. Benigno Aquino kept a copy in his wallet until shortly before he died.

Marcos modelled himself on John F. Kenedy and Imelda was only too happy to play Jackie. Like Kenedy, Marcos liked to show of his pretty, young wife. He was also a womaniser. This was still painful for Imelda and it was politically dangerous for Marcos. In 1969, he began showing an interest in Gretchen Cojuangco, wife of Eduardo Cojuangco, who controlled the Philippines' multi-million-dollar sugar-producing corporation. Imelda was determined to put a stop to the affair. She wrote Gretchen a note. Although what it said has never been revealed, when Gretchen read it she could not stop weeping.

Hollywood conspiracy

Cojuangco took another approach to keep Marcos away from his wife. He had contacts in Hollywood and set to work immediately. In a rendezvous with destiny, the fearless guerrilla fighter claimed that his Filipino-American lover, Evelyn had sacrificed her life to save him by stopping a Japanese bullet meant for him.

A producer at Universal was employed to recruit girls to audition for the part of Evelyn. One of them was an actress called Dovie Beams. When she arrived in the Philippines, Marcos seduced her. He installed her in a house in the Green Hills suburb and claimed that he had been sexually estranged from Imelda for years. She was frigid and suffered, he said, from 'virginitis.'

Things went seemingly well until Dovie discovered Marcos was still seeing Carmen Ortega, who was now pregnant yet again. Dovie began recording their love-making sessions and when Marcos took her to the presidential palace while Imelda was away, Dovie searched his desk and took documents.

Imelda grew suspicious and began to have them followed. Marcos insisted that Dovie move out of the house in Green Hills and into a hotel. She later discovered that Marcos had given the house to Carmen Ortega, as he had planned all along.

Dovie was determined to get even. Marcos had bought a polaroid camera and began taking pictures of their love play. He also asked her for a lock of her pubic hair. She consented to give him one, provided he gave her a lock of his. She sent this with a collection of the photographs, the tapes and the documents to the USA for safekeeping.

By then, Marcos was getting tired of her. He told Dovie that she had been miscast for the role of Evelyn and he wanted to audition some new actresses. She packed her bags and flew back to California.

She later returned to the Philippines on the pretext of making a travelogue. She was given $10,000 to buy silence. Although she took it, she insisted that her silence was worth more like $100,000. When that was refused, she asked for $150,000. That night, she was grabbed by the secret police and taken to a house where Marcos was waiting. There was a row. He tried to make up with her. She spurned him and was beaten up and tortured by the secret police.

When they allowed her to go to the bathroom, she gave them the slip and called a friend in Los Angeles, who contacted influential people Dovie knew in the USA. One of them was former movie actor, Ronald Regan, then governor of California. He called the State Department while Dovie checked into a private clinic under a false name.

Bedside offer

Meanwhile, Imelda had learnt about everything and had her cohorts combing the island for Dovie. The American ambassador turned up at Dovie's bedside with an offer from Imelda - $100,000 tax free if she kept quiet. But things were not going to be quite as easy as that. Dovie told the ambassador about the incriminating evidence she had on Marcos and said that she believed her life was in danger.

The US ambassador realised that the only way to keep Dovie safe was to make the scandal public. He arranged a press conference. Dovie spilt the beans, referring to Marcos throughout as 'Fred' so that journalists could report the story without falling foul of the recent restrictions preventing the publication of anything critical of the President. She even played one of the tapes that featured bedsprings creaking, murmurs, moans and a man's voice crooning an Ilocano love song, which the whole of the Philippines  knew was one of Marcos's favourites. Pirated versions of the tape were soon changing hands at $500 a time.

When the students at Manila University got hold of a copy, they looped the tape and played it over and over on the University radio station. Everyone's favourite section was the part where Marcos begged Dovie to perform oral sex on him. Even the troops sent to shut down the radio station could not keep a straight face. Senator Benigno Aquino, tongue buried firmly in cheek, called for a congregational investigation.

Imelda was now fighting mad. The US authorities had to spirit Dovie out of the Philippines. She was taken to Hong Kong where the British Secret Service held her in protective custody for five days.

Back in the USA, Dovie published an account of the affair called Marcos's Lovie Dovie, which included some of the nude Polaroids. Mysteriously, the books vanished from the book shops. Even the Library of Congress's copy went missing.

When Imelda cooled off, she realised that she now held the whip hand. If she dumped Marcos now, he would be finished. She told him that she would not ask for a divorce, provided he gave her everything she wanted - everything. He had no choice. He wrote an open cheque. It was then that the shopping started in earnest.

But it was not enough for Imelda to be personally wealthy. She wanted respect. She was First Lady of a small poverty-stricken state. For her to be anything in the world, the Philippines would have to raise its profile. She planned to stage a Manila Film Festival, which she hoped would rival the glamour of Cannes. As part of the project, she planned a 100,000-seater stadium, the construction of which fell badly behind schedule.

To speed up its building, she demanded that the structure be erected before the concrete floor had dried. Predictably, the upper floors collapsed, killing 168 building workers. Imelda simply ordered their remains to be concreted over so that building work could begin again before their relatives had time to collect their corpses.

Marcos continued his womanising ways, starting an affair with the wife of a US Navy officer, jeopardising Filipino-American relations. There followed a liaison with the Filipino Singer, Carmen Soriano. Imelda caught up with her in San Francisco in 1970. Arriving at her apartment with her financial adviser, Ernesto Vilatuya, Imelda insisted that Carmen sign a declaration promising never to go to bed with Marcos again. When Carmen refused, Imelda took a swing at her. She ducked and Imelda floored Vilatuya. Soon after, he was made President of the Philippine National Bank, a position he held until 1972.

With Marcos and the national exchequer in her pocket, Imelda roamed the world as the Philippines' roving ambassador. In Libya, she claimed that Colonel Qaddafi made a pass at her, but to friends she confided he was gay. There were gay rumours about Imelda too. She travelled every where with Christina Ford, wife of Henry Ford II, and it was said they were lovers. Others say that she went to bed with the permanently tanned actor, George Hamilton. And why not? Everyone else did.

According to the Philippines' constitution, the President can hold office for only two four-year terms. In 1973, Marcos considered putting up Imelda as his successor, thereby holding on to the reigns of power for eight more years. But with Imelda constantly away on state-sponsored shopping sprees, he felt she might leave a power vacuum. Instead, he declared Martial law.

Assassination attempt

Popular frustration soon turned to violence. At an open-air awards ceremony, one of the recipients lunged at Imelda with a cane-cutting blade. She instinctively protected her breasts and was slashed on both forearms. The would-be assassin was slaughtered on the spot by her bodyguards. 

The assassination attempt had a profound effect on her. She called in voodoo advisers to protect her from hostile spells. Old clothes were hoarded and no personal items were thrown away, lest they fall into the hands of those plotting against her. She began wearing a scarf around her neck to ward off the danger of decapitation. And she surrounded herself with handmaidens whom she called her 'blue ladies' because they were dressed identically in a traditional Filipino termos with a blue sash. They were hand-picked for their loyalty and owed their elevation from the grinding poverty that was now engulfing the country solely to Imelda.


Millennium Villas for the quality conscious

Deputy Chairman, CDL, Bandula Ranaweera (at right) at the launch of the Millennium Villas

By Pelham Juriansz 

Looking for a house 10-15 minutes drive from Colombo? Ceylinco Developers Ltd (CDL) has the right type of house for you.

Offering a choice of eight exclusive designs and constructed by the waters edge and amidst landscaped parks, Millennium Villas is situated in a very prime location.

Each of these houses have exquisite exteriors and beautifully appointed interiors. Speaking to The Sunday Leader at the launch of the Millennium Villas, Deputy Chairman, CDL, Bandula Ranaweera said that 24-hour security will be provided for these houses.

"Today, since both husband and wife are working one could leave the house and go to work with peace of mind as we provide 24-hour security. Most of these houses are built for the upper class while there are some other houses built to suit the demands of middle and upper middle class people as well," he emphasised.

"Designed by three architects the construction of these houses takes about nine to 12 months. Customers could place an order by paying 10% to book and 30% to commence construction. Already 10 houses have been reserved and a diamond necklace worth Rs. 250,000 is on offer to the first 20 customers. The entire extent of Millennium Villas is 30 acres comprising of 90 units," he added.

Facilities such as 24-hour controlled security, double garages and jacuzzis in all houses, a state of the art clubhouse, gymnasium, swimming pool and a mini super market are some of the features that make Millennium Villas one of the best housing choices to promote stylish living.

Type VU 1 is a two-storeyed, super luxury house with a verandah, terrace, living, dining rooms, lobby and four bedrooms with one attached and two common toilets.

Type VU 2 has a walk-in closet with powder room, visitors' lobby, fitted pantry etc.

Type VP 2 is two-storeyed with front and rear verandahs, living room, dining room and four bedrooms with one attached and two common toilets.

Type VA 2 is single-storeyed, super luxury with living room, dining etc.

Type VC 2 is also a single-storeyed, luxury villa with front and rear verandahs.

Type VA 1 is two-storeyed with front and rear verandahs, open verandahs and four bedrooms.

Type VC 1 is built on 17-20 perches of land with two-storeyed, super luxury villa with front and rear verandahs.

The last type VP 2 is a four-storeyed, luxury villa.

According to Ranaweera, 2,000 housing units have already been sold through the Millennium City concept. "With the growing demand for Millennium City housing projects, we have recorded 85% occupancy in the Athurugiriya project," Ranaweera added.

This is a BOI approved project with each house being built on 12 to 20-perches of land with a floor area ranging from 2000 to 3000 square feet. The special introductory price is Rs. 12-20 million. Finance facilities could be arranged.


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