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30th  April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 42

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

Spare the rod, and  spare the child

By Kumudu Amarasingham

Have you ever been spanked - as a child? Then you'd probably know how little Rohan* feels. His Thaththi hits him every day. So much so that Rohan's mother, unable to take it anymore, decided to go to the National Child.....

More.... 


Review more articles

 > I create unbiased and prejudiced characters    
 >
If only he was alive today...  
 >
Nalanda College - A repository of Buddhist values  
 >
Come sun or rain, I'm a couch potato  
 >
Strict laws to curb vehicles with metal bumpers  
 >
The golden girl  


Spare the rod, and  spare the child

By Kumudu Amarasingham

Mental anguish causes greater pain

Have you ever been spanked - as a child? Then you'd probably know how little Rohan* feels. His Thaththi hits him every day. So much so that Rohan's mother, unable to take it anymore, decided to go to the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA).

"After many sessions individually and with the family, we found the root cause for the beatings was his father's sexual frustration. His wife wouldn't let him touch her, and to take revenge on her he beat their son," Lakmini Abeyratne, a counsellor at NCPA said.

Nuwan's case is slightly different, though equally complex. When he was a kid, his father just lifted the umbrella threateningly in a warning gesture on the road, in front of his friends. As a result for a long time, well past his first 18 years, Nuwan was unable to face his friends due to the mortification. 

Fathers are not the only culprits. One well-known mother buys a new cane every day because "the child is that naughty." One of the most painful incidents ever heard of occurred at an examination. The child had just finished the first of the grade five-scholarship examination papers for math. She ran up to her mother, who was waiting outside, and said she had got all but one question right. The mum, in front of everyone,  slapped the girl hard, apparently for getting one question wrong! The poor girl broke down instantly. How she did the second paper that afternoon no one knows.

All the behaviour outlined so far fall under 'cruelty' and is illegal in Sri Lanka under the 'Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act,' according to Rohan Wijesinghe, a lawyer who specialises in child rights. According to  Rohan it is difficult to define where 'normal' stops and 'cruelty' begins. How hard does a child have to be hit to make it 'cruel'? Many are the instances of physical bruises, permanently damaged eardrums and even broken spinal cords.

Abeyratne said adults often hit children to get over their own built-up stress. And many don't see it as wrong. Over 400 cases of child abuse were reported to the NCPA between 2001-2003, while 315 cases were reported last year alone. Many more go unreported.

Hitting a child, no matter what the law says, is a socially and culturally accepted phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Acceptance however does not make something 'right,' certainly not 'effective.'

One need only to look around. Violence is the most discussed topic in an island that was once a paradise. Sri Lanka has the highest suicide rate in the world and the world's second highest liquor consumption. We have had a two-decade war, in addition to a range of insurrections and unrest. Our universities are known best for their ragging. Is it madness to say something must be wrong in the way we instill values and 'correct' our children?

 "Hitting a child causes pain, humiliation, anxiety, anger and feelings of vengeance depending on the individual, though all children do not react the same," , Chairperson, NCPA, said Padma Wettewa. Punishment is necessary, but alternatives to corporal punishment could and should be found. These could include anything from not allowing a child to watch their favourite TV programme that day to grounding. "Parents and teachers need to study the child and act accordingly," Wettewa said.

In the school context, corporal punishment is definitely more prevalent in boys' schools. While many contend that the boys cannot be 'controlled' without beating them, psychologist Nayomi Kannangara states that substitutes could be found. Instead of beating or harsh physical punishment, such as having the child crawl or kneel in the sun for hours, one innovative principal used to get the boys to trim the school lawn and work in school maintenance. An effective 'two birds with one stone' strategy!

Hitting is also often ineffective because a smack shows that you are angry, but not what you are angry about. Smaller children in particular often never understand what the punishment is about. In addition beating a child repeatedly leads to their building up resistance to pain, and in some cases even getting addicted to it, according to counsellors. "As a result," said Abeyratne, "they keep doing things that cause them to get beaten." Kids who resist pain are also seen as 'tough' and end up being 'heroes' in groups and classes. 

These ideas are slow to reach our parents and teachers however because agitation against corporal punishment is often seen as a recent trend from the West. This is not the case.

Although ancient kings here were known to have tortured wrong-doers, there is little documentation of it being enforced on children. In fact King Voharaka Tissa declared a law forbidding any bodily harm by way of punishment. King Vijayabahu II is also credited for his compassion while King Vijayabahu III is commended for having extended his compassion to children.

More recently, J. C. Dias, Simon Cassie Chetty and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan were among those who fought against corporal punishment in the Legislative Council. D. S. Senanayake once stated in a debate in the state council, referring to some teachers who got work out of school children using corporal punishment, ".when I see that sort of thing I wish I could get hold of those men by their necks and make them do some work. We speak of cruelty to animals, but to my mind it is horrible to see big hulking persons use the cane on small boys without using the mammoties themselves and getting the small boys to do some lighter work."

Dr. S. A. Wickremasinghe in 1935 stated ".Hurting the child's mind and inflicting physical pain of varying degrees to children are such commonplace things in our country that they are considered to be essential elements of love and affection for children."

The question is; if our notions of love and proper upbringing are so correct, how come the population at large does not reflect it? How come everything bad from corrupt politicians to crooked beggars to drunkards to drug addicts to murderers is two-penny apiece or even less? How come even survival in the workplace, or survival at all, is so hard, with 3000 cut throats, back-stabbers and bluffers at every turn? There's no doubt a small number who were beaten as children have yet grown up to be service-oriented, successful human beings in spite of (never because, according to psychologists) it.

Honestly though, as a nation, how many more has it condemned - often for life? Perhaps it's time then to rethink our notions of 'love and affection.' And today - No-Spanking Day worldwide: is probably a good time to start.

* Names changed to protect the identity of the children


Perth Diary

I create unbiased and prejudiced characters  

I suppose at this point I should  mention that I support alternative lifestyle choices to put in perhaps the most proper kind of language possible.

I think this is because once someone made the very odd decision to screen episodes of the Julian Clary Show on a Sri Lankan television network when I was a kid. I cannot neither remember which one it was, nor could I remember much of the show but I do remember Julian Clary and his dog very well. For those who have never heard of him, he's a British drag queen and comedian - forget Elton John or Wham and George Michael, my first impression of homosexuality was Clary.

I have had them as friends, I have been inside their bars, listened to their music, seen their documentaries and even helped to set them up with people and more than ever I appreciate it. I appreciate it because they are just like everyone else I have ever met. And that's what I want to convey when I write my characters - not just in relation to sexuality choices but other things as well.

For me, if I am to write, I cannot write in stereotypes. People are in real life often defined by one aspect of their many faceted personalities and yes they have to choose how to react to that but I cannot write them so that I only show them to be that one aspect. A character might be Asian for instance - they might be identified as such by others around them but I have to treat that as just one part of who they are.

Long list

They are not just Asian, they could be of either gender, anti-social or social or inbetween, sane or mad or borderline, tall or short or average and the list goes on. I have to be ethical about how and what I write. I have to write and create my characters as real people as I see and know them to be - which is people who are a myriad of different qualities and their character being how all those qualites and their personal history mix together create who they are at the given moment I want them to be placed in - this in turn dictates how they react to the situations I put them in - not just one aspect or fact of who they are but everything - even the most weird obscure part of them. And I lump their sexuality in with these qualities.

I do not believe sexuality defines you any more than your height does or your religion. If you identify with a certain faith you could be the kind of person that is completely connected to it who allows it to deeply influence everything you do or you could just as easily identify with it but not be as deeply involved with some aspects or all of it. It would always vary from person to person - everyone has something that makes them different from everyone else. A person is the sum of their whole parts whether they identify themselves primarily by one fact of their personality or not.

As I see it

I am not sure why I think like this. I mentioned before that to me it seems unethical to attempt to recreate life in writing in any other way other than that in which I see it. If I were to do so, nothing seems to fit or hold together very well and everything falls apart. It feels like a lie and while I may be able to do it quite easily at any other time, I cannot lie in that sense when I write.

I can describe other view points - in fact I have to in order to create characters but as any literature critic would tell you, I create my unbiased and prejudiced characters all in the same way I would create all my characters - which is something all writers do. I may create a person who thinks and identifies people by one characteristic alone but I would rather build that character up by portraying not just the prejudice that character holds, but also how and why the character thinks that way.

I think it's a reaction to the fact that I know for a fact that we are biologically hardwired to catergorise things including other people - it's just the way the human brain works due to the way we evolved but I also believe that is no excuse not to attempt to know and understand others beyond the obvious or superficial definitions we impose on them. You're only judgemental if you do not go beyond the first impression with an open mind.

- Marisa Wikramanayake 


May 1 is the 13th death anniversary of former President R. Premadasa

If only he was alive today...

The day President Premadasa died, I lost a part of my life. While on the campaign trail for the Colombo Municipal Council elections I had an encounter which reminded me, once again, however great my loss is, it is not mine alone.

 I met nearly 400 families living in community centres and playgrounds almost one-and-a-half-years after the tsunami.  This is not unusual since  most of the tsunami refugees are still living in temporary shelters. What is unusual is that these people are not in remote areas but Colombo itself. They live in Bokkuwatte (Mutwal), Rock House Camp  (Lokupokuna), Bow Vista Park Community Centre, St. Mary's Community Centre and Vistwyke Park. For these people the promises of shelter have remained promises - broken and forgotten. Because of their presence, other residents of  the area cannot make use of these community centres and playgrounds.

Shelter for all

Perhaps the publicly stated belief by many tsunami refugees is that, had President Premadasa been alive today they could have had the three-month commemorations for their loved ones killed by the tsunami in their brand new houses - is a bit of an exaggeration. But every refugee would have definitely been provided with a new house by the first anniversary of the disaster.

'Shelter for all tsunami displaced by December 2005' would have been the goal and it would have been set within the first couple of weeks of the disaster.  There would have been no foundation  stone laying ceremonies since President Premadasa did not believe in them. The only ceremonies he permitted were the ones held at the completion of a project.

And that goal would have been met - because that was the will of Ranasinghe Premadasa. When he wanted  something for the people he did not permit any obstacle to stand in the way. Time, money, energy and whatever else that was necessary was found, to reach the stipulated target in the  stipulated time.   No postponements were tolerated. Non-achievement was a  non-option. All of us who worked with  him knew that and that knowledge galvanised us into surpassing ourselves.

For President Premadasa a crisis was not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to be grasped. That is the way he would have looked at the post-tsunami challenge of rebuilding; he would have seen it as an opportunity to build better houses and roads and other public facilities and better human relations. One of his priorities would have been to rebuild the affected areas in the north and east as showpieces. That would have been his own way of confronting the LTTE and winning over the Tamil people.

The country knows that we could have  risen successfully to the tsunami housing challenge had President Premadasa been alive to guide us.  And yes, to goad us - because he would have done that too. There would have been no time taken off, no holidays, no workshops or seminars.  No one would have dared to shirk since none of us knew when he would be around to check things out. We also knew that nothing escaped that eagle eye.

Development army

In a sense we were like a development army under the leadership of the most exacting Commander-in-Chief. Each programme was a battle that had to be won. Not winning, even a draw was simply not on the agenda.

Whenever I read in newspapers or see on TV about the tsunami refugees, braving the monsoon rains or the tropical heat in their inadequate shelters, I think of President Premadasa. I thought of him that day as I visited those community centres and play grounds in Colombo and talked to their despairing residents.  I could just imagine the plight of any bureaucrat or parliamentarian who permitted such neglect, if  Premadasa was alive.  A flurry of calls and everyone - even remotely responsible - would have been summoned to face the  neglected people.  A tongue lashing would have been just the beginning.

A target date would have been set and within a few months the affected families would have been living in their own houses. Until the target was met none of us would have been able to relax. Cats on hot tin roofs would have had an easier time than us, until the task was successfully completed. But then, such neglect would not have happened had he been around us. I do not think it was just fear of his wrath which made officials at every level work during his time. He turned each development programme into a collective effort.

As I said we did feel like an army; a fraternal spirit prevailed. And though the work was hard and we were on the edge most of the time, it was also exciting. The challenge inspired us into doing our best. And when it was successfully over we felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction of a job well done. I think what young people nowadays call the 'feel good factor' also played a very important role in Premadasa's development effort.

In  my book on President Premadasa, Development  Adventures was the title I gave to the chapter dealing with some of the mega projects of that time. I got the idea from something he said - he said that development should not be tedious, that it should be exciting and adventurous.

Premadasa  period

I think one of the main reasons for the Premadasa  development miracle was that he did succeed in instilling a sense of adventure in his development programmes.  As a major participant in almost every one of them I could say with certainty though they were nerve wracking they were never boring.

Perhaps all those unalterable deadlines and massive targets brought us closer to heart ailments or ulcers; but they added colour and  flavour to life. Another reason for the success of President Premadasa was that for him the political colour of a person did not matter.  You could be UNP, SLFP, a leftist, anybody.

So long as you could work, had ideas, knew how to get things done, there was a place for you. And there was work for you. That was one of his greatest contributions - that he gave us an opportunity to work, to make a contribution, to feel that we have done  something worthwhile. That ability was unique of him because  none of his successors had that.

Immediately after the tsunami I wrote to the then President offering to undertake the task of rebuilding one of the affected districts, including a district in the  north or the east. I even offered to find the funds; at that moment it was possible.

After many weeks I got a reply from TAFREN  which informed me that they would contact me if they needed my services. They did not. Nor did they succeed in building a mere 80,000 houses, a fraction of what was undertaken and achieved during the 'Premadasa period.'

Stood test of time

Ranasinghe Premadasa, his vision and his work, has stood the test of time. No part of Sri Lanka, however remote, remained untouched by his massive development programme.  And what is not being done in the development field today is what was done and would have been done had he been there to guide us, with his vision, his concepts, his energy and his commitment.

Thirteen years after his assassination - President Premadasa stands vindicated.  He is missed today more than he was in the immediate aftermath of his death.  What we, those who were close to him, understood him and loved him, knew then, the country is beginning to realise now.

The increasingly audible, multi-lingual, lament - Aney Premadasa Mahaththaya hitiyanam (if only Premadasa was alive) - is the most appropriate tribute to a man who gave his life for the betterment of his people.

- B. Sirisena  Cooray


Nalanda College - A repository of Buddhist values  

Nalanda College, Colombo 10 
and Present Principal H.U. Premathilake

Portals of learning...

THE school playground is not only where you got your first knee scratch, it's also where you first learnt to interact with other children. Your school informed your adult life, your career and your character. 

Your teachers were those beacons of light that showed you the way forward.

The Sunday Leader continues to feature those great halls of learning that helped shape Sri Lanka's citizens.

FACT  FILE

School colours: Silver and maroon.

Flag: Maroon, Silver and Maroon.

School motto: Apadana Sobhini Panna. (Charithaya nuwanin babalanneeya - Character illuminates knowledge.)

Houses: Chandra, Nanda, Mayurya and Surya.

Type of school: Buddhist Boys' School.

School hours: 7.45 a.m. to 1.45 p.m.

College uniform: Grade 1 to 5 - White short-sleeved shirt, blue shorts, black shoes  and white socks.  Grade 6 to 8 - White short-sleeved shirt, white shorts, black shoes  and white socks. Grade 9 to 13 -White short-sleeved shirt, white long trousers, black shoes and white socks. The school tie and blazers are worn on special occasions. School prefects wear a white long sleeved shirt, (which is folded up to the elbow ) and the prefect's badge.

School prefects:  There are two prefect boards at Nalanda College. The Junior Prefect Guild (Grade 10 and 11) = 50. Executive Senior Prefects Guild (Grade 12 and 13) = 45.

Junior prefects guild master in charge: T.K. Dilip Rohana, Senior prefects

guild master in charge:  Guththila Dharmadana 

By Sunalie Ratnayake 

Due to the fact that a vast majority of Buddhist schools look up to the leading ones as models, it is an obligation on the part of leading schools to maintain the highest standards. When it comes to Nalanda College, Colombo 10, the high standards are assured in every aspect. Positions of eminence once reached by this institution, have been maintained over the years due to the vigilance on the part of the principals, teachers, students as well as the interested public.

Careful selection has been made in appointing  principals, based on ability, competence and integrity, and strength of character. Appointments to fill these posts are made on the recommendation by a specially appointed board consisting of representatives of the Old Boys' Association (OBA) and the School Development Society (SDS). In addition, a careful selection of teachers has been made by the principals concerned as well as the officers of the related departments. All these factors have added to the success story of Nalanda College.

History

When Ananda College was established in 1886, it attracted the attention of many Buddhists. Students from all corners of the island joined Ananda, craving for an education catered to suit Buddhist values and Sinhala culture. With the inflow of additional students arose the need for a new wing  for Ananda. The Ananda playground was located at Campbell Place in Colombo at that time and next to the playground, was a stretch of land about one acre in extent. 

 P. de S Kularatne, the then principal of Ananda leased this land and moved in some junior classes of Ananda there. These first classrooms were simply mud huts. This new wing of Ananda was placed under E.W. Perera, an efficient administrator whose abilities were  recognised by Robinson, the then director of education  who rewarded Perera for his hard work and as a mark of appreciation Robinson readily approved the new institution.

Kularatne did not stop with the success achieved.  He went ahead and bought another four acres from an adjacent land paying  Rs.55, 000 for same.   A new building comprising 16 rooms was constructed on this newly acquired land, the foundation for same being laid in 1922 by the then Governor of Ceylon, Gregory Thompson. Perera was appointed the headmaster of the junior school. The Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maithriya Thero became the first dharmarcharya.

A new school, known as Nalanda was registered as a separate school by Kularatne on November 1, 1925. This day was  chosen as it was the 39th anniversary of Ananda Vidyalaya. Twelve of the newly built rooms were used as classrooms under the authority of L.H. Meththananda, who is  considered by some as the founder principal of  Nalanda Vidyalaya.

Yet history indicates and accepts Professor Gunapala Malalasekera as Nalanda's first principal. However, it has to be pointed out that Meththananda and Malalasekera both  played major roles in laying the strong foundation of  the school. Ven. Balangoda Maithriya was allotted the task of finding a name and a motto for this new school. He named it 'Nalanda' and chose Apadana Sobhini Panna as the school's motto. It is proven today that Nalandians have lived up to their school's motto and will  strive to do so in the future as well.

 Present day school and its beacons of light

The current Principal of Nalanda, Hemantha U. Premathilake strongly agrees with the fact that Nalanda has a proud history and believes that the future should  not  be different. According to Premathilake, the  success of the school is due to the untiring efforts of  those from all walks of life who contributed selflessly towards the betterment of the college.   

Due to a combination of many different individuals who were involved in the nurturing of Nalanda, the college has produced sons who have devoted their lives to religion, and have also shone in politics, economics, technology, medicine, engineering, law, socialism, education, arts, music, sports and many more fields.

 Premathilake had once said, "At present, the entire world has become a universal village and we have the  task of developing our children to blend with the ever changing technologies; but yet their intelligence has to be matched by their feelings and thinking. Nalandians  will always be persons with  balanced minds. In other words, Nalandians will always be educated people who  maintain moral and traditional values in their lives."  Premathilake has been serving Nalanda as principal since 1999.

Strong identity

The school has its  Deputy Principal,  M. Siriwardene, and three Assistant Principals, namely T.K. Dilip Rohana, Chintha Ariyasena (also science section head) and E.W.M. Premaratne who assist the school in curricular and  co-curricular activities. Nalanda Vidyalaya has no branches and its staff consists of 184 members. There are four Buddhist priests among them. The number of students adds up to 4500 and the average class size is 45. The college consists of about 25 main buildings today.

"Although there are many popular Buddhist schools, Nalanda maintains its own identity. It is one of the schools originated by the Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS) and always strives to maintain Buddhist values and propagate Sinhala culture in all its activities. Being an old boy of Nalanda Vidyalaya and having been a part of the history of Nalanda from 1970, I can say without hesitation that Nalandians always respect elders especially parents and teachers and  students are trained to remain calm and act responsibly under any circumstances," Assistant Principal T. K. Dilip Rohana told The Sunday Leader.  Rohana has been serving Nalanda since 1985 as a mathematics teacher and was appointed assistant principal in 2000. 

The school has its own swimming pool and badminton courts. The squash courts have been completed and are to be opened in the very near future. "We are planning on building a gym as well," Rohana said.

In 2003 and 2004, Nalanda produced the second best results in the entire island at the G.C.E. (O/L) examination, which is one of the most recent achievements of the school in the academic field. There are three science classes each for grade 12 and 13 and five double mathematics classes each for the  Advanced Level.  One class teaches science in the English medium. A total of nine classes  exist for commerce, arts and languages.

There are also two computer laboratories where students get the opportunity to learn and improve their computer skills. The language center is also much appreciated by Nalandians.

The Buddhist Association

This is one of the most active associations of the college and on every Full Moon Poya Day, special religious programmes are conducted in the school including the observance of sil. Every year a chanting of pirith is carried out in the college premises. As the college falls under the category of a Buddhist school, originated under the patronage of Colonel Henry Steel Olcot, as a practice, an alms giving is conducted on February 14 of each year in his memory.

The founder's day is celebrated on November 1 of each year by lighting up the entire school with oil lamps. This is one of the most significant events conducted in the college annually. Though Nalandians are blessed and shine amongst the rest, this is the night that the entire school shines with light, all through the night.

Sports

Nalanda has students of many talents and is very proud of this fact. Its students have shone in sports events too. Cricket, athletics, archery, basketball, badminton, boxing, baseball, chess, football, gymnastics, hockey, rugby, tennis, table tennis, swimming, rifle shooting, wushu, karate, wrestling, body building, weight lifting, volleyball and squash are some of the sports available at Nalanda.

Outstanding old boys

Completing his initial education at Dharmaduta Vidyalaya in Badulla, Healthcare and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva joined Nalanda for his Advanced Level studies. Having studied physics, chemistry and double mathematics for his A/Ls,  the first important event in his school career was  selection to the Sinhala debating team. Within  a brief period, De Silva led the team and even won several prizes and gold medals .

 "Nalanda has a certain bearing towards my entrance to politics and I believe that the Arogya Shala Sevaya (hospital service) that I participated in every Sunday changed many things in my life. This was an event that the Nalandians participated in and was organised by the All Ceylon Buddhist Student Federation. Ven. Panvila Vipassi Thero gave leadership to this service and it is an unforgettable memory that I carry from my alma mater.

Another thing that lives in my memory from my golden school days is the Suhada Vivadaya we used to have during cricket matches. Whenever the boys visited other schools for cricket matches, I used to go along with the debating team. I shall never forget these debates, especially the ones I used to participate in at Dharmaraja College, Kandy.  Professor Harischandra Wijetunge joining our school  as a teacher at first  are among the most pleasant memories of mine," said Health Care and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva.

Household names

While still on the subject of  outstanding old boys of Nalanda, tit would be opportune to  mention some of the many names that cannot be forgotten, though space prevents me from mentioning the names of all of them. Some of the outstanding Nalandians are President Mahinda Rajapakse, Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, UNP Parlimentarians Rajitha Senaratne, Jayawickrama Perera, Cricketers Bandula Warnapura, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinghe, Kumar Dharmasena, Mahela Jayawardene, Entrepreneurs  Upali Mahanama, Daya Abeysekera, Artistes  Henry Jayasena, Namel Weeramuni, Authors Karunaratne Abeysekera, and Gunadasa Amarasekera and Professor Chandana Jayawardene. 

In addition to education,  Nalanda can be associated with many other fields. At Nalanda, education is never limited to following the curriculum. One who has been educated at Nalanda certainly learnes 'life.' As a leading Buddhist school in the island, every Nalandian is motivated to become a responsible and ethical individual in  society.

This certainly is not a quality, which is imposed upon the Nalandians, but rather what they learn through intimacy with their school. Therefore, education at Nalanda is certainly of a far greater scope than one might imagine, ranging from mathematics to cricket, from biology to computer science and from Buddhist culture to aquatic sports.


Come sun or rain, I'm a couch potato

Are you one of the mass exodus  out of the city for the New Year ? I am one of the peculiar people who likes to stay behind as the roads and general pace of life is so peaceful and quiet. There's nothing like lazing around in your nightshirt until noon, idly watching television or reading a good book. Also, it makes me feel good to realise I can jolly well manage quite well without any help, thank you very much !

    Anyway, even if we go to the most remotest place in the country, of course we bump into someone we know. That's the end of our relaxing holiday ! You get drawn into activities and discussions that I would much rather avoid when on holiday. Also, if you are in a hotel, you have to be sort of togged up. This is not my kind of holiday.

I must admit to being a bit fed up of shopping for the very first time in my life. This is due to the fact that from Christmas onwards, we have had visitors from overseas. Therefore I have done lots of escorting around, and of course, it's common knowledge when you see a good bargain, you should snap it up, or else it vanishes the next time you go for it.

This year, during the New Year vacation, the Caveman went to visit his family overseas after several years. So in addition to the usual festive gifts, I had the thankless job of locating gifts for about twenty individuals. By the time he was finally satisfied with the load, it filled up one and a half suitcases. He has been strictly instructed to fill them once emptied, to bursting point with gifts for us. We deserve to be indulged, the kids are having extra classes due to their forthcoming exams next month. So we have no vacation !

'Emergency' splash

Of course, whilst tramping through the sales, the kids saw designer stuff, (obviously fake) and simply had to buy these tremendous bargains. They were actually saving us money apparently, the considerate creatures ! The emergency money given to me by Caveman, obviously to be used only for the said purpose, rapidly vanished even before he had arrived at his destination.

I told the kids we better not have an emergency ! I threw caution to the winds as well and succumbed to temptation. If you can't stop  'em, join 'em ! The kids cooked me a gourmet dinner in gratitude for joining in the plot to fritter away money. Although the dinner itself was delicious, unfortunately they had not turned the gas burner off totally. It was smouldering resentfully away hours later. That cylinder's not going to last much longer !

Sudden urge

People who usually do office jobs find themselves at a loose end during these holidays if they are at home. So they go around committing rash acts, that were originally just random thoughts. I'm saying this because my sister decided to buy a sewing machine after managing without one for about 25 years. The price of British clothing was ridiculous, (this is where she replenishes her wardrobe) so she was going to sew.

First she went to a reputed sewing machine shop, only to be attended to by indifferent sales personnel. She summoned the manager, and gave him a good telling-to on sales management in that company, and how they should remedy this defect. She simply loves leaving behind a trail of turmoil, disruption and dissent wherever she goes !

 On to the next shop, where she bought this very fancy machine, apparently closely resembling a laptop computer. The sales staff there recognise her and quake when they see her approaching !

The next call from her was to inquire what exactly one needed when embarking on a sewing project, i.e. the equipment. This job was attended to. Then she invited me to come and see what gorgeous fabric she had got so cheap ! She had not heard the amount correctly, (an incredible sum) as I discovered on examination of the bill, but she was very satisfied. After all, she was comparing it to prices in London ! Luckily I had a friend close by with the identical machine who was able to give her a quick demonstration. These manuals can be so frustrating ! As for me, I detest sewing, and do it only when it's a dire emergency. Sew tiresome !

- Honky Tonk Woman


Strict laws to curb vehicles with metal bumpers

By Nirmala Kannangara

Vehicle owners need to be aware of the strict traffic laws operative since last September, to nab vehicles that are affixed with various types of metal frames on or beyond the front bumper. It is the view of the authorities that such fixtures would lead to road trauma and fatal road crashes.

On the request of the Traffic Police the Motor Traffic Act was amended last year under the guidelines of the Minister of Transport and Highways on the recommendation of Commissioner of Motor Traffic to ban bull bars, mascots, fenders and other various types of metal frames being fixed to any part of a motor vehicle that is likely to cause injury to people or property.

Accident prone

According to statistics many fatal accidental deaths have been recorded during the past several years involving vehicles with such metal frames.

"Earlier if we nabbed such a vehicle we gave a grace period to remove the frame and to show the vehicle to police, but after thorough research we found out that these frames are once again fixed to the vehicle.

As a result of the increasing number of casualties due to the negligence of motorists we got the new legislation passed," claimed Director Traffic Administration and Road Safety, SSP Lucky Peiris.

According to the Traffic Police young boys prefer to fix these devices to their vehicles to give the others an impression that they are 'different'from the rest where as some do so to protect their vehicles.

"These metal frames minimise the damages that could occur to the vehicle from a motor accident. I have experienced two accidents but nothing happened to my vehicle thanks to the bull bar," said Suranjith Perera, an owner of such a vehicle.      

To protect civilians

When The Sunday Leader asked the Director Traffic as to why legislation was introduced to ban the bull bars, mascots and fenders that are affixed to motor vehicles when damage could be minimised to the vehicle as a result of these metal frames SSP Peiris said that the police was more concerned about the safety of pedestrians and other civilians rather than the safety of vehicles.

"If we want to protect vehicles rather than the civilians then we should not bother too much to enforce strict law and order in the country," added the SSP. 

"This could be equalled to a person being attacked by a raging bull with  strong horns. However the injuries sustained would be less severe if the bull does not have horns. Likewise a speeding vehicle affixed with bull bars could cause serious damage, killing people instantly," said the SSP.        

According to SSP Peiris pedestrians killed in bull bar impacts have a unique injury profile. Whilst having the same head injuries as pedestrians killed in non-bull bar impacts they are also more likely to sustain severe injuries to the chest and abdomen.

The Sunday Leader spoke to some of the leading vehicle importers in the country and asked why they import vehicles that are fixed such metal devices at a time when the government has imposed a ban on such fixtures since last year. "When there is a good demand for such vehicles we do import. We have not been informed of a total ban and the new amendments to the existing traffic law.

May be there are restrictions to the motorists but importers have not been informed as yet. If we were told and such new amendments were introduced why didn't they let us know?" queried one importer.

According to these vehicle importers many of the jeeps, double cabs and vans are fixed with bull bars and other metal frames when imported.

Removed but refixed

A person from Kalutara who wanted to  remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that he had to remove the mascot fixed to his jeep, as the regulations are very strict now. " Earlier whenever I was copped as a result of the mascot I removed it and produced the vehicle to the relevant police. Again I did fix it and finally when I realised that the law is really strict on such vehicles I did remove the metal frame permanently," he said.       

Apart from the metal devices the vehicles fixed with crystal headlights that produce strong rays, that disturb the vision of oncoming motorists too have been banned. However many of the newly registered vehicles are fixed with crystal lights. Legal action is being taken against such vehicles as well.

According to Director Traffic Lucky Peiris the implementation of strict law is not to put the motorists in trouble but to introduce accident- free roads in the country.


The golden girl

By Ranee Mohamed

Many dogs we meet have proven to be our best friends. But there is no dog to match the devotion of this golden girl. If she  had more fur, was fatter and had more food and care, she could easily be mistaken for a golden retriever. But no, this golden girl has no such care.

In fact at the moment her heart is breaking for she has been shut out from the place she littered eight pups. If she showed us humans so much love, how much she should love her pups!

But that love was not allowed, the pups which were threatened to be abandoned were later taken away. Today the golden girl is crying for her little ones just the way we human mothers would cry if our little ones were snatched away from us. Her heart is breaking morning, noon and night.

Suffering

This golden girl is suffering. She is hungry, she is sad and she is without a home.

The golden girl has a way with people. She is a different kind of dog, almost human. She wags her tail and along with it shakes her whole hip, she laughs and walks with us, if we hurry, she runs along with us, her mouth opening that it seems like she is laughing with us. She is so friendly to human beings that it is impossible to wait without feeding her even one square meal.

And as she gobbles up the food in a hurry and drinks the water from a nearby contaminated drain her breasts fill with milk and the  girl howls in distress. She comes to the gates of human beings and tells us that her little ones are lost. She pulls at our skirts and worships us and pleads, whining all the way down the road. This golden girl does not laugh anymore.

Someone ought to tell her that it is the way of the world. That when you are a mother dog, this is the way life goes. It is a pity, a golden girl, with so much love to show us humans, so special a dog that she is being made to undergo such misery. She runs hither thither on the road, whining, stopping and pleading, her pale eyes asking: 'Did you see my pups anywhere?' But people do not have time for her.

To her, we human beings are her whole world, so she whines her sadness to us. As her breasts hang out, she cries out, calling her pups. There was a time when eight little tails wagged her to a huge welcome. But she is alone today.

One cannot help but think, what if she was in our place and we human beings were straying on the road. There is no doubt that then, this golden girl will give us all a roaring welcome to her home and a banquet.

What this golden girl needs is a loving owner. What she needs is a owner who could love and feed her and a garden to spend her life in sad retirement.. She will not fit in to an animal shelter. Besides the brown dog who lived in a box on the road was taken, along with her pups to a shelter in November in response to an article in The Sunday Leader, but she died there mysteriously. The authorities at the shelter say they do not know how.

Fate

Let not such a fate befall this golden girl. May some rich dog lover with a richer heart gives her the kind of company that she yearns for and deserves. Let someone help her forget her adorable puppies, by showing her enough adoration to overshadow all this unbearable sorrow.  Let her forget this unbearable hunger with food that is rich and nutritious. Let her forget that we humans could be ghastly enough to rob a mother of her little ones.

Let us try to change the life of this golden girl by giving her some well deserved luxury, a good home, love and sunshine for she is truly a best friend and we surely cannot let a best friend down - not when she is feeling as down as this golden girl.


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