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21st  May, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 45

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

Sailor's wife in a sea of tears

By Nirmala Kannangara

The patriotic and courageous soldiers who  have dedicated themselves to safeguard  the country's territorial integrity do.....

More.... 


Review more articles

 > Clear barelands and prevent dengue
 >
Women in distress...
 >
Holy Family, Dehiwela - from strength to strength

 > Surprises   galore - its glorious!

 > Prof. Stanley Wijesundera-an unwritten chapter
 >
Just anywhere but the south


Sailor's wife in a sea of tears

Shyamalee weeping during the 
last minutes  of the funeral ceremony

By Nirmala Kannangara

The patriotic and courageous soldiers who  have dedicated themselves to safeguard  the country's territorial integrity do not mind  facing challenges in the battlefield  when fighting to combat terrorism. They do not want to die as cowards; but  as valiant soldiers fighting for their country.

One such brave man was  naval rating D.Wasantha. Though ever ready to face whatever   challenge that came  his way in the discharge of his duties, fate did not

permit him and his colleagues on the Dvora fast attack craft P-418,  escorting  Pearl Cruise II  with more than 700 unarmed forces personnel  on board returning on home  leave from making it to shore, alive.

It was May 11, and in mid sea off Ventilankerny, disaster struck the craft he and his colleagues were travelling in, when it came under Sea Tiger attack.

The Dvora craft in which Wasantha was sailing on had returned three to four rounds of fire  before its engine was disabled due to intense firing by the Sea Tigers. Then suddenly a guerrilla suicide boat rammed into the fast attack craft killing all on board including Wasantha. The silver lining in this tragedy however was that Wasantha did not did in vain.  His death, along with those on board the ill fated Dvora, was what saved Pearl Cruise II and the 700 plus men on board.

Wasantha's death has  left a huge void in the lives of 30 year old Shyamalee, his wife and their eight month old infant son, back home in the little village of Moraketiya in Pannipitiya. Though Wasantha was engaged in  protecting the lives of more than 700 forces personnel, in Wasantha's own little home  there were two people in urgent  need of protection and support.

 Only protector

 If Wasantha was alive he would have been their only protector. But with the untimely death of her husband,  Shyamalee now only has her eight month old baby son, the only earthly possession of  her late husband now left bereft of any support. His death has left her thoroughly shaken and all her dreams have been shattered.

 "I am clueless. I don't know what to do from now onwards. When putha starts asking for his father what am I  to tell him. Wasantha and my son were my world. Only my son is with me now," laments the departed naval rating's widow who is a nurse attached to the Asha Central Hospital.

Wasantha was a leading mechanical engineer (LME) in the navy at the time of his death and was promoted posthumously to the rank of petty officer.

A colleague who was at the funeral house speaking on grounds of anonymity said, "this is more than enough; we have been  demoralised. Either the government must allow us to wipe off terrorism  from this land or the politicians must go to the battlefield to face the guerrilla attacks. We were asked to counter attack if the terrorists hit us. This is absurd. They are guerrillas. They never come to have a face-to-face battle. So we are helpless. We do not know until they fire at us. If luck is on our side only we would be alive  to fire at them. We do not like to die as cowards. So the time has come for us to rethink whether we should act as cowards or leave the forces," said this solider.

People from all walks of life  thronged  this slain warrior's home to pay their last respects to the war hero. Among them were top brass of the armed forces.

Fulfilled his duties

Wasantha's parents who are devout Buddhists have made up their minds at the loss of their child whom they described as a child with a different attitude to life. "Nothing is permanent in this changing world. So it is with my son. He was born to serve the country and he did his part and left the world. The devas above had given him to us for a short period. During that short stint he fulfilled his duties as a son but he had a long way to go as a husband and a father," cried  Wasantha's mother.

On hearing that a navy craft had been attacked off Ventilankerny   Wasantha's family  had tried to contact the Trincomalee naval base and the navy head quarters. As they couldn't contact either of these places Shyamalee had phoned  one of their friends who too was stationed in the east. "When I asked him whether Wasantha is safe he said 'yes' and  that Wasantha had not gone in that particular craft. I did believe him but later in the evening I received a call from  Navy Headquarters saying that my husband was missing.  Later  an officer visited us and confirmed that Wasantha too was among the dead and that his body was found by the divers," said this grieving wife.

Unconditional love

Shyamalee reminiscing of the good old days she spent with her beloved husband told The Sunday Leader that though her married life was restricted to a mere two and a half years her husband had showered her with unconditional love which gave her a feeling of having been together for  25 years.

"He loved me so much. I don't  think that even a woman married for 25 years would have experienced the love and affection  Wasantha showered on me. He was the ideal husband that anyone could ever wish for. To lose such a caring husband, I must have committed many sins in my previous births," said Shyamalee embracing her baby son who is yet to understand what has befallen his family.

Busy all the time

According to Shyamalee though Wasantha was busy almost all the time safeguarding the territorial integrity of the country, he had never uttered anything about the current situation in the north and  east to her. "Whenever I asked him about the present situation he refrained from talking about it, and talked about our son instead. He had many plans about our son's future."

" Wasantha loved small children,  be it his own or even a street child. He always told me that he liked to have two more children as one child would not be enough to brighten up a family," said this brave soldier's wife.

Born on  November 25 ,1973 Wasantha had studied at Depanama Dharmapala Junior School up to his O /L and had followed a mechanical course  and was a good mechanic with a good income before joining the Sri Lanka navy in January 1996.

Wasantha from his school days had wanted to join the navy to serve the country and soon after his O/L exam he began to pursue his dream.

"Once he tried his level best to get our signatures to the application to which we refused and objected," added D. Premapala, father of the war hero.

Wasantha was the second of the family of four children - three sons and a daughter. His parents had tried so much to change Wasantha's mind but to no avail.  "Putha knew that we would not give him the consent to join the Navy and one day he came up to us and said that he would  not help the family if he was not allowed to join the navy. But we did not give our consent at that time," said the dejected father.

According to Wasantha's father his son's horoscope had been read by one of the able astrologers in the village and he had asked the parents to allow their son to join the navy and had predicted that once he is in the forces he would be able to rise to higher ranks very soon because of his dedication. "We were very happy as nothing bad was predicted about our son. So finally we did allow him to go in 1996," he said.

"After the initial training at Trincomalee he was sent to Jaffna and many other places when the war was at its height. He always talked the facilities he received from the navy and later sent to Bangladesh for further training.

"My son was a very obedient child and was a cool tempered boy from his younger days. He has never argued with anyone be it old or young and had never fought with anyone  - even from his early years. He was such an innocent child who never wanted to harm anybody even in his dreams," said Wasantha's mother.

Wasantha had visited last his parents on April 9 to give them presents for the New Year and after a long conversation had left home worshipping the parents promising to come back for the Wesak  holidays to which he did come back - this time not with that nice smile on his face but instead in a sealed coffin on the shoulders of fellow navy soldiers.

"As usual before leaving home on April 10  I worshipped Wasantha and he promised me to come back for Wesak as this is the first time we are celebrating Wesak with our son.  I told Wasantha that I would not be able to make any lanterns with the household chores but Wasantha wanted me at least to paste new papers to the last year's lanterns because of the son.  So I did paste them but could not light them," said Shyamalee.

To Shyamalee government would give the compensation,  but the question is could that equal when compared to the love and affection this war widow had received from his husband during her married live?

Who could give the much-needed protection to the mother and child throughout their lives?

This is just one incident. There are more and more such pathetic incidents reported from the length and breadth of the country. It is because of these brave soldiers that the nation is protected.

It is our sole duty to protect the war widows and their children, as it was their loved ones who laid their precious lives at their prime ages to protect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country.

We should salute them rather than forget them in days to come.


Clear barelands and prevent dengue

Neglected bare lands in residential 
areas pose a high risk

By Shezna Shums

Dengue is a disease that is prevalent in Sri Lanka mainly due to the negligence of people - by turning a blind eye  to man-made mosquito breeding sites  rather than clean or destroy them.

Health officials though belatedly are now taking action in order to avoid an outbreak of the deadly dengue  given the trend of cases being reported at present. One major problem many people around Colombo complain about is of the bare lands or neglected premises where dengue breeding site thrive.

Complaints

According to the Chief Medical Officer, Colombo Municipal Council, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam: "complaints regarding such lands should be made to the CMC by calling 2696594. Preferably if we are given the name and address of the owners we would issue a notice to the owners or inspect the land," he said.

  Dr. Kariyawasam also says "the problem may be in one's own backyard or garden because mosquitoes could travel only about 50 or 100 yards so it is equally important to keep the home gardens clean and free from dengue-breeding sites."

Continuous effort

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, National Coordinator, National Dengue Control Coordinating Office, Dr. Lakshmi De Silva said that there should be  a continuous effort if dengue is to be eradicated completely.  The year 2004 recorded one of the highest figures of dengue patients as well as deaths in the country.

The main aim is to bring down the mosquito density in the country; this would help in preventing people contracting dengue. 2004 recorded a total of 15,334 dengue cases with 88 deaths; in 2005 there was a total of 5,856 dengue patients with 27 deaths and so far this year there have been 3001 dengue patients with seven deaths.

This is why Dr. Silva is very keen to see active community participation in the dengue prevention programme so that future outbreaks could be avoided.

"Dengue is usually high in June and July as well as in November and December during which periods the country experiences rain," she explained. Slight showers are the worst in creating dengue breeding sites, because the dengue mosquitoes need just a little water to flourish.

The prevention campaign was carried out after gaining expert advice from the WHO on how to educate the public and get their full cooperation, as one of the main problems here is in getting community participation to carry out a successful campaign instead of just scaring the public about dengue.

This campaign aims to get assistance from local authorities, NGOs, the communities, and medical officers of health and public health inspectors. The dengue prevention campaign is being carried out islandwide but concentrated in 12 high-risk areas, which include Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Galle, Matara, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Ratnapura.

It is also stated that there are 48 places within these 12 districts, which have been identified as high-risk areas, and it is also recorded that 62 percent of the dengue cases are recorded from the Western Province.

About 140 varieties

"In Sri Lanka there are about 140 varieties of mosquitoes but only two varieties  transmit dengue - they are Aedes Egypty and Aedes Albopictus and it takes about 10 to 13 days for their eggs to hatch, so thoroughly cleaning the surroundings once a week is adequate," said Dr. Lakshmi De Silva.

She also added that for these mosquitoes to thrive and lay more eggs they need just a little amount of water which is why it is crucial that dengue-breeding sites should be destroyed. "Even a bottle lid with a little water in it, could be a breeding site," she explained.

The mosquitoes would lay their eggs just above the surface of the water, so when there are rains the water would reach the eggs and they would hatch, while less water would mean that the eggs would eventually fall into the water and hatch.

So when cleaning potential dengue breeding sites and water collecting containers, it is also important to scrub the container as mosquito eggs are sticky and can stick to the container.

Cleaning breeding sites

If the container is not needed they should be destroyed because mosquito eggs could live a whole year in a dry environment.

Other important preventive measures are to discard plastic items that may collect water, coconut shells should be broken into small pieces, discarded or  buried, and tins should be thrown away or re-sold to the companies.

Empty curd pots which are commonly found in many houses should be broken instead or being stored where water could collect in them, water collecting containers should be empty of stagnant water and regularly scrubbed, bird baths, vases and other places where water remains should be cleaned thoroughly and gutters should be cleaned regularly as well, to avoid mosquitoes breeding in them.

In Sri Lanka preventive measures are important because of the tendency for breeding sites to go unchecked, constant slight showers provide enough water for mosquitoes to thrive and the lack of vaccines to immunise everyone in the country is another hindrance with regard to dengue.

"Dengue is easily preventable and not something to fear, but we need the cooperation of  everyone to bring down the number of dengue cases," explained Dr. De Silva.


Women in distress...

By Ranee Mohamed

There is a sea of tears among us - men, women and children in different degrees  of distress. Sunethra Sriyani Dharmasena is merely one such woman. But the difference in Sriyani is that she is trying hard while crying in anguish, to overcome what has become of  her life.

She is not a victim of the tsunami, but the tsunami of life has rendered her homeless, and has taken away her husband and her children from her.

Desperate 

"This is all I have," she says, showing me the dress she is wearing. Clutching at an old bag, Sriyani is looking for her marriage certificate and the birth certificates of her children.

Sunethra Sriyani Dhamasena 
and Silnette Fernando (on top)

"I have only their birth certificates with me, my children are not with me," she says in pain.

Sriyani Dharmasena's battle began when her husband died of a kidney ailment. "He worked in fish and vegetable stalls, cleaning the stalls for the sellers. He used to bring home about Rs. 150 a day and we use to have a square meal a day. But his illness brought about suffering and gradual death. After that I did not know what to do. I was begging from the neighbours, trying to find employment, but being asthmatic I found that I was not tolerated by my employers. People don't care about illnesses, they want their work done somehow," said Sriyani.

Unable to visit daughter

Without a proper place to live, Sriyani took shelter with various friends and relatives. But her older daughter could not bear that insecure existence. "It did not take long for her to find a boyfriend and before she was 18 years old, she went away. Today she lives in Kandy. I have no way of visiting her because I do not have the money to travel," said Sriyani.

"The world outside is unfriendly when you do not have money. There was no one to shelter us when we were unable to pay the rent in our small house. This is why I was roaming the streets with my children when we could not stay with friends and relatives anymore.

"My second son could not trudge the streets anymore and he agreed to work in a doctor's house. Today he is able to eat and drink because he is working," said Sriyani. But it is her youngest son for whom Sriyani is worried. "I am unable to see him because I am unable to find the bus fare to visit the temple in which he is staying. Whenever I go there they tell me to take him away, that he is too big to live in a temple.

 "But I do not know where to take him, I do not know how I could feed him," said Sriyani, whose greatest desire is to be with her son. "If only there was some way in which I could live under the same roof with my youngest son," she wishes. "I have written to the President and to all the authorities about this matter," said Sriyani.

Friend in need

Today Sriyani lives with Silnette Fernando, the woman who first rented a small portion of her house to the newly married Sriyani. "She came in search of me in distress. How life changes. When I saw her for the first time she was a happily married young girl, today she is a helpless widow who is penniless," sighed Silnette.

"I find the money to get us some food. I can't eat when Sriyani is starving, so somehow I give her something to eat.

"At other times we get together and pray to Lord Jesus Christ. Today too we prayed for two hours, this may be why we met you," analysed    Silnette.

Resort to prayer

These two women are looking for a helping hand. In times of unbearable sadness and helplessness, they resort to prayer. Sitting  at their poor abode at 24/2 Moses Lane, Keselwatte, Panadura these two women wish for good clothes, good food and all the fine things in life - all the good things that feminine hearts desire. But it is very unlikely that their dreams would ever come true.

Thankfully praying makes them feel better, it has helped to keep them away from vices that the desperate resort to. As each day passes, Sriyani is praying and Silnette is praying that her helpless friend's prayers be answered.


Holy Family, Dehiwela - from strength to strength

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Principal, Rev. Sister Rita Mercy Fernando

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

Location: 100, Galle Road, Dehiwela.

School colours: Light blue and white.

Flag: Light blue on the left side and white on the right side with the college emblem in the centre.

School motto: Glory to God alone.

Houses: Leonide - House motto: Onward to victory through the right.  Marque - House motto: Utmost to the highest.  Praxede  - House motto: Knit together in love and service. Theobald - House moto: Honour is the reward of virtue.

Type of school:  Catholic Girls' Government School.

Educational Division: Ratmalana.

Category: 1 AB School.

Starts at: 8.00 a.m.

Closes at: 2.00 p.m.

School uniform: White frock with Holy Family Convent monogram HFC in blue on the pocket, blue  tie, white shoes and white socks. Girls with long hair to plait it in two and tie it with a light blue ribbon on either side.

School prefects: There are two prefect boards. Junior prefects are selected from grade 4,5 and 6 all adding up to 30 prefects. Senior prefects are selected from grade 11,12 and 13 and total 40 prefects.

Religious composition of students: Catholics: 87%, Buddhists : 10% and Muslim: 3%.

Head Prefect: Zara Waas. She is attached to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) English Service as a relief announcer and also serves as the president of the media unit.

Deputy Head Prefect: Bhawani Sarawanabhavan.

Number of students: 1400.

Strength of staff: 66. 

As you drive along the Galle  Road,    in Dehiwela there is this prominent and neat entrance to a row of blue and white buildings. The path is lined by multicoloured bougainvilleas  in massive pots on either side swaying in the wind as if to greet you.

This year these corridors of learning complete 70 years and it is none other than Holy Family Convent (HFC), Dehiwela. It is today the foremost Catholic girls' school in the area and has overwhelmingly fulfilled the aspirations of its founder, the late Florence Poulier.

HFC is a great seat of learning, which was inaugurated to give its students not only  knowledge, but also opportunities to develop their personalities as well as all facets of their social life.

The beginnings

HFC, Dehiwela was the dream of a Christian lady named Florence Poulier (nee Niese). Poulier  had the burning desire of bringing knowledge and religious instruction to the Catholic children of the area. It all began when Father Don Peter, parish priest of Dehiwela sought the help of Poulier in improving the school, set up by Rev. Fr. Augustine Renatus Julius Hyacinth Gillet O.M.I in 1910, within the premises of St. Mary's Church. Soon the school was in the kindergarten stage and was popularly known as "Mrs. Poulier's School."

The first principal

In 1934, it acquired the status of a branch of HFC Bambalapitiya, mainly to educate the girls of the township of Dehiwela. Four nuns including Reverend Mother Sebastian travelled daily to HFC Dehiwela from Bambalapitiya, until the present convent and school was built and Mother Sebastian took over as the first principal of HFC, Dehiwela.

She spent all her time to bring the school on par with the other educational institutes in the area. Under her leadership, the convent elected the first captain of the school.

Changes and developments

Reverend Mother De Sales took over as principal in 1940 and remained in office until 1958. A strict disciplinarian, Mother De Sales was just and fair. She was an excellent teacher whose explanations were lucid and logical. During her period the curriculum was expanded to include commerce and study of Pali in the  senior classes.

Realising the importance of extra curricular activities she set up societies such as the Literary Association, the Red Cross,  film club, netball, tennis, badminton, and Oriental and Western dancing. Elocution and singing were made part of the school activities during her tenure.

Rev. Mother Agnes assumed duties as  principal in 1958 and was the third in the line of principals who had served the school since its inception. Being a stern disciplinarian, she took a personal interest in the well being of the  students.

During her stewardship, science was introduced to the school curriculum and a new block of classes was built. Being an extremely pious person she instilled into the minds of the children the importance of prayer in one's daily life, and the necessity  to pray when one was beset with problems. She left in 1967.

M.J. Waidyaratne was the   fourth principal of the school and assumed office in 1967. Her first task was to start a Girl Guides' Company in the school. In 1968, the Girl Guides' Company was registered as the Dehiwela Third Unit. 

In 1971, the first open air drill display followed by a carnival   organised by her was held in the school premises. The school was also adjudged the second best in the circuit of Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia on the results of G.C.E. (Ordinary Level) examination held during the period of her stewardship. Waidyaratne also started the holding of an annual prize giving to encourage students who performed well in studies as well as general conduct. She was also responsible for the setting up of a basketball court.

She retired in 1989 after serving the school for 22 years. A  library and  reading room was built and was named Waidyaratne Library and Reading Room as a fitting tribute to her untiring efforts and her long and loyal service to the school.

Rev. Sister Hubert Maria who joined the school as vice principal in 1982 later became the fifth principal of HFC.  She was a popular teacher and moved closely with the students during her period of service. She strived to develop leadership qualities in the students and instilled into them certain norms and values that  helped them  in their adult life. She was in charge of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the school  in 1995.

Rev. Sister Ethel Pasqual took over as the sixth principal of the school in 1996.  After much thought and planning, she set her mind to providing the school with an auditorium.  A new  set of classrooms were also built during her period as principal. Sister Pasqual  formed the school junior band and reviewed the functioning of the Girl Guides' Association and set it up on a better footing. The primary students were also provided with a playground.

The current beacon of light

Reverend Sister Rita Mercy Fernando took her place at the helm of affairs as the seventh principal of the school on March 12, 2003 in a simple ceremony in the college premises. She hails from the town of Wennappuwa, which has produced a large number of workers dedicated to serve in the Lord's vineyard.

On taking over the school, Sister Mercy immediately set about putting into effect all her plans for the future development of the school. Being a very mild mannered, polite and friendly person, the moment I  met her, she by her amiable ways proved that she was one who could build a friendly relationship with all those whom she came into contact with, with the least effort. Regardless of social standards and many other things that mattered to most human beings, Sister Mercy makes every individual feel special and at ease while in front of her.

Vision

She has a great vision for the future of the school. She  considers education as not limited only to book learning, but as a tool to develop and reshape values in students so as to develop their total personality.

She has also looked into the materialistic requirements of the school. The buildings have been given a facelift. A cooperative for the students to purchase their requirements, a library for the primary school and a school canteen have also been opened for the benefit of the teachers and students. She also has had the office room refurbished and the school entrance made more prominent.

" My goal and ambition is to achieve excellence with equity by producing total women who are perfect in every aspect. I, along with my staff, strive to strengthen their leadership qualities, so that we could instill in them a sense of responsibility, where they would make a positive contribution to our country and make it a better place to live in with peace and harmony,"  Rev. Sister Rita Mercy told The Sunday Leader.

While in the school premises, I also learnt that  during a the span of 71 years, the school has grown from strength to strength and produced girls who have excelled in many fields and have spread out to many parts of the world. Though these old girls are around the globe, they  have not forgotten their alma mater that made them what they are today.

"Contributions towards the development of the school keep flowing in from the grateful old girls. The parents too are very helpful. I only have to dream of something and the very next minute it becomes a reality. It is amazing. It is unbelievable, but it is true. With the help of past pupils living abroad, we were also able to arrange 70 scholarships this year. Having being a nun for 38 years, a teacher for 35 years and a principal for 15 years, one thing I have observed in the students here is that they are starving for love and affection. I am unhappy of the fact that I will be retiring in January next year, because I will be retiring from a unique school such as HFC, Dehiwela," Sister Mercy added.

Major improvements

Rev. Sister Mercy has also served at St. Joseph's, Nugegoda and had served as principal for ten years at Holy Family Convent, Marawila  Madya Maha Vidyalaya. 

"I have been here since 1998 and the school has experienced major improvements since Sister Mercy arrived here. The education standards too have improved immensely,  as sister Mercy has taken steps to hold seminars on various subjects before the exams are held. Also, there is a significant increase in the number of students in each class since 2003 as many prefer to have their children  educated at HFC, Dehiwela," Vice Principal Pushpanie Adihetti told The Sunday Leader. Adihetti has served as a G.C.E. (O/L) science teacher since 1990 and is completely devoted to the school.

Teacher in charge of the English Literary Association and the school Media Unit, charming Nadee Somapala says, "This is a great school and the children are well versed in English. We have a friendly staff, which has been  the very reason for me to be here for the past eight years. Our girls are talented in many a way. Every day there is a new experience and I love to be serving HFC, Dehiwela."

The Deputy Principal as well as the Primary Section Head is Shiromi Fernando.

The main sports at the school are athletics, netball and basketball. The familians have just started swimming, throw ball and elle.

Familian archives

Something that captured my attention at HFC was the portion of a corridor that has been converted as archive, a feature  not given much attention to in other schools. The tiny room consisted of old school publications, albums, jubilee night souvenirs, plaques, books on reflections of science days, commerce days, English days and prize givings.

The room also has a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Among the books on the right hand side cupboard were  First Holy Communication, Kekulu Vinoyuwa, Singithi Rangum and many more. There were also paper cuttings of Girl Guides' events, prefects days and music days.

Recent achievements

The school got a computer lab on March 11 this year, consisting of  21 computers. English medium starts from grade five onwards. Evening computer classes for the children will begin from June 19 this year.

In aid of tsunami victims, Vibes of Blue-2005, a concert was held last year at the school auditorium organised by the media unit. The other clubs and societies in the school include the Art Club, Commerce Society, Do you Know Club and English Literary Society. 

Last year, Dushyanthi Dias received the Principal's Special Award for bringing fame and honour to the school by winning an award in India for announcing. Chamari Indrasekera brought fame to the school by winning an all-island special award for art. 

A get together

The school is to hold its 24th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Past Pupils' Association (PPA) on May 28, at the convent auditorium  which has been built on seven perches of land. The day's programme will commence with  Holy Mass at 9.30 a.m followed by a meeting. This certainly is an opportunity for all familians to meet and renew old friendships and indulge in reminiscences of the good old days.

The  vision of the school is to uphold the Familian values of simplicity, good conduct and modesty, striving to the utmost in all walks of life to achieve excellence and thereby show the precious Familian spirit.  Their mission is to produce young women who are brave, courageous, hard working,  ready to face any challenges in life, and being ready  to be good and loyal citizens of Sri Lanka.

Holy Family Convent , Dehiwela  looks forward with promise and hope to greater efforts in the service of the Lord and His people, as it also looks forward to the hundredth anniversary of its apostolate. We wish them all success.


Surprises   galore - its glorious!

Life is full of surprises. I've been treated to lots of them recently,  glorious! Surprises throw you off balance. It takes some time to adjust, maybe age is catching up with me?

My lady friends meet up occasionally, to catch up with what's going on in our lives. We usually meet for dinner, since routine activities could be finished up early and then we could truly relax. Lunch is not good, we would be interrupted by innumerable calls. Also, we all have to invariably go rushing back. So I was rather surprised when I was told that we were having a luncheon meeting. My friend explained that they didn't think it wise to go out in the nights, because there might be a retaliatory strike by the rebels and it was not worth taking a risk. I was rather surprised that everyone agreed to a daytime meeting, as usually there is an outcry about having important things to do.

I remember thinking it was strange that I didn't receive the usual flood of telephone calls or messages before every meeting and arrived breathlessly late at the restaurant. The staff all greeted me like a long lost friend (strange ?). I couldn't see any of my friends around. The manager grinned and informed me that an air conditioned room had been reserved upstairs. I thought it was jolly good, as I was absolutely sweltering !

 Secret operation

I trotted upstairs, and everybody was sitting and grinning at me. I grinned back. Then I noticed there were balloons all over. Festive dcor? Then when I tried to sit down, the beauteous R. shouted, "This is your chair !" It was smothered by balloons. Meanwhile, the staff  hovered in the doorway, grinning ! Then it struck me that it was my birthday the next week.

Simultaneously all these grinning females shrieked, "Surprise!" It was an absolutely Super 'Unbirthday' Party ! The very elegant and efficient R. had harassed the staff and organised a very special menu. I even had an 'Unbirthday' cake and gifts!

I decided to treat them in return. When I mentioned this to Caveman, he looked very flustered and mumbled something about this weekend. I reminded him my birthday was on a weekday,  and everyone would be free. After a lot of interrogation, he admitted he had reserved 'a place' for the family only for dinner. I said, "so cancel it !"Again he mumbled something in caveman lingo. He said,   "Leave everything to me!"

Everyone was evasive, mumbling or totally dumbstruck when I asked if he had called them. I smelt a rat ! Aha! He's giving me a surprise too ! The day before my birthday is our anniversary, I thought I'd use the exotic vegetables and fruit he had brought from the hill country and create a gourmet dinner. The kids came back from their dancing class, followed their noses, asked what was cooking and said,  "Yum!"

More secret operations

 Caveman came and mumbled that he had a legal appointment. I said aghast, "What about dinner?" Mumble and exit. Never mind, I had American Idol to look forward to ! Going downstairs to check on the dinner, noticed bottles of alcohol and glasses on the table. The front door was open. Aaaah, making arrangements for tomorrow, I thought. Peeped through the window and saw J's and M's vehicle. Had a shower and got into a nightshirt.

The maid came and told me someone was waiting to meet me, I went downstairs saying, "M, I know you're there, I'm in my nightclothes, okay?" She grinned at me, and suddenly, one by one all my secretive pals and their husbands trooped in ! I shrieked and ran upstairs to change. Someone took a photo, which shall be destroyed! More wishes and gifts! Never had it so good.

Came down decently clad, but was chased back again upstairs to dress properly for dinner out!  Everybody delighted at their cleverness!  Was whisked in a motorcade to the fine dining restaurant in an exclusive club. Then treated to a superb dinner of several courses, by candlelight. Due to the alcohol ban, hip flasks were much in evidence ! Caveman gave a short speech. He'd miscalculated how many years we'd been married ! Lots of laughter, then upstairs for my Real Birthday, cake, candles, coffee and karaoke till dawn. Must make a habit of saying,  "I'm not in the mood to do anything for my birthday !" Hope springs eternal!

-Honky Tonk Woman


Prof. Stanley Wijesundera-an unwritten chapter

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

It is the tragedy of this conflict-ridden world that often a senseless bullet finally decides the fate of unique men and women. The bullet seeks only to destroy and lacks understanding on the consequences which follow.

And very often the man who releases the trigger is only a hired killer as in the case of the gram-seller who snuffed the life out of the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Prof. Stanley Wijesundera 17 years ago.

Victim of violence

His demise triggered off shock waves, as none could comprehend why an academic par excellence should fall victim to the violence that prevailed.

Prof. Wijesundera was no politician but an educationist who simply concentrated on the task of administering the university that he loved and lived for.  Yet, the political violence that gripped this country during the height of the JVP insurgency in 1988-1989 resulted in the criminalisation of this society. The era marked the assassination of many  individuals including Stanley Wijesundera.

Even today, his widow, Anoja Devi Wijesundera cannot comprehend as to why somebody would pull the trigger on a man who "was meticulous to a fault, minded his own business and never hurt anybody." In fact, she remembers him for two special reasons - his innate kindness and self-discipline.

Her only consolation remains the continuity of his vision by those who accepted the mantle from his capable hands. "He cared for the people and planned well ahead of time.  His days as Vice Chancellor were filled with plans on how to improve the university, both in terms of infrastructure and the quality of education," she recalls.

Stanley Wijesundera was a man who loved his roots. He had Buddhist values, nurtured during his childhood spent in Kandy. This sense of identity he retained to the last. Educated at Trinity College and Dharmaraja College, the young student next entered the University of Ceylon, as it was known then. Later he entered Oxford University and thereafter the University of California from where he obtained his B.Sc (Special in Chemistry) with first class honours.

He first served the University of Colombo in 1948 and rose to the post of Head, Department of Bio-Chemistry in 1978. Within five months, he became Prof. of Bio-Chemistry. In 1979, he was appointed the first Vice Chancellor.

Separate campus

The Colombo University became a separate university in1967, but sadly there was no development of separate physical infrastructure which limited academic programmes and therefore created hardship for students and administrators alike.

According to Director, Institute of Bio-chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Prof. Eric Karunanayake, among the many contributions made by the slain VC, is the introduction of several link programmes between Colombo and prestigious universities in Western Europe. Next, doors were opened to those who were not lucky enough to have a university education. The Wijesundera era marked the introduction of some 70 courses, some of them postgraduate level for external students.

His was a life that illuminated many. Paying tribute to the retiring VC wayback in 1988, Prof. G. L. Peiris, who then served as Dean, Faculty of Law, quoting the Roman Senate said: "If you have something to remember him by, simply look around you." Wijesundera was indeed hailed as Colombo University's Julius Caesar.

Transformed

What Prof. Peiris meant remains a little known fact - that it was Stanley Wijesundera who transformed the Colombo University both academically as well as its physical infrastructure. He added the new administration block, the chemistry building and the law faculty complex.  It was a well-equipped university in every sense of the word.

Stanley Wijesundera was a believer - he believed in innovation, change and growth. The medium was education. For this he opened the university doors to external students through a multitude of courses. At personal level, he encouraged each person who came into contact with him to educate members of their families.

Meetin Singho

Meetin Singho was his office peon. To him, the late Wijesundera daily chanted a manthram.  " The only way to come up in life is to educate people. As I educate my own offspring, I want you to send your children to the university." With tears glistening in his eyes, the man who was the late Professor's shadow for years adds, "I did this, and it was possible because of him."

Prof. Wijesundera - his wife recalls fondly - lived for the university. He looked after his staff the way he did his children, with care and attention. She remembers her husband waking up each morning to fire instructions before going to work. Daily he visited the entire university complex like a doting father  would appreciate his first born to ensure that nothing was wrong anywhere.

Then came the turbulent and trying times which saw-increased unrest among university students. The VC was adamant that discipline should not be breached. He also advocated violence-free student politics.

Upon retirement in December 1988, he happily reverted to full academic duties. What took him to the university on that fateful March 8, 1989 was his desire to complete tasks undertaken.

Fateful day

"He was a methodical man. He was handing over his records to his successor. We spoke to each other and went into our separate office rooms. Suddenly, there was a sound like a foot ruler being whacked against a hard surface. That was the end. We found him fallen dead inside his office," recalls Prof. Karunanayake.

According to Prof. Stanley Kalpage, during Prof. Wijesundera's time The Colombo University was referred to as the innovative university. But, the sad truth is that it takes a mere bullet and a warped mind to snuff out the people who have done their country proud with such vision and acumen. 

Tribute to Stanley Wijesundera

Director, Institute of Bio-Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Bio-technology, Prof. Eric Karunanayake's association with Stanley Wijesundera is unique.

He had known him as a teacher, counsellor, father figure and friend - all rolled into one. Together they shared a dream and saw it translated into reality.

After his Ph.D. Karunanayake returned from overseas and joined the Department of Bio-Chemistry which was headed by Prof. Wijesundera, during the year 1980. They formulated plans together.

Prof. Karunanayake recalls his teacher's immense contribution to the university. "He planned for a century ahead and every day, he would churn fresh ideas in his mind," he noted.

Prof. Wijesundera was keen on human resource development, diversity in education and innovative application of the sciences. His zeal led to the setting up of the first laboratory for genetic engineering in Sri Lanka wayback in 1964.

It was a time when there weren't anyone trained in genetic engineering in the country. There was little interest and understanding of the subject as well.

Prof. Karunanayake was then sent to Sweden for a full year advanced training course before the laboratory was launched. "This was his brainchild. His interest was such that he visited me in Sweden.

"It is he who built the Colombo University to its present heights and made it a hub of learning for he believed that true emancipation becomes possible only through knowledge sharing and enhancement."

There are many things that stand in memory of  Prof. Stanley Wijesundera. Chief among them is the Institute of Bio-chemistry, Molecular Biology and Bio-technology which he planned  but never saw.  Built in 2004 with Swedish assistance that came as a tribute to the first VC's commitment to its creation, it stands as a unique monument that celebrates the life of Stanley Wijesundera.

The first ever Stanley Wijesundera memorial lecture was delivered there on April 28  by Prof. Rune Liminga, former Director, International Programme in Chemical Sciences, University of Uppasala, Sweden.


Perth Diary

Just anywhere but the south

Just once, just this once, I wish I could visit the northern part of the state. But I can't - instead I am going to be bundled up inside a bus on the way down to the South West - again.

I have to go on my field trip on Monday and I am not a happy bunny about it at all.

Freezing cold

It's really very simple. It's going to be cold - freezing cold. It's winter here in the southern hemisphere. We don't get snow but we do get Antarctic winds and the further south of Perth we go, the worse it gets. And I am the kind of person who take a different route because I can't walk past the Levis store - they leave the air conditioning all the way up and open the doors so that simply walking past makes you freeze.

I can freeze in Colombo very easily -- just get me too close to ice cream and that is enough. So you can imagine what it's going to be like to try to get me down to Albany and back when the temperature is going to be hovering around 5 degrees below zero. No thank you.

It's also the fact that I have seen the south west region several times and I do not wish to see any more of it at the moment. Every field trip I have had for a geography class has whisked me off to see the south west - mostly all the same bits.

 I also happen to be dating someone from the south west region so very often, especially at Easter I have to be whisked down to semi family reunions.

Visiting Kimberley

To me, it makes much more sense to wander up to the Kimberley region. We could see rainforests and talk about the management of natural parks and resources and how that has to be balanced with running the tourism industry.

We could talk about heritage land management, about managing fisheries and immigration and about research involving the Leeuwin Current. We would be within the tropics and we would be warm. Nice and warm. Something worth getting up at dawn on a Monday morning.

But no, to the south west we go. Be sure to be at college by 7.30 a.m. to be faced with the wonderful prospect of shivering to death at noon. I even have to bring a sleeping bag. It's utter madness to go camping now - I would be up for it any other time of the year - but in winter?

 Even my mother thinks it's a bad idea. To make matters worse, I was told to bring all my wet weather and winter gear and food to eat as well. Apparently whatever I did pay for the cost of the field trip does not cover my nutritional requirements for the three days we are to be away.

So not only do I have to take something to use as a diary for grading, but also I have to take a sleeping bag, wet weather and winter gear, food, money and my digital camera plus overnight knick-knacks. After I pack my sleeping bag and clothes where is everything else going to fit in?

Enjoying the trip

Of course I will enjoy some part of the trip - one just wishes there was more to look forward to than the prospect of wearing a balaclava to ward against cold ears and the fact that my fellow classmates are going to tease me the entire time about how many layers I have to wear just to convince my enzymes to start functioning let alone do anything else.

I think I should be allowed to pass the class right now. I already know enough geography to know that it is foolhardy for me to go down there in this weather. Forget the balaclava - I'll need a fur coat - one that's preferably attached to my skin.

- Marisa Wikramanayake 



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