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11th June, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 48

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

Historic meeting of saint and king on Missaka Rock

Where the nation's fate was carved

By Leslie Dahanaike

'Samana Mayam maharaja Dhammarajassa savaka Thaveva anukampaya Jambudvipa idagata.' This Pali stanza  brings to one's mind the memorable words uttered by a saint from Jambudvipa (modern India) to.....

More.... 


Review more articles

 > Hearts on fire at Stace Road
 >
Laptops and 'mobiles' you cannot do without 

 > Science College doing great things

 > Dehiwala Zoo is for animals to live with nature
 >
Life is about to change in Fremantle


  Historic meeting of saint and king on Missaka Rock

Where the nation's fate was carved

 

The meeting of saint and king on that historic Poson Poya full moon marked the turning point in the country’s history. The king was on a hunting expedition on the mountain peak when he met Arahat Maha Mahinda

By Leslie Dahanaike

'Samana Mayam maharaja Dhammarajassa savaka Thaveva anukampaya Jambudvipa idagata.' This Pali stanza  brings to one's mind the memorable words uttered by a saint from Jambudvipa (modern India) to a Sinhala king from a hilltop in Sri Lanka. The saint was the great Arahat Thera Maha Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka and Queen Vedisa of India and the king was Devanampiyatissa, the reigning monarch of this little island at that time (3003 BC).

Translated into English, it reads:- 'Monks are we, O great king Disciples of the king of truth Out of compassion for thee Hither have we come from Jambudvipa.' 

Today as the Poson moon waxes in all its splendour over the cloud-capped Missaka hill, the loftiest peak of Mihintale, eight miles off Anuradhapura where rising suddenly from the plain, the mountain overlooks the Sacred City, these words will echo and re-echo in the ears of thousands of weary pilgrims who will climb the rock hewn steps leading to the peak.

Accompanying Mahinda Thera on this historic mission were six disciples - Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Baddasala, a grand nephew of Vedisa Devi. Mahinda Thera who was ordained a bhikkhu at the age of 20 with his consent received higher ordination, upasampada  on the same day. This great Thera at the request of his preceptor, Moggaliputta Maha Thera and the Sangha alighted on the Silakuta of Missaka hill through their supernormal iddhi powers and met the king who was enjoying the pleasures of the chase.

The story of saint meeting king is too well known to be repeated here but the event itself marked the beginning of a new epoch, for it was here at this hallowed spot that the nation's fate was carved.

The sermon Mahinda Thera preached was the Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta or the Lesser Discourse On The Elephant Footprint Simile. It dealt with the Tri-ratana or the Triple Gem comprising the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the monastic life of an exemplary bhikkhu and emphasises the importance of critical analysis in examining facts and intelligent inquiry.

Immediately on hearing this discourse, it is said that the king and his retinue of 40,000 embraced the new faith. Thus, the Buddha Dhamma was for the first time planted in Sri Lanka's soil and before long the Buddha's message spread throughout the length and breadth of this land.

The great arahat followed this illuminating discourse with a number of other inspiring sermons addressed to various audiences in the days that followed. He lived for 48 years in Mihintale's picturesque hill and instructed, enlightened and gladdened both king and commoner and people in large numbers sought refuge in the Tisarana.

Two other important events marked the advent of Mahinda Thera in our shores. They were the arrival later, of his only sister, the Arahat Theri Sangamitta from India bringing with her a sapling of the Sacred Bodhi Tree under whose benign shade the Buddha attained Enlightenment and the founding of the Bhikkhuni Order (Order of nuns) in Sri Lanka.

The sapling was received with pomp and ceremony by the king and planted in Anuradhapura. Today it stands out as the oldest living historical tree in the world earning the veneration of millions of Buddhists.

After the Bhikkhu Sasana  or the Order of the Sangha was founded by Arahat Mahinda and the Buddha Dhamma took firm root in our soil, Buddha relics were obtained from Emperor Asoka and enshrined in the Thuparama dagoba, the first of its kind to be built in Anuradhapura. Dagobas like the Ruwanveliseya and Abhayagiri and shrines and vihares then sprang up in many other places in the sacred city. The offering of the Maha Meghavana park to the sangha by the king was an important event for it was there that the Mahavihare, the leading monastery and center of Buddhist education was established.

The magnificent ruins tell Anuradhapura's tale of greatness to this very day. And the rock caves, the former abodes of arahats, speak volumes for the vast cultural renaissance and spiritual awakening  perhaps unparalleled in any land, which followed the establishment of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka.

It made its impact in many spheres of human activity, notably the arts and crafts, literature, sculpture and painting, to mention a few. Our temple murals and rock fortresses bear ample testimony to this cultural resurgence.

Maha Mahinda dedicated his whole to the weal and happiness of the people of this island and passed away at the age of 80 while spending the rainy season, vassana in the Cetiya mountain. King Uttiya who had succeeded Devanampiyatissa carried out the obsequies with great honour and solemnity. A number of stupas were built after his cremation. One of them was at Mihintale.

The great saint is no more but he speaks to us through the work he did. His name will remain evergreen in our memory and today Buddhists in Sri Lanka salute him in homage for the indelible imprint he made in the lives of our people by his exemplary life as a monk.

It is inconceivable, therefore, that the culture which followed in the wake of Maha Mahinda's mission over 22 centuries ago which was based on the Buddha Dhamma, the nation's lifeblood, which had permeated the very fabric of our society, should permit the bloody massacres and  human carnage that has been going on in this land for over two decades. Let us hope that sanity and wisdom will prevail and the message of love and compassion enshrined in the Buddha's teaching will come to the fore as Poson Poya dawns today.

The great saint is no more but he speaks to us through the work he did. His name will remain evergreen in our memory and today Buddhists in Sri Lanka salute him in homage for the indelible imprint he made in the lives of our people by his exemplary life as a monk.


Hearts on fire at Stace Road

By Ranee Mohamed

When the men, women and children heard the raging fire somewhere around their houses, they thought it was the cool wind fanning their makeshift homes.

Then, they felt the heat and heard the screams. "We knew it was a fire because the environment became unbearably hot," said  Maniamma,  balancing a crying baby unsteadily on her hip.

These people have been  living down Stace Road, Colombo in  shanties for over a decade. "When they moved us away from the banks of the canal, they promised us that we would have to live here only for three months, 17 years have passed since then and we are still here," said Roshan Ranga Kumara in disgust.

Ranga Kumara  is sitting amidst the debris. There are many others walking around the debris. The women are crying. Some of them are pulling out bits of familiar objects like charred aluminium jugs  from the blackened remains of what was once their happy homes.

Starving

"We seldom had anything to eat," said ageing Adlin holding close her daughter and grandchild. "But we had a roof over our head and that was all we wanted," she cried.

Over 1000 people have been displaced by the mysterious fire that raged on Wednesday about 3.45 a.m. "The cause of this fire is not electrical," said the residents. "It is due to some pieces of newspapers catching fire and then raging on," claimed some residents.

But police say that they suspect that the fire occurred due to an electrical short circuit.

Home they say is where the heart is, and some people just did not want to leave. Others, with children  were forced to go away from their familiar surroundings.

"That was my home," points out a mother holding her children close. "When will we ever get a home," she cried. "It is not that we had a luxurious existence. This place was swarming with flies during the day and mosquitoes at night, but yet it was our home," said this woman. "Will we live in tents for the rest of our lives like the people of the Somalia shanty," she asks.

In here lived the people who worked as labourers in the fish and vegetable markets, port workers, road workers. "Many of them living here were unemployed. Some of them went abegging and brought home what they collected to cook a meal in the night," said Roshan Kumara.

Few injuries

"We always tell ourselves that we are fortunate to be alive," said Roshan. The fire caused  a few injuries to the residents and  two dogs were burnt to death.

Sub Inspector  U.W.S. Tilakasiri of the Grandpass Police who was visiting the site said that the authorities are trying to determine the cause of the fire and went on to say that police suspect that it could be due to some electrical fault.

Languishing in school

Vijaya  Vidyalaya is situated 20 metres away from this blackened site. In the school are hundreds of people. Some of them are clutching pieces of bread. Babies are crying and mothers seem to be in a quandary. They have been given bread, but the babies seem to have got nothing even at 11.30 a.m. Thursday morning.

There is sadness and discomfort everywhere, tears in every eye. "We have lost not only our clothes, our utensils and the little pieces of furniture that we had, we have also lost our identity cards and our birth certificates," said these worried people, beads of perspiration pouring down their bodies and tears threatening to fall from their red rimmed eyes.

For nine-year-old Isuru, eight-year-old Sudheeswaran and nine-year-old Prasanna life seemed fun even amidst all the heartache and worry that the adults experienced.

Here they were in their  school but without schoolbooks. Running helter-skelter they tried hard to catch each other. They seemed to be having a whale of a time running around and posing for pictures whenever possible.

No books

"We are in the school but we don't have books," said Isuru and all their expressions changed to unmistakable sadness. They told us that they would never be able to come to school again. "We have lost all our books and all our clothes, no pencils either," they chorused, and remember each item they have lost.

This school reopens on June 19. What will then happen to all the children - and their mothers, and fathers and their siblings, who have taken their homes to school?


Science College doing great things

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Principal M.D. Tudor

Portals of learning...

THE SCHOOL playground is not only where you got your first knee scratch, it is also where you first learnt to interact with other children. Your school informed your 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: Gold, maroon and silver.

Flag: The college flag has three horizontal segments. Gold on top, maroon in the middle and silver at the bottom.

School motto: Gnanam udapaadhi, vijja udapaadhi (Light arrived and science arrived along with it).

School emblem: Dharmachakraya, book, a science beaker and lion.

Houses: Tissa, Vijaya, Gemunu and Parakrama.

Type of school: Buddhist boys' school.

Starts at:  8.00 a.m.

Closes at: 2.00 p.m.

College uniform: Grade 1 to 5 - Blue shorts, white short sleeved shirt, black shoes and white socks.  Grade 6 to 12 - White long trousers, white short sleeved shirt, black shoes and white socks. Maroon colour blazers and the college tie depicting the college colours are worn during special occasions. Prefects wear the prefect's badge.

School prefects: There are two prefect boards.  Junior school prefects are selected from grade 5, 6, 7 and 8. Senior school prefects are selected from grade 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Situated in Mount Lavinia, the school has an array of  colourful buildings and an excellent management. It consists of a staff of 67 teachers and  a student population which exceeds 1750. Although there are 'Science Colleges' in Jaffna and Matale,  they are not affiliated to the Science College in Mount Lavinia that is featured today through 'Portals of Learning.'

History

The school originally known as  Sri Saththissara Vidyalaya was born on April 24, 1977 and had a teaching staff of 12.  After being in existence for a brief period, the school  was closed down unexpectedly.

In 1982, the school opened again  with new vigour under the  name of Colombo South Science College,  amalgamated with   'Henapara Kanishta Vidyalaya.' This was the inception  of  Colombo South Science College, the brainchild of the then Deputy Minister of Defence Lalith Athulathmudali and was declared open by the then Education Minister,  Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The college was indeed blessed to have L.A. Vitharana, a very energetic gentleman  as its first principal. Vitharana assumed duties as principal on August 29, 1983. During his tenure as principal of Science College  Vitharana  obtained a doctorate,  which achievement brought the school into the limelight.  By this time the school had grown and had a teaching  staff  of 12  while the student population was 200. 

The school emblem, the flag as well as the motto were designed by Vitharana during his period. The school had 10 classrooms in operation with classes up to grade 10.

On December 12, 1985, Professor Vitharana joined NIBM and his vacuum was filled by Deputy Principal N. Marasinghe who managed the school efficiently till his transfer on  March 21, 1986. It was during this period that Pelmadulla Education Officer K.K. Wijepala assumed duties as principal. The college gained facilities under the Mahapola scheme during the era of Wijepala.

The Mahapola fair held in the college premises in 1988 was a tremendous success and from the funds gained through the project, a three-storey science building was constructed. The playground which was a long felt need became a reality and a parapet wall was also build around the school premises affording protection to the school property as well as the students. In addition, the assembly hall was renovated and many more facilities were obtained with the blessing of the Mahapola Fund.

A significant happening during this era was the admission of students to the Engineering Faculty from Science College. Grade six classes also began and the tutorial staff of the college was increased to 36 during Wijepala's tenure as principal.

In May 1990, Ranjith Nilendra Edissuriya was appointed as principal of Science College. Being a sports enthusiast, he focused and developed sports in the school.   Also, grade one classes started during his period.

Kithsiri Samarasinghe assumed duties as Science College principal on June 14, 1992. With Samarasinghe at the helm the primary section saw improvements effected day by day. By then, the college consisted of 1250 students and 45 teachers and three deputy principals. The primary section consisted of 10 parallel classes from grade one to five. The secondary section consisted of 18 parallel classes from grade six to 13. Library facilities  also saw immense improvement. The college excelled in rugby during Samarasinghe's period. By 1993, the school had a cadet team and  Western and Eastern bands were also formed.

Kapuru Bandara Jayatilake became the next principal of the college on March 7, 1996, but his stewardship was shortlived as he left in July1997. K.M.L Neelawathura performed duties as acting principal  till G.D. Dahanayake assumed duties as the next principal of Science College on April 4, 1998. During Dahanayake's era, the school obtained computer facilities and the multimedia unit was established. The Old Boys' Association (OBA) was  reorganised with the initiation of Dahanayake and a special education programme was launched to benefit the weak students.

Gamini Sisil Silva assumed duties as principal on June 11, 2003. The first ever Science Carnival in the school was held during his period. The current Principal M.D. Tudor has been at the helm of affairs since August 4, 2005.

The present day

Principal M.D. Tudor  manages the school with an efficient team to assist him.  The team consists of Deputy Principals W.A. Degambada, Nimal Marasinghe and C.V. Perera. Ragala Pannasekera Thera and Bambarapane Sugathananda Thera function as assistant principals. S.K.A. Sisira Kumara is the assistant coordinator.

A man of  great experience and varied talents, Principal M.D. Tudor knows exactly what is  best for the school. "I first structured a plan and then appointed a capable team. It was important for me to take into consideration, the talents of the children as well as the expectations of the parents. The parents and old boys as well as the staff are very cooperative and many a change in the affairs of the school could be seen in the future and I believe that I can make a difference" Tudor told The Sunday Leader

Multi-talented

Having served the Sri Lanka Army as a commissioned officer, the multi talented Tudor is also a movie star. He grabbed the best actor award in 1966 for his excellent performance in Gunasena Galappatti's Liyathambara. Tudor, who served in the Education Ministry Teacher Training Unit for eight years, also obtained international training. He had also served as a lecturer in the Technical Colleges of Kurunegala and Kalutara. Tudor has also served at Maliyadeva in Kurunegala, in 1975.     

Deputy Principal Marasinghe joined Science College on September 9, 1983 after serving Henapara College. A man who has totally sacrificed himself  to  fulfilling his duties for the school, he has contributed immensely for the betterment of Science College, including the obtaining of Mahapola assistance. Marasinghe has on many occasions  acted as  principal  during an era when the principals were transferred rather frequently, and holds degrees is science and mathematics and also a post graduate diploma.

  "I take this opportunity to thank S. Wijesinghe who  contributed immensely to the development of sports in the school during the past. Our students were sent for all-island competitions under the guidance of Wijesinghe. Though everyday is a new challenge, I must admit that our students are a very well disciplined lot," Marasinghe told The Sunday Leader. Marasinghe has been serving the college for over 20 years.

Talented students

"My only desire is to see the school flourishing  and reach better standards. I am honestly happy about the status we have achieved today and being here for nearly 18 years, I have to say that our students are an extremely talented bunch," Deputy Principal W.A. Degambada said. Degambada joined the college as a science teacher in 1988 and became a sectional head in 1991.  She became the deputy head - education development  in May 2003.

Deputy Principal C.V. Perera who assumed duties on September 9, 1983 had served Hena Vidyalaya in Mount Lavinia before.  He holds a BA (Honours) Degree in Geography and a Bachelors' Degree in Philosophy and had served as a sectional head for grade 10 and 11. She became deputy principal in August 2005.

"I see many a talented child in our school and their talents vary. Most of my students are flourishing  in many different fields today, and a good number of them are employed overseas.  It gives me endless pleasure to see them in good positions in society," Perera said. Perera also said that the school has seen  significant development in many aspects, since the arrival of the new Principal.

Societies and other activities

The school also consists of many societies including the Buddhist society. There are also societies for commerce, environment, arts, English and many more.

S.H. Stephens is the head of the English section. English teacher H. Pushparani said that the school has eight English teachers. "Competitions are often held at divisional and zonal level and it helps to improve the English knowledge of our students. The students keenly get involved in these and  'English Day' is an annual event," said Pushparani.

Sinhala Sectional Head Priyanka Palansuriya has done lots for the development of Sinhala language in the school. A literary festival named Subhashitha was held recently and the event was graced by Professor Kusuma Karunaratne.  A dance, singing and art competition named Aluth Irak was also held with the initiation of Senior Lecturer, Colombo University, Agalakada Sirisumana Thera.

D.R.S. Gajanayake serves  as  sectional head of the commerce section.   M.A.N. Champika is a commerce teacher who works enthusiastically, organising many events at the college. J.S.W.K.C. Soysa is the dancing teacher who is full of life. It was only after her arrival at Science College that dancing was introduced to the Advanced Level syllabus at the college.

Sports

Rugby is the most popular game at Science College. The Sri Lanka rugby team has has had over eight players from Science College. Prefect of Games H.J.K.N. Wijerama said, "I've been here for two years and I see that the students are talented in the sport. The present seven-a-side Sri Lanka rugby team Captain Sanjeewa Jayasinghe who plays for the Kandy rugby team is also an old boy of our college."

The rugby master in charge is A.P. Jayasuriya. He has served the college with much devotion through the years and is proud of the achievements of his students. The college has shown outstanding achievement in the game.

In 2005, Science College under 19 team became champions in the IRB International Rugby Tournament Seven-a-side Shield Championship. The significance about the victory is that it was the first time that Science College participated in the event. The under 20 team became champions in the 2004 Singer Sri Lanka Rugby League Tournament C Group. Among the latest achievements are,  becoming runners up at the 2006 under 16 Western Province Rugby  Tournament. The college became under 18 all-island shield champions this year as well.

Cricket is totally supported by parents. M.P. Somapala, a parent said, "We started with nothing. The parents got together and established a society to develop cricket in the college." 

Sports such as swimming, table tennis, karate as well as scouting and cadetting are also conducted in the college.

In a brief period, Science College has achieved success in many different aspects. Though the past was not a bed of roses and the future shall not be so either, it certainly has a bright one, with a devoted and dynamic staff, many  talented students and cooperative parents and past pupils who have the determination to face  obstacles and  hurdles. We wish them all success.


Laptops and 'mobiles' you cannot do without 

The dreaded moment has arrived,  it's time to start making preparations for the departure of the loon. She is an utter and total loon, alas, due to the fact she has inherited some of the crazy genes. Since she's permanently on Cloud Nine and I won't be there to repeatedly call her down to earth, I shall have to start preparing several lists.

These said lists will have to cover all manner of things, from remembering to brush her hair before she goes to face the outside world, to reminding her to eat like a normal human being. Also, I have to always keep reminding her not to follow the herd (sheep, goats or buffaloes, depending on the occasion ) and think for herself. She pretends to be horrified at some of the things I have got to take along with her, but I think is secretly quite pleased with it all. Mother knows best ! ( Ulp ! I hope so !)

Although she will get her meals, I have already prepared an easy cookbook for her to refer to in emergencies. I overheard her blithely informing someone, "Oh, just add chilli paste to everything and it'll taste all right !" Anyway, hopefully she'll be satisfied with what she's provided. Actually, I think she'll do just that anyway, the lazy thing !

Main concern

Her main concern about her sojourn is her laptop and her mobile phone. She has to get hooked on there, she keeps reminding me. She keeps in touch with all her pals all over the world with these, I'm hoping she'll show the same enthusiasm with us! Nevertheless, I shall definitely keep bombarding her with mails and text messages, I'm sure she knows that already.

Don't you think she'll be forced to reply to shut me up ? She'll have to cope with her appendages, since she works herself up into a frenzy if they don't do her bidding, once she actually burst into tears because she couldn't talk to her friends overseas ! I can secretly sympathise with her, since I feel the same way !

The other gargantuan task will be helping her to decide what part of her wardrobe to take along with her. Quite recently, I discovered that she's actually planning to try and take it all with her ! Help !

One has to survey the contents of her wardrobe to visualise the utter impracticability of this idea. One of her male school mates was once found by me, immersed in her wardrobe, quite shell shocked, saying he couldn't believe that one individual could have such a vast collection of clothes. This is after I've been burrowing through and giving away stuff once in every few months, mind you!

Fascinated

This same friend of hers also was found painstakingly going through all her accessories - chains, bracelets and necklaces (several boxes of them ).  Amidst our giggles, he explained he had no sisters and his mum had only a few, so he was quite fascinated with them! Of course, my two girls immediately adorned him with some of them and completed the picture by anointing him with body glitter on his face and hands, and coloured glitter spray for his hair !

When he saw their collection of shoes, he feverishly began counting them in pairs, he said he simply had to go home and tell his mum how lucky she had boys! Of course, when he came up to 70 odd, he gave up in disgust. "Aunty, do they actually wear all these shoes ?" he asked me in amazement. When I told him they were always looking for more, he was simply reeling! He just couldn't understand why they had to have so many in the same colour. I told him he should be prepared to face life with women, and showed him the handbags too. "Aaaargh!" was the strangled sound he made when he saw that collection.

On viewing the creams, perfumes, lotions, gels and other myriad bottles displayed, he immediately started smelling and sampling them. He wanted to know why they needed so many, and was promptly shown my dressing table which apparently is absolutely 'the limit.'  I don't know what his mum would have thought when he got home, he was very odorous from a mile away.

So I hope you can understand the marathon task I have ahead of me. To take or not to take will be the question !

- Honky Tonk Woman


Dehiwala Zoo is for animals to live with nature

By Risidra Mendis

Set amidst a beautiful landscape of colourful flowers, foliage and waterfalls the National Zoological Gardens is probably one of the few remaining places, where nature blends with the large variety of animals in captivity.

As you enter the zoo, the large trees with their branches swaying to the morning breeze and the sound of water which gently flows down the large rocks, add to the cool and peaceful atmosphere. 

Seventy years old

The zoo that is over 70 years old is now rated as one of the best zoos in Asia. However not so long ago the Dehiwela Zoo was a place criticised by most visitors, for not being maintained according to zoos of international standards.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, former National Zoological Gardens Director, Brigadier H. A. N. T. Perera said, "Many years ago a zoo was referred to as a zoo. But today a zoo is referred to as a conservation and breeding centre for endangered and rare species.

"It was badly criticised by overseas visitors for keeping animals in cooped up cages.

Criticised

Animal lovers also criticised the zoo authorities for keeping elephants chained during the day.  Even the buildings and many areas within the zoo were not a pleasant sight for visitors. Zoo staff did not have proper accommodation facilities in the zoo and the kitchen and hospital were in a very bad state," Brig. Perera said.

However after Brig. Perera took over as director, National Zoological Gardens many development programmes were planned in order to bring the zoo to international standards.

Among the many development programmes (some of which are already completed) that commenced under the directorship of Perera is the much awaited elephant arena that would finally see elephants roaming freely in an open enclosure.

A new area for new born babies, a special animal breeding section, an aviary for endemic birds and exotic birds, a library, a modern two storeyed kitchen, an operating theatre and an X' ray room, a building for visitors to take shelter during rainy periods, the installing of a water storage tank with 40,000 gallons, modern toilets for visitors, an incinerator, a bio-gas plant and building special pathways for the disabled who visit the zoo, confined to wheel-chairs are some of the new developments.        

Elephant arena

"Elephants will have a special bathing area within the elephant arena. A separate area would be built for elephants in musth and an area for the mahouts. A viewing deck for visitors to watch the elephants is also under construction.

We have also called for tenders to build a large, open enclosure for the jaguars and tigers," explained Brig. Perera. According to Brigadier Perera a water treatment plant to recycle the large quantity of water used by the elephants in the zoo is also being built. 

"The zoo should be a prestigious place for visitors to see the animals and not a place for politicians and thugs to take control.

Unruly elements

"When I took over as director the parapet wall surrounding the zoo was broken. People entered the zoo through these parapet walls and engaged in unlawful activities.

"These unruly gangs entered the zoo without purchasing tickets. But after building the parapet wall around the zoo these elements were prevented from entering the zoo.

 "I have to thank also the  former Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia Mayor, Jayaratne Perera who helped me a lot in bringing the zoo to its present standard," Brigadier Perera said.

Brig. Perera is yet to complete many ongoing development programmes within the zoo. However Brig. Perera's term as director expired on May 18. A request made by the Zoological and Botanical Gardens Promotion Minister Bandula Basnayake is yet to be approved by the President's office.

The development work of the zoological gardens has now come to a standstill until the appointment of a new director.


Perth Diary

Life is about to change in Fremantle

When I was young I wanted to stay away from politics. I didn't want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Nowadays I can't help myself. But I never wanted to be  directly involved in  politics.

I know that you change your preferences all the time as you get older but I think it was the love of geography that did me in. Wanting to know more about geography has made me delve into everything that could be associated with it - history, literature, art (thanks to my lecturer in part), sociology, politics, law, anthropology, biology, ecology, chemistry, and archaeology.

I know you must be scratching your heads at how some of these must be related but you just have to connect the fact that environmental and social policies are created on perceptions and the fact that perceptions are depicted and spread via art and literature. But politics underscores geography so much that you cannot hope to ignore it.

     Even my lecturer has noticed the interest I have in debating and arguing with classmates over political matters and she informed me last week that she has enrolled me in a politics course for next semester as the last required class I need to take for the geography major.

 But it's also the fact that I feel it's a responsibility to be in command of all the facts about everything that affects me and other people around me. Of course this also gives me regular panic attacks especially when the guy who proposed the Gaia theory in the 1970s turns up on television and tells everyone that starting sustainable development practises now is not going to help much in terms of climate change.

    What you learn and what you are interested in does have an effect on your personal life. I live in Fremantle - the most visited place in Western Australia. It's the major port city in Western Australia - ok, I lie, Albany is but Albany is in the cold South West region, Fremantle is only one hour away from Perth.

Major revamp

However, a major revamp occurred when the America's Cup was held here in the 1980s and they changed the entire layout and function of the town. It became more urbanised, more hip and more gentrified.  And then the University of Notre Dame was created and it meant buying up a lot of old buildings in the West End (where I live) to create classrooms and offices.

      The upshot of this is that there aren't the usual pubs, brothels and butchers that used to be on High Street anymore. I would have liked the convenience of walking across the street to buy beef instead of walking a couple of blocks away to Coles but then again the walk does me good. It changed the entire atmosphere, but the atmosphere is about to be changed again.   Pretty soon, the Fremantle council is going to redevelop part of the quay because with more space going for university classrooms and apartments, there has been a loss in spending in what could have been retail and entertainment.

Quays and ports across the world are becoming streamlined due to new technology so they no longer  need huge amounts of land. They want to put up high rise buildings with more office space, more nightclubs and more shops and cafes.  But it's a heritage area and it is quiet and I live a block away.

        If the first high rise plan goes ahead - there is an alternative one for only four storeys - then all the rates of living in the centre of Fremantle will drop - if there is no ocean view in a certain direction because of high rises, then the land or property is less attractive to buyers and its value will drop. Maybe I will get cheaper rent.

       If they build more shops and nighclubs, there are going to be more loud drunks and more flashy cars driving around - they cause traffic problems already. But it probably will do a lot for the town -generate more income and perhaps things will be a little cheaper.

   And in Western Australia almost every government policy or strategy has to be opened up for public comment. This means you can walk into any government department and ask for a copy of a strategy once they have released it, read it, and write what you think of it and send it in and they take it into account. You can do this via the internet as well.

Not many people realise that they can do this.  They've opened up the Fremantle plan for discussion -we have a decent mayor who wants to make sure that people living in Fremantle have a say as to how this development goes. Will I read it and write in? Probably. I have to live here after all for the forseeable future to finish my degree and there is no where else in Australia I'd rather be at this point. That makes it important to me.

Australian citizen

In a couple of months I will become an Australian citizen and if I have to have a town of origin on a record somewhere it will be Fremantle.

I want to be involved, I want to have a say because I often hit my head in situations and ask: "Why didn't they realise the consequences of doing that?"  The answer is, no one thought of it or pointed it out to them in most cases. If I can point out a possibility that someone else missed, it might just help.

      It's ethics; it's a way of being involved in something I am interested in and it's something I think I should be doing as a citizen of any country. I just wish I knew how I could have my say back home - politics being the touchy subject it is. I love doing research and formulating informed opinions which is why I like academia so much, why I wish I could be the eternal student - I can visualise my father blanching at the possible cost of that.

       As to the Fremantle issue: I'd have to think about that for a bit. At this point in time, I hope they put a butcher's shop and a brothel or a red light district in. Imagine how much more interesting life in High Street would be, especially for people watching. More interesting things to photograph and more interesting things and people to observe (I have no inclination to participate in any way) and write about each week for you, dear readers.

- Marisa Wikramanayake  


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