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13th August,  2006  Volume 13, Issue 5

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

The Millionaire with a heart of gold

By Ranee Mohamed

It is 10.15 a.m. Sunday, August 6.   We are outside Ceylinco's  The Finance House  at Duplication Road, eagerly waiting  for a flashy limousine to  arrive. But there are no....

More.... 


Review more articles

 > Six months to colour Galle Face Green?

 > For old times' sake (....Balder dash)

 > St. Sebastian's - from strength to strength 

 > Asian women aren't supposed to complain, but then again...

 > The cravings of a carving designer...

 > Beating Myocarditis


The Millionaire with a heart of gold

Undiluted affection - a hug from Dr. Lalith Kotelawala for this little girl

By Ranee Mohamed

It is 10.15 a.m. Sunday, August 6.   We are outside Ceylinco's  The Finance House  at Duplication Road, eagerly waiting  for a flashy limousine to  arrive. But there are no signs of a limousine arriving.  Anxiously we peer into the regal premises. It is crowded with people - all in tattered clothes. Almost all of the young mothers had their infants and children around them. 

Outside, the sidewalks are lined with the poor. Some wearing their Sunday's best, but still appearing poorly dressed.  

We see a crowd mobbing a tall, smiling figure far away and realise that Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala has already arrived and was in the company of the poor and lonely - a segment, society pretends just does not exist. The benefactor was well into his business of providing the human touch.  He was talking, smiling and quite relaxed as the mass of humanity mobbed him with eager expectation.

It is impossible to get closer to him with the children surrounding him. They all seemed to know him so well, calling out "Mahaththaya,  Mahaththaya,"  and vying for his attention, which he is quick to acknowledge with smiles, nods  and caresses.

But it is not just attention that Dr. Kotelawala lavishes on them - he hands out  presents, packets of Anchor milk food to their mothers,  Anlene for the elderly, Sustagen for the weak and Highland milk for their daily cup of tea.

Concern for the poor

"He is doing what no one else in this country is doing.  He is concerned about us and our children," said Ajantha Upamali from Wedikanda Road, Ratmalana who is carrying an infant. "We come here every Sunday for the packet of milk. We cannot afford milk powder, the cost of a packet of milk powder is more than a day's expense. This is a great solace to us and we live each day waiting for Sunday to come," said this young mother.

Renuka from Dehiwela is clutching at a packet of milk powder. "It is not only milk powder that I got today; I got shoes for my child, and money and our Sunday lunch too," she said happily.

"We ask God to make him well each day, to make his businesses prosper," said J. Priyangani holding  her one year old son Prasanga close to her bosom. She is from Auburn Side, Dehiwela.

"I have four children, and this is the youngest. We have no means of income as my husband is ill. We are barely able to have one meal a day, and we all look forward to Sunday for it is the day that we can have a square meal, drink a cup of tea and have a cosy night with a full stomach," she said, her eyes filling with tears of gratitude.

S.N. Chandrawathi is holding on to her nine month old  son Sasinda. "I am penniless and without a husband. I have worked in houses for days, but did not earn enough because I was never welcome with my son.

"I am able to overcome these bad times because of Dr. Kotelawala Sir. I  do not know of any politician or any business magnate who helps poor people like him, not with projects and grand plans, but truly taking away the pangs of hunger from our little children and from us," she said.

She shows us milk powder and clothes for her baby, she shows us what the baby is already wearing and tells us these are all clothes that she received from this very personal mission of goodwill and generosity towards the poor from all communities.

Poor Fathima Zulfikar approaches us in happiness. She is clutching bags of milkfood and clothes. "My husband developed convulsions and today he is unable to work. I have three children and I came here to keep my family alive," she said.

Frank from Maligawatte is carrying his three-year-old son. He is here today, but his mind is with his one-year old son who has undergone surgery. "I have five sons and my youngest is ailing. It was this gentleman, Dr. Lalith Kotelawala who helped me to keep my children alive, giving us food, milk and money.

"He has given me money for the surgery of my little son too. I do not know how to thank him," said Frank joining the women around to shed tears of appreciation.

Pan malla

An elderly lady walks slowly towards us, she is clutching the traditional pan malla that is often depicted with poor 'Citizen Perera' in press cartoons. But there has been no laughter for her in life. Only tears. She touches a breast and whispers,  about the painful experience she has had with breast cancer.

 "Today I am unable to work, there is no-one to support me or look after me," she cried. "But I am alive today because of this great gentleman," she says pointing out to good samaritan Kotelawala far away, listening intently to a child sing.

This was a surprise visit and we already began to feel that we had missed much. This was a 'every Sunday' occurrence. There were many in this Ceylinco team. The Ceylinco Sarana Fund led the show, with help from others as the Ceylinco Swiftcare medical team  that were treating the ailing in a corner of the premises.

The queue was long, but the service was friendly - not only was medical care and treatment being given but a variety of syrups and tablets lay waiting to be given as the prescriptions came in from their own medical staff.

Unbelievable

In boxes under the porch were unbelievable quantities of Sustagen, Anchor, Anlene and Highland milk. Under this porch, little children were fitting on new shoes. The new shoes, heightened their thin, emaciated legs but immediately put smiles to their faces and happiness to their hearts; some children were carrying new school bags. 

This seemed like a carnival full of goodies and to add to that festive spirit there were ice cream cones being given to all and sundry.

Grandmothers were seen licking ice-creams competing with their grandchildren, they could eat as much as they want - no questions were being asked on this Sabbath Day.  

Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala seemed to have all the time in the world for these poor   helpless people. He was smiling with them and the smile came from his heart and touched his eyes. Five-year- old Thilindika Kumari came running  to him and jumped into his arms while his mother watched in shocked disbelief, clutching a bag in her hand.

Changed our lives

Maathiya Maathiya, said the little girl, in open admiration and love for a father figure who changed her otherwise bleak existence. "Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala changed our lives," said Thilindika's mother Sunethra Kumari, a mother of three. "I have been begging and working as a servant.

 "I have spent all my life in hot cramped-up kitchens ever since my husband died in an accident. When I heard about this great gentleman and wrote to him, I think that was the time when I reached out to God. Then life changed for us. Today my elder son has a three-wheeler, we have a house and my older daughter a machine to sew clothes.

"We take orders and sew the clothes needed here," said  Sunethra crying in sadness and in joy at the way her life has changed. "He is like a messenger from heaven, he is definitely divine to us," she stressed, bending to wipe the tears from her skirt.

Today  poor little Thilindika Kumari cannot be separated from this Maathiya who changed her life. And her life has truly changed, today though poor and unable to get education, she speaks fluent English, her accent is distinguishable. Soon her life would change with the kind of education that she is receiving at Ceylinco Sussex.

It was not long ago that Dr. Lalith Kotelawala's wife, Sicile Kotelawala handed over the keys to a home in Wattala  to a mother of 10 children who lived on the streets.

In the team with Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala were G. P. Edwards, Director, Ceylinco Sarana, Krishantha Perera, Executive Director, Ceylinco Sarana, Lal Dissanayake Marketing Director, Ceylinco Sarana, Mangala Sinha, Sugeeswara Sirimanne, and other  members of Ceylinco Sarana and Grameen.

When God closes a door...

"As a devout Catholic, I used to go to  church every Sunday. There used to be five or six beggars there and I used to give them Rs.50 each," said Dr. Lalith Kotelawala. The poor, ailing and the down trodden always pulled at the heartstrings of this great business tycoon.  So much so that he responded to all the woes of the poor, the disabled and even those afflicted with leprosy.

       Such has been his generosity that he gave them houses, renovated existing houses and gave them free medical aid through Ceylinco Swiftcare. There have been times when he had warded the ailing, sending his directors to personally supervise and send him a report of what more was really needed.

So it seems only natural for Dr. Lalith Kotelawala to be touched by the sufferings of the poor at the church he attended every Sunday and the poor knew it. "They knew that I gave them Rs.50  every Sunday. I soon found out that they not only waited for my arrival but that the number had increased  to 60 or 70  from the original five or six," recalled Dr.Lalith Kotelawala.

Helped them all

Though it had become an embarrassment, Dr. Lalith Kotelawala somehow  helped them all, but there had been times when he had strived to avoid the embarrassment and delayed getting out of the church. One day however the parish priest of the church had approached Dr. Kotelawala and told him that the beggars were a nuisance and that I ought not to encourage them for they were lining the corridors.

"I then told him that Jesus had said that when you give the poor it is like giving to Jesus himself. I also asked the priest why we cannot allow the beggars to come inside and sit in the pews of the church," said a smiling Kotelawala, to which suggestion a horrified priest had told him that those were for the rich people.

Thereafter, Dr. Lalith Kotelawala had started going to church on Saturday evening; but got all those who waited for him there on Sunday to come to Ceylinco's The Finance House at Duplication Road. The number then was 65, today it is 750. And the Rs.50 has doubled.

"Today I am grateful to this father, for I believe that all this has something to do with the Mother of God and Lord Jesus Christ. The poor gather here today and I do not care what community they are from....." said Dr. Kotelawala, the lone millionaire, standing there so comfortably with the penniless.

'God has blessed me'

"I always hold the view that money is only a tool that God has given us. When we leave, we leave everything and go. I was right at the bottom of life when my father died in 1973. But I can truly say that God has blessed me. I want to alleviate poverty  and this is just what we do with Ceylinco Grameen and the Sarana fund," said Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala, who emerges richer in the hearts and mind of hundreds of poor men, women and children, every Sunday.

If it is truly what we give that we take with us, then Dr. Lalith Kotelawala's benevolence is sure to find him a place in the front row.


 No colour in the life of the common man

Six months to colour Galle Face Green?

By Shezna Shums

A recent newspaper report stated that the Galle Face Green would be closed for six months. The report said that the authorities are `renovating' the beloved `Green.'

The question arises as to where  the common man could go to for a stroll and a breath of fresh air over the next six months. Never in the history of Galle Face Green, has such grandiose renovations been planned - certainly not for such a long time. It is a shame that this beautiful place in Colombo has never been maintained in a systematic, regular basis. If this was done, then there would be no need to close it for six months.

Galle Face Brown

Galle Face Green - or should we call it Galle Face Brown, given the fact that some parts are green and others brown has been a recreational place to Sri Lankans for centuries and  it is all too common to see  friends, family or lovers meeting at the green for a stroll in the evening or to take the children out.

It is one place in Colombo that the steressed out people could just relax late into the night with the cool, soothing sea breeze.

It is also the first place that visitors to Colombo from the outstations descend on for a spot of r & r.    

Galle Face always seemed to have nice green grass some years ago.

However today with many politicians trying to 'renovate' the place they just seem to be spending a colossal sum of money, at the end of which usually neither the grass nor the trees are all that green.

Dying trees

Expensive trees that had been uprooted from somewhere else and planted here a couple of years ago have been basically dying a slow, painful death before our eyes.

'Experts' have been trying to help in whatever way they could to improve the condition of the trees but nothing seems to have worked.

Good steps

The steps to the green as well as the ones leading to the tarred road by the beach are certainly in good shape. But it is the ugly vast brown patches on the 'green' that have made this place an eyesore.  Given that we have very few parks and places where people could jog, relax and take a stroll it is indeed a tragedy that this place is not maintained properly.

Once again in what is becoming a regular feature the government hopes to rehabilitate Galle Face with the assistance of the Urban Development Authority and the Ports Authority, splashing millions of rupees. What species of trees will be planted this time round is anybody's guess. 

Whatever the 'rehabilitation,'  the authorities have been struggling to keep this place green  - whereas in in the rest of the city trees  are easily grown and the moist and humid conditions are ideal for gardening.

Why the Galle Face Green does not stay 'green' is the million rupee question.


St. Sebastian's - from strength to strength

Rector, Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle

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.

By Sunalie Ratnayake 

St. Sebastian's College,  Moratuwa is an educational institution that has brightened the future of the young men of Moratuwa for over a century and a half.

St. Sebastian's College which was managed by Christian brothers for almost 80 years is now run by priests.  Today there are 120 teachers and five priests who work with dedication to produce God fearing  and righteous young men, the future citizens of the country.  The staff by example, endeavour to inculcate into young minds discipline, justice and fairplay. The management ensures that teachers understand the ultimate goal the school strives for, and that the teachers walk along with the students to reach that goal. 

Speaking to   The Sunday Leader, the  Rector, St.Sebastian's College,  Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle said  "We show the correct path to our students not only by word, but also by action. We love our children and I make sure that my staff is there whenever the students need their assistance. The atmosphere over here is that of a large family. We not only cover the  syllabus  prescribed by government, but also toil for proper character formation in the child.

"We observe our students from a vert young age and  identify their needs, their talents,  their strong points as well as their weak points. This observation helps us to follow up the development of each student and guide him through his school career.

Fr. Fernandopulle has worked as a teacher for 25 years, since he was ordained a priest. Being the Rector of St. Sebastian's College for over three years, Fr. Fernandopulle who has served many city schools, finds the children at St. Sebastian's College less sophisticated. He had served in nine years as principal of St. Aloysius' Seminary, eight years at St. Joseph's College, Colombo, and two years as  principal, Primary School at St. Peter's College.

"As a priest. I find it fulfilling to serve the children here. When I took up duties, we set up a master plan for five years. I want to raise the educational standards, especially the English language and also to give religious formation to the students. Improving discipline is another aspect I highly concentrate on," Fr. Fernandopulle said.

The early years

The original school commenced sessions on the verandah of St. Sebastian's Church with 11 pupils in 1854. It was administered by the parish priest with the help of a headmaster and his assistants. A minimal amount was charged as school fees and the medium of instruction was English. The other subjects taught included Sinhalese, religious knowledge, reading, writing, speech, arithmetic, history and geography. Physical training was also included in the timetable.

After five years of study, students were presented for the English School Leaving Certificate (ESLC) Exam. The last headmaster of the school was Lawrence Perera, an English trained teacher and a much loved and revered personality. He also was the church organist.

Fulfilling a request of the Catholics of Moratuwa and the Church authorities, Perera gracefully handed over the college to the De La Salle Brothers, who accepted the offer with equal grace. The school was taken over by the De La Salle Brothers on January 3, 1926. Brother Bonaventure Idus who was an Irishman led the pioneering trio, the other two being Brother Athanasius Charles, a Frenchman and Brother Glastian Oliver, a Sri Lankan. Brothers Anthony, Joseph, Alfred and Ladislaus joined them later. Accommodation was provided to the Christian Brothers at Chevalier Walauwa.

Even before the elapse of three months,  the secondary classes were formed on the ground floor of Chevalier Walauwa, the present police station. The first college prize giving was held in the Town Hall.

Gradual expansion

The main school was situated at Uswatte Circular Road, opposite the engine shed of the Moratuwa Railway Station. The building consisted of seven classrooms and the principal's office.The boys who had their early education at the Moratuwa Convent were  admitted to first year special B (Standard 2) and first year special A (Standard 3).  During this period the school also had second year special (Standard 4), standard 5, 6 and 7classes.

Bro. Bonaventure lost no time in taking steps to upgrade the school and had it registered as a secondary school. The school had classes leading up to Cambridge Senior and Junior School Certificate.  A Primary section consisting of classes from Lower Kindergarten to Standard 4, was also organised and Rev. Brother Xavier functioned its first principal.

The secondary school was recognised by the Education Department in 1927 and thereafter, St. Sebastian's English School as it was known then was changed to St. Sebastian's College.

The number of students on roll soon increased to 402 and in 1929, the existing elementary and secondary schools were converted into primary and collegiate schools. The collegiate school was registered in 1930.

In 1931 a science block was set up. An OBA, a cadet platoon, a prefect system, and a tennis court followed soon after.

The college which was administered by eminent directors such as Rev. Bro. Albun, Rev. Bro. Luke, Rev. Bro. Anslum Calixtus, and Rev. Bro. Austin, to just name a few, suffered a serious setback with the take over of schools in 1961.  It however was able to withstand all efforts to disrupt it, and was able to limp back to its orginal glory with  time,  the dedication of those at the helm of affairs at the school and the untiring efforts of the Catholic Church led by His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo.

Rev. Bro. Granville Perera who took over as the principal of the school had a broad vision for the college. He introduced computer classes for the students. The construction of the new primary building began in 1989. The new turf pitch was laid, which was a shot in the arm for the development of cricket, with outstanding results.

Houses

A house system was established at a time when a few schools in the island realised its importance. The four houses that existed  originally were De La Salle, O' Connel, Thompson and Campion. Except for De La Salle, the other three houses were subsequently renamed as Alban, Bonaventure and Luke, in memory of the great educationists who chartered a steady course and built a sturdy foundation which has ensured a niche in the sphere of education for St. Sebastian's College.

During the tenure of Director,  Bro. Anslem Calixtus the original 'College Song' was replaced by the present 'College Anthem.' The college logo too underwent change during this period.

Present day school

The school came under the management of the Archbishop of Colombo in 2003. In addition to the energetic  Rector, Rev. Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle, the beacons of light that brightens the present day school includes Vice Rector Rev. Father Carlton De Silva, Deputy Principal Dominic Fernando, Middle School Principal Fr. Prasad Niranjan, Primary School Principal Fr. B.A. Shiran and Advanced Level Section Incharge and Study Director Fr. Anton Ranjith.

The present student population stands at 2800 and the staff strength  is 120.

Achievements in sports

Cricket, basketball and athletics are among the main sports conducted at the college. Jehan Fernando emerged the best cricket captain in the under 19 all-island A division tournament. The college cricket team came first runners up in the under 19 A Division Lemonade Cup tournament in 2006.

Also, the under 15 all-island cricket joint championship was won by St. Sebastian's College this year in the Astra tournament. The basketball under 15 team became champions in the all-island A Division championships in 2006. In badminton, the college became  champions in the all-island C Division this year.

At the Senior Public Meet, the gold medal for 80 metres hurdle event was won by the college.  In long jump in the under 12 category, the school  came third. The under-14 relay team came third in the Western Province meet. The school team also came second in the under-11 long jump event, and first in the  under 15 hundred meters and 400 metre hurdles.  The school  under 15 relay team became second in the atheletic events that took place this year.

The other sports conducted at St. Sebastian's College include badminton, swimming and volleyball. Plans to start football are also  underway.

 Future plans

There are five O/L classes.  Advanced Level classes are conducted in science (one class), mathematics (one class), commerce (three classes) and arts (one class). Students who select the arts stream have a choice between French and Political Science.

The Western Choir at St. Sebastian's College is of a high standard and is much sought after.  The college hopes to link up with the computer centre donated by Metropolitan Academy in Canada and conduct afternoon classes in computing  for the youth of Moratuwa. Plans are also afoot to start classes in general information and communication technology for students in  grades 6 to 13 in the morning hours.

A swimming pool project is also underway.  A pool is to be constructed in the very near future in collaboration with AFLAC International in order to teach swimming to the children of Moratuwa. A special focus will be given to life saving techniques, especially to train  students to face emergencies such as a tsunami.

A hostel is also tobe put up to accommodate the tsunami affected children and scholarships are also to be granted to them. Selected children are to be brought over to the college and they will be accommodated in grades 6, 7, and 8  from January 2007.

Fully equipped flood lit basketball, badminton and tennis courts are also to be added to the school soon.  The construction of the Advanced Level and Primary blocks are almost complete.

Fr. Fernandopulle further said that the staff at St. Sebastian's College see to it that the children gain  confidence not only to face examinations, but also to face life. They also believe that children need love, care and concern, regardless of their social background.

St. Sebastian's College does not abandon its students after they leave school. Instead, a job bank coordinated by the past pupils, guides and assists school leavers in search of  employment or pursing further education. 

"I feel that education is the most important element in our country.  In order to prepare balanced people with an equilibrium needed to face challenges in life and handle obstacles, I have dedicated  my life to serve the students of Moratuwa," Fr. Fernandopulle concluded.

St. Sebastian's College prefers to be a 'village'  school with less sophistication. The students live in close proximity to the school which allows them to come back to school even after school hours to take part  in extra curricular activities until six in the evening. This provides a healthy environment  and prevents them from being drawn to anti-social activities.

 St.Sebastian's College is a portal that has set an example to many other educational institutions in the country and The Sunday Leader wishes St. Sebastian's College  all  success.


For old times' sake

The whole country seems to be going mental! First we have sightings of UFOs and little green men, now we have glowing statues.

I know one shouldn't be sceptical and totally dismiss claims, but really !  Everything is topsy turvy, I long for the peaceful, uncomplicated, good times of yesteryear.We really loved to go to school. It was a place to meet our friends daily. Unfortunately, due to a moronic decision, the English language stream was to be scrapped in schools. There followed a mass exodus of some of my favourite friends, the Burghers.

Alas, I was left behind. I was of mixed parentage, Tamil and Burgher. I always remember them as fun loving individuals, extremely generous and always cheerful. Lots of our neighbours were Burghers, so we had them as our playmates at home as well.

They dressed in the height of fashion, you could be certain they would keep up with what one was wearing around the world. On Sundays, the Anglicans would go to church with elaborate hats, gloves and extremely high-heeled shoes.

To look glamorous

My mum had converted to Roman Catholicism when she married my father, so we had to be content with the same old boring white veil that we had to cover our heads. Oh, to be glamorous!There was a textile merchant, who would come in his van, selling gorgeously-hued bolts of fabric.

When we would ask my mum why we couldn't buy some as well, she would say that the lady from across the road bought it on credit. "She's crazy," said my mum. Of course, that lady was a Burgher ! I understood what my mum was trying to get at, when one night, there was a big hullabaloo, it was the man banging on their front door.

All their lights were knocked off, and he kept shouting that he knew they were in, and that he wanted his money. The neighbours all looked knowingly at each other, and went back indoors smiling. When I saw him going there on another occasion, I asked my mum how come he still continued to go there.

"Oh, she must have taken the money across to him and said she wasn't at home, she was so sorry, the neighbours told her about it, and he would have believed her !" She was one of the most glamorous ladies I remember from my childhood days.Usually, we had the yummiest food at the birthday parties of my Burgher classmates.

Tasty food

Their mums were good cooks and loved to entertain. All of us had elaborate 'pretty' party dresses, with lots of frills, bows and lace. We wore can-cans underneath to make the skirts puff out. Some of them were rather scratchy and uncomfortable.

They were out of silk, satin or taffeta, most unsuitable fabrics for this climate. When I had my own kids, I never dressed them in anything but comfortable cotton dresses, because I knew how I had to suffer when I was young !My mum was voted the best cook, and my friends would clamour for food prepared by her.

We always had lots of cakes, pastries and goodies made by one of our mums. In those days, we had what was called 'tiffin' at teatime. Together with our milk or tea, there was always something small and tasty to munch on. At Christmas, love cakes, Christmas cakes and even wine was all generally made at home, not bought from a shop as it is commonly done now.

I suppose it was because most of our mums didn't go out to work, but were housewives.They were all good dancers and we learnt our dance steps from the more sophisticated ones. I remember in standard five, two of them were vigorously demonstrating the fine art of 'twisting' at the back of the class, whilst we watched in open-mouthed awe.

The teacher walked in unexpectedly and asked them if they thought they were a cabaret act, and made them stand for the rest of the lesson at the back of the class. Not that they were repentant, they were two of the biggest madcaps and stood there grinning and winking at us! Most of them were good looking, fair complexioned, with light coloured eyes and light brown hair, probably inherited from their foreign ancestors.

So they were very popular with the opposite sex ! Anyway, I'm quite certain their presence here would have greatly enhanced our lives.

- Honky Tonk Woman


Living in fear...

By Warren Balthazaar

It is difficult to believe that once this was an island where there was peace everywhere. People lived in peace and  amity with one another. No one thought about their ethnicity or race except in some instances when it came to getting married.

But there were and are many mixed marriages. Colombo was a pleasant place to live, with a healthy environment. It is not so any longer. Today danger lurks everywhere.

The psychological trauma caused by the fear factor affects all, including small children.  Fear affects work output. It can also cause physical and mental illness.

Shopping at Fort

We could all remember the days when we used to do our shopping in the Fort areas; 'Cargills, Millers, Whiteaways, Apothecaries, those were the big shopping emporiums. Everything was imported. Excellent quality, good prices. It was a real treat to come to Fort. There were many restaurants offering tasty food so one could spend all day in Fort. Most offices were also there so it was a busy place.

Today Fort is once again a real fortress as it was in Portuguese and Dutch times, The Fort is deserted.  No one wants to cross the barriers and barricades and be body checked. Many don't want to go through that process but don't have a choice. "When will all this fighting, bombing and killing end?  "A lot of people I asked demanded. "Why can't the problem be settled once and for all? We can never have a good life with things as they are at present."

Fear psychosis

According to people I met and spoke to about the situation in the country, there is fear everywhere. Here is what they said.

"Everywhere you turn," said Ratnayake who comes all the way from Horana to Maradana to work, "you see policemen and soldiers, fully armed. And yet they cannot nab the ones who carry mines, who put bombs in vehicles and target certain persons to kill them. It is a waste of money for all this security, for we now know they are not efficient as they should be. I am very frightened when my children leave for work, school etc. Anything could happen. We are all scared. It is useless to tell us that steps would be taken to 'step up' security,"  said Ratnayake .

It was very clear that the fear factor has gripped the people. What, they ask is what steps have the government taken to diffuse this fear? In offices and homes 'the security situation' is being discussed by a people who have no faith in the promises made by our so called leaders.

Speaking to Ousina Ozima a mother who is very concerned about the threat ordinary Sri Lankans face today, she told The Sunday Leader that "we should all live according to our daily routines because we have to survive, and bring up our children to face feas as well." She went on to say that "threats in Sri Lanka will always be the same until things change and we all pray for that someday."

Elaborating on the security barriers and check points everywhere many that we spoke to were of the view that these were an inconvenience to people in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to a student, Chathura, was straightforward with his views:

 "I am really not that much afraid of what is happening because it is not new to us, it has happened before. We need to go about our day- today activities and classes; we cannot stay at home doing nothing. I am a student of Thurstan College and we fear that our school could be a possible target because it was the school of some government and political leaders. I believe that Sri Lanka is not a safe place to live in anymore."

Like Muttur

There is nothing to prevent a situation like Muttur occurring in Colombo or in any other part of the country. The people who spoke to The Sunday Leader said that "the LTTE can take themselves anywhere and call the tune. All areas of our lives are affected by the 'fear factor' and it has effectively blocked the road to progress."

 We also spoke to a lottery seller. "I am frightened to go out unless I really have to. Because my job is my livelihood I have to go out to catch a bus. Even walking or standing at a bus halt is dangerous these days."

Targets

Targets of suicide bombers, claymore mines and bombs are all over the country and the fear factor is widespread. But the city of Colombo is the place that has suffered most.

Through the past 25 years of the war people have been dying or have been injured by the  hundreds. The damage and loss to vehicles, roads, and buildings is also considerable. But how can one measure the fear factor?

Everyone agrees that it is up to the government to live up to its promises and restore normalcy.


Perth Diary  

Asian women aren't supposed to complain, but then again...

Psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and scientists from across the world have agreed for a long time on one fact: that the highest rate of depression in any group, country or culture is often found amongst the women who come from an Asian background. It gets worse if they also happen to have recently migrated, be married or have kids.

The scary thing is that it can apply to women aged anywhere from 15 to 34. Being South Asian in particular is a risk factor - suicide and depression rates are highest amongst those females originating from the sub-continent. In a survey done from the years 1955 to 1989, out of 55 countries, Sri Lanka rated the highest for the suicide rate of women.

Why Asian women? Because they have to deal with societies that doesn't want them to have problems and doesn't want to know about them. People don't know how to deal with either. Chances are though, wherever you are from, if you have guilt, insecurity, no way of dealing with it and you feel like you have lost control, depression isn't very far away around the corner.

What is depression?

What is depression anyway? The definition is that a major bout of it lasts at least a week to a fortnight, maybe longer and during this time, you feel so bad that you can stop doing most normal activities such as eating or moving. You can also have difficulty concentrating, thinking, or speaking and you often dream or have thoughts of anything you conceive as negative and in most cases that is death. You also leave yourself vulnerable to becoming addicted to or misusing prescripted drugs such as painkillers.

 Why don't we talk about it more?  It is a lot more common than people realise - it happens a lot more and perhaps it could be curbed or dealt with more efficiently if there was more education about it. First of all there is guilt - perhaps for something that was out of your control.

Say someone close to you dies - there is such a thing as survivor guilt. Or say perhaps something occurred to you that wasn't supposed to - victim guilt - if you watch crime dramas you know this one. The victim starts to doubt if they didn't provoke the crime or situation themselves somehow. I saw a lot of this as a RS Advocate.

Then there is the insecurity from being different or feeling or thinking that you are different - that you don't fit in or can't do something that everyone else does. Of course we all know that this one emotional quandary is par for the course when you walk into schools these days. Some of my friends refuse to talk about their school days for this very reason.

There is also an issue of control. You look forward to the day when you have control of your life when you turn 18 - this is what happened to me. School life in my teens was the normal school life everyone had but it also ended up not fulfilling me much in terms of leaving with the notion of having learnt a lot.

 Wasted 10 years

I left feeling I just rehashed a lot of stuff that I had known for over a decade - I left feeling like I had just wasted 10 years of my life in school, learning nothing new except that I should be careful who I trust which was probably something I would have learnt anywhere, anyway.

I left the country at 18 and went somewhere completely different where I thought I was in control. But I wasn't. The school friends I was with weren't loyal to me at all, and how can you be in control when it is so easy for someone who doesn't like you to make life so difficult for you?

People had a hard time knowing how to react to me and I was being asked to enter a very structured system of learning where I was rehashing stuff I had wasted that decade on rehashing already. The best part was the perception to others that being foreign meant that I would automatically need to 'catch up' on the curriculum as it were.

Having the idea of being in control offered to you and then having it taken away so easily and quickly can be a trigger. I was in a foreign country, away from family, with no support network I felt comfortable with and I was wondering what I had wasted 12 years of my life on and whether my entire life was going to be a fraud because even the most logical and simple goal of just being allowed to study and learn something new was apparently something I wasn't allowed to do.

I stayed in bed for over three weeks. I ate only at dinner and only if my roommate brought something back for me, which to her credit she did. She did worry about me but she wasn't exactly sure what to do. I didn't go to class, I didn't read, I slept.

Stuck to the bed

I slept and I didn't dream and when I did dream, I dreamt that I was awake with  normal but very boring life - my worst nightmare was waking up, going to class, memorising things to pass, not learning anything and just being a general robot not knowing or realising that I was one.

The funniest part was that even if it was actual depression - I was very very happy. I was happy because I had stopped caring, stopped worrying - I didn't care if I never got out of that bed again and I didn't care if I never saw my family or friends again or if missing class meant I would fail.

For someone who worries incessantly (yet another factor), it is very liberating to completely stop caring about anyone or anything and there are times when I wish I could feel like that again.

It ended because I woke up and couldn't move my legs and told my roommate. When I went to the campus medic via a shuttle van and a panicky roommate, I could barely walk. They didn't know what was wrong and I didn't offer any suggestions.

They took blood samples and found that everything had gone topsy turvy, particularly my liver and the nurse on duty had a near panic attack when they weighed me at only 50 pounds. Three days later my body had completely recovered and the staff put it down to stress.

I left soon after and I haven't been back since. So what's different now? What's different now is that I have given up the mentality that almost every Asian woman I have ever met confesses to growing up with: that of not asking for help because you can't be a burden on anyone and not asking anyone to change something so it makes it easier for you.

Live on my own

 I live on my own, I am back in control of most things in my life including my education and career choices and I am not afraid to hold people accountable for things.

When they hurt me, when they make life difficult, I let them know. When I have a problem I need their help with, I let them know. I have even graduated to holding the local and state government accountable on the justification that I would be a citizen soon and they need to keep their promises.

I still have a guilt complex - it's just a lot smaller now. But it is yet another factor that propels you towards this madness that ensues in your head. At certain times of the year, my body seems to remember how chaotic everything became and seems to want to stage a re-enactment. At certain times of the year I have to try harder to not let certain things affect me.

Explaining all this to family and friends is hard though. They look at you as though you have picked up some Western nonsense that doesn't quite apply to you. As if you are trying your best to be posh and white and better than everyone else.

You're an Asian woman after all, there isn't supposed to be anything wrong with you and you're not supposed to complain. I now know why I thought everyone was odd - I just said what I wanted and they reacted in a typical blinkered fashion.

Mental health issues

What I said wasn't what a woman should say, so therefore I must be complaining. Don't ask me about the logic. You can interview the people I grew up with anytime you like. Is it any wonder why women have a lot of mental health issues when they grow up in a society that thinks that way?

It has gotten through though to some people because it gave them a huge guilt complex in the process. I can't flippantly say "I feel depressed about..." anymore to hardly anyone. Immediately, the concern shows through. "What do you mean?" "What happened?" And you know - that is kind of nice when they don't overdo it. It's a good change from when they used to roll their eyes and go: "Mari's complaining again."

- Marisa Wikramanayake


The cravings of a carving designer...

Lal Padmasiri Liyanage carving a piece of wood

By Risidra Mendis

He is a self-taught artist and a nature lover who has for many years strived to make a name for himself in the field of carving.

As you enter his small but simple house in the outskirts of Colombo, you cannot help but notice the many wood carvings in different shapes and designs, stacked in every nook and corner.

Wooden carvings of animals, trees, little stools and a variety of ornamental figures are just a few of the many carvings created by Lal Padmasiri Liyanage. 

Love for environment

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Liyanage said his love for the environment and his interest in turning out carvings from wood, made him go in search of barks of trees and tree trunks in the vicinity.

"There is a stream close to my house. At times I pick up small logs that come floating down the stream. I also collect pieces of wood of various sizes from the nearby jungle areas. If I see a tree trunk on the road and feel that it could be used to create a carving I pick it up and take it home," says Liyanage.

Every piece of carving by Liyanage has an originality of its own. A closer look at his creations makes you wonder, how a man could create an idea in his mind and then sit for hours and patiently carve it out  on a piece of wood.

"I did not go to a professional wood carver to learn the art of carving. My love for nature and the environment made me realise there is so much that could be done by using a natural piece of wood that most people would just throw away," Liyanage said.

Liyanage's father was a well known veda mahaththaya of the area. However Liyanage was not interested in learning the practice of ayurveda. Liyanage is a small time cultivator who barely manages to keep the home fires burning.

His wife Soma is a housewife and attends to the needs of their two sons, Malaka Nuwan (11) and Dulakshitha (8). "I do not have a permanent job. The money I earn is not enough for my children's education," says Liyanage.  

His vision to turn out far more intricate designs from the logs he collects is Liyange's dream.

But the many hours spent in creating a wooden carving will only add to the stack of completed wooden products in his house, if Liyanage cannot find a market to sell his creations.

"If I could find a kind sponsor or somebody who could help me market my products I need not be a burden to anybody," Liyanage said.

 Liyanage's dream of creating more intricate and unusual designs in wood will only be a dream if he cannot find a market to sell his products.


Health on Sunday

Beating Myocarditis

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Myocarditis is an uncommon disorder caused by viral infections such as coxsackie virus, adenovirus and echovirus. It may also occur during or after various viral, bacterial or parasitic infections such as polio, influenza, or rubella.

The condition may be caused by exposure to chemicals or allergic reactions to certain medications and it can be associated with autoimmune diseases.

The heart muscle becomes inflamed and weakened, causing symptoms of heart failure, which may mimic a heart attack.

In medicine (cardiology), myocarditis is inflammation of the myocardium, the muscular part of the heart, generally due to viral or bacterial infection. It may be present with chest pain, rapid signs of heart failure or sudden death.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms associated with myocarditis are varied. They relate either to the actual inflammation of the myocardium or the weakness of the heart muscle that is secondary to the inflammation. Signs and symptoms of myocarditis include the following;

Chest pain (often described as 'stabbing' in character).

Congestive heart failure (leading to edema, breathlessness and hepatic congestion).

Palpitations (due to arrhythmias).

Sudden death in young adults.

Fever such as rheumatic fever (especially when infectious).

Since myocarditis is often due to a viral illness, many patients give a history of symptoms consistent with a recent viral infection, including fever, diarrhoea, joint pains and easy fatigueability.

Myocarditis is often associated with pericarditis and many patients show signs and symptoms that suggest concurrent myocarditis and pericarditis.

Diagnosis

Myocardial inflammation can be suspected on the basis of electrocardiographic results (ECG). Markers of myocardial damage (troponin or creatine kinase cardiac isoenzymes) are elevated.

The ECG findings most commonly seen in myocarditis are diffuse T wave inversions and saddle-shaped ST-segment elevations may be present. These are also seen in pericarditis.

The gold standard is still biopsy of the myocardium, generally done in the setting of angiography. A small tissue sample of the endocardium and myocardium is taken and investigated by a pathologist by light microscopy.

If necessary, immunochemistry and special staining methods are used. Histopathological features are myocardial interstitium with abundant edema and inflammatory infiltrate, rich in lymphocytes and macrophages. Focal destruction of myocytes explains  myocardial pump failure.

Therapy

Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, dependent on the nature of the pathogen and its sensitivity to antibiotics. As most viral infections cannot be treated with directed therapy, symptomatic treatment is the only form of therapy for those forms of myocarditis.

Causes

There are a large number of different causes being identified as leading to myocarditis.

            Infectious

         Viral (Enterovirus, coxsackie virus, rubella virus, polio virus, cytomegalovirus, possibly hepatitis C).

            Bacterial (Brucella, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, gonococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, Tropheryma whipplei and Vibrio cholerae).

            Spirochetal (Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospirosis).

            Protozoal (Toxoplasma gondii and Trypanosoma cruzi)

         Fungal (actinomyces and aspergillus).

            Parasitic (Echinococcus granulosus, Paragonimus westermani, Schistosoma, Taenia solium, Trichinella spiralis, visceral larva migrans and Wuchereria bancrofti).

            Rickettsial.

         Immunological

         Allergic (Acetazolamide and amitriptyline).

            Rejection after a heart transplant.

            Autoantigens (Systemic vasculitis such as Churg-Strauss syndrome and Wegener's granulomatosis).

         Toxic:

         Drugs (Anthracyclines and some other forms of chemotherapy, ethanol, and antipsychotics).

         Toxins (Arsenic, carbon monoxide and snake venom).

         Heavy metals (copper and iron).

            Physical agents (electric shock, hyperpyrexia and radiation).

Bacterial myocarditis is rare in patients without immunodeficiency. Myocardial damage due to chemotherapy, most notably the class of anthracycline drugs, is fairly common.


Famous deaths

         Rod Donald

         Andy Gibb

         Janet Munro


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