17th December,  2006  Volume 13, Issue 23

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                                    


"I am" happiness

By Ranee Mohamed

Three powerful people from the United States of America are here in Sri Lanka to change the lives of the poor, unfortunate and.....


More Review Articles

 > Some goodwill towards other living beings

 > Shoppers looking for a better deal

 > Preparing for Christmas (....Balder dash)

 > Fremantle culture, heritage and history (...Perth Diary)

"I am" happiness 

Great strength for little children: 
With First Lady ShiranthiRajapakse

By Ranee Mohamed

Three powerful people from the United States of America are here in Sri Lanka to change the lives of the poor, unfortunate and the underprivileged. Their focus is on little lives affected by the tsunami. Powerful, in terms of changing lives, the trio who touched lives is headed by Jeff Gunewardene, a Sri Lankan who has not only  realised the American dream for himself but has taken a   step forward and made dreams of the Sri Lankan poor come true.

 "We live in San Diego, U.S.A. where Jeff Gunewardene lives and he brought us here," said American author Steve Viglione.

Bringing to Sri Lanka,  Steve Viglione of I am  books has changed the lives of Sri Lankan children in towns such as  Matugama, Dodangoda, Kelaniya, Kandy, Dambulla, Maharagama, Sigiriya and the  districts of Matale, Kalutara, and Nuwara Eliya. Books will also be sent to Ratnapura and Badulla.

"The goal is to take the books to children everywhere in Sri Lanka and I am is determined to get one million books to Sri Lankan children," said Gunewardene.            Over to page 35

Author Steve Viglione was accompanied by his wife Dr. Marilyn Powers.  With a doc torate in religion and psychology, Dr. Powers, with her solid Montessori training, acquired 20 years ago in the UK is tailor-made to be among the little children. Dr. Marilyn Powers is the Vice President of the U.S based  I am foundation. Sri Lankan children, affected by the tsunami, the war and also lifelong poverty  crowded around the trio for their gifts of books, a parcel of stationery, some soft  drinks and a generous touch of love.


"This book is different because it is in three languages. In Sri Lanka the book is published in English, with Sinhala and Tamil also on the same page," explained this, one-of a kind author. "This book came to mind because I do not want children to suffer. I want them to build esteem and confidence and be effective in this world. When reading I am books, children replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and these positive thoughts extend," explained the author.

"Negative thoughts cannot make us feel good," said Author  Viglione  who began publishing books 10 years ago in the U.S. "I  got so much joy when I gave a book to a child," said the author and went on to say that there is a child in everyone. "We have lived and experienced childhood and there is a child in each one of us. I believe that it is the responsibility of adults to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children to grow up. "We want to be partners with Sri Lanka in gifting these books to children. This is not about the I am foundation, the books are our tool.," pointed out the author.

I am books have been published and distributed among children in Mexico, Italy and other countries. "Our goal is to take the first ladies in each country to the world. In Sri Lanka too, the message in the book is by the first lady," explained Dr. Powers who has spent considerable time with little children.

First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse who believes that the thoughts of men are refined by reading and that reading makes a complete man, had suggested that the book be taken to handicapped children, and Jeff Gunewardene and Steve Viglione are making immediate plans to give I am books to handicapped children in the country.

'Great liking'

"The first lady has taken a great liking to this book - I think she is beautiful, sincere and a wonderful person with a passion for the children of Sri Lanka,"observed author Steve Viglione.

"Every child is priceless especially between the ages of  two and a half and five years of age, for they have a vision and a dream inside them. So, it is important that we catch them early and nurture their God given essence and their goodness." said Vice Presidemt of I am Foundation, Dr. Marilyn Powers.

Jeff Gunewardene who initiated the visit of  I am author Steve Viglione and his wife, also initiated the printing of over 25,000 copies of the book, with the help of the World Relief Organisation and its Chairman Dr. Kaveh Khast.  "My plea to the little ones of Sri Lanka is to identify themselves not by race but as one person. There ought to be no differences, no separatism," said Gunewardene.

"It is our goal to print one million books and distribute them around the world among little children. As requested by our first lady Shiranthi Rajapakse, we are now  planning to take this book to handicapped children too. My thanks  to the people who have helped us, especially  World Relief Organisation Chairman, Kaveh Khast cannot be expressed in words," said Gunewardene.

Jeff Gunewadene who is also the Sri Lanka Consul General for Colombia and Venezuela initiated the visit of  San Deigo based author Steve Viglione and  his wife Dr. Marilyn Powers. They were accompanied by  Director, Thilanka Hotels,Thanuj Gunewardene;   Chairman, NAITA (National Apprentice Industrial Training Authority) Amal Senadhilankara; and  Manager, Thilanka Hotels, Tissa Dayananda,  to the length and breadth of the country to reach out to underprivileged children.

Some goodwill towards other living beings

Who is the beast? They run around happily, unaware of the fate that awaits them

By Risidra Mendis

It is Christmas time once again. The streets are crowded with busy shoppers looking out for  that once-in-a-lifetime bargain. Shops are decorated with colourful Christmas decorations and Christmas trees, while the air is filled with the fragrance of the many fir trees lined up by the roadside for sale.

The Christmas season is enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians with the exchange of gifts and family gatherings at friends' and relatives' places. But while the merry making for the season goes on, hundreds of innocent animals are slaughtered for the traditional Christmas lunch and dinner.


Turkey is the traditional dish served at many Christmas lunches and dinners. However, due to the rising cost of turkeys many people serve chicken instead. Religious traditions and cultures have always being a part of our lives. But most of us prefer to follow these  customs and traditions passed down by our ancestors instead of opting for a change.

So the slaughter of animals goes on. People's taste for meat has grown over the years and has become a part of their lives. Despite the advice of doctors that meat products are harmful to health, people continue to indulge in their favourite dishes of chicken, beef, pork and mutton among others.

Also, what about the plight of these innocent animals waiting in line to be slaughtered and served as a mouth watering dish at Christmas time?

Speaking to The Sunday Leader animal rights activists Shanthini Sanjaya said the torture of chickens before slaughter is a shocking experience.


"Chickens are slaughtered by the hundreds during the season. These animals may be small but can feel the fear and pain of slaughter. "Chickens are tightly packed into lorries with hardly any breathing space and transported to shops for slaughter. These birds are not fed for days but end up on tables in exotic dishes," Sanjaya said.

According to Sanjaya, chickens are tied together by their legs and hung from a hook. The chickens are then thrown around as they are transported from the vehicle to tiny cages in the market. "Not only are the wings and feathers of these birds broken but their legs too, while others are injured during transportation. The animals are piled into cages with barely any room to move and kept for days without food and water until slaughtered" Sanjaya alleged.

The same fate awaits other animals brought to slaughter houses in the country. "During the festive season the number of slaughtered chickens rise. Eating meat is not a must - it is harmful to your health. A vegetarian diet is good for your system. Heart problems and other serious types of sicknesses can be avoided if you stick to a vegetarian diet," says Sanjaya.

However the advice of doctors and vegetarians seem to have fallen on deaf ears. For those of us who have eaten meat products for many years dropping the habit is no easy task. So the next time you sit at the table to enjoy your favourite meat dish, take a moment to think about the cruelty these animals would have endured just to make a scrumptious meal for you.

Shoppers looking for a better deal

Transport problems add t their woes

By Shezna Shums

The woes of the shoppers in Sri Lanka are many and varied. They begin from the time one sets off from home on a shopping trip.

It is not merely  the crowds and queues that shoppers have to deal but the  other associated factors are enough to take the happy spirit off shopping and of the season. Shoppers have to battle with the unfair prices and this is not only with the wares on offer but also the way they are charged for travelling and for meals.

The Sunday Leader  spoke   to some shoppers to find out exactly how woeful their shopping life is.

One shopper who frequents many 'sales' said that her main problem is with regard to money. " things are so expensive now a days, even if there are sales, the prices are very high" she said.

As she uses the  public transport system in the country, she said that it means that her problems double. Crowded buses, having to stand all the way with her packages and cope with the erratic speeding and competition on the road have made shopping for this lady more torture than a pleasurable experience.

"There is also the opposite of speeding buses, which can be exqually exasperating, that is when buses remain stationary to get more passengers. Remaining in a hot crowded bus this way can be very tiresome and annoying," she said.

"Getting off a congested bus can be a really difficult task," she added.

During the season shoppers have to not only learn to live inside crowded buses but also with crowded shopping areas.

"There is just no peace when shopping because there are people shoving and taking things especially at sales," she noted.

Another shopper, Kumi said that her main worry too is money, because things are very expensive, and by the time she finds one or two things she likes, they add up to quite a bit.

Every shopper who spoke to The Sunday Leader said that money was their greatest problem because there never was enough of it, with today's unfair pricing.

"Sometimes we spend as much money for a trishaw as we would spend on what we are buying, or may be more," most shoppers noted.

And travelling by public transport means that you get harassed with people pushing you from one side, some guys trying to act funny on the other and the bus screeching and braking in  a frenzy.

Andrew, who we caught up with while shopping says that his main worry is shopping for other people, because he does not know what they want.

"Buying for myself is fine, but when I have to buy gifts I just don't know what to get," he said.

Many shoppers also highlighted that fact that 'sales' here are not really that great.

" The sales can be really bad, because there would be just a handful of stuff at low prices, but the other  items would not cost any less than what they would on other days," said Anuk.

The shoppers also added that the variety of things on 'sale' were very limited.

"And this being the case most of the time the quality isn't great either," many shoppers added.

The items that are bought from the shops or even at sales are priced too high, "but we really don't have much of a choice and eventually we have to  buy them, so this is the case here," they said.

Certainly shopping in Colombo is an experience, especially since the cost of living keeps increasing and people have to manage their monthly expenses as well as find the money for gifts and the extras for the festivities.

Given the increasing costs of trishaw hires and problems with parking and congestion, shopping in Colombo will definitely be an experience you will not forget in a hurry.

All in all, though shopping can definitely be fun if you join some friends and spend sometime going around, at the end of it don't be too surprised if your pockets are lighter, because sale or no sale, you are bound to spend through your nose first in getting to the shop and then in buying the things you want.

Fremantle culture, heritage and history

The best thing about living on High Street in Fremantle is that it used to be the main street way back when and therefore has a lot of˜history associated with it. This in turn means that everytime they have a parade in Fremantle, I only have to open the big windows and sit on the ledge to watch it, instead of running out the door to figure out where it's going and trying to keep up to see all of it.

Fremantle has a parade every five weeks on average which is great. I don't mean parades that are on the scale of anything like peraharas but parades nonetheless where everyone enjoys themselves. Parades that make you want to go down to the pub afterwards and have a beer just to join in the spirit of the occasion.

So what do they celebrate? Well, the St. Patrick's Day parade is one of the biggest ones and that parade starts in Perth and comes all the way down Stirling Highway to the Esplanade in Central Fremantle. A huge trek. Fremantle is important to the Irish culture and population - this was the gateway through which all of the Irish ancestors in Western Australia came into the country. So they have pipe bands playing songs that even now after three years I can recognise, Irish dancers tapping away down the street, the Catholic and Protestant churchgoers out in full force and trucks with floats on them symbolizing everything the Irish have been involved in since turning up.

And of course Clydesdale horses (they are huge) pulling carriages and floats with fairies and Guinness on them.  There is a store in Fremantle called colloquially "The Fairy Shop" that sells fairy and medival costumes, jewellery, statues and toys all connected with fairies and dragons and mythology but their main job involves keeping kids happy. They host fairy parties for birthdays involving sleepovers and storytelling with a costume for each kid and they host them in an almost real looking grotto they have created at the back of the store. And they dress themselves up and put themselves on a float for each St. Pat's parade, handing out gold chocolate coins to kids. And then you find fairies down at Rosie O' Grady's afterwards having a pint of Guinness. So yes we believe in fairies in Fremantle.


Then there is the Blessing of the Fleet, which happens sometime in October/November. The St. Patrick Church in Fremantle takes Mother Mary out for her second walk of the year down to the Fremantle docks just behind the block my flat's on and the train station to bless the ships and ensure good trade and production and good health for sailors and dockers.They then fire the cannon at the roundhouse several times to remember everyone who died at sea or at the docks which is always a very solemn moment. They should bless Fremantle's football team the Dockers at the same time - I reckon they need a few prayers to win the next derby.

 I said second walk of the year for Mother Mary because she actually gets to go out for a walk of her own, sometime during June or July if I can remember correctly. I have only seen this parade twice in Fremantle however. Here she is taken down to the Esplanade and treated to a show of fireworks and this is a huge affair - Mother Mary really is quite popular and they often have megaphones on trucks with nuns chanting prayers and invocations throughout the parade.

But it does get people fired up and everyone gathers on the Esplanade and little kids run behind the float and pretty soon everyone is crying. Even the Premier turns up which is a rare treat. Then of course there is the Easter week parade which happens on Palm Sunday I think and comes all the way from Perth again with the Premier and all the Catholic churches waving their own banners, with pipe bands again and a huge tableau of Jesus carrying the cross. That's pretty standard stuff though they don't have any businesses or fairies joining in this time.

 But not all the parades are religious ones, they do have cultural ones like the one they had last week to celebrate Fremantle culture, heritage and history.

Arts festival

Fremantle has an Arts Festival of its own during the last three weeks of November each year. They start out with the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre letting loose their new creations on the town in the form of huge puppets - this year they were creatures similar to Ewoks riding on giant snails and a lot of street theatre performances in front of the Town Hall. Then skip to last day of celebrations.

After all the exhibitions, workshops, discussions and performances during the entire festival, they open the last day with a huge parade that loops around Fremantle city centre twice. Businesses join in, people are encouraged to join the float of their choice as it passes by and there is the deafening sound of drums and different kinds of music.

The ubiquitous pipe band and bagpipes, Korean drums, African drums, Hindi music from the Hari Krishna float which is exceedingly gaudy and is hence relegated to the tail end of the parade, reggae, Australian aboriginal music, Maori dancing, Latin American music courtesy of the Mexican restaurant and so on. And anyone can create a float - there was one with odd fish that turned out to be the Marine Research Centre of W.A., not to mention the float for the Children's Unit at Fremantle Hospital.

Throughout the entire day they block off the main street in Fremantle which is South Terrace, the Cafe Strip, to traffic and have a block party. The restaurants are overflowing, people are sitting down in the middle of the road and playing cards, and right at the end near the markets, there is a huge crowd gathering for the official closing of the festival.

Best part

The best part is that the official closing of the night consists of a huge Bhangra Dance Street Party. Hindi pop and bhangra are blasted out courtesy of DJ Rao usually and people on the street absolutely love it. This year they even managed to screen old Hindi music videos from the 60's on the wall next to the DJ booth. And at nine p.m., they play one last song, the giant furry (yes, furry - it's cold on other planets in the universe, don't you know?) snails are taken back to the theatre and shut down, and people pack out the sidewalk restaurants for wine, beer, pasta and curry before falling asleep. The next day being Monday, the council will start planning the next festival.

Perth has other parades. Not all of them occur in Fremantle. Northbridge has a Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in Ocotober as well as a multicultural one and when the Perth Arts Festival is on, there is a parade for that as well. At least it keeps the pipe bands in business. Watching so many parades with their stiltwalkers, pipe bands and dancers and floats makes me want to take part myself but usually I stay on my side of the lens with my camera.

Living on High Street means you don't miss a thing. Not when the beating of drums is loud enough to wake the dead and shake pictures off your wall.

- Marisa Wikramanayake

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas is threatening to descend any minute, and at the crucial moment, my  shoulder has decided to freeze. My doctor firmly refused to give me any pain-killers and ordered me to the physiotherapist. Any amount of arguing about cake making, putting up of decorations, uni-flow traffic wildly flung in his direction were calmly rejected.

Oh well, maybe the pain might get less, who knows? I can also safely predict that the physio will tell me to lose weight, a never-ending refrain in my case! As if! I must say the same enthusiasm is not there in getting ready for the season, even though we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 'The Beautiful Dreamer.'

 I started with a bang, re-arranging and sprucing up her room. But after that such horrible incidents have taken place! One begins to wonder what all this is for, things don't seem to be getting better, only worse. Some humans are behaving worse than most animals would.

Anyway, Begone, doom and gloom! Put on a happy face and carry on regardless. The show must go on!Iam very pleased with myself this year, have managed so far very well with a limited budget. Although you begin to wonder if you're hearing impaired when you hear the cost of things! Imagine tomatoes were Rs. 250 a kilo yesterday! Canned tomato paste or puree will do very well instead, thank you very much! So many people are not making their enormous trays of Christmas cake but buying small ones instead. Anyway, most people prefer love cake! I think I will do that as well, since anyway it lies around uneaten.

It's too rich! (hence the name) Of course, I remember when we were young, the cake would be made well ahead. By the time Christmas came, my elder sister would have helped herself to several chunks and it would be greatly diminished! Since she was the oldest, she had access to the cake, it was too high up for us to reach.

Buying gifts

The other task is buying gifts for everyone. It's quite dizzying to remember everyone, even if you do go armed with a list, you have to ponder if each individual will really like what you have got them, or should you try elsewhere etc? I know it's very easy to hand out gift vouchers, but then it looks like you couldn't be bothered to go and choose something, doesn't it?

 Anyway, this year the shops that were considered to have good bargains aren't that reasonable too. And this is not funny when you have to buy dozens of gifts! Every year I think I'll start buying gifts through the year so I won't be so hassled at the end of the year, but this never happens. Invariably someone's birthday or anniversary will pop up and then for convenience, those are used up.

One has to have an everlasting supply of food stocked up as people keep popping in. At this time of the year, people who live overseas come down here too, so there is extra entertaining to do as well.

We'll manage somehow! I think chicken tastes much nicer than turkey or duck, and pork is heaps better than lamb. Lots of people are not buying the turkey this year as well, I'm glad I'm not here on Christmas day when I checked out the price of a kilo! I think turkey is made because families generally get together for Christmas and it can feed many more people since it is a much larger bird.

Christmas decor

In addition to all these preparations, the kids are having their annual party and I have to have to feed lots of young adults.

So you understand I'm rather stressed out! I have to combine party and Christmas dcor since I can't re-do it. Everybody is very good at criticising, but get very tired very fast and vanish into the horizon. I told my gardener to touch up the dirty spots on the walls and he ambles around the whole day, brush in hand. I have to keep a very close eye on him, since he tends to use the wrong colours and the resulting effect is horrifying!

Today I just managed to catch him in time before he painted the doors a very bright turquoise! Whilst I'm at breakfast, he comes up and tells me he needs yet another colour. He's taking this very seriously, everything is carefully scrutinised and painted.I hope my shoulder thaws fast! 

 - Honky Tonk Woman

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