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                                    


   July 8, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 3









The forgotten people

Pregnant and hungry 

By Ranee Mohamed

It is said that every dark cloud has a silver lining and that a thorny stem holds a rose. But for the 70 families of Karmanthapura in Ratmalana there are neither silver linings nor roses.. They talk about wreaths and death, for they say that their's is a life in hell.

"If they say that one must die to go to hell, then they are wrong. This is hell," they say, sitting on the gravel garden outside the unsteady darkened building that could well be from the times of Oliver Twist.

Little children in scant old clothing huddle around the helpless adults. It is lunchtime but there is no lunch anywhere in sight. Among them, starving and suffering are several pregnant women. At a time when they need nourishment and care the most, these young women long for things that they cannot have.

"We have not had a proper meal in days. We have no jobs," said these women suffering not only from morning sickness but from the unbearable pangs of hunger.

Exhausted and famished

Exhausted infants sleep on the only cosy place here - in the arms of their mothers. But the mothers are exhausted and famished. They look at our hands in the hope that we have brought them something to eat.

These are the victims of the tsunami. It is almost three years now and they remain stuck here in Ratmalana, adjoining Kaldemulla road. This tsunami camp is called Karmanthapura which was at one time a hive of activity. There was a time when cars and pick up trucks drove in here with food and dry rations.

"It is three years now and no one ever comes here. In fact when people pass this area, they hold their noses and walk as fast as they could," said the poor women holding on to their babies with all their might. Hunger and starvation are written all over their faces with anaemia colouring their eyes.

The government has washed its hands off them and the grama sevakas do not visit them anymore. They are left to fend for themselves in this strange place.

"We want to live in the comfort of our own homes. We want to have a family life once again. Our children go to sleep on empty stomachs, yet they have no proper place to sleep, they huddle together in one corner and we adults try to sleep in the uncomfortable places inside this old building.

Murky water

When it rains, the building is surrounded with murky water and the only way we can get out of the building is to wade through this water," said these refugees who are living a few kilometres away from the city of dances, parties and fun.

"Our children are ill everyday. But we have no money  to take them to the nearest doctor. We cannot go to the government hospital because we do not have bus fare for the journey. There is no way that we can buy a packet of milk food for the infants. Now even the milk food costs more," lamented the women.

Weak with hunger

Nadeeka Nilmini can barely stand up. She is weak with hunger. Her son is two years old. He was born in this camp. There are few beautiful things that little Shan Ajith Kumara has seen in his two years. All he knows about life is the bleak surroundings, the darkness and the deprivation.

Jayamini Perera (22) is expecting her second baby. "This is no place for a baby, but there are many women here who have given birth," said the woman in tears. She is desperate to get a better place before the child is born.

In fact all the women want houses of their own. "Though we have been promised heaven and earth, we are not even given a meal," said these people who have once lived in their own homes and enjoyed a happy family life.

Srimathi, Lalani and Dilani sit outside the building. "We cannot go in there. It is unbearable," said these two women in their first trimester of pregnancy. There are many things that these young women long for. But as with all of them, money is the problem.

Sorry plight of the refugees

When will these victims of this great natural disaster ever be taken seriously? When will their problems  end? What about the children? Is this the life that the powers that be have to offer this section of our future generation?

Without proper schooling, without proper food, these children are not only deprived socially but nutritionally too.

Yet the authorities seem unmoved by the plight of these refugees. Whether they are pregnant, whether there are new babies born or whether they are ill or dying seem to be of little or no consequence to the authorities.

The suffering and the tears of these refguees of the tsunami, living in a busy area as Ratmalana ought to make us hang our heads in shame. For we have failed to reach out to them and their children. We have failed to urge the authorities to help our fellow brothers and sisters who now receive nothing, except for the piles of rotting garbage that are thrown into the compound of their refugee camp.

'The cost of  living is killing us'

Its a struggle to both board a bus 
and then pay for the ride

By Nirmala Kannangara

The latest price hike of petrol, diesel and kerosene has had an adverse impact on the day-to-day life of the common man, and survival has now become almost impossible with the high cost of living.

With the price increase of diesel by Rs. 4.00 per litre, the prices of essential commodities have gone up drastically making it difficult, especially for the middle class, to make ends meet. Following the fuel price hike, bus fares went up with effect from last week, adding another burden on the already harassed commuters who depend on public transport. The price of a domestic gas cylinder too increased for the second time within two months and the common man's vehicle - the trishaw too has increased running charges following last week's fuel price hike.

Middle class most affected

The Sunday Leader spoke to a cross section of people to find out what their views were with the new price revisions. Many of them voiced their disgust at the manner in which the present administration was governing the country and added that if this regime is allowed to continue for another two to three years 95% of the population will end up being malnourished. 

The price increases have not affected the lowest strata of society since whenever there is a price hike they too demand an increase of their daily wages. The upper class too is not affected but only the middle class is badly affected since bus fares, essential commodities and the prices of other necessities keep going up while their monthly remuneration remains static.

Parliamentarians privileged

"Parliamentarians get salary increases and other perks but no steps are taken to increase our pension. Why cannot our rulers consider increasing the senior citizens' pension? We are now in the evening of our lives and we need more medication.

The doctors at government hospitals prescribe medicines that have to be bought from a pharmacy. Why cannot the Health Minister provide all the necessary medicines to  govenment hospitals so that we can obtain them free of charge? I do not want to be a burden to our children as they too face many hardships. We would like to have a decent meal at least once a week but how can we afford even that on a meagre pension?" asked a senior citizen who strives hard with his old wife to manage their expenses with his monthly pension.

Dakshina Wijesooriya,* an accountant at a leading firm in Bambalapitiya told The Sunday Leader that the time has now come for the government to stop unnecessary expenditure and deliver on what it promised.

Government blamed

"What has the government done for the innocent people of this country? The President has forgotten that he has to look after the entire nation. Instead he seems to be looking after  only a few. Before the elections we thought that he represents the downtrodden people in the country but now we know who he is. From the time this government came into power every single essential item has gone up in price. As an executive I receive many perks but I am talking on behalf of the middle class people," she said.

"Mr. President, wake up from your deep slumber and give us relief as  promised in 2005," said Wijesooriya angrily. 

British rule favoured

Dr. Kamal Senaratne,* a consultant physician practicing in a leading private hospital in Colombo said that he would prefer the country to be under British rule. "The country really prospered in that era. Bribery, corruption, abductions, killings and nepotism were never heard of. Those found guilty of any offence were punished irrespective of their status. What is happening now is just the opposite," he said.

"Before the presidential election President Mahinda Rajapakse said that the Middle East leaders are his good friends. He used to boast that since he was a member of a certain committee, the Middle East leaders had agreed to supply fuel to Sri Lanka at a cheaper rate once he became president. Where are those friends of our leader? Why cannot President Rajapakse buy cheap fuel from the Middle East?" questioned Dr. Senaratne.

CPC employee cites wastage

Gamini Premaratne* an employee attached to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, told The Sunday Leader that he never expected the CoL to rise as much as it has done under this government. "I too voted for Rajapakse since he is from a village and would therefore understand the common man's problems. He has badly let down those who voted for him. Our salaries are not sufficient to meet our monthly expenses. Whilst it is true that CPC is incurring losses, the wastage and corruption only add to the losses in the corporation and if the government can stop this wastage, we as employees know that the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene could be brought down. When the present president came into power the price of a litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene were Rs. 80, Rs. 50 and Rs. 30.50, respectively. Now in a matter of just 20 months the prices have gone up to Rs. 111, Rs. 71 and Rs. 67 respectively," Premaratne said.

Drastic decrease in income

N. Raja, a three-wheel driver in Mt. Lavinia, said that since he increased hiring charges his daily income has come down drastically. "With these regular monthly fuel increases we too are compelled to increase our charges. But the passengers are reluctant to accept the increased charges. I do not blame them as they also undergo the same difficulties.

I have three school going children. I used to take them to their school in Dehiwala in the trishaw but now they go by bus. From last week bus fares went up as well. We use a kerosene cooker to cook our food. Now the price of kerosene too has gone up and I cannot understand how we can continue to exist," lamented Raja.

Where is the relief?

Anula Samaraweera, a mother of two school going children said that she and her husband have found it difficult to manage their monthly expenses with their meagre income. "My husband works in a private firm and draws a small salary which is not enough to meet our expenses for even 15 days. Now every essential item - from gas to bus fares, rice, sugar, coconut et al., have gone up. But Minister Bandula Gunawardena says that the government is giving a relief package to the people. I would like to ask him why he is lying to the nation. Since he crossed over to the government for personal gain he is trying to cover the government's incapability to deliver on the promised pledges," Samaraweera opined.

K. Vijitha, a single parent of three children working in a garment factory also faces many hardships with the salary she draws every month. "Our electricity supply was disconnected a few months ago as I could not pay the bills. Since then we managed with kerosene lamps but with the recent price hike of kerosene oil I have to be in darkness with my children. Most of the time I starve as I feed my children first. My children want milk I cannot afford to buy a packet of milk powder. I feel sorry for my innocent children as they are suffering immensely. Before the President came into power he promised to give a packet of rice and a glass of milk to each school going child but he has now forgotten all those promises and instead his government is making us suffer more," she said. 

* Names changed on request

Seafarers in  safe hands in Sri Lanka

The history of the Mission to Seafarers dates back to 1835, when a young Anglican clergymen, John Ashley, realised˜while holidaying˜ near the British Channel that the seafarers who manned ships had no one to minister to them. He then decided to become their self-appointed chaplain.

The Mission to Seafarers was founded in 1856, and the headquarters is located in London. It works through a global network of chaplains in some 300 ports around the world. The mission's flying angel logo is inspired by a verse from the Bible (Book of Revelations).

"Then I saw an angel flying in mid heaven with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those on earth, to every nation and tribe, language and people," Ashley had said.

The Mission to Seafarers in Sri Lanka has been operating at the Colombo port since 1941, where they run the 'Flying Angel Centre' which offers the tired and lonely seafarers coming into the ports of Sri Lanka and bringing in the much needed commodities, a welcome home where they can rest, relax, communicate with their families and obtain whatever assistance they need by way of medical, legal or welfare assistance while in this country.

It is important to note that seafarers around the world lead a life which at times can be dangerous. There are instances where their lives may even be at stake in the event of accidents, piracy or terrorist attacks that are now very common. Apart from these difficulties the mission provides assistance to seafarers’ who face difficulties in their jobs and conditions of work.

The global Sea Sunday Service held on the second Sunday in July each year is of great signifance as it is held to commemorate the seafarers and focus attention on how important commodities reach countries mainly by sea. It is a timely reminder of the vital role seafarers play in our lives in bringing so many of’ our daily needs across the sea, and as well as the sacrifice made by seafarers who are separated from their families for several months facing numerable risks at sea.

The Mission to Seafarers in Colombo has been revamped recently to meet’ the’ present day needs of seafarers and offer them a better service when they get off their ships.

The ports of Colombo, Galle, Trincomalee and Hambantota, with the on-going proposal for further expansion and development will certainly help to improve’facilities and services in the future.

The Flying Angel Centre situated at No. 26, Church Street, Fort, Colombo, is now up to international standards when it comes to welcomming and looking after the seafarers in Colombo. Transportation from the vessel’to the centre is available and facilites for leisure include a TV lounge, library, billiards, table tennis, computers with internet facilities, web camera, videos, dvd karaoke, a bar and a jewellery shop . A counselling centre with a chaplain in attendance in a private room is also available.

The challenge the Mission to Seafarers faces at present is how best to minister to people of many different cultures and faiths, who are facing increasing physical, cultural and social isolation. However, despite having to change with the times, the fundamentals of the mission will not change. It's purpose is to be there in God's name as a source of help, strength and hope to seafarers and their families.

At the helm of the Mission to Seafarers in Sri Lanka are:

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth  II - Patron

His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Patron

Wing Comdr. Noel Fernando - Chairman

Capt. Ravi Jayawickreme, Harbour Master - Vice Chairman

Capt. Andrew Payne - Chaplain

Clarence Welikala - General Manager

Committee members comprise senior officials from the harbour, navy and shipping agencies.

The annual Sea Sunday Service is to be held today at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo 7, at 8.15 a.m.

Loyalty is the key word

Ratnadas: Fifty one years of loyalty

By Ranee Mohamed

In his 51 year old career, Solomon Jesudian Ratnadas has never looked at the grass on the other side. And it is not that he has not had 'bad patches' in his life either; for life, he says, was never a bed of roses for him.

Ratnadas who began his career as a senior clerk of the then Ceylon Insurance says that the memory of his first day in office is as fresh in his mind today as it was on June 15, 1956.

Today, after he marked 51 years in the same workplace, working for the Kotelawalas ,  this Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Insurance, looks back at his first days as a senior clerk with the equal trepidation that he felt then.

"I was trembling. It was such a scary day," said Ratnadas with a smile. "My boss was the late Senator Justin Kotelawala and he was a majestic character and a firm boss. But despite all these fears I had the confidence and the determination to go on," recalled Ratnadas.

Ratnadas had then received a salary of Rs.120, with allowances  totaling up to Rs.200, which during those times was termed  a 'handsome' salary.

In great fear

The hardworking Ratnadas speaks of the day when he was 15 minutes late to get to office. "We had to come at 8.30 a.m. One day I came in at 8.40 a.m and there was a message from my boss, Senator Justin Kotelawala that he wanted to speak to me. I was so frightened and dialed his number in great fear

"I began with 'Sir, I am sorry, I got a few minutes late.'

"And before I could finish the sentence Senator Kotelawala said: 'Good morning Ratnadas, now why did I call you...?"

"He could not remember why, he told me. He was very charming and nice. But I couldn't help but feel that he had called to check whether I was in office. After that day I always arrived on time," recalled Ratnadas.

"That is how life began. It was always hard work and I performed the duties assigned to me with great dedication. I passed my examinations and as a young man of 26 years, I enjoyed the challenges of life. With my qualifications and background, I knew I could have got a better job anywhere, but I stayed on with Ceylon Insurance. I admired the company for they were the only Sri Lankan company competing with Insurance companies from Britain, India and other lands. Besides competing, Ceylon Insurance was really doing well.." said Ratnadas, his eyes lighting up with memories of the first successes.

Scholarship to Australia

Ratnadas also speaks with great happiness of his days in Australia during a scholarship that he received in 1960. 'I was living with an Australian family and I will always remember their hospitality," said Ratnadas who went on to speak of the work experience that he received at an insurance company in Australia during that time.

S. Ratnadas however was recalled to Sri Lanka with great news - that he was to take over the job as manager of the Marine Department of Ceylon Insurance Company as both the Manager, Tony Fonseka  and the Assistant Manager, Owen Kriekenbeek were leaving the company.

Young Ratnadas thereafter took over the topmost job at the department at that time and had done it to the best of this ability.

He goes on to speak of the bad times for Insurance, when insurance became a monopoly of the state. "In 1964 we were prevented from continuing with the insurance business any further. I remember the bad times of 1964, 1965/1966  and 1967."

Though many were leaving to join places such as the Insurance Corporation, Ratnadas had remained, refusing to abandon the sinking ship of private insurance.  "I will not go" I told myself. "For the day will come when we can do insurance business again..."     Ratnadas  had assured himself.

Education in England

He says that he could not leave the company for he was 'averse' to other places.  And he decided to carry on with the company, come what may. It was around this time that the young  Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala had assumed duties after completing his education in England.

"Senator Justin Kotelawala was very disillusioned at what was happening to a company that he had built with the help of  his friends/co-directors," recalled Ratnadas  "For it was now being taken away from him. Besides, the only high rise building in Colombo at that time - Ceylinco House - was now ready for occupation. But with the mere stroke of a pen (of the government authorities) everything seemed to have come to a standstill.

The Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Insurance went on to speak of a time when there was no business. "Yet the policies had to be paid," he said.  "We were not a bankrupt company for we had huge reserves  in the form of government securities yielding an interest rate of three  and a half percent, but the situation did not permit us to encash these monies," he added.

It was during these hard times that young Ratnadas decided to get married. "I realised that age was catching up on me and I had to get married, be they good times or bad," he quipped.

In 1977, Ratnadas' patience paid. His dreams and hopes were realised for with the change of government, the business of insurance which was the monopoly of the state was liberalised.

A second insurance company

Not only that, in 1980, the government had set up a second insurance business called the National Insurance Corporation, and enlisted the support of the private companies that  had been in insurance before nationalisation. "They were looking for principal agents, and ours was automatically the first choice," said this guru of insurance.

"And it was I who set it up with  the assistance of  my colleagues," said Ratnadas of his pioneering efforts. "And this was how we brought back business to the Ceylinco group. We set up many branches in the island including Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa  and other principal towns in the south to Nuwara Eliya, Badulla etc."  said Ratnadas.

Speaking of the years following 1988, Ratnadas reminisced of how private companies were allowed to function and the re-entry into the business of  insurance again. "I was able to set up Ceylinco Insurance and when we did that we got a licence to do both life and general insurance and quickly set about our business as we had already set up branches islandwide..." said Ratnadas.

"My 51 years with the company had not been without difficulties. Infact, there were difficulties galore. All this was the  result of a pioneering effort and the determination of the people who had stayed on."

"There is no difference between Ceylinco and my life. It has always been so and will always be so," he said firmly. Solomon Ratnadas retires from his 51 year old active career when he steps down from his top post as Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Insurance. He will however continue to work as a director.

Ratnadas' advise to all employees is to be patient, come what may. "Continue with your studies, continue with dedication at your workplace. Be prepared to face challenges. Make sacrifices. Do your work conscientiously, with a genuine effort. Make a genuine effort and make a contribution. Don't expect to get to the top too soon. Do not worry about what the future holds and always remember that loyalty is the keyword," advises Ratnadas.

Ratnadas insists that all employees must contribute to their companies in a meaningful manner for it is only then that they can together reap the rewards of their efforts.

Cricket set to boost tourism

By Kshanika Argent

Tourism in this resplendent island of Sri Lanka has seen better days. Thousands of hotel rooms have been closed, hundreds of hotel employees laid off and hotel and resort occupancy is at an all time low. ˜ Sliver of hope.

As the country is thrown into turmoil over the conflict in the north and east, its struggling tourism industry is in trouble. Yet there seems to be a sliver of hope in the form of cricket - the most unlikely saviour, and it comes at a time when the country's tourism industry needs it most.

According to officials at Sri Lanka Cricket  (SLC), at least 4,000 bookings by British cricket fans and holidaymakers have been made, and more are expected in the coming weeks.

Adding to their woes, hotels in Sri Lanka have been forced to cut prices in an attempt to win back tourists. With bargains on, it seems like a great time to visit. However, to date, most of the visitors to the hotels are locals.

The island has struggled to attract tourists in the aftermath of the tsunami of December 2004, compounded by the escalating violence in the north and east. Some hotels have had to close in the last few months as their occupancy levels had plummeted.

The southern cities of Hikkaduwa and Galle have been reduced to that of ghost towns, and local hoteliers attribute it to the drop in tourist numbers.

Despite foreign countries advising their citizens against travelling to areas in the north and east, tourists still shy away from visiting even other locations. Sri Lanka has also been one of the top sellers for weddings but tour operators and hoteliers are now relying on the upcoming  tour by the England cricket team which would hopefully encourage tourists to return.

Lift sagging figures

SLC officials said that they expect the England tour to lift the sagging tourist arrival figures.

Arrivals from Britain, a major tourism market for Sri Lanka have fallen drastically this year compared to arrivals around the same time last year, according to Tourist Board figures. ’

An official said, "The tour has been split with the One Day Internationals due to take place in October and the tests in December, but the teams and fans will be arriving in mid September and November, respectively." The official also added that this is the first time England is touring Sri Lanka since the 2003-2004 series.

As for the security situation affecting the tour, he said, "The last time England toured we were facing a difficult time but that did not deter the England cricket team or their fans, and this time around we hope for an even bigger crowd of supporters."

SLC has teamed up with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board and will have special counters at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and at the Colombo International Airport, Katunayake, to handle the "Barmy Army," as the English supporters are called.

The English tour, it is hoped, will swell the number of tourists if the current promotional work is a success according to SLC officials.

England will play the one-day leg mostly in the north-central town of Dambulla, which is a  cultural hub with the famous rock fortress of Sigiriya as the backdrop.

The Tests are to be played in Colombo, the southern port city of Galle and the popular hill resort of Kandy.

It will also be the first Test match in Galle since the town was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami.

Diana concert a 'perfect tribute'

The charity memorial concert for Diana, Princess of Wales, was "the most perfect way of remembering her," Princes William and Harry have said.

Prince William told the 63,000-strong crowd at London's Wembley Stadium that his mother would have enjoyed the tribute.

Last Sunday's gig marked the life of Diana, who died in a 1997 Paris car crash, on what would have been her 46th birthday.

Sir Elton John brought the concert to a close after sets by stars including Sir Tom Jones, Take That and Rod Stewart.

Prince William and Prince Harry opened the six-hour show and returned to the stage at the end of Sir Elton's final set, praising the artists for an "incredible evening."

"Thank you to all of you who have come here tonight to celebrate our mother's life," Prince William said.

"For us this has been the most perfect way to remember her, and this is how she would want to be remembered."

Proceeds from the event, broadcast to 140 countries, go to charitable causes favoured by the princess.

Prince William, 25, added that he hoped the show had raised "enough money to make a difference."

The princes later mingled with the stars of the concert at the after-show party at the Wembley Arena.

In a video tribute, ex-South African President Nelson Mandela had earlier praised Princess Diana's "energy, courage and selfless commitment" as he urged the crowd to "support the work that continues in her name."

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-US President Bill Clinton were also among those who recorded video tributes to Diana.

"I think that in William and Harry, the qualities that made Diana special live on," said Blair.

Earlier in the concert Prince Harry paid tribute to fellow soldiers serving in Iraq.

The 22-year-old was due to be deployed in Basra, Iraq, this year, but military commanders decided it was too much of a risk.

"I wish I was there with you. I'm sorry I can't be. But to you and everybody else on operations at the moment, we would both like to say 'stay safe'," he said.

Sir Elton, 60, who famously performed a reworked version of Candle In The Wind at Diana's funeral, opened the concert with a rendition of Your Song, performed in front of a giant photograph of Diana by Mario Testino.

He was followed by '80s stars Duran Duran, who played a trio of songs including Wild Boys - which they dedicated to the princes - and Rio, one of their mother's favourites.

The English National Ballet of which Princess Diana was a patron brought a change of pace to the day - a reminder of the princess's love of ballet, while the theatrical theme continued later with a medley of hits from composer Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Status Quo, Sir Tom Jones, Will Young and Joss Stone all took to the stage in the afternoon.

But rumours that Robbie Williams might join Take That on stage proved unfounded.

Some of Princes William and Harry's favourites followed, including a poignant moment when P Diddy dedicated his track, I'll Be Missing You to the princess.

"Ten years ago, Princess Diana went to a better place," he said. "Today we celebrate her life and I dedicate this song to her."

The evening wrapped up with entertainment from comedian Ricky Gervais, who was forced to improvise when technical problems caused a minor delay to Sir Elton's closing set.

Earlier, Prince Harry had made a joke at the expense of the Extras star, saying: "When William and I first had the idea, we forgot we would end up standing here desperately trying to think of something funny to say.

"We'll leave that to the funny people - and Ricky Gervais."

Simon Cowell, a judge on The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, paid tribute to the princes' efforts in organising the concert.

"You've put on one heck of a show," he told them.

"In years to come, if you ever get tired of running the country, you can come and work for me producing TV shows."


The missionary's horse

There is this guy who had been lost and walking in the desert for about two weeks.

One hot day he sees the home of a missionary.

Tired and weak, he crawls up to the house and collapses on the doorstep.

The missionary finds him and nurses him back to health.

Feeling better, the man asks the missionary for directions to the nearest town.

On his way out through the backdoor, he sees this horse.

He goes back into the house and asks the missionary, "Could I borrow your horse and give it back when I reach the town?"

The missionary says, "Sure but there is a special thing about this horse. You have to say 'Thank God' to make it go and 'Amen' to make it stop."

Not paying much attention, the man says, "Sure, okay."

So he gets on the horse and says,

"Thank God," and the horse starts walking.

Then he says, "Thank God, thank God, " and the horse starts trotting.

Feeling really brave, the man says,

"Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God," and the horse just takes off.

Pretty soon he sees this cliff coming up and he is doing everything he can to make the horse stop.

"Whoa, stop, hold on!!!!"

Finally he remembers, "Amen!!"

The horse stops four inches from the cliff.

The man leans back in the saddle and says, "Thank God." 

The beer festival

After the Great Britain Beer Festival in London, all the brewery presidents decided to go out for a beer.The guy from Corona sits down and says, "Hey Senor, I would like the world's best beer, a Corona." The bartender dusts off a bottle from the shelf and gives it to him.The guy from Budweiser says, "I'd like the best beer in the world. Give me 'The King Of Beers, a Budweiser." The bartender gives him one. The guy from Coors says, "I'd like the only beer made with Rocky Mountain spring water.  Give me a Coors." He gets it. The guy from Guinness sits down and says, "Give me a coke." The bartender is a little taken aback, but gives him what he ordered.The other brewery presidents look over at him and ask, "Why aren't you drinking a Guinness?" The Guinness president replies, "Well, if you guys aren't drinking beer, neither will I." 

 Shortcut to success

My niece overseas is getting married and wants to include some Sri Lankan traditions in her wedding, which is going to be over a period of four days.

So, I get mails and calls to check out certain things. I had to figure out how to incorporate butterflies into their outfits! I don't know if my suggestion is being put into operation, i.e. to have them in the bouquets in between the flowers.

The latest was my sister asking me if she really has to marinate the fruit over a period of time before making the wedding cake. She was really relieved when she heard of my method, since her's sounded so much better, viz. cut up everything using the food processor, mix in all essences and ingredients together and then pop in the oven to bake.

So I can whiz through what normally takes days to do, in a matter of about an hour. Well, it does taste good! Truthful people have told me so.Even the time when there was no brandy in the house, since the Chief Occupant had imbibed it all, and I added Tequila instead, it was good.

It wasn't my fault, you assume certain things are in the liquor cabinet and anyway you have the hassle of buying loads of ingredients for this ruddy cake. Things should be normally in the places they are meant to be. I can't be expected to check everything, for heaven's sake.

Quite exhausting

Then you find out that all the ingredients are not available in one supermarket, since everyone has made their cakes two months earlier (grrr!) and they have run out of supplies. So you have to hotfoot it to the next 'super' and so on. Quite exhausting!

Someone had told her to include preserved pineapple in the cake mixture too. No way, Jose, I said! She even made a mock cake, so my niece could taste and approve of it beforehand. Foreigners like less spices and ginger in the cake, I was informed. Hm! Our Dutch Burgher recipe is very good, I think. A case of under-developed taste buds!

My sister said luckily she took my other niece and bridesmaids along with her, to help choose the wedding dress. She said she didn't want to say a word at the first dress the bride tried on, since she went into raptures over it. She thought it rather ghastly, but kept quiet. The younger sister took one look at her and said, "You look like a puffy, decorated pin cushion!" You know, sisters!

They can get away by saying the most outrageous things. She heaved a sigh of relief when it was immediately cast aside.She had another horrendous and gruelling morning, taking the bridegroom to help choose his suit. Apparently, my brother-in-law took a pressure pill beforehand so he wouldn't lose his cool!

Bohemian type

First of all, the bridegroom being a Bohemian type, turned up in shorts, sandals and a tee shirt. When they pointed out it would be better if he wore shoes and a shirt etc, to try on the suit, he said, "Well, I haven't brought any along with me, have I?"

So before my b.i.l. could blow his top, my sister quickly said, "Oh, I'm sure they'll have them at the shop." So he tries on the coat over the tee shirt and then obviously looks very odd with shorts and sandals. The shop ladies then bring him a shirt so he can fit it on properly, and he starts undressing in front of them!

 My sister grabbed at him and shoved him into a cubicle. The shop lady looks him up and down when he emerges, and says, "It would look better without those, (pointing at the sandals) though I really like them a lot."

Then he views himself from several angles in front of the mirror, and gazes, and gazes.the shop ladies say even a bride has never taken so long to decide. By then, my sister has a splitting headache and glancing nervously at my b.i.l. says brightly, "Why don't we have lunch and think about it?" So they console themselves with a really nice lunch, go back, and after much pondering and gazing, he decides on the very first suit! All this took a mere five hours. He is also under the impression that the bride is wearing red, though actually the bridesmaids are. They want her dress to be a total surprise, so they are keeping mum.

- Honky Tonk Woman

Comparisons and similarities

The first thing you notice about living in Perth or Fremantle is that the people are for the most part very friendly. Much more so than back home where friendship - pardon this cynic - seems to often be doled out in rations depending on either a) what you can do for the person, or b) what it is about you that they like and want to be associated with.

I do not mean to give you the impression that the Australian people are by all means considered a fun loving jovial lot. Both statements (in the last paragraph) are generalisations and I accept them for what they are.

Australians a friendly lot

 But I have observed that there are more people here that are open to the idea of friendship or association with me than there would be back home.

This could be the case for a lot of reasons. Perhaps I think more like they do. Perhaps I have been lucky to find the minority of people who are nice. I hear a lot of stories about people who are not nice after all. Perhaps it is the fact that Fremantle and Perth seem to work like a small village; everyone knows everyone else.

This western half of the country is not a small place. It supplies the nation with food and with the mining that accounts for most of the country's economy. It is bigger in landmass area and size than most of Europe. Yet it has a tiny population in comparision to its size due to the climate and landscape, and most of that population is centred around Perth and the mining towns.

Similar to Colombo

Perhaps it is best to say that Perth and Freo work like Colombo does to an extent. Maybe the gossip network is just as strong. But the moment you meet a new Sri Lankan, they ask questions about your family and relations to try figure out if they are related to you or know someone - anything for a term of reference to start a conversation. People here do not ask who you are related to but they do ask if you know so-and-so once you tell them where you work or study or what you are involved in.

Perhaps the networking here revolves more around what people do or where they live, rather than who they are related to. I have had people ask me if I know so-and-so who goes to Notre Dame. Not very likely mate.

I guess inane questions are to be found all over the world. There is no escaping them.

Somehow connected

But I am serious about the small village syndrome. I could suddenly find that somehow, inescapably, I am connected to my next door neighbour via a friend of a friend of a friend. Not that I am obliged to know them - they can be noisy at times. They keep switching the dishwasher in their kitchen on, when I am ready to go to bed and their kitchen backs on to my bedroom. Who was the wonderful architect who planned that wonder of interior design, I wonder.

Many known people

And it is amazing how news travels, and how fast. I could run into random people in Perth who know me through my partner's mother, who will hail me in the street, remember my name and know every minute detail of my life despite the fact that I only met them once. They get all their news through her. I guess I have been adopted. People in Fremantle know me by sight now and know my life history even if they cannot remember my name. The people who run the two newsagents know me, the travel agent knows me, everyone in a bookstore for miles around definitely knows me and the baristas in Dome are so familiar with me that the moment they see me come through the door they have run my order and started making my hot chocolate. Apparently I am a fixture in Fremantle now.

Made the right choice

But I cannot complain. This is why I chose not to live in Melbourne or Sydney. Sure, there are Sri Lankans there and I am sure they are very happy. But I see no point in taking the chance to live abroad for a while and then choosing to live somewhere where you would inevitably get drawn into a 20,000 member strong diaspora and you would never have a chance of meeting anyone else. And with the gossip and networks, any chance of a private life would be moot. If I wanted to be around Sri Lankans 24/7, I would have stayed at home - a few are all right but I would like to be friends with other nationalities too.

Maybe this is why I chose Perth. Tonight I get on a flight to go to Brisbane before I head for home. I will be away for a month. The number of people that I have only met recently or met once or twice who claim they are going to miss me and have called my house or my cellphone to wish me luck is overwhelming, and I am touched. Hence I thought I would write about them this week.

Friendship is a strange thing. You can make friends in a minute who will be lifelong buddies or you can spend a good part of your life just getting to know someone well enough to consider them a friend. And sometimes someone you never thought would be a friend - merely someone you know, suddenly finds they have more in common with you than they thought - something you could have pointed ages ago - and wants to spend time with you more often. And you take the chance because you can never have too many friends.

Even if as with me, they do end up getting scattered across the world and never even think of emailing you.

     - Marisa Wikramanayake


'The cost of  living is killing us'

Seafarers in  safe hands
in Sri Lanka

Loyalty is the key word 

Cricket set to boost tourism 

Diana concert a
'perfect tribute' 


©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place, Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :