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World Affairs








People surrounded by
garbage, darkness and hunger

Inside that place they call home


More Review Articles...

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008:

With redemption by Jesus the cross
became the sign of Christianity

Champion of the poor

Eighty eight years of hospitality

The gigantic task of making an elephant





By Nirmala Kannangara

The stench is unbearable and the possibility of  a mosquito-borne epidemic is everywhere. To add to their woes, the  rain gods show no mercy to them. This is the real-life situation at the new houses in Henamulla situated at  Madampitiya. The area is  better known as punchi Somaliyawa.

With more than 300 dwellings made out of wood and  gunny sacks the residents are battling to survive on their own  as they have been neglected by the different governments.

Living by the city's  garbage dump and making their living from the garbage, their whole world has become a garbage dump. Not only are the mothers and fathers  eagerly collecting whatever refuse they could  use to  make their lives 'comfortable' at the dump site; but the little ones too have learned to help their parents. The dump  has become the haven for the children. They play on the dump and the rotting  rotten food  that they find are eaten without a second thought. For them, the delicious food  comes from the  garbage.       

Although they are the most suitable segment in the country to receive Samurdi they are deprived of any sort of relief. Despite the garbage and the stench,  they remain happy but their only request is  to have electricity at least to the walkways. The Armor Street Ceylon Electricity Board  however has requested them to bring a letter from a politician from the governing party if they are to be  given lighting to  the pathways. It is disheartening to note that the government departments, which run with the aid of  public money too have become politicized.  

"Earlier Jayantha mahaththaya (referring to a former UNP Colombo Municipal Councilor) gave lights to this watte  (garden) but two years ago it was disconnected and at there is complete darkness in the night. The young girls cannot move around as 'grease yakkas' (devils covered in grease)  try to drag the girls for their pleasure. There are many thieves  and we cannot move out even for a second during night as they steal our pot of rice - our only meal for the day," lamented these innocents.

Meanwhile they further stated that although they complained about the grease yakka and the thieves to the Grandpass Police Station they have so far not yet taken action to apprehend the culprit.

 "Recently I saw someone peep from the roof and when I shouted he ran away.. All the men around us ran behind him but failed to catch him. Later we found out that this grease yakka comes in the nude to drag girls. It is unfortunate that the police who are here for our protection  have so far failed to deploy a constable to ensure our safety. The police ask us to identify  the grease yakka and the thieves.  If we are aware of the identity of the grease yaka and the thieves then we would have not gone to the police,"" they added.     

When The Sunday Leader visited the punchi Somaliyawa last week, the residents  thronged around  the vehicle to find out whether we have arrived with  food and dry rations. But realizing it was not so, not only the elders the little ones  too were disappointed.

According to them when it rains the water from the dump comes into their houses and as their cozy beds are the non cemented floor they are deprived of at least the sleep that they really need. "We only see a fairy tale world in our dreams. But because of the rain we are deprived of having  even a  pleasant dream as we are awake till morning. We keep our children on our laps. Due to this water and garbage entering our hopes we  cannot light the hearth," added the people.

When asked why they failed to tell their grievances to their 'people's representatives' they told The Sunday Leader that they do not know where they live and who represent them in the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

"We see new faces only during the election time. They come to get our votes promising sun and the moon but after the election they vanish," they said.

Adding to their unhappy livelihood is the  present skyrocketing  cost of living which  has pushed them from pillar to post. According to them their small children are now fed with plain tea as the price of a packet of milk powder is unreachable. The boutiques at punchi Somaliyawa sell milk powder in small quantities.

One ounce of milk powder is priced Rs.18 and if they could collect money they buy an ounce for the children. For them with the latest price hike in food their main three meals have now been  reduced to one. "We cannot afford to eat three meals. Each family here comprises  at least five members so with the price increases in  bread, flour, rice and manioc how can we afford to eat three meals. If we want to eat  bread we have to buy at least  two and a half loaves and if it is rice we need  a kilo is needed. It is the same situation with the manioc. Even if we  manage to buy some  wheat flour what could we make with it. To eat rotti how can we buy a coconut? Although we could buy half a coconut, that too  costs  Rs.20. Who can afford to pay Rs.20 for the coconut," they asked.

Their only source of income is either to sell the pieces of firewood that collects from the garbage dump or to do any daily paid job. But as those who offered 'odd' jobs to people have now found it difficult because the employers too have begun to think twice before employing labourers owing to the high expenditure that they themselves have to incur.

Although mosquitoes and flies are everywhere, be it during the day or night, according to these residents, the CMC has never visited this area to spray chemicals  or even tried to take any action to eradicate this menace. "Each house has at least three small children. We are worried about  dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases which we hear are spreading near garbage dumps," they said.

It is their  request that the  mayor, CMC or any other responsible officer construct a proper waste water drainage system as the waste water too has become a nuisance to the residents.

"This becomes worse during rainy season. We are suffering immensely but those who are in the power owing to  our votes are living comfortably. We are waiting to 'greet' the politicians in a 'different' way when they come begging for our vote next time. Unless we teach them a lesson they will not realize their mistakes," they said  angrily.       

These are what these innocent shanty dwellers had to say about their grievances-

Sandeepani who is twelve years old told The Sunday Leader  that she has not eaten any food for the last couple of days as her mother cannot afford to buy bread for them. "I am the eldest of four. Our father left us a few years ago and the only meal what we get is from the school. Today I had some green gram at school. That is the only meal for the day," Sandeepani said.

When asked as to how they manage their hunger little Sandeepani innocently said that they could manage their hunger with water. "We can starve as we are used to this. I do not know the taste of milk and I have never tasted fish, meat or any other good food. Since I do not know its taste I do not like to eat," Sandeepani said.

 Shashikala, Amalez, Renuka, Nazwar were also relating tales of want and starvation. . They spoke of their great need for  Samurdi. "Please give us Samurdi as we are the most eligible people to get this. With  the prices of kerosene oil too at its peak we  do not light a lamp at home and have to in live darkness. Why cannot the government give us a kerosene oil card? Nothing is done to help us but they seem to  serve them selves," they said in disappointment.

Meanwhile S. Mohammed whose child goes to Amzar Maha Muslim Vidyalaya told The Sunday Leader that his child was asked to pay Rs.250  for the National Identity Card (NIC). "Being a government school why did the school asked the children to pay Rs.250 for the NIC. We brought the photos but why ask Rs.250? When I asked for a receipt the school refused and to add to this burden my child was asked to bring Rs.400 for the GCE O/L exam. The school authorities have pointed out that those who do not bring the money will  not be sent for the exam. Is there a regulation as such? I want to clarify this from the Education Ministry," Mohammad said.

It is the responsibility of the government to look after these innocent people who were deprived of Samurdi and other basic facilities that they are entitled to.


Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008:

The final goodbye from Colombo

This is Arthur Clarke, saying goodbye from                  Colombo..' This was the characteristic signing off Sir Arthur C. Clarke used whenever he made a video greeting to an international meeting on some important issue somewhere on the planet.

From disarmament and new communications technologies to space exploration and conservation, he would offer the uniquely Clarkian take on the subject - in his witty, insightful and funny style.

I have worked with and for him for half my life - 21 years - as part of his personal office in Colombo, Sri Lanka (not to be confused with the government-run Arthur C. Clarke Institute which he had nothing to do with). In that time, I helped film a significant number of video greetings to gatherings of the world's movers and shakers.

Some of these were assemblies of sombre men and women in suits at the United Nations, Davos or Pentagon. Sir Arthur would deliberately poke fun at the pomposity and self-importance of these types, in a way that they could still laugh - even at their expense.

Less formal

Other events were less formal, but no less important - glittering gatherings of Hollywood or Silicon Valley professionals - some of who have more 'soft power' worldwide, than military generals or secretary generals. Again, he would challenge the boundaries of imagination of these professionals whose mega-billion industries were built largely on imagination.

In all these and more, Sir Arthur demonstrated another quality - the great economy of words. He hardly spoke for longer than ten minutes, or 600 seconds. The grandmaster of the soundbyte that he was, he knew just how to pack the right mix of power, fun and sense of wonder into each second.

Confined to a wheelchair in Sri Lanka - the country he adopted - in later years due to post-Polio, Sir Arthur used either satellite links or the web to connect to many important scientific, literary and entertainment gatherings in far corners of the planet.

And yes, he did often remind his eager listeners that he invented the communications satellite in his spare time in 1945 - and one of short stories (Dial F for Frankenstein) inspired a British computer scientist to invent the world wide web.

No global witness

When Sir Arthur said his final goodbye from Colombo in the early hours of March 19, at Colombo's Apollo Hospital, there was no global witness. He was in the company of just five people - comprising family and staff.

Aptly, however, the news of his demise went right around the world at the speed of light thanks to the comsat and web. In less than an hour, the world  knew.

And now its the world's turn to say goodbye to its most trusted 'man in the future'. The world remembers, salutes and celebrates his genius, humanity and imagination.

In doing so, many have turned to the last video greeting that Sir Arthur made, just a few days ahead of his 90th birthday, December 16,  2007. This is about how that video was made.

For once, there was no specific invitation from anywhere. But for several weeks running up to his birthday, we had seen considerable media and fan interest on how he feels like completing 90 orbits around the Sun.

So in the last days of November 2007, I suggested to Sir Arthur that we should film a short video message - openly addressed to the whole world, sharing his reflections on turning 90. He liked the idea, and as has been the custom in recent years, asked me to draw up his speaking points.

Dozens of essays

I spent several days going through dozens of his essays and speeches, both published and unpublished. When I had a draft, we worked long and hard on it to get everything just right. I saw how he could still 'Clarkise' any piece of writing, which showed no sign of wear and tear for the 90 orbits.

This was a 'no-budget' production. Sir Arthur's personal photographer Rohan de Silva had done many video greetings using a home video camera, but he and I agreed that this should be done more professionally. I mentioned the idea to our friends at Video Image (Private) Limited, the country's top production company who had filmed with Sir Arthur for so many global TV channels and international clients. They immediately agreed to do it - for free.

We did not have a tele-prompter, but realised the importance of Sir Arthur looking straight at his audience. So in just a couple of days, Brian Ratnasekera of  Video Image improvised a working unit.

I directed the shoot with video image crew on  December 5 2007 at Sir Arthur's home. Allowing several breaks for him to catch his breath, our filming took the better part of that morning.

The filming got off to a bumpy start. First the improvised tele-prompter had some teething problems, but these were quickly sorted. Then, in a very rare moment of disagreement, Sir Arthur said he wanted to be filmed wearing his Nehru suit (which he affectionately called 'My Doctor No suit').

Somewhat wistful

We had already donned him in a colourful bush shirt- and crew and I felt that this was the right attire for a message that was intensely personal and somewhat wistful. The shirt with large prints was far more characteristic of Arthur C. Clarke than any formal suit. At that moment, I was the shoot's director and not his long-standing spokesperson who would be more agreeable with his views and wishes.

A few tense moments passed. Then one of Sir Arthur's valets had a brainwave. Why not don the casual NASA jacket that Sir Arthur often wore when he felt the air conditioning was getting a bit too cold?

That saved our shoot. He compromised, trading Nehru for NASA. Within seconds, he was back to his normal cheerful self. When the shoot got underway, he spoke right to the camera, looking straight at unknown viewers who would watch it for years to come.

Reading text scrolling up on the tele-prompter, he missed out just one word in a text that ran to almost 900. We only needed to do one re-take. That was impressive for a man who had recently had cataract operations in both eyes.

In the end, I knew we had a great piece - one where he looked back at a most remarkable career of our time, and looked forward to what lies in store for humanity.

Over the next two days, my colleagues at TVE Asia Pacific did a simple edit -stringing together the few segments he had filmed with breaks in between. Our IT Specialist Indika Wanniarachchi uploaded it to TVEAP's YouTube channel on December  9, 2007. The next day, Video Image uploaded it to their YouTube channel.

This itself made some international news and and soon became a hit on YouTube.

- By Nalaka Gunawardene


With redemption by Jesus the cross became the sign of Christianity

By Lakshman de Silva

It was about nine o' clock at night (Saturday) when the Blessed Vir-gin, stopped suddenly in a very solitary spot, and looked upwards in an ecstasy of delight, for she beheld the soul of her son Jesus, resplendent with light, surrounded by patriarchs mentioned in the Old Testament. Jesus descended towards her, turned to his companions and presented her to them and said, "Behold Mary my mother." Then he appeared to salute her with a kiss and disappeared. She reverently kissed the ground on which he had stood.

On Sunday morning the glorified body of Jesus rose up, and passed through the hard rock, the earth shook, and an angel entered the sepulcher.

The Blessed Virgin was at this time, gone to venerate the place of his crucifixion. Then Jesus appeared to his holy mother. His body was beautiful, and its beauty was that of a celestial being. Jesus was clothed in a mantle which looked dazzlingly white, as it floated through the air. His open wounds shone brightly.

(From the revelations of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.)

Is this his body, my dear son's

Body he took from me

Body of the sweet babe I nursed

Ever so tenderly?


O what heart rending sight is this,

My Son's battered body!

From head to foot lacerated,

Bloodied and turned ruddy.


Although it rent my heart to see

My son on a cross die,

Herein is a great mystery

That minds cannot untie.


Despite what my son has suffered

And my agony too,

Will there be men  still refusing

Their saving part to do?

Women are the crucial points in all that has occurred in the human family from the beginning of time. The fall of man came from his being given a forbidden fruit to eat by the  first woman, whose name was Eve. The Redemption of man comes from his being given a forbidden fruit to eat - Body and Blood of Jesus - by a woman whose name is Mary.

Adam's wife was the first Eve. The mother of Jesus is the new Eve. Their story, meditated on, believed in, constantly remembered, studied, studied and compared, keeps our minds aline with intelligence, the brilliance, the genius and the insight that are needed in order to know the ways of God with men. Anyone who wriggles out of the scriptural study of the world through "scientific" geography, or astronomy, or paleontology, or with the aid of recently discovered documents "buried in the earth" neither knows why the world was made, when it was made, how it was made, or any of its God intended purpose.

Unless we become as little children, we shall never know the story of the world. Fathers who have sent their sons and daughters to certain places of higher learning in the world know how their minds have been warped, injured, frustrated and darkened by the unbelieving professors who think the Bible is an unimportant book and that their own publication are the last word on the mystery of human life and, indeed the universe.

Mary is the woman whom  God the Father chose to be the mother of his Son who is the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Mary is not God.

But she is the woman whose flesh and blood God chose to assume as his own. Saint John the Evangelist put this strongly, when he said "The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us." Divinity and humanity became one in the womb of  Mary.

The sin of Adam  offended God who is infinite. This offence  had to be removed by an infinite person. That is why Jesus who was God and man saved humanity by his redemption.

The love of the immense God was manifest when in order to redeem man, Jesus underwent a brutal suffering and death. The great film of Mel Gibson based on the Gospels and the revelations of Blessed Anne Catherine Emerich depicted  the passion and death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The film was a great success, as it portrayed in exact detail the sufferings Jesus underwent. Pope John Paul II too, saw that film and he had said when questioned "That was how it was." The Pope also later beatified Anne Catherine Emmerich after the normal process for beatification, until canonization later.

Three days after his passion and death Jesus rose from the dead and appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to apostles Peter, James and John and later to the other apostles. He was with them for forty days on earth and ascended to heaven, to return one day in glory to judge humanity.

The entire set up of the Roman Empire was altered and changed - and enentually Christianised - not because Jesus was reputed to be a deity, for the Romans had plenty of Gods. What changed the Roman Empire was the news that the one Almighty and Eternal God had become man, born of the Virgin Mary, and redeemed fallen humanity by suffering and death on the cross.

Constantine the great emperor was not converted by discussing Christianity with a philosopher. He was converted by seeing a sign in the sky. It was a cross he saw, such as the one, Jesus died on for the love of us. The message was "In this sign thou shall conquer." This is Christianity, and Christianity is the decisive fact of all history.

After the holy sacrifice of the mass the rosary is the greatest prayer. It is like a balm that soothes the mind. Because Jesus and Mary are ever present with those who meditate on their life on earth, with the joyful, the sorrowful and glorious mysteries. History is full of stories of victories, personal problems solved, and the greatest of all salvation gained. Meditation mostly on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary is a sure ticket to heaven.


March 12 marked the 58th death anniversary of the late minister George E. de Silva

Lawyer, Philanthropist, social worker

Champion of the poor

By L.B. Abeyaratne

The fifty eight death anniversary of the late George Edmund de Silva falls on  March 12. He was the third son of the famous ayurvedic physician, who migrated to Nuwara Eliya  from the south in 1870 and set up a lucrative practice in the British era.He owned the "Orange Tree House " at the foot of the Pidurutalagala mountain, with a large garden of roses.. On March 12, 1950 he died from a stroke followed by two heart attacks he suffered while playing at the Peradeniya Golf Course with a few Englishmen friends. He was 71 years of age at the time of his sudden death. He was a very enthusiastic golf and tennis player. His  brother, Lawyer Timothy de Silva was the first Ceylonese golf champion.

George Edmund de Silva was a very prominent politician in the Donoughmore Era of Sri Lanka history .He was a tall, sturdily built, fair,  handsome and jovial man with a constant smile and he immediately  attracted  attention and friendship of all whom he met.He began his career as a journalist. He was a reporter to the Ceylon Independent and later worked in the editorial staff of the then famous Times of Ceylon " He had a brilliant command of the English Language having being tutored by the famous English scholar at Nuwara Eliya, . Henry Young. He entered the Law College, Colombo. Being a pupil of the then famous Lorenz College of Colombo.  He passed the Proctors Final Exam in 1900s and went to Kandy and within a short period he established a very lucrative practice. His  two brothers - Timorthy  and Gregory who migrated to Malayasia were also brilliant lawyers.


The Kandy Bar was at that time dominated by Dutch Burgher lawyers and they resented the entry of the newcomer George and on the first day all other lawyers including a few Kandyan aristocrats walked out of the Bar, but the English Magistrate remained and George won his first case, much to the consternation of those who boycotted the courts.Subsequently, he found it difficult to get a chair in the court house, and he got his valet to bring a chair Thereafter he taught a bitter lesson to the Burghers by marrying Agnes the only daughter of   Paul Ncll, who was the provincial engineer, from the cream of Burgher society.


George was a very keen ballroom dancer and quite adept  in dancing and singing. He met Agnes at many of these parties and subsequently married her in grand style. She was a very kind-hearted lady who championed the cause for franchise for females in the 1930's. George entered politics as a ward member for Katukelle in the Kandy Municipal Council and in 1931 he was elected to the first State Council of Sri Lanka for the Central Province seat, which extended from Dambulla to Nuwara Eliya. He handsomely defeated Sir Gerard Wijekoon and Kandyan Lawyer Albert Godamunne,.' who were prominent persons in country's politics. He was subsequently re-elected and held the Kandy seat for long years. He  was appointed as the minister of health by the then Prime Minister Honourable D.S. Senanayake. He held his portfolio for five years and in the next Parliament he was the first Minister for Industries  and  Fisheries. The cabinet at that time comprised of  only a  dozen ministers.


The racial riots between the Sinhalese and Muslims started at Gampola in 1915 and spread to Kandy and within a few days it spread to all parts of the country except to the north and the east. Many Sinhalese national leaders and professional men from many areas were jailed and some were tried by "Kangaroo Courts' presided over by Justices of Peace, who were mostly senior British Planters.. "The  martial law was enacted and Punjabi troops were brought from India, who harassed the Sinhalese people, irked George very much and it proved to be a watershed in George's political advancement. He fought against the injustices meted out to Sinhala people by Governor Chalmer, and he went to England along with E.W.Perera, another national hero of this era and had this British Governor recalled by making convincing representations to the colonial  secretary. He fought valiantly to save the lives of young  Hewavitharana and D.G. Pedris.He championed the case of the poor peasantry who under feudal lords had to perform Rajakariya, a compulsory form of free Iabour. Due to his efforts the Rajakariya system was abolished and the depressed class citizens got their place and dignity in society. He commenced the Mura-Pola Ela irrigation scheme in Hewaheta and many barren lands were irrigated and paddy and vegetable cultivation commenced in the Kandyan areas.


Even today these farmers are famous for their vegetable and fruit cultivation in this area. As the Minister of Health there are many landmark achievements. He established the first ayurvedic hospital having come from a generation of famous generations of ayurvedic Physcians from Galle, Nuwara Eliya and Matara areas. He established 250 cottage hospitals in rural areas as malaria was rampant at that time .He introduced the system of spraying D.D.T to eradicate malaria-breeding mosquitoes all over the island.

The famous Oxford scholar Dr. Jane Russel, published his autobiography. The President of Sri Lanka at that time, J.R.Jayawardene, who was a very close political associate  of George , In a foreword to this book has stated thus,

" I worked with George E de Silva during the war years in the Ceylon National Congress and came to know him as a patriot and an untiring worker for social and political reform . His death in 1950 deprived Sri Lanka of a man for progressive thinking, for it must be remembered that together with A.E. Goonesinghe, George E de Silva proposed the introduction of universal franchise in 1931 and supported freedom struggle in 1943. George was essentially a man of the people.Although he became the Minister of Health from 1942 to 1947 and President of the Ceylon National Congress on several occasions, he was a man who never lost the ability to feel the articulate heartfelt desires of the common man. His championship of the cause of ayurveda and rural hospitals proved this. I welcome the writing of the biography of this great son of Sri Lanka "

J.R.Jayawardene. President of Sri Lanka. 15. December 1978.

It is recorded that when George E de Silva became the President of the Ceylon National Congress in 1943, before we achieved freedom, J.R.Jayawardene and Dudley Senanayake were the Joint Secretaries. G.C.S. Corea , Sir Edwin Wijeyaratene, A.F.Molamure former Speaker, P.de S Kularatne, and Dr. S.A. Wickramasinghe, D.M. Rajapakse, Neil Hewavitharana were very prominent Congress leaders.

His son Fredrick Edmund de Silva, M.B.I followed his footsteps and not only became the leading criminal lawyer in central province, but also the mayor of Kandy and member of parliament. He was a class-mate of Dudley Senanayake at St. Thomas, College, Mt. Lavinia.Later he was Sri Lanka's Ambassador in France and  the Director of UNESCO in Paris. At the time  of his death he was The Chancellor of the Peradeniya University, founded by his founded  only son is Sir Desmond de Silva, Q.C; world

He moved a motion in the State Council for the establishment of a Ceylonese Bank to help the indigenous entrepreneurs. This was opposed by the Englishmen who had their own banks. He went to England and got the approval of the colonial secretary and the Bank of Ceylon was established. His photograph should he hung in the bank premises an acknowledgment of his endeavour. As the Mayor of Kandy for nearly a decade he did yeomen service to the rate payers like the inauguration of a pipe-born water supply scheme, improvement to the Kandy Lake and Wace Park. Providing benches to people sit round the bund, the Deiyannewela model tenements housing scheme with a school, and playground.


 The Watapuluwa middle class housing scheme was designed by his daughter the first lady architect of Sri Lanka who worked with world renowned architect Patric Abeycoomhie who designed the Peradeniya University, mooted by George in the Parliament. When he was the minister of health the new Kandy  hospital was built. It is one of the best  hospitals today in the island.

George E.de Silva died a poor man. His tea estate in Kandy was sold on a mortgage and once he was the co-owner of the largest coconut estate in Sri Lanka. He had a palatial bungalow overlooking the Hantane Range and the Dumhara Valley. All his wealth was spent to help the poor people . He gave a helping hand to many poor students and looked after his enemies at times of distress. His  worst enemy in the Kandy Bar was Cox Sproule a leading Burgher lawyer.  He spoke against British excesses during the Martial Law and he was arrested and detained at Diyatalawa Camp to be shot dead. His wife came and fell at George's feet. It was a remarkable day for George to travel to Diyatalawa in the height of martial law and get the release of his enemy by forcefully arguing the case

.N.E. Weerasuriya Q.C the famous Kandyan lawyer, writing of George commented, "

"But then George E.de Silva's career was unique not only for his professional success and his political career, but also because he was a symbol of new Ceylon, despising and attempting to overcome caste oppression mindful of Lord Buddha's. message, It is not by birth that a man becomes an outcast.'

It is not by birth that a man becomes a Brahmin,

It is a man's character, that makes him an outcast.

It is a man's character that makes him a Brahmin.

When one enters the Kandy city one can see  the memory statue erected  by the grateful people of Kandy at the George E. de Silva Park, as a fitting tribute to the selfless service he rendered for five decades.

"In this monument, as in the hearts of the people for whom he lived and laboured, the name of George E.de Silva is enshrined.  Born 8.6.1879.Died 12.3.1950.


Eighty eight years of hospitality

By Ranee Mohamed

Kotara C. Kuttan,  living with the  Galle Face Green on one side and  the deep  Blue sea on the other has watched the years fly by. He has felt the winds of change touch his face, wrinkling it - touch his life, transforming it and touch his career and fanning it with comfort and a sense of luxury.

"In those days I was a waiter. The year was 1942 and I joined the Galle Face  hotel in April. The managers were foreign nationals. There were Englishmen, Frenchmen and Italians working in this hotel as managers and chefs. My job was to serve the guests. In those days there were no Sri Lankan guests  in this hotel, nor were there any Asians," recalled Kuttan who now has a comparatively  relaxing job at this hotel  by the beach.

"I remember the regular orders in those times as toast, butter and eggs to order for breakfast. Buffets were unheard of.  There were grand dances in the hotel twice a week and the different groups that came ordered foods of their choice. The popular dishes were lamb chops and chicken Lanka, which is a dish of chicken coated with cheese and fried or baked. A bottle of beer at the hotel  was  then  priced at Rs.2.80," said Kuttan whose palms automatically join together in the traditional ayubowan at the memory of the many guests he has served.  It is a side-effect of the years of 'welcome.'

No rice and curry

"We did not serve rice and curry at the Galle Face Hotel in that era. Rice and curry was cooked for the employees but never served to the guests. In those days I ate as much as possible. Not only did we eat the rice and curry but also the sandwiches that the guests ordered and left behind - the sandwiches were out-of-this world  - made with egg, chicken and cheese," remembered Kuttan gleefully.

But after having celebrated an 88th birthday on February 15 this year, Kuttan says that the time has now come to cut down his food, and keep a tab on his blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

"This is why I treasure the days gone by, we could eat as much as we wanted and bask in the empty spaces in the city. There was greenery on  Galle Face Green for as far as the eye could reach. In the morning the majestic race-horses  were brought to the Galle Face green and in the evening it was filled with people. Simple folk and their children would gather on Galle Face Green till about 9 p.m. A few gram sellers came here too with their bundles of  papers to be made into a  gotta  (paper cone) to serve the gram. The ice cream sellers pushed their small carts into the green. They rarely made a noise except for their muted honking," said Kuttan.

Kuttan who started work at the Galle Face Hotel for a salary of Rs.20 per month now earns over 500 times his original  salary. To him the grass has never appeared greener on the other side and says that he has never once tried to 'better his prospects' or look for another job the way employees in these modern times do. Welcoming guests

"I have been happy at my job here at Galle Face Hotel. I am not a waiter anymore but have the less tiresome job of waiting at the entrance and welcoming guests," said Kuttan his face wrinkling into a smile at the mere mention  word 'welcome.'

Having known the present Chairman Sanjiv Gardiner since the time he was born, Kuttan says that he was working for  Cyril Gardiner, the then Chairman for a long time. "This family has been so kind to me. Chairman Cyril Gardiner and his wife treated me with much kindness, they looked after me when I was ill,  they made me feel treasured. And it is so with the present Chairman who came in here as a toddler. Today I get the identical kindness and treatment from this young couple. His wife never leaves the hotel without  inquiring into my well being," said the oldest employee Kuttan.

As this oldest hotel tries to remain untouched by modernisation, luxury and comfort seem  to have become guests who have come to stay. "Then we had one restaurant today we have several. Then, we did not have weddings in this hotel, today there is rarely a day when we do not have one, but several weddings in this hotel,' compares Kuttan.

"I have served Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten, Colonel Gadaffi, Prince Agha Khan  and the Maharani of Baroda," says Kuttan and goes on to add that these were but a few of the world famous guests he had personally served.

No traffic jams

Senior citizen Kuttan blinks his tired eyes and says that he is moved by the changes around his work place. "In those days there was no security, there were no traffic jams because there were no cars, there were only about 100 cars in and around Colombo. Today, one can't get out of the hotel without bumping into a car that is parked around," smiled Kuttan.

"In those days I lived around the Liberty Plaza. The only difference is that there was no Liberty Plaza then, it was an open space where the under privileged people lived;  and I lived there for 53 years, till I had to leave," said Kuttan who now lives in Maligawatte.

With over 66  years of service, Kuttan is perhaps the oldest employee in the city of Colombo. "I have no regrets. I am glad I stayed here and if I have to live my life again, it will certainly be another lifetime in this hotel by the beach and the Galle Face Green," said Kuttan.

 "I look at my life this way. My father was a paddy farmer who toiled in the mud and the scorching sun for his living;   and I  his son spent the  whole of my life  amidst the old  grandeur, comfort  and good food at this hotel by the sea," said Kuttan happy and contented about the way he lived his life.

Galle Face to have a Cannon Ball! 

The Galle Face Hotel will have a unique event that will relive a happening in 1840.  The Cannonball Run  which will held  on Thursday, March 27 this year will see a member of the British High Commission and the American Enbassy race on the Galle Face Green (beach side  road)  to touch the 'cannonball.'

During the 1840s Galle Face Green was used as the practicing ground for the British Royal Artillery Company (the Ceylon Gun Lascars) Accidentally on a practice run, a 30lb cannonball had struck against a masonry bridge on the seaside road and then gone completely off course, hurtling its way through the roof the Galle Face Boarding House (now the Galle Face Hotel) thundering through the ceiling and finally rolling down into the drawing room, leaving its solid indentation in the brick and chunam floor. The boarders sleeping comfortably in their bedrooms had been woken up by the enormous kafuffle and had been greeted by the sight of  an unexpected cannonball in their midst which had quietly rolled under a chair and remained there until the British Governor, Sir Colin Campbell had arrived to inspect this incredible cannonball.

"Thursday's event is inspired by our Chairman Sanjiv Gardiner. The two people chosen  will  race against each other from the original cannon perched on the Galle Face Green to the Hotel and the first to touch the cannonball will be honoured as Champion of the Cannonball Run," explained Director Operations, Harsha Thavarapperuma and Director General  and Manager, Rajiv Khanna.

The event will be held amidst much pomp and  pageantry and the race will be a unique one considering the ceremony attached to it. The first of the Canon ball Run was held last year and the current Champion of the Cannonball run is interestingly a Journalist from Fleet Street.


Kasun Wickramasinghe on

The gigantic task of making an elephant

By Risidra Mendis

He was a majestic tusker of the Gangaramaya Temple and one who had the rare privilege of carrying the sacred Karanduwa at the Sri Dalada Maligawa during the annual Kandy Perahera.

Ruwan Raja also known as Dala Kota's presence at the Gangarama temple was the attraction of the many devotees visiting the temple and even foreigners. But as time went by Ruwan Raja developed a skin cancer and died in 2003.

He was buried like any other animal but remained in the memories of many who had the chance of seeing this majestic tusker at the temple and at the Vihara Maha Devi Park.

But today this much loved animal can be once again seen in the premises of the Gangarama Temple. Ruwan Raja was not reborn but thanks to the creativity and expertise of a young talented boy, Ruwan Raja was brought back to life in another form. A true to life size structure of the tusker was created by Kasun Wickramasinghe using the tusker's pair of tusks and his skull in July 2007.

Kasun's talent of experimenting with various objects began when he was just seven years old. In 1994, by using cardboard and aluminium Kasun made structures of buses and train engines.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Kasun said he used to first observe the structures of train engines and buses to get an idea of the shape and size. "I studied photos of buses and train engines and then started experimenting," Kasun explained. His mission was successful and Kasun continued to experiment with various other objects. The following year Kasun created sculptures of elephants and in 1999 started making structures of the remaining 20 tuskers in the country.

"At different stages in my life I get a craze to experiment and create various objects. I love elephants and the thought of creating an elephant structure out of cement crossed my mind. I experimented with cement and realised that I didn't have enough time to mould the structure of the tusker as the cement was drying up fast. Then I decided to mix wood pieces to prevent the cement from drying up soon," Kasun added.

In 2000 came the stone carving craze. Kasun started carving figures and designs out of soap. "Once I got the idea of how to carve designs on soap I experimented with stone," Kasun added. Another mission was accomplished when Kasun was successful in carving the seated posture of Lord Buddha out of stone.   

From 1999 to 2006 was the pandol craze. Kasun started designing and creating Wesak pandols. He took a break from designing pandols when he had to sit for his A/L examination. In 2007 his creativity craze turned once again towards tuskers. His talent of creating tuskers out of cement and wood pieces took a new turn when he took up the challenge of creating a life size structure of Ruwan Raja.

"Whenever I passed the Vihara Maha Devi Park and saw Ruwan Raja I used to stop and look at him. Then one day I found out that this majestic tusker had died. My idea of creating a life size structure of Ruwan Raja was only a dream at the time. But I thought I would give it a try and approached  Podi Hamuduruwo at the Gangarama temple. He agreed and I took on the task," Kasun said.

Ruwan Raja was brought to the Gangarama temple in 1996. The tusker grew to a height of around 11 feet and carried the sacred casket in the Gangarama, Kelaniya, Bellanvila and Kataragama peraheras.

In December 2006 Kasun started on his much awaited dream of bringing Ruwan Raja back to life in the form of a cement structure. Kasun first built a three foot foundation to support the tusker's structure. "I erected four breams for the four legs of the tusker and worked around this structure. Once the structure was complete I used a net to cover the structure and plastered cement on top. Artificial hair and a few natural hairs taken from Ruwan Raja's body were fixed on the body structure before the cement dried. Ven.Galaboda Gnanissara sThero (Podi Hamuduruwo) gave me some photos of Ruwan Raja, and his trunk was painted according to his natural colour. Ruwan Raja's life like form was completed in July 2007," Kasun explained.

Working on the structure was not an easy task for Kasun who was 19 years at the time and was to sit for his A/Ls that year. "I worked from 6 p.m to 12 midnight every day. My friends Sajeewa, Udara, Nalin Gamage, Asoka, Thilanka, Deepankara, Indrajith, Asiri, Maduranga, Danushka and Uditha Weerasinghe helped me with this task. Ranjith Susantha Rathnayake helped me to mix the cement," Kasun said. The mission of Ruwan Raja was accomplished and Kasun passed his A/Ls as well.

According to Kasun the Diyawadana Nilame has requested him to build a structure of the Dalada Maligawa tusker Raja. "Raja died in 1988. I agreed to build Raja's structure but have to complete it by July as I hope to leave for Japan on a scholarship to study sculpture for two years. There is no scope for a person interested in sculpture in Sri Lanka. Artistes who create sculptures are known as mason basses in the country," Kasun said.    

Kasun is an old boy of Ananda and Nalanda Colleges. His future dream is to study sculpture in Japan and be a successful and qualified sculptor in Sri Lanka. 


Great memories of the big match

So now the Big Match season is here. This is one of the rare occasions when I think it's a good thing that Caveman has no time to indulge in such a frivolous activity that would eat into valuable golf time! So whilst some of my friends are wondering in what state their husbands or offspring would return after this historic event, I can smugly think that I have no such worries.

I remember when I was in school, the greatest thrill was to own one of those woolly gollies that was made of the colours of the college that one supported. As we grew older, we had learned to make them ourselves! We would daringly wear them on our school ties, and the teachers would pretend to be blind and not see them. As the match drew near, we would have visits from groups of boys asking for donations. When my dad asked what they needed this money for, they would blandly reply," Uncle, we need it for our food and stuff at the match." As if! Then he would hand over the money saying, "Now don't go and drink with this!" And those innocent darlings would open their eyes wide and say, "No, uncle." As if the very thought shocked them.

Then we would be waiting anxiously for the day of the parade. We would pretend that we couldn't care less, but of course would be in the vicinity to watch. On the way to school, vehicles would drive past us sporting flags of the different schools. Some girls would be going to the match with their parents and it went without saying that attendance that day would be very low.

In fact, some of our teachers too wouldn't come to school. It got so bad that our Sister Principal would say that we had to bring medicals if we were absent. Once, because of this, some of my friends had brought along a transistor radio and an understanding teacher had told them they could have one period off so they could listen to the commentaries. Of course, a nun saw them huddled over it and she was sooo scandalized at this very bad behaviour. After launching into an absolute tirade, she promptly burst into tears, and they felt really awful. To this day they talk about this episode to show how intolerant some of the nuns were.

Girls who had boyfriends in these schools would instruct them to come by in one of the trucks/lorries that they drove around Colombo in between watching the match. The timing would be such that either a lenient teacher or one who couldn't control the whole crowd of us would be in class at that time. Of course, they were instructed on pain of death not to mention the girlfriend's name, or she would get into hot water. So, we would await their arrival with breathless anticipation. The minute we heard them, we would run to the windows, with the attending teacher trying to calm us in vain. What a thrill it was! We would precariously lean over and out of the windows, trying to recognize the boys in the vehicle.

When we had our Irish Sister Principal, once the boys ran into school, shouting and waving their flags wildly. She came out, clapped her hands and briskly said, "Ok now, boys, you've had your fun. Now it's time to go, please!" And they meekly left! Then she walked back into her office murmuring, "Boys will be boys!" The Sri Lankan Sister who was the next Principal, called up the police immediately on a later occasion and told the boys they were on their way. The gates were locked after they ran off. So sadly, we had to accept we wouldn't have any more unannounced visitations! Then we had to look out for them when they passed our homes. Once, a bold friend of mine grabbed a flag from one of the boys and ran indoors. The entire truckload of guys jumped off and ran right into her house! She was severely told off by her mum. Thankfully her dad was not at home!

This year apparently although one match was a wash out, it was great fun for the spectators who slid along happily in the mud getting all wet and grubby! Not to mention the guy with his pants round his ankles having an earnest conversation with the security before deciding to pull them on again!

- Honky Tonk Woman


Sitting on the shelf date

Let me quote a fantasy fic-tion author called Terry Pratchett: "The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space .... The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass;" It turned out that there was another phase of my existence that I wasn't aware of. I discovered it only a few days ago.

St. Theresa's Library at The University of Notre Dame, though to all intents and purposes a library, is still not my most favourite place to hang around in. Nevertheless, should internet access in my flat cease to exist for whatever reason or should I need to scout around for as many books as I can carry out of there on whatever I am researching - that is where you will find me.

At least in person anyway - tucked away at the back, hidden curled up for warmth in a chair in front of a slow but somewhat more private than normal monitor. Perhaps I am just surfing, downloading additions to a game, typing out these articles, freaking out about my deadlines for assignments and papers but that's where you'll find me behind the stacks dedicated for the short term future - at least to the History books.

Intense research

But now in a few weeks time you might be able to find me in another form somewhere. It's a tenous connection but nevertheless a funny one.

A few days ago, having piled high everything I could pull off the shelves to do with the Industrial Revolution, I staggered over to the main desk to check everything out. The head librarian  saw me coming and grinned - I guess the sight of me carrying piles of books out of the library is a common one. The problem is usually in returning them because I invariably fail to find them. They sometimes fall off the bed and get kicked under it, occasionally the cat sits on them and refuses to move and sometimes they get accidentally shoved into bags or onto the bookshelf which is a law unto itself no matter how many times I try to organise it. I am the kind of person who is generally thrilled to find out that being an Honours student now means I can take a total of 25 books out of the library as opposed to 12 books which was my undergraduate student limit. I am the kind of person who will read non fiction, text books and books intended for research purposes as bedtime reading should I need to write a paper and sometimes even when I am not enrolled in any classes at all. In fact the last thing I read that wasn't related to Honours work was a Phantom comic and that took all of two minutes to get through.

Mini thesis

And so I was excited to find a lot of stuff that might potentially be both interesting and helpful for the mini thesis I had to write on the Industrial Revolution. I passed over my student card and the head librarian tried to scan the barcode to start the process of checking out the books under my name.

"That's odd." "What?" Immediate panic hits me. Have I forgotten to return something? Do I have a fine? Where did I put all those books I borrowed. I have to renew them. I need them for my main thesis topic. All these thoughts rushed through my head. "What's wrong?" "It's the barcode - the computer is telling me that according to the barcode, YOU are a book." I had to smile at this - quite a few people used to tell me that I was a walking, talking encyclopedia - this would be their confirmation.


Apparently there had been an issue where barcodes for students and patrons were overlapping with new barcodes for books in the way the barcodes themselves were formatted in the databases. And that was what was happening with me at the moment. It was resolved and I was about to leave when the friend with me thought to ask the question that I hadn't bothered to even think of.

"So what's the book? What book is it?"

I turned out to be Emergency and Acute Medicine, the fifth edition, published in 2006, 21 centimetres thick with 507 pages, and my status as listed on the database was specifically : "Not For Loan."


I am glad I am not for loan - I certainly would rather sit on the shelf and have a chat to Evaluating Remedial Therapy and Dyspepsia: A History Of than be kicked under the bed or sat on by the cat. I am not even a medical student - perhaps I have been spending way too much time in the library.

- Marisa Wikramanayake



Beer is better than women because...

Beer stains wash out. HANGOVERS go away.

Beer labels come off without a fight.

A beer won't get upset if you come home with beer on your breath.

A beer ALWAYS goes down easy.

When your beer is gone, you just pop another.

Beer looks the same in the morning.

Beer doesn't worry about waking the kids.

Beer doesn't go crazy once a month.

Beer labels don't go out of style every year.

Beer doesn't have cold hands/feet.

Beer doesn't demand equality.

Beer doesn't have a lawyer.

Big, fat beers are nice to have.

Beer doesn't live with its mother.

A beer will never buy a car with automatic transmission.


Female stress diet

This is a specially formulated diet, designed to help you cope

with the stress that builds up during the day:


1 grapefruit

1 slice whole wheat toast

1 cup skim milk


Small portion lean, steamed chicken with a

cup of spinach

1 cup herbal tea

1 chocolate biscuit

Afternoon tea

The rest of the chocolate biscuits in the packet

1 tub of Rocky Road ice cream with Choc-ice topping

1 jar nutella


4 bottles of red wine

2 loaves garlic bread

1 family size supreme pizza

Late night snack

Whole frozen Sara Lee cheesecake (eaten

directly from freezer)


1. If no-one sees you eat something, it has no calories

2. When drinking a diet-coke with a chocolate bar, the fat in the chocolate bar is cancelled out by the diet-coke.

3.   When you eat with someone else, calories don't count if you do not eat more than they do.

4.    Food used for medicinal purposes does NOT count. (for example: chocolate, toast, cheesecake and vodka)

5.     If you fatten up the people around you, you will look thinner.

6.  Cinema-related foods have a zero calorie count as they are part of the entertainment package and not counted as food intake. (this includes: popcorn, minties, maltesers, jaffas and frozen cokes)

7.    Biscuit pieces have no calories because breaking the biscuits up causes calorie leakage.

8.    Food licked from knives and spoons has no fat if you are in the process of cooking something.

9.    Foods that are the same colour have the same amount of fat. Examples are: spinach and peppermint ice-cream, apples and red jelly snakes.

10.  Anything eaten while standing has no calories due to gravity and the density of calorie mass.

11.  Food consumed from someone else's plate has no fat as it rightfully belongs to the other person and the fat will cling to his/her plate. And remember:

STRESSED spelled backwards is  DESSERTS


A cannibal and his son

A cannibal and his son are going to look for food. They hide behind some bushes and wait for someone to come by. After a few minutes, a skinny man comes by. The son says "How about him, dad?" "No," says the father, "he's too skinny."A short time later, a fat man wanders by. "What about that guy, dad?" asks the son. "Too much cholesterol."A little later, a pretty, 20 year old lady walks by. The son asks, "Dad, how about her?" The father replies "Yes! Let's take her home and eat your mother!"


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