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Magical moments

Ronald de Alwis: Changing the colours

By Ranee Mohamed 

We are constantly looking for some magic in our lives. Happily, I found mine down Jambugasmulla Road, Nugegoda.

Lt. Col. Ronald de Alwis was a change from the many magicians I have encountered at parties and gatherings. It was not just the private show that he had for us that impressed me, but his ability to turn old pieces of plain coloured paper into U.S. dollars before my eyes. What he did thereafter were million dollar questions to me.

Producing coins from the palm of his hand, Ron changed the colour of ropes and produced a white dove from a piece of white paper that he carelessly flung into his empty hat…

It is not that I have not seen any magic in my life. But Ron’s magic was different. At this  first viewing, we thought  he seemed to have some supernatural powers.

There were no tell a tale signs. His chic long sleeved black shirt made him look slimmer, and there was not a chance that he had bundled up rope, doves and dollars inside.

Things up their sleeves

We all know that magicians have more things up their sleeves than the average man; so my eyes remained transfixed on his sleeves. But nothing crept out from there....

From where he got the rabbit on his body and how he got the dove into his hat are mysteries that even the most hawk eyed investigative journalist will never be able to unravel.

With his own ‘magic cupboard’ filled with magic ‘items’ de Alwis says that he enjoys passing on the magic — teaching magic to those who want to learn.

“I had my first magic show in 1947 when I was 12 years old,” said Ronald de Alwis, who is the son of the founder of the Sri Lanka Magic Circle Linden de Alwis of the old school. Not only did maestro of magic Linden de Alwis begin the Sri Lanka Magic Circle in 1922 along with his brother Gate Mudliyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekera and five others, but also enticed his own son with his magical talent. “I assisted my dad since I was six years old.”

Ron de Alwis was born into a world of magic for his mother Beatrice Senanayake too had performed magic for a short while in the mid 1930s.

But Ronald de Alwis did not live by magic alone. Having joined the army in 1965, Magician Ron is also Lt. Col. Ronald de Alwis. He has a fine blending — that of an officer and a magician par excellence. “After I left university I had a great desire to join the forces.  I could not join the police and it was in the army that I finally found solace,” said de Alwis speaking with great pride of his 2 slasc regiment.

Magic can change lives

But along with his career in the army continued his magic. “Magic can change lives. It is entertainment that will be remembered by both adults and children alike. Magic brings laughter, it brings joy and smiles,” he said.

“This is why I want to take my magic to the refugee camps, to the orphanages and to the displaced people,” said de Alwis who had rushed with his magic to the tsunami camps during that time. It was the best he could do — change the sadness in the human heart with his touch of magic.

When asked about the cost of a show, Ronald said that he does not perform with a profit motive but needs some money for his expenses.

 With sexually active rabbits and guinea pigs studding his garden and doves and dogs sleeping  in his compound, Ronald de Alwis obviously had a growing number of mouths to feed.

“I understand the feelings of children who watch a magic show. They all want a magic show at their own birthday party. One day a father whose son had been pleading with him to get a magician for his birthday came to me and asked me how much I needed to perform. I did not have the heart to refuse him and his little son and I told them that I will come and perform and that they can pay me whatever they can.

A lovely party

“When I went to the party, I discovered that it was a lovely party and that it was given solely to make their little son happy, amidst many a hardship.”

But even magic cannot change the sadness brought in by poverty and hardship.

As the show continued the little ones and the adults alike had applauded. It was a great audience whose lives Ron had momentarily changed.

“At the end of the show they asked me how much they ought to pay me, and I told them that the show was the birthday present from me, and I walked out,” said Ronald de Alwis, recalling the tears in the eyes of the grateful parents.

One day Ron de Alwis had bumped into a lady who was 37 years of age. “She recognised me, asked me whether I was the magician who had performed 30 years ago. She gave me the venue and details of every item that I performed at that time,” said de Alwis in awe. A child’s heart absorbs moments of happiness, holds and cherishes such special feelings of joy, down the years; this was a fact that Ronald de Alwis had found out down the years.

A magical moment

Ronald de Alwis whose whole life centres around magic said that his truly magical moment was when he met his wife Rani, who was in the University of Ceylon with him.

Sometimes a handful of people we meet in our lives bring in a moment of magic, and Ronald de Alwis has played this role of real life magician in the lives of many unfortunate and underprivileged people. With his visits to refugee camps and underprivileged areas, Ronald de Alwis has not avenged his quest for seeing a light in the eyes of the hopeless.

Having joined the Sri Lanka Magic Circle which was founded by his father Linden De Alwis who was called Prof. Dalvo, Ron competed in the first ever magic contest at the Vihara Maha Devi Exhibition held during the Queen’s visit in 1952. The contest had been organised by the famous entertainer Donovan Andree and Ron was placed second in the junior level and his father had been awarded the ‘seniors’ award.

Being an active member of the Magic Circle since 1952, Ron won the Magician of the Year contest in 1962 for the coveted Gate Mudaliyar ACGS Amarasekera Challenge shield which is being held to date.


Ronald de Alwis became the president of the Sri Lanka Magic Circle in 2001 after the demise of the second President Ranapala Bodinagoda.

“I had to give up my position in 2004 to pave the way for others but had to take over the reins again in 2007,” said de Alwis who is the current president and engrossed in the setting up of a building for the Sri Lanka Magic Circle.

Magician Ron De Alwis has not only served his land, both as an officer and a gentleman but was also honoured for another great contribution — The Kala Bushana Award in 2005 by the Cultural Ministry for his services in the field of magic.

Having performed in Malaysia, Maldives and in London, Magician Ron is today looking for sponsors who will help him to take magic to the north east, and to the IDPs.

Doing product promotions, Magician Ron can sometimes materialise biscuits, chocolates and other goodies — to an audience, who alas, is hungry for more magic.

Majestic City — that famous hangout

A view of the Majestic City

By Piyumi Buddhakorala

Where can you go if you are in need of a genuine Rolex? The latest computer? Perhaps a pair of jeans? Maybe to watch a movie? Possibly to withdraw some cash at an ATM? Or even to buy your loved ones that amazing perfume they were ranting about?  

The Majestic City (MC) does indeed live up to its name. As a shopping complex it has anything and everything you need — from cinemas to stationery to clothes. It’s a one stop shop that you will find right by Galle Road in Bambalapitiya. For a student in the midst of her university career as myself, MC is as old as time. For as long as I can remember, my shoes — be it for school or for parties — clothes and toys were purchased from the MC.  

Every year, it attracts people of all ages and groups for various reasons.  

Dilshan and Kanishka are two young boys I found seated by the entrance. When asked of their presence at the mall they stated that after much time spent with their girlfriends, a good male bonding session was what they were in need of, and MC was exactly the place that could offer it. 

People wandering

You will find many people in twos, threes and some times even tens wandering around the mall. Some, you will find at a computer store, trying to buy a flash drive that is ever so necessary in today’s day and age, others at a phone shop with the beautifully lit up phones on display, trying and failing to strike a bargain for that exact phone they saw Rihanna holding in her music video on MTV. 

You will also find the solitary wanderers leaning on the railings and some others seated by the fountain. After much observation I found that they do not budge from there for at least an hour. Some prefer to stay up and look down and the others, to stay down and look up! I suppose the view that is on is quite entertaining! 

I walked into one of many watch stores at the MC — this particular one being,  the Best Buy. After speaking to one of the shop assistants I learned that they were able to sell as many as 10 watches daily. Some were priced between 10,000 and 15,000!

A variety of cosmetics 

On entering Janet, I found that there was a variety of cosmetics on offer, ranging from different shades of lipstick to endless flavours of creams and body scrubs. The assistant stood up as I entered, and when asked about her working environment, politely refused to answer any questions.

Making my way to the fourth floor, I found that the movie in line at the cinema is Watchmen. The ticketing guy informs me that MC mostly offers English movies as it usually caters to a ‘specific crowd.’ The occasional full house for other languages will be due to movies such as Dancing Star or Om Shanti Om.

He adds that popular movies such as Spiderman and Hulk draw a large number of people resulting in a full house in the first four days at the least.

The Food Court

After much observation I decide to find my way to the Food Court at the MC which has on offer tasty food for the tired customers to relax and have a good meal. It was a typical lunch hour time — 1.30 p.m. It was absolutely crowded. Even with so many tables I had to walk around for about two minutes before I could find myself a seat.

I ordered my usual chocolate milkshake from The Hub and went over to the Orient Express to get my meal. After placing my order I spoke to one of the staffers and found that the MC today does not attract much of a crowd. Oddly enough, I was told that while the war in the north was ongoing, the Food Court attracted a much larger crowd. 

Apart from the Orient, there are various other outlets that offer a wide variety of food, including Peppers, which is a favourite among Italian lovers. 7 to 7, Thai Express and the ever famous smoothie shop Roots are some of the others. 

Having finished my meal I resumed my wandering; but not before stepping into the ladies room. It’s been some time since the MC began charging customers in order to empty their bladders and what not. I decided to strike up a conversation with the lady issuing the Rs.10 ticket for the toilets. She told me the management  had decided to charge a fee for the use of the toilets, to buy the necessary cleaning chemicals which are used for the toilets five to six times a day and also pay an allowance of Rs. 250 a month to the attendant from the collection. 

Children’s paradise

I continued my wanderings  after paying for what could be done at home for free and peered into the Wonder World — any Sri Lankan child’s paradise. It had children from the ages of three to eight running around, driving various toy cars or jumping up on the bouncer.

If you look on the sides, you will find their mothers seated in corners, waiting ever so patiently for their kids to be done with their ‘happy hour’ while munching pop corn, creating yet another theatre like scene. 

At the ground floor I came across a foreign looking young man standing outside Odel. Tom happened to be a British national down on holiday with his family in Sri Lanka for the second time around. When asked to rate MC he gave it an eight out of ten! He suggested that more natural lighting could be used in order to make it an all out 10. When asked about the prices he stated that things were reasonably priced — neither absurdly expensive nor ridiculously cheap. 

To everyone’s liking

Majestic City caters to every taste. It attracts all sorts of people and any ordinary Sri Lankan, having spent more than two hours there is sure to run into someone he knows. It is the common ‘hang out’ spot that almost everyone goes to at some time of the year.  

We need more malls like the MC in this country. It may help the local economy and bring together people of different backgrounds. It will also accommodate a large number of shops and prevent unsightly tiny shops springing up all over the place and make it more centralised and a better shopping experience for the consumer. Shopping of course is a must, not just in a girl’s books but also for the average city dweller. Having such complexes in abundance would not hurt anyone!

The late V. Nalliah: Sate Councillor and Parliamentarian 1943-1956 -- Centenary Anniversary

V. Nalliah

A grateful people remember

By Sankaran Kasynathan  

Many in Batticaloa will note this month the centenary of the birth on July 1, 1909 of V. Nalliah who represented Trincomalee-Batticaloa in the State Council from 1943, and Kalkudah in Parliament till 1956. Batticaloa’s debt to Nalliah as the most vigorous motivator, contributor and inspirational force for the progress of education in the whole of the eastern region has always been widely acknowledged and celebrated by a grateful people.

Numerous small and large educational institutions all over the region including the Teachers’ Training College in Batticaloa and the Central College in Vantharumoolai — now the Eastern University — bear testimony to Nalliah’s conviction that the poor in the east, in many ways a neglected province at that time, must be given access to the benefits that education alone could bring.

In the State Council functioning under the Donoughmore constitution, Nalliah became a member of the Executive Committee for Education and became a tireless fighter for educational reform, free education for all and for the implementation without delay of education in the mother tongue.

From a poor background

Nalliah was from a poor background well outside the few established families in the east which, as in the rest of the country too at that time, had a monopoly of influential positions.

When Nalliah won election to the State Council it was therefore as a people’s candidate and this he never forgot. With all the energy of the self made man that he was, his interventions on behalf of the poor and of the Eastern Province in particular were so vigorous and annoying to the establishment that D. S. Senanayake did not take long to see in him a meddling gadfly and call him “a new broom.” 

Such sneers notwithstanding, as a representative of his people Nalliah did indeed sweep very well and very widely.

He worked hard to open and expand hospitals, small post offices, roads and culverts in places like Vaharai and Valaichenai where only the poor lived.  He demanded water for rain dependent farmers and argued for the improvement of tanks and channels in the east.

Tanks rehabilitated

Many small tanks and channels were rehabilitated due to his efforts. He refused to be satisfied with the State Council’s offer of compensation to farmers affected by the floods which were then a regular feature in the east and insisted on construction that went beyond repair and maintenance alone. It was necessary, he argued, to deal with the cause than to give the farmers charity.

The number of resolutions he moved in the State Council on a single day — for instance  on July 12, 1944 — would give an idea of  his energy and the range of his attention to the needs of the people:

i) a resolution calling for  admission to the Ceylon University students from the backward Eastern and Kandyan Provinces for the next five years, providing the candidates from these two provinces a reasonable standard of scholarship, not on the basis of simple ranking;

ii) a resolution that the long neglected left bank channel under the Vakaneri scheme be opened to avoid water going waste;

iii) to open the right bank channels of the Unnichchai tank to give relief to poor rain dependent farmers who were suffering losses when rains repeatedly failed;

iv) to construct a 10 mile stretch of road between Manampitiya and Polonnaruwa to ensure communication for this region with the main centres of trade;

v) to provide suitable waiting facilities at the Gal Oya Railway Junction for the use of travellers between Trincomalee and Batticaloa who had to wait there for eight hours; and,

vi) a resolution to compel employers to provide suitable accommodation to the rapidly increasing labour population in Trincomalee and the acute shortage there of accommodation.

Living wage for village headmen

Another telling example of his dedication at breaking the power of the wealthy in rural life was his passionate advocacy in the State Council for a living wage for village headmen. Nalliah argued that this crucial position of influence over the well being of the poor was kept as the preserve of the rich and the corrupt because of the state’s failure to offer a living wage to applicants. 

His efforts to develop his region earned for him the dubious title of ‘regionalist’ — a pradesha pirivinaivadhi. He certainly thought of himself primarily as the representative of his region that was backward in most ways.

But his regionalism was never exclusive and was firmly rooted in a broad nationalism and a sincere concern for the common people and their entitlement to dignity and equality. His contribution to the debate on the future official language of the country when he moved the amendment to include Tamil along with Sinhalese  (seconded by R. S. S. Gunawardene, Member for Dumbara) and to the debate on free education and other educational reforms were applicable to the whole country.

Equality and dignity

Nalliah was inspired — as many young Ceylonese at that time were — by the agitation in neighbouring India led by Gandhi and Nehru for national independence from colonialism, as well as by deeply felt ideals of equality and dignity for the poorest in the land. He argued for the use of the mother tongue — Sinhalese or Tamil, in schools and in the courts of the country as necessities for the freedom of our people, especially the poor.

“There is absolutely no point in having a State Council and a Board of Ministers if no power is transferred to the people….. I hope the members of this house will insist that …the languages of this country will be the languages of the courts in this country and that the legal system is made less expensive.”  (State Council Debates p.31 Feb 8, 1944.) 

He endeared himself to his constituents not only by his efforts for them but also by his personal integrity. When he ceased to be a member of parliament in 1956 he was not a cent richer than when he was first elected, having already disposed of the entirety of his wife’s little inheritance also for election expenses. He lived and died in a rented house.

A review of An Adventurous Journey — from peace to war,
insurgency to terrorism by General Cyril Ranatunga

Gen. Cyril Ranatunge

By Rohan Pethiyagoda

General Cyril Ranatunga’s autobiography, An Adventurous Journey, contributes remarkable perspective and insight into the transformation of a gentlemen’s army headed by a Brigadier to the more than 200,000-strong fighting machine it has become today. In 1950, when Ranatunga enlisted as an officer (the national army was only a year old then), he did so not because there was a cause to fight and die for, but because it was a respected career.

He makes no bones about it: even as a schoolboy he had been fascinated by the military uniform, and the debonair and dashing appearance of the army officers he had seen in and around Kandy during the war years, when Louis Mountbatten’s Eastern Command was headquartered at Peradeniya. And, like all subalterns of his generation, Ranatunga received his training as a soldier initially at Aldershot and Sandhurst, and later at Bovington, en route to which, following an ardent shipboard romance, he ensnared the charming and beautiful Myrtle Sumanasekera, who was shortly thereafter to become his wife.

Ranatunga obtained his first opportunity to prove his mettle in the JVP’s 1971 insurrection, when he was a Lieutenant Colonel. As one police station after another fell to the rebels, Sirimavo Bandaranaike appointed him Military Coordinating Officer of the Kegalle District. I myself was a teenager at the time, and remember well the panic that engulfed the country. Such was the desperation that even my father, then a tea planter in Talawakelle, together with other planters, took his shotgun and went off to defend the local police station.

Minimal bloodshed

For his part, Ranatunga distinguished himself in Kegalle, promptly bringing the situation under control with minimal bloodshed and with great humanism. His account of the crisis contains several novel insights. The fact that the insurrection took place at all was a result of the government persistently ignoring intelligence reports that a youth rebellion was being planned.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike had reckoned — mistakenly as it turned out — that her Marxist rhetoric would obviate the desire for a Marxist revolution. Then there are the reasons why the rebellion failed (many have forgotten that it very nearly succeeded). There is no gainsaying that the young rebels had been well trained. They also knew their local terrain intimately, an advantage denied the troops, who were inducted from outside.

 Finally, there was the neglect on the rebels’ part to factor in the importance of communications. With curfews in place, the telecommunications system paralysed, and having failed in their bid to take over Radio Ceylon (now SLBC), the JVP cadres were isolated from one another: as the rebellion progressed, no one group knew what the fate of the others was and their organisation fell into chaos.

Indeed, in the General’s analysis, even the Tamil separatist rebellion might well have headed in a different direction had the governments of the day heeded police intelligence. He quotes at length from a memorandum from the Superintendent of Police in Jaffna, R. Suntheralingam, to the IGP dated November 16, 1970, which was even before the JVP uprising: “There is a political aspect which has also become a contributory factor for the illicit trade between Ceylon and South India, which cannot be overlooked.”

Tamil Nadu ideals

“With the advent of the Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam (DMK) regime in 1967 in India there continued a free flow of magazines propagating Tamil Nadu ideals into Northern Ceylon via VVT (Velvettiturai). Communal extremists are capitalising on illegal import of literature for their political activities.”

That was the least of it. Even as Tamil Nadu was growing more stridently chauvinistic, things were beginning to change also in Sri Lanka’s northern peninsula. Seaborne smuggling between southern India and Jaffna had been going on for centuries, involving spices, sarees and even soap. With the DMK in power, the smugglers for the first time began also a lucrative trade in arms.

For its part, the Sri Lankan government had always had a network of defences against smuggling dotted along its northern littoral. The JVP’s insurgency in 1971, however, resulted in the government hastily recalling police and armed-services personnel from the relatively peaceful north to join its struggle for survival in the south. The upshot was a surge in smuggling activity and this time, the magazines that were winging their way across the Palk Strait were of an altogether more lethal kind.

In early 1983, having served the army with distinction and gallantry, Brigadier Cyril Ranatunga was put out to pasture. He had served the maximum four years in the rank and declined the offer of an extension offered him by J. R. Jayewardene on the grounds that it would affect the prospects of junior officers awaiting promotion. Offered a directorship of Airport and Aviation Services, he reverted to civilian life with characteristic zeal.

Eliminating perceived rivals

I will not summarise General Ranatunga’s analysis of the separatist war save to say that unlike most analysts, he lays the blame for it squarely on the mainstream Tamil political parties of the time. As the LTTE began systematically eliminating its perceived rivals in the fight for political domination of the Tamil people, these mainstream parties by and large egged them on. Each, it seemed, delighted in seeing its rivals blown up.

The Tigers became affectionately known to them as ‘The Boys’, and their acts of barbaric cruelty were accepted with the indifference of an indulgent parent towards a spoilt child. Soon, every single one of these Tamil leaders — many of them formidable intellectuals — fell victim to Pirapaharan’s bloodlust. The result is the political bankruptcy we see in the Tamil electorate today, whose leadership, it should be remembered, was decimated by Tamils themselves — not the Sinhalese.

The General is also not sparing in the calumny he heaps on perfidious India for having armed, trained and funded the Tigers from the very beginning. He cites chapter and verse to demonstrate that the separatist war that was visited on Sri Lanka was hatched in New Delhi and executed by its infamous intelligence agency RAW, using pawns in Tamil Nadu.

Many now view the murder of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah by Pirapaharan in 1975 as the beginning of the LTTE’s campaign of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Maybe it was, but General Ranatunga shows how even in the 1960s, preparations were under way in Jaffna to resort to arms. One needs especially to remember that in the 1960s, Sri Lanka was still the jewel in the crown of what had previously been Greater India. The grass was infinitely greener here, and Indians were green with envy.

Pseudo-socialist ideology

Under Indira Gandhi, India itself was still mired in the Mahatma’s pseudo-socialist ideology that venerated the peasant, more obsessed with impoverishing the wealthy than with enriching the poor. Sri Lanka’s per capita GDP at the time was far greater than India’s — and it still is, despite three debilitating decades of war.

As debacle upon debacle piled upon the Sri Lankan armed forces in the aftermath of the 1983 pogrom against the Tamil citizenry — following which most of the developed world joined in an arms embargo to the island — the J. R. Jayewardene government grew steadily desperate.

Finally, in 1985, Ranatunga was recalled to service, promoted to Lieutenant General and made General Officer Commanding the Joint Operations Command. From there he set about expanding and equipping the armed forces (with China and Pakistan being the only willing suppliers of military ordnance then, even as they are now) in preparation for the Mother of All Battles, which finally came in May 1987.

The Vadamarachchi Campaign, as it later came to be known, was hatched in the greatest secrecy by the General and a handful of trusted officers. Extensive preparations were made, and the objective of the operation was simple: the utter annihilation of the LTTE.

Ever since the war began in earnest in 1983 I, as a gung-ho 27-year old Director of Biomedical Engineering Services in the Ministry of Health, decided to do whatever I could to help the medical corps of the armed forces to cope with casualties. Usurping funds voted to my Ministry (an act the Auditor General is yet to catch up with) I made it my business to help design and equip hospitals and casualty centres in many armed forces camps and to provide every soldier with a field dressing.

Army’s medical staff

A small contingent of civilian doctors volunteered to supplement the army’s few medical staff in the north: surgeons Narendra Wijemanne, Michael Abeyeratne, M. H. Zoysa, Mohan (now Professor) de Silva come immediately to mind. It was during this time that I came to know Cyril Ranatunga well, frequently being summoned to the JOC to be briefed on imminent operations for which the medical staff would need to be provided and coordinated.

When the Vadamarachchi Operation began in late May 1987, we were all assembled in Pallaly, though none of us of course knew what was coming until we got there. Ranatunga quotes from a contemporaneous letter that my friend, the late Surgeon Commander Laki Dissanayake, who was among us, penned to his wife Cynthia, from there. “We in the hospital realised this was history in the making... The General addressed the officers before the battle. It was reminiscent of the likes of General Patton... He ended his address saying that he had assembled here the best medical team in the country and they had nothing to worry... Tell the boys that I am taking part in history... The air is full of expectations, but morale is high... Pray for me and for an easy victory.”

Laki’s words were not as melodramatic as they seem now, 22 years later: we all felt that way at the time. It was a privilege to serve. From the very first hours of the operation, there was a flood of casualties, but we were well prepared and I do not believe a single injured soldier who reached Palali alive lost his life, although in the case of dozens of others less fortunate, only the bodies returned.

 Final push into Jaffna town

And indeed, the plan worked to perfection. In just eight days the Tigers were surrounded and looking at imminent annihilation. Then, on June 3, as the army began its final push into Jaffna town, the cry went out to Mother India to come to the Tigers’ aid. To his eternal shame, that is exactly what Rajiv Gandhi did. The Indian naval flotilla bringing ‘aid’ to the civilian population of Jaffna, the incursion into Sri Lankan air space of Indian Air Force jets, and the threatening Indian naval fleet moored off Galle Face, together with dire threats from New Delhi’s viceroy in Colombo, J. N. Dixit, were sufficient to force the Jayewardene Government to capitulate.

 The result was the humiliation of the Indo-Lanka Accord, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the invasion by the IPKF. These insults to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty perhaps go some way to explain the wave of nationalistic euphoria that has now engulfed our country in the wake of the final destruction of the LTTE.

Vadamarachchi saw Cyril Ranatunga at his finest, and he knew it. All his life had been but a preparation for that hour and for that trial. He had the support of some of the finest soldiers any army could have desired, not least Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Wijaya Wimalaratne. Indeed, the General tells of how, when he was Secretary of the Ministry of Defence in 1992, he abortively nominated Kobbekaduwa as the next commander of the army, over Cecil Waidyaratne. President Premadasa overturned his recommendation and chose Waidyaratne instead; Denzil was, after all, a close relative of Srimavo Bandaranaike (a point Ranatunga is too polite to disclose in his memoir).

The memoirs

Cyril Ranatunga’s memoirs are an excellent — if too brief — read. They tell of a Sri Lanka that, for those of us not old enough to remember, has been long forgotten. Having quit the army and high office as secretary to the Ministry of Defence and High Commissioner in Canberra and London, he and Myrtle now live in their charming estate in Mawanella.

The General is an enthusiastic farmer, promoting green values (the kitchen operates on biogas) wherever he can. Next time you drive to Kandy note that all the unsightly roadside boutiques have crossed to the other (left) side of the road, leaving the view clear for everyone to see. That was his doing (10 years ago!). So is the greening of the Balana Pass with thousands of trees.

Anyone who wants to understand the context in which Sri Lanka came to be what it is, should read Cyril Ranatunga’s An Adventurous Journey. It is a tale told with the utmost (and sometimes insufferable!) modesty by this all too modest soldier. (Indeed, he had even brushed aside an offer by J. R. Jayewardene to elevate him to Field Marshall on his retirement!)

Many would give a right arm to have lived Cyril Ranatunga’s life, and one can see in his writing and ideas the source of the strength and conviction we see in our armed forces today. That perhaps is the legacy for which he would most like to be remembered. To call him an officer and a gentleman would be trite: he is indeed what the French would call a preux chevalier — a gallant knight. If only there were more like him...

The King of Pop who never grew Up

Michael Jackson with Rev. Al Sharpton
and Michael Jackson Performing




By Azi Sheriff

The Michael Jackson jokes started trickling in the day it was announced that he had passed away. They were not funny. Just sick. Some called to say news of his death was a hoax. Those calls weren’t funny either. Just lame. His last photo spread through the net with senders calling it disturbing. So why forward them on? Seldom had my delete button been so used.

All this was coming in from all around the world. This was the real phenomenon surrounding Michael Jackson. He really was known and respected throughout the world. Elvis mania and Beatle mania were big for their time. Comparisons as to who was “bigger” are stupid. The timing of the Michael Jackson phenomenon meant true worldwide recognition. He was the world’s first and, possibly only, Global Megastar.

This Michael Jackson phenomenon was born on MTV, took off at Motown’s 25th Anniversary, and then went on-air, on-line and off-the-map. Eventually, it went off-the-ramp, but the This Is It Comeback tour was going to fix that. This Is it has now become that was that.

 The day it was announced that MJ had passed away, the first person I saw on TV was Reverend Al Sharpton. He didn’t know when to give it a rest. Having said this, apart from turning his speech into a racist tone, he made some good points.

Larry King was talking to Cher about this kid who never grew up and became The King of Pop. Cher was great — honest, candid, interesting — as she’s always been.

She had been friends with the performer when he was in his teens and said how she had lost touch with him. How she had met him when he was no longer the sweet, fun-loving, teenager that he was and just how much he had changed.

There were countless tributes including a devastated Quincy Jones who said that he had just lost his kid brother. Quincy produced his greatest hits and Michael, whom he nicknamed Smelly, made them come alive. During the recording of Billie Jean, Quincy had also said, “Stop squealing, mother******”.

This was when the singer started adding his usual hiccups and squeals after each line in the song. Michael did what he was told and the result was the Billie Jean we hear today. Theirs was a relationship and partnership that was like The Sorcerer and The Apprentice. It was magic and without the Mighty Quinn, Michael never re-captured it.

Meanwhile, Madonna, they said, was crying all day. Crying for herself, I thought.

Mortality is a tough gig for many to handle. Notably silent was his one-time friend and musical cohort Paul McCartney. They recorded some pretty bad music together.

There was Say, Say, Say, the terrible The Man and the cloying, This Girl Is Mine.

Then the Mac and Jack magical portion went sour.  MJ is said to have used Macca to buy the Beatles catalogue behind the ex-Beatles’ back. They never spoke after that.

Michael Jackson was a very savvy businessman. He knew the value of owning publishing — his and everyone else’s. He was just not smart by leaving others to look after his own finances.

On Fox News, the only person they could find to interview was some unknown talking about Michael Jackson’s influence on his career. Suddenly, everyone was cashing in.

Everyone had something good to say about this King of Pop. I was reminded of Lennon’s line: “Everybody loves you when you’re six feet in the ground.”

We tend to honour the dead and forget the living. Or else, honour the living once they’re no longer with us. Hypocrites? Sure we are. We have just pre-conditioned ourselves to think how everybody else is and how we’re above it all.

However what I care most about is the music and memories that he left behind. Memories like that spell-binding performance during Motown’s 25th Anniversary when the world first saw the moonwalk. He literally floated through air and, to this day, his intriguing, mysterious and sometimes disturbing personal life, is not my concern and should not be yours too.

Let’s just remember the great artist who churned out an insurmountable number of hits, created the moon walk and most importantly made a difference with his music, all while being a 12 year old stuck in a 50 year old’s body. Rest in peace Micheal.

The Hilton is back  

The best Dim Sum in town

By R. Wijewardene

For over 20 years the Hilton has sat securely at the top of Colombo’s hotel hierarchy.  Year in year out it was the Hilton and its restaurants that set the standard which every other five star hotel in Colombo sought to emulate.

But the conflict that poisoned so much of this country managed eventually to even take some of the gloss off the Hilton, and with road closures and the rigorous security surrounding the Fort, even die hard fans of the hotel found themselves drifting to more accessible options.

With the final end of the conflict however Colombo is slowly coming back to life and unsurprisingly the focal point of the life now animating the once moribund centre of the city is the Hilton — which is fast reestablishing itself as the capital’s premier hotel.  

To experience this resurgence The Sunday Leader made a beeline for the Emperor’s Wok – a Hilton stalwart which has for over a decade consistently produced some of Sri Lanka’s most authentic Chinese food.

As far removed from the mediocrity of Colombo’s average Chinese restaurant as authentic fresh noodles are from instant chopsuey, the Emperor’s Wok is the Chinese restaurant for special occasions – when your everyday chow mein take out joint just won’t do. And overlooking the Hilton’s perennially pleasant pond, with gilt dragon centerpiece and a faintly turn of the century ‘shanghainese’ banquet hall atmosphere the Wok is still replete with a sense of occasion.

While the dining area is reasonably formal, the open kitchen is a hive of activity and much as in any China town or Cantonese high street, roast ducks dry in the window, woks spurt balls of alcohol induced fire, and noodles are stretched and tossed in full view of the customers.  

To complement the authenticity of your surrounding you can begin your meal with a selection of dim sum — delicious bite sized little appetizers — dumpling, buns, rolls , cakes which, rolled around on trolleys as yam cha in their in native Hong Kong, are regarded, quite rightly, as the ultimate fast food.

The Hilton’s remains the best selection of these delicacies in Sri Lanka and the unlimited dim sum brunch on Saturdays is a meal in itself.  In fact with such generously filled dumplings, succulent roast pork buns, and crisp prawn toasts we were tempted even on Tuesday to make a whole meal of the dim sum but managed to restrict ourselves to a few servings and leave room for the main course.

The range of main dishes is vast but not overwhelming from roast duck, to a range of sea food and representing several styles of Chinese cooking, and like the dim sum main courses are both generous and authentic.

Fried rice with discernible chunks of prawn is a genuine rarity in Colombo and the –  honey and pepper chicken, and crispy lamb made excellent use of the sweet and sour flavours that define Chinese cooking.

The crispy garoupa was genuinely exceptional – delicately flavoured and at once both meltingly soft and deliciously crispy.

While the dishes we sampled were simple – somehow a business lunch doesn’t seem like quite the time for salvers of crispy aromatic duck and wok fried crabs, even with this simple selection the freshness of  everything on offer was outstanding. A far cry from the reheated oily, overly sweet masses that are the staples at so many of the city’s Chinese restaurants.

And the generosity of the servings is such that while the Emperor’s Wok will never be cheap, a meal still represent good value for money. 

Washing down mouthfulls of perfect Chinese food with fabulously fragrant jasmine tea, while watching a procession of ducks and swans glide over the hotel’s shaded central pond is the ultimate lunchtime escape. And on this showing the Hilton seems more than ready to pick up where it left off, amidst the security restrictions imposed last year — as the standard bearer for good food in Colombo.

Culinary journey at Confifi Group hotels

Dining is an enjoyable experience

Remaining true to the destination’s artistic heritage and creative passion, the culinary theme at Confifi Hotels is international cuisine with a delicate island accent, blending classic favourites from around the world with distinctive flavours of the Asian Region. On site dining settings amongst the three resorts of the group (Eden Resort & Spa, Riverina Hotel and Club Palm Garden) offers something for everybody’s pocketbook and palate – from beach front burgers to the very best in Pacific fine dining.

•  Temptations, Eden’s fine dining restaurant.

• Chameleon Cafe, a more casual bistro-style restaurant at Eden.

• Garden of Eden, Eden’s main dining restaurant with a wide variety of theme evenings and extravagant buffets —Main dining restaurant at Riverina Hotel, twenty four hour coffee shop at Riverina Hotel, seafood restaurant at Riverina Hotel, main dining restaurant at Club Palm Garden, Pool bars amongst the three resorts, twenty four hour room service at Eden Resort & Spa or Riverina Hotel.

Whether it is a morning beginning with a lavish breakfast, a light lunch that spills into tropical cocktails by the pool, or an evening of casual elegance with extraordinary food and fine wine, amongst the three resorts, one is sure to find dining, a delightful experience.

Using fresh local ingredients and resources are absolutely fundamental and that is why seasonal produce and daily-caught seafood are showcased with many dishes served amongst the choice of restaurants, whether it is a buffet or ŕ la Carte order.

An exquisite wine selection, with an emphasis on benchmark and up-and-coming wineries, is available to compliment each tantalising dish at the Temptation’s Restaurant at the Eden Resort & Spa.

The coffee shops, overlooking the pool and gardens, offer a selection of sandwiches, salads and light entrees for lunch.

Quench your thirst at any of the pool bars including a cool swim up bar  in Eden’s majestic pool — the perfect place to enjoy a quick bite, listen to music or simply watch a spectacular sunset.

The new seafood restaurant at the Riverina Hotel defines casual elegance, and marks the dawning of a new era for beach side dining.

The main dining restaurant at Club Palm Garden offers an extensive breakfast buffet as well as a local traditional selection. A children’s menu is also available.

The extensive room-service menus offer dining in the privacy of your room or, in the case of the Eden Resort & Spa’s suites – a truly cherished dining experience on the privacy of your balcony.

Galadari Hotel to promote ‘Accessible Tourism’

General Manager, Galadari Hotel, Sampath Siriwardene with PR Manager Nirukshi Rupasinghe, Rooms Division Manager Rizwan Khaldeen, Chief Engineer Saliya Hapugalle, Assistant Security Manager Wimalasiri and Dr. Ajith C.S.Perera leading the mission for accessible tourism

Galadari Hotel situated in the heart of Colombo overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean and with a trove of upscale facilities, is the holiday maker’s sophisticated getaway, the event organiser’s ideal venue, and the businessman’s home in Sri Lanka.

 “We have reinforced our commitment towards establishing facilities and services that equally enable everyone,” said the hotel’s General Manager, Sampath Siriwardena.

 The preliminary work here at several locations of the hotel, he revealed, has just been completed in close collaboration with Idiriya, a registered not-for-profit organisation of a group of professionals who are exceptionally responsive towards ‘Designing for inclusion of all people.’

 “This mission of national importance was initiated, promoted and guided at Galadari Hotel by the Secretary-General of Idiriya,  Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera who has a good understanding about disability related access issues and of its intricacies, as an experienced accessibility advisor with proven competence, total commitment and first-hand practical knowledge as a wheelchair-user.”

 This was revealed by the Chief Engineer  Saliya Hapugalle, at a simple ceremony held recently at the opening of the hotel’s two accessible entrances and introducing systems towards their optimum use.

 “In this hospitality industry, every customer, able or disable, visibly or invisibly to any degree, needs to be respected and protected, made comfortable and safe, equally and without any discrimination. We are very happy to have received Dr. Perera’s expertise and initiated the right action to provide ‘accessible and user-friendly facilities equally to all’ at Galadari Hotel Colombo. This we consider as our moral duty,” said Public Relations Manager  Nirukshi Rupasinghe.

 Under Dr. Perera’s close guidance, the team led by General Manager Siriwardena,  Hapugalle and Maintenance Engineer Damith Gunatunga ably supported by Nirukshi Rupasinghe, are working towards this goal leaving no stone unturned.

Gift for the new-born

Kiddies and Toys International, sole agents for world famous Farlin baby products and renowned Lego toys in Sri Lanka and marketers of Kids Joy range of baby care products,   recently  announced its “Kids Joy” baby gift pack which forms an ideal gift for new born babies.

The  Kids Joy gift packs come in four attractive designs to suit your gifting needs and which contains the most sort after products for any new born baby. The  gift packs have been elegantly designed and attractively pre-wrapped for the buyer to present it with dignity and the receiver to accept with a sense of sheer satisfaction, says  Nilupul Kokila,  Brand Manager, Kids Joy baby products

Cyber cleanliness comes to Sri Lanka

Cyber Clean is a state-of-the-art cleaning tool  that  can be used to clean and disinfect all electronic equipment such as computers and mobile phones and also automobile interiors, says  Roshan Nugegoda Product Manager for Cyber Clean.

Digital House (Pvt) Ltd, a leading company holding diverse subsidiaries in computer related industries, recently introduced an innovative cutting edge tool “ Cyber Clean” to the market. Consisting of an elastic substance specially made to a patented Swiss formula, Cyber Clean only requires to be pressed on the surface of the keyboard or any other surface of an electronic system. When left on for a short time, this patented formula will suck out the dirt, leaving the surface sparkling clean and smelling good, says Nugegoda  who adds that Cyber Clean is available in two packs of yellow and blue. Yellow is designed especially for all electronic items while the blue will help clean automobile interiors.


You know when…

You know it is time to diet when try to do a few push ups and discover that certain body parts refuse to leave the get winded just saying the words "ten-kilometer run." You put mayonnaise on an aspirin. You go to the zoo and the elephants throw you peanuts. Your driver’s license says, "Picture continued on other side." You ran away and they had to use all four sides of the milk carton for your picture.

First things first

Two women were shopping. When they started to discuss their home lives, one said, "Seems like all Bruno and I do anymore is fight. I’ve been so upset I’ve lost 20 pounds in weight."

"Why don’t you just leave him then ?" asked her friend.
"Oh! Not yet," the first replied, "I like to lose at least another 10 to 15 pounds first."

Men & Women

Man: "Your place or mine?"
Woman: "Both. You go to yours and I’ll go to mine.

Man: "I’d go through anything for you."
Woman: "Good! Let’s start with your bank account."

Bull charge

Notice in a field: "The Farmer Allows Walkers To Cross The Field For Free, But The Bull Charges."

In the Jeans…

After going on a diet, a woman felt really good about herself, especially when she was able to fit into a pair of jeans she had outgrown a long time ago.
"Look! Look!" she shouted while running downstairs to show her husband. "I can wear my old jeans again!"
Her husband looked at her for a long time, then  he said, "Honey, I love you, but those are my jeans."

Walking Economy

A guy is walking down the street with his friend. He says to his friend, "I’m a walking economy."
His friend replies, "How’s that?"
"It’s like this: my hair line is in recession, my stomach is a victim of inflation, and the combination of these factors is putting me into a deep depression."

Diet Jokes by Daniel l.






     More Reviews....


Majestic City — that famous hangout

A grateful people remember

A review of An Adventurous Journey
   — from peace to war,

  The King of Pop who never grew Up

  The Hilton is back

  Culinary journey at Confifi Group hotels

  Galadari Hotel to promote
     ‘Accessible Tourism’

  Gift for the new-born

  Cyber cleanliness comes to Sri Lanka



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