27th August 2000
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'Gifts of Love' Manel Abhayaratna's latest book is dedicated to her grandson just reaching his 'turbulent' teens

Her 'Rathran Kolla'

Who amongst us has not held a babe in their arms, marvelled at its innocence and said a silent prayer that the years will be kind and give strength, both in body and mind. No doubt a grandmother's wish, bound up with so much love is even more heartfelt. 'Gifts of Love' Manel Abhayaratna's latest book is dedicated to her grandson just reaching his turbulent teens with all the tenderness of mellow age.

It is a slim booklet interspersed with verse, but the sincerity in each line is what captures and moves the reader. Manel is writing for her grandson, her 'Rathran kolla' (golden boy) as he reaches an age of understanding and she has, in these pages attempted to impart not only the values and principles she holds dear but also the lessons learned with experience that brash youth may not easily heed.

She says it best in verse:

"Come with me golden boy and I will take you

To all those yesterdays that fill my mind today

On that journey, I will bequeath to you the gifts

That moulded our lives so long ago, the thoughts

Of our fathers. And I will ask you, loved child

To entwine them, once again into your tomorrows..."

The thoughts are many. Sometimes rambling, sometimes nostalgic, yet always deeply felt. And put down in such an easily readable way, they can be dipped into at leisure and assimilated in fuller measure with each passing year.

She recalls stories from the past as all grandparents are wont to do, of lazy days of unhurried charm. Then of the importance of having the time to stop and stand still and why relationships matter in this technology-driven age, when the machine seems to be the child's mentor. Computer companionship can never compare with the camaraderie of classmates, she admonishes and stresses what love, compassion and respect for others' feelings mean especially in the current climate of strife that wracks our country.

The past and her childhood in the days of the Second World War are also described. So too are the more recent tragedies of Black July '83 and the senseless deaths today... "remember that war means killing...children with your own dreams." In this same context, she tries to explain what peace means, mindful that this young generation has seen only conflict, known only divisive feelings.. "Peace...begins with us.......... it is only when we accept as our brother those who are different from us because of language, race and religion that the process of peace begins." She writes, quoting both Jesus Christ 'love your neighbour as yourself' and Lord Buddha's teachings 'treat your neighbour as a mother treats her firstborn'.

There is much practical wisdom in the book and in her typically forthright style Manel has addressed the traumas of adolescence. There is gentle understanding of teenage pressures, relationships with parents, the first signs of blossoming sexuality, thoughts on young love and a wish that her golden boy finds true love in a world where the word is misunderstood and misused.

Significantly, she also seeks to impart the pride in our country's unique heritage that the youth of today seem somehow to lack. She writes of vanishing rituals, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year traditions, once hallowed with so much joy "...don't reject them or make a mockery of them for they belong to you. You are heir to those traditions even as the country belongs to you," she says.

The book is also dedicated to all parents and grandparents and there is much for them too. Just as children sometimes wrongly expect that their parents should provide for them, leave them wealth and property, parents are cautioned against making the mistake of expecting their children to fulfil their own ambitions- 'parents should not talk of sacrifices... a child should not be pressurized with notions of gratitude,' she stresses.

A former Director of Information, now editor of the Catholic Messenger, Manel has written many other books, both fiction and non-fiction. This perhaps, is one closest to her heart. Its message is one that all parents and grand parents will echo as they struggle to give their children the right values in a fast changing society.

"As I watch you little one

I wonder what the future holds

Have I given you that strength 

To sustain the values taught

In a world that laughs and mocks all that is good.."

Better illustrations more clearly reproduced and the inevitable typographical errors that have slipped through do occasionally detract from reading pleasure, but the wealth of this book's content far outweighs such shortcomings.

Renuka Sadanandan

Law and Citizen

Paternity denied 

By Dr. C.Ananda Grero 
Our law of Maintenance obligates a person to maintain his wife and his legitimate or illegitimate child (or children) if he has sufficient means to do so. Whether they are legitimate (i.e. born as a result of marriage) or illegitimate, the father should maintain them. 

Citizen Newton married one Sumana and they lived together for six years. After one year they had a child but when the child was four, his father citizen Newton, left home and lived separately. He occasionally visited them and gave presents and money to his son, but did not stay overnight. Sumana, requested Newton to return to their matrimonial home at least for their son's sake, but he preffered to live separately. After sometime Sumana conceived and gave birth to a daughter. She named her Chintha and the birth certificate carried Newton's name as the father. 

When Newton realized Sumana was expecting, he stopped visiting them. Sumana then wrote a letter to him and sent it under registered cover, retaining a copy. No reply was sent by Newton and when the second child was eight months old, Sumana made an application to the Magistrate's Court of the area where she resided and claimed maintenance in respect of both children. Newton was the respondent to this application. 

Along with the application an affidavit was filed stating the facts of the case. The Magistrate issued notice and Newton appeared before court. Sumana the applicant was present in court along with her two children. Newton accepted the paternity of the eldest child, but not of Chintha. His lawyer told the court that Chintha had been conceived and born at a time when the respondent was not living with the applicant. Newton however, agreed to pay thousand rupees as maintenance in respect of the eldest child. Before making an order of maintenance in respect of Chintha, the Magistrate fixed the matter for inquiry. 

Now the fact remains that, when Newton denies the paternity of Chintha, it amounts to saying that she is an illegitimate child. Even if she is an illegitimate child, yet if it is established that the father is citizen Newton he could be ordered to pay maintenance. However, considering that Newton and Sumana are not divorced, the applicant Sumana is in a more favourable position in terms of the law. 

Section 112 of the Evidence Ordinance states that any person born during the continuance of a valid marriage or within two hundred and eighty days after its (the marriage) dissolution, the mother remaining unmarried, shall be conclusive proof that such person is the legitimate son or daughter of that man, unless it can be shown that the man (like Newton) had no access to the mother at any time when such a person could have been begotten or that he was impotent.

In terms of section 112 above, the marriage between Newton and Sumana remains in existence and the child Chintha was born during such time. So Newton has an uphill task to show at the inquiry that he had no access to Sumana at the time the child was conceived. The word "access" in the said section has been defined or explained in the case of Kanapathipillai V Parpathy by the Privy Council and the judgment is reported in 57 New Law Reports at page 553. It was held that the word "access" is no more than opportunity of intercourse. It was further observed by Lord Tucker that "no access" would be established in any case in which on the evidence available it is right to conclude that at no time during the period ( i.e. at the time the child could have been conceived) had there been "personal access" of husband to wife. It could be seen that when there is "personal access" of the husband to the wife, the opportunity is afforded to have sexual intercourse.

At the inquiry, evidence will have to be led by both parties. On the evidence placed before court, the Magistrate should be able to conclude that there has been the opportunity for sexual intercourse between two of them at the time the child was conceived. If he is so satisfied, then he should make his decision in favour of the applicant and order the respondent Newton, to pay maintenance in respect of his child Chintha. If the evidence established that there was "no access" then Newton is not liable to pay maintenance. However, Newton's visits to the house of his wife afforded an opportunity to have sexual intercourse with her and if this fact is established, he is regarded as the father of Chintha and the Magistrate can order maintenance in favour of such child. (Names are fictitious) 

A view from the hillsHow to sell plants -the Peradeniya way

Found a lot of people who had planted themselves around the Plant Sales Centre in the Peradeniya Gardens the other day. They said they were waiting.

This business of waiting seems to be a sort of national pastime. If one asks why, one gets the weirdest answers. I didn't ask. As Milton said, "they also serve".

Anyway, the Plant Sales Centre seemed to be in business. The office was open and a pleasant old lady was smiling away, most apologetically. On the counter was a large cardboard box which contained little packets of flower seeds. Marigold was labelled Merry Gold ('tis the season to be merry) and there was zinnia and little else.

"Can't buy plants," the old lady beamed.

"Why ever not?"

"Nona not here. Gone to the office."

"But you're here."

"Aiyo, I can't sell anything."

Hopeful buyers walked around, stared wistfully at the plants in their pots and polythene bags. Others rummaged the box.

"Can I have these packets, please?"

"Can't, can't, Nona not here."

"So you take the money and give us the seeds."

"Aiyo, can't. Have to write receipt, no?"

"So you write."

"Only Nona can write receipt. Anyway, receipt book locked up. Nona not here, no?"

"When will Nona come?"

"Soon, soon. Went to the office." soon becomes noon. Of Nona there is none. Exit buyers with snorts of disgust.

What a way to run a business!

REAP in Matale
A Regional Economic Advancement Project (REAP) has been initiated in Matale with the collaboration of the Ministry of Plan Implementation of Parliamentary Affairs, the Central Provincial Council and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Kandy boasts of new heart
With Rs. 180 million from the government of France to sweeten the pot, the Kandy General Hospital opened its Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Unit which, as Health Minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva, said is a tremendous boon to cardiac sufferers in the country.

The Unit cost Rs. 350 million. The Treasury provided Rs. 100 million and many Kandy citizens gave enough to collect Rs. 70 million. Vital equipment is now being installed by French technicians and the entire set-up is being orchestrated by Hadavathay Mithuro - Friends of the Heart - a volunteer organisation.

As the Minister said, it would now be possible to perform cardiac operations and by-pass surgery for as little as Rs. 150,000 whereas, in the United States, such operations cost up to Rs. 2 million. He said that the Unit would benefit the whole country. "There are about 5000 patients now waiting for by-pass surgery." The Unit, which has six storeys and 265 beds, has its own ICU, blood bank and all the other necessary facilities.

Kandy-ites off to France
August-September 2000 sees three important world events in France. The Alliance Francaise de Kandy has arranged the participation of three Kandy-ites, and they have each received grants from the French Embassy to enable them to be there.

There will also be a gathering of French Language teachers from around the world at Montpellier in August-September. Samanthika Divaratne will attend. She will also follow a six-week teacher training course while there.

There is also the Festival d' Avignon - theatre and music - and an event that draws young people from many corners of the world. Janaka Samarakoon, a trainee teacher at Alliance Francaise de Kandy, will be there. And there is the francofolies - the summer festival of cinema, music and drama at La Rochelle. Eranda Jayawickrema of Trinity College will there. Bon voyage!

Mahamaya gives two lakhs
The staff, students and alumni of Mahamaya College, Kandy, recently presented a cheque for Rs. 200.000 to the minister of Education,Richard Pathirana, for the War Heroes Welfare Fund.

The occasion was the annual prize-giving of the College. It was also an opportunity to press for a school playground, and the Minister assured the principal, Ms. W.M.B. Wijesinghe, that he would give the matter his attention.

Active peace promoter unto death

Excerpts from the keynote address, delivered by Dr. Kjell Magne Bondevik (Parliamentary Leader and former Prime Minister of Norway) at the Dr. A.C.S. Hameed commemoration lecture on August 17 at the BMICH

It is a great honour for me to be present at the first year commemoration for Dr. A. C. S. Hameed, a highly respected political leader. He served his country and the international community with dedication and commitment. Dr. A. C. S. Hameed was one of the longest serving parliamentarians in Sri Lanka of more than 39 years. His ability to understand the needs of the people, and his total dedication in serving them, gave him a unique position which was awarded with a new mandate during every election, in spite of turbulent events in the political environment.

His service as a cabinet minister in several ministries for 17 years is another example of extraordinary political achievements.

I came to know him as the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. At one stage, we were both colleagues, he looking after the foreign policy of a non-aligned developing country, and I as a foreign minister representing a small European country, more or less on the opposite side of the globe. But in spite of the geographical distance and other differences, we had a lot in common. After all, the essence of political commitment is to serve the people, and through different processes create a better future. As I met him, I strongly felt that we both shared the same values, and that we both understood the need to work on a global platform, as we are all interdependent. No country can any longer isolate itself. And as foreign ministers from small countries, we both understood the need for friendship across borders.

The first time I got a message from Dr. Hameed was a warm summer day in July 1990, ten years ago. I was on holiday with my family, far away from the hectic Foreign Ministry. I was about to cross a fjord on a ferry boat, when my mobile telephone rang. It was a request if Norway could support the peace process in Sri Lanka. A long cease fire between the government and LTTE had unfortunately broken down in June, and Dr. Hameed was looking for opportunities to restart the peace negotiations. Standing with the mobile phone in my hand, in a beautiful landscape, with steep snow-capped mountains mirrored in the deep blue fjord in the most peaceful surroundings, I understood how fortunate my people and I were to be spared of all the brutality and human misery which was again on the rise in Sri Lanka. I did not immediately know how we could be of help, but I felt very strongly, that being privileged to be living in a peaceful corner of the world, we had a moral obligation to lend a hand to a friendly country in need.

Last year, as Prime Minister of Norway,1 received a new request for assistance to the peace process in Sri Lanka. The request was endorsed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. I was very happy to respond positively. Our ability to contribute may be limited, as it is finally up to the parties in conflict to solve their own problems, but we will do whatever we can to assist. Our long and friendly relationship with Sri Lanka makes it natural to provide maximum assistance. We would not have been true to our ideals if we had refused. 

We have a long tradition in international peace activities. The Oslo Accord which set the basis for the peace process in the Middle East, is a classical example of silent, well-planned and carefully implemented confidence-building process. Peace does not fall down from the sky, but is always linked to sensitive issues which have to be addressed with patience over time. Confidence-building is the most essential element in establishing a climate for peace. The Norwegian Peace Institute was among the first in the world to scientifically address complicated issues in conflict resolution. This followed the appointment of the first Professor in Peace Science. And as a small country with absolutely no ambitions or capacity in dominating others, Norway has been approached for assistance by a number of countries. 

Dr. Hameed was such a tireless worker for peace. As the chief negotiator between the government and LTTE in 89-90, he established a human relationship with the other side, which became a bridge of communication. His ability to listen, and to understand, was a great asset. He understood that tons of patience were needed to establish confidence and trust in each other. For the sake of peace, he was prepared to walk mile after mile in a confidence-building process. And he never gave up, in spite of serious problems and set-backs. He was an active peace promoter, till his sudden death. Last year in July-August, when the LTTE was approached to come to the negotiation table, he got involved in the process in his private capacity, and contributed strongly to create an environment for meaningful communication. As far as I know, there was hardly any other senior politician from the government or opposition, whom the LTTE was ready to listen to during that time.

Unfortunately, he was not able to complete his mission. It was with great sadness and a sense of deep loss that we received the message of his sudden death. 

Let us here today, in memory of a great friend, colleague and caring human being, look for a fresh start. What happened in Dr. Hameed's electorate during the last 39 years is an example that the people of Sri Lanka in general are far above narrow-minded religious or ethnic issues. It shows great democratic maturity, that a predominant Buddhist, Sinhalese community could elect a Muslim as their representative to parliament , time and time again. This is a lesson we should learn from. What counts, is the quality, the human commitment by a leader, to his people, and not his ethnic or religious background. This is the message from the Harispattuwa electorate. And this is in fact what makes Sri Lanka such a great and loving country. This is the best in your tradition, the sense of togetherness, of cooperation and respect for each other's values and traditions, the colourful blend of various cultures. 

Remember, that the most successful countries are those that can make the best of different cultures, such as Singapore and others. Look at the world's number one melting pot, the United States of America, how the differences stimulate creativity and development, as long as basic human values are respected. Countries shrink and disintegrate when they are divided into ethnic and religious compartments, and grow when they are united into one human family. The greatness of Sri Lanka is your long tradition of peace and tranquillity between religions, cultures and ethnic groups. By keeping to your original values, I am convinced that you will find strength and enlightenment to solve any human conflict. 

We are here today to remember a great human being, and the values he believed in. His death was not only a loss to the nation and the people he served, but above all , to his family. They have lost a caring husband and a caring father. It was with their support and love that he could dedicate his life to the country and to the international community. I know that his wife, Mrs. Hameed, gave him all her support, and that she was an integral part of his success. But still, we cannot fathom the depth of the loss to the country at this crucial stage of history. Let us all leave here with a fresh dedication to forget our differences and to work for the overall goal to achieve peace and justice for all which will reduce the suffering among the many hundred thousands who have been hit by the conflict.

And let us abandon the killing fields, where the prime of the future, the youth, are sacrificed. Above all, in the memory of our dear friend and others who work tirelessly for peace, let us stand up and together find a just and lasting solution which will bring peace, prosperity and justice for all to this beautiful country with so much of genuine human values. This will be the best memory to Dr. Hameed. Remember, politics is after all the art of the possible. 

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