Four young Lankans, a Sinhalese, a Tamil, a Muslim and
a Dutch Burgher, symbolically representing a united front are currently
in the Netherlands, on a mission to strengthen Dutch-Sri Lankan
Gnanenthiran of Chundikuli Girls' College, Jaffna, Anne Romanie
Ockersz of St. Cecilia Girls' Convent, Batticaloa, Dharmakeerthi
Thilanka Perera of Royal College, Colombo and Fathima Yasmin Wazeer
of Sacred Heart Convent, Galle will enjoy an exchange of culture
and knowledge and integrate into Dutch society during their month's
sojourn, to better understand the link between the two countries.
is organised to commemorate 400 years of Dutch-Sri Lankan relations.
The Dutch came uninvited to Sri Lanka in 1602, beginning a unique
relationship that benefited both sides. Today four centuries later,
the legacy of Dutch colonial rule remains with us in the fortified
city in Galle, the churches, monuments, the Dutch furniture and
even names of people and roads (Leyn Baan Street, Galle) etc.
of the Dutch who have kept some form of link with this country,
it is a sense of coming home, every time we come to Sri Lanka,"
explains Roelof J. Munneke, Director, Netherlands-Sri Lanka Foundation.
This he says can be attributed not only to the monuments, all of
which can boast of a long and varied history, but to the similarities
that exist between the two countries.
Lanka is small like the Netherlands. We can travel easily to all
parts and places like the Netherlands Welcome Village (1996), a
home for elderly people and elements of culture that are common,
strengthen this bond," he continues.
While in Holland,
the students will live with different Dutch families and meet with
each other at least twice a week. They will participate in a wide
range of cultural activities and excursions. Also on the agenda
are visits to Rotterdam - the main harbour and a study of the sluices
(some almost 1 km long and huge constructions to control water level)
so that they better appreciate modern day Holland and the technical
status of the country. Visits to the museum and windmills will give
them a glimpse of Dutch traditions.
a brainchild of Mr. Munneke was conceived almost two years ago.
Working with well-known photographer Dominic Sansoni of Barefoot,
the idea gradually took shape, with a view to help the younger generation
understand the links in history.
organisers firmly believe that this project would bring the countries
closer. "There are many in Holland who are not aware of the
link. They cannot love something they do not know," says Mr.
Munneke quoting a Dutch saying. The visit would hopefully spark
some interest and perhaps persuade others to visit this beautiful
country, thereby stimulating tourism, he hopes.
social organisations, in particular regions/communities, were asked
to nominate suitable candidates and they were short listed after
several rounds of interviews. All those nominated had to be academically
proficient and talented, so that they could communicate, learn and
understand from the experience.
Prior to their
trip, the four Lankans seemed eager and confident. Thilanka Perera
had certainly done his homework and seemed to have all the details
of the Dutch period at his fingertips. An excellent student (with
8 As in his O'levels), Thilanka wishes to tell people there about
Buddhism and the Sinhalese culture.
Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara
has lived all her life in the fortified city of Galle and meeting
people who are a link to her hometown is like a dream come true
for her. Closeness among family members, respect for elders are
values that she has been brought up with, something she would share
with the people she comes in contact with, besides the Muslim religion
(Ockersz) is Dutch and can even be found in the Dutch telephone
directories. While part of her Dutch Burgher culture is a legacy
from the Dutch, there are some unique aspects that have evolved
through living in Sri Lanka - dress, food, dance, etc. "I would
like them to know how we live and work, about our clothes and the
songs we sing," Anne says.
is a rare opportunity for us to show them about our religion and
culture that they may find interesting - eating with our hands,
wearing flowers, etc.," explains Premila. An excellent Bharata
natyam dancer, Premila goes fully equipped with her dance gear.