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30th August 1998

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Kandy's fire gaps turn to garbage dumps

A view from the hillsAll over the city are these narrow passage ways, running between the main roads like a sort of nerve system. These are Kandy's vital fire gaps, but, as the Municipality tells me, they have fast become the dumping grounds of incredible piles of garbage, open-air urinals and the haunts of mangy dogs and equally mangy street urchins. Along these narrow passageways, many sides open on colony-type dwellings while hawkers have put up lean-to's, further constricting the roads and making pedestrian usage a nightmare. The rear doors of shops open on these passages and the shops (anxious to keep their shop fronts clean. . . and who inspects our backsides anyway?) dump all their garbage into the passages.

"They are no longer fire gaps," a Municipality official said. "Now we have rows of unauthorised kadays selling junk. Even our garbage carts cannot enter and if there is a fire, there is no way a fire-fighting vehicle can be sent in." He revealed that not long ago there was a court order to demolish all these shack-style trade pitches, but no sooner had the Municipality done so, the lean-to's came up again. "This is sheer contempt of court," he grumbled.

The Municipality feels that if these fire gaps are cleaned up and well maintained, it would encourage more people to use them to get across town rather than face the crowded, congested pavements of the main streets. Kandy is in a right royal mess right now and the roads (despite all the cosmetic work recently done) have become long juddering streaks of agony for anything, anyone with one to four legs. And now the fire gaps have been effectively blocked. When will the Municipality stop shilly-shallying and wield the big stick?

Teen Invasion

Yes, that's the name of a blast of fashion, music and dance and a teen show that will tell us, surely, what makes our hill country teenagers tick. "Teen Invasion", to be held at the Girls High School, Kandy, on September 5, is a special fund raising project of the school's Interact Club. Club President D. Samaratana says the event is in aid of the deprived children of Kandy's border villages. There will be a raft of professional models who will feature.......and yes, Sanath Jayasuriya is expected to be Chief Guest. Various other Kandy schools are also pitching in, providing the music and dance segment of this swirling show. All in a good cause too, so go to it, girls. Invade!

Children's Home in a sorry state

Imagine a boy unable to go to school because the one set of clothes he owns has been washed the previous evening and is not yet dry. This, said the Head Priest of Peradeniya's Subhodaramaya, is usually the case at the orphanage he established in Kadugannawa last year. The Sri Subhoda Lama Niwahana was begun to offer shelter to orphaned children displaced by the conflict in the north. What is special about it is that the orphanage now houses 25 boys from 7 to 18 years of age - Sinhalese and Tamil boys - and they are being taught to value and respect each other and learn to help and depend on each other. What the home is achieving is that warm sense of community and togetherness that is so badly needed today. The children all attend Pushpadana Vidyalaya, Peradeniya, and are a model of harmony in the school, looking out for each other, travelling together, learning and playing together.

The Kadugannawa home is an abandoned planter's bungalow and in a deplorable condition. All the children have are just a few old beds, two dining tables and some chairs. There is no proper toilet, hardly any kitchen utensils. The poor kids lack everything, from sheets and pillows to clothes, soap and toilet articles, books, schoolbags, slippers, tennis shoes - so many things that the better favoured simply take for granted.

The war has taken away their homes, their parents, and as the Head Priest says, the sense of such loss is so great that they scarcely think about the lack of books or soap or a sheet to cover them at night

It is hard to get to the home, for the road is steep and in very bad shape, but the priest can arrange a jeep if you are interested in visiting. You can call the temple on 08-388080.

" These children are innocent victims of the war,'' he says. "They need our help."

Many organisations could pitch in to help. And I hope they do. Every contribution will go a long way to give these children a better home, a better life.

Fifty years in service

Father Martin Quere, French Oblate at Ampitiya, and historian, who has done much research on the Portuguese period and published his findings in English and French, will celebrate fifty years of service in Sri Lanka in September. Fr. Quere's books on the Portuguese period and his careful research on the connections between France and Sri Lanka are invaluable. This column congratulates him on his fifty golden years.

Dig, dig, dig

No "hole-ier" place in Sri Lanka, surely! All along Kandy' s roads, the holes are being dug with a vengeance. I asked the Municipality, in the name of sanity, what in blue blazes was going on. Ah, the price we pay for modern communications!

"Don't blame us," the Municipality retorted and sternly too. 'We did up all the roads for February 4th." Of course it did, but apparently the patient has suffered a relapse. This big, boring business that is making molehills of Kandy's streets is the work of the Telecom johnnies.

"Look, we called the CEB and Telecom for a discussion. We wanted them to work parallel so that all this digging could be done at one time and got over with. But the CEB tells us that it hasn't the funds and will only begin work next year."

"So there will be more digging up next year too?"

"I'm afraid so. No end of this digging," an officer said mournfully.

Okay, so why aren't the holes closed when work is done? Ah, that's a horse of another colour. Seems that Telecom must pay the RDA, but the RDA won't move in its machinery and men to close one hole at a time. If Telecom is laying lines along a street, it will open several places along the street. There will be the usual barriers and zebra-striped bands and traffic will be snarled up from one end to another and everyone will swear in fourteen different dialects.

'It is only when all the holes as necessary have been dug and the communication cables connected that the RDA will move in to plug them."

Marvellous, all this modern technology. Right now what Kandy's roads are suffering from is a whole lot of holes with the attendant mud and slush to make matters worse. And the future is just as bleak. Next year, apparently, the CEB takes over!

Dig, dig, dig!

Back to the old green

Kandy's street railings, all jazzed up and painted that chaste white for the Independence tamasha are being given an overcoat...and it's back to the dingy green again. Seems that the Municipal Council found the white rails an eyesore. The rush to paint them white resulted in quite a mess, with the dust and grime of the road clinging lovingly onto the fresh white paint and making it all quite fearfully Gothic. What with the state of the roads and the muck that wafts around, a dark green, at least, hides a multitude of sins. Pity. Won't the Municipality realise that all the paint in the world cannot hide the massive eyesore Kandy has become?

Fresh editions

Advocate Vernon Gunasekera Jnr., of Kandy informs me that his cousin Romesh will have reprints of his books, "Reef' and "Monkfish Moon" this year from Penguin, India.

As you know, "Reef' was shortlisted for the Booker in 1994, and "Monkfish Moon", a collection of short stories, was described by "India Today" as "vivid with atmosphere and sensations." While on the subject, I would like to draw your attention to K.M. de Silva's "Reaping the Whirlwind"- a study of ethnic conflict and ethnic politics in Sri Lanka. De Silva, who is Executive Director of ICES, Colombo and Kandy, discusses in his book the historical reasons behind the ethnic violence and feels, given the LTTE's acceptance of nothing less than Eelam, that there is little hope of an early end to the violence.

Blue, gold and blue

Causes, good causes that is, are everything. The old Royalists all over Sri Lanka, and especially those of the FRCH brand, (no, this is not a misprint, and FRCH has nothing to do with medicine), are priming for the Blue, Gold and Blue Trade Fair and Carnival to be held at the Sathutu Uyana, Vihara Maha Devi Park, Colombo on October 16, 17 and 18. It's going to be as big a show as any Royalist could wish for and the details have been hammered out both in Colombo and Kandy where the FRCH, Fellows all, held their first meeting on Saturday,August 15.

I see you're still wondering. Well, an FRCH is a Fellow of the Royal College Hostellers. . .and the 40strong group which met on the 15th at the Kandy Club in Malabar Street is the ROCOHA Royal College Old Hostellers Association. And the Carnival? That's the great and good cause I woffled on about.

The College hostel needs the most immediate attention. It's over-crowded, it's well . . impossible! What is needed is a new building to accommodate 400 hostellers, and that's talking Rs 40 million. As Dr. Nihal Karunaratne said (incidentally, he was made President of the hill country segment of ROCOHA) this is not all that big a target.

Fund raising is something Dr Nihal excels in and when it comes to raising the wind any self-respecting anemometer registers him as a gale force. Anyway, beside numerous small projects which will be soon launched, the Fellows are hoping that the Carnival will give them a big shove in the right direction.

By the way, check out an earlier piece in these columns which I titled "Royal Bedfellows". The hill country ROCOHA has one very energetic old hosteller to thank: Rushan Sumanaweera of Kandy's TNT Mailfast, who, as people tell me is the live wire who got the Fellows together. Irresistible, these old Royalists!

Actually, I am devoting myself to a special piece on this issue later because it is really a national issue, and involves us all. And don't miss the Blue, Gold and Blue. Thomians all and roaring Trinitians are specially welcome and so say all of us!

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