Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Little Mermaid : Does she need a new place

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
in Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s most recognizable and reputable symbol is the Little Mermaid

It has a very long story.Denmark’s reputed author Hans Christian Andersen first published the beloved fairy tale of The Little Mermaid in 1837.It is the story of the Little Mermaid who saves the life of a shipwrecked prince and sets off on a perilous quest to win his love. The price she pays is dear. To become human she must give up her lovely voice as well as her mermaid's tail, and if the prince should wed another, she will turn into foam on the waves and disappear forever.

Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen attended Hans’s ballet “The Little Mermaid” in 1909.He was very thrilled by the ballet performance, and wanted to erect a statue to honour the little mermaid.The sculptor Edvark Eriksen was chosen to make the sculpture.His wife Eline Eriksen modeled for him to make the Little Mermaid.

The statue is made out of bronze, which weighs 175 kilograms, and 165 centimeters tall. Carl Jacobsen handed over the statue to the City of Copenhagen on August 23rd 1913.Birthday celebrations take place annually by the side of the statue.She is sitting on an angle, looking towards the Copenhagen water front.

She has suffered several acts of vandalism in the past.She was covered with paint in the past.She has been beheaded three times in 1964, 1990 and 1998.Her right arm was cut off in 1984. Further, she was blown off by explosives in 2003.

The site has been used as a political platform in several occasions.The Danish media’s recent reports show that the Copenhagen City Council is considering to move the Little Mermaid statue further few meters into the sea to protect her from the acts o vandalism.

Approximately one million tourists visit her annually, and take photographs with her.The Little Mermaid is one of the most photographed statues in the world, according to the reports.Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about the Little Mermaid, the book is available in various other languages.Disney produced a movie.

Although she has suffered numerous acts of vandalism, she is a tough lady, she survived, and she continues to survive.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cherishing memories of “Yazhdevi”

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
in Oslo,Norway

I was given a pleasant surprise in Oslo, by Tamil friends there, after a long journey from Copenhagen to Oslo by bus.I had the urge to have a real Jaffna Vegetarian meal for lunch.

They read my mind. And, I was taken to “Yazhdevi” restaurant in Grønland.

The place really looked like Jaffna.The lady, who welcomed us, was very charming and hospitable.

She has been living in Norway for twelve years.She served rice, dhal, maravalli kizhangu (maniac) curry, payaththangai (long beans) curry, katharikkai kuzhambu (egg plant) ,carrot salad, pappadam and morr milakai (green chillies soaked in butter milk, and dried ). Payasam was served as a dessert.The meal was delicious, with variety of curries.

I felt like, I had a “Sabai saappaadu” served for a Hindu wedding in Jaffna.She kept asking “Innum podava?’ (Shall I serve more?). We checked on each other’s well being and where are we from.There were more Tamils, who are living in Norway enjoyed their meals.

I overheard a Tamil guy, who was seated next to my table was whispering to his friend “Thamizh mathiri illai, aanaal nalla Thamizh kathikkira” (Although she does not look like a Tamil, she talks in Tami fluently.He came near, and asked me “Neengal Sri Lanka va?” (Are you from Sri Lanka?).More and more joined the conversation later.Non-Tamils visited “Yazhdevi”. I was told that “Yazhdevi” is quite popular for authentic Jaffna cuisine.

Although I miss traveling by “Yazhdevi” from Colombo to Jaffna, I left “Yazhdevi” with the pleasure of having enjoyed their food and hospitality, and with plenty of pleasant memories of "Yazhdevi" journey.

"Yazhdevi" train service from Colombo to Jaffna was stopped in June, 1990 due to war.
I had the privilege of traveling by the last "Yazhdevi" from Jaffna to Colombo with my mum.
"Yazhdevi" train service completes fifty years on April 23rd 2006, although it has not been on the tracks for more than a decade.

Shopper's Paradise

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
in Copenhagen,Denmark

Denmark is the oldest kingdom.

Copenhagen is one of the large cities in the world.

The first pedestrian street was built in Storget in 1962 in Denmark.

This shopper’s paradise became very famous in a short period of time.

There are departmental stores, restaurants, variety of bars and pubs, souvenir shops and much more to explore in this area.

And not to miss the hot dog stands, and pop corn stands.

Some call it “Pedestrian Street”, while others call “Walking Street”.

This place is always bustling with shopper’s.

You can experience the pleasure of shopping, while having a cup of hot coffee and hot dog.

And of course, can sit out and eat and enjoy the winter breeze.

The musicians sit on the street, and play the instruments.

The young and old visit the pedestrian street, which is centrally located.

It’s a street of happenings!
Doing it the Street Way

To report in Zambia’s rural areas so that peasants can have their voices in the media. To ask inhabitants of a Salvadorian suburb if they really have the new water service their government claims to be one of its biggest achievements. Or to simply broadcast news for children are some examples of street journalism around the world.

These examples do not refer to the type of journalism that aims for breaking news or big scandals. They refer to the journalism that asks for people’s demands, desires and needs and how they are dealing with them.

A case of bonded labour in Nepal is one of such examples. In mid 2000, the Nepali government banned it because it had a resemblance of slavery. Some children, whose dead parents owed people, were forced to work for free as a way of paying back their late parents’ debt.

Most of the Nepali media houses, Non-Governmental Organisations and human rights groups,radio station,Radio Sagarmatha, chose to oppose the ban because the bonded workers (Kamaiyas) depended on their employers for survival. After the ban, bonded laborers were kicked out of their homes and lost their source of food.

Radio Sagarmatha reported the labourers’ suffering that arose from government’s failure to address the consequences of its decision. The radio’s reports provoked a huge debate in Nepal that forced government to come up with a programme that saw the labourers receive resettlement packages.

As Petter Ljunggren, editor of Scoop Magazine, a Swedish magazine for investigative journalism, states: “One of the duties of journalists is to dig out the truth. Journalists have left a lot of room for politicians to speak out without searching for the truth. Journalists are usually fed with information instead of digging out information from their own initiatives.” Ljunggen observes that very few media houses are prepared to encourage investigative journalism in their newsrooms because it requires time and financial resources.

“But journalists must learn to take the risk,” says Ljunggen. “We have all the tools and rights to carry out investigative journalism. The problem is that we don’t use all our powers to dig out the truth.”

Photo:-Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai in Jaffna

(This was posted on FOJO, Sweden website during the training course on Journalism & Democracy 2004, in Sweden)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Journalist's journey to a jungle
Training course on Journalism & Democracy 2004

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
from Sri Lanka in Kalmar,Sweden

As in every country, which has experienced almost 20 years of war, working, as a Journalist is not easy. The government and the rebels used to put all kinds of pressure on journalists in order to make their points of view be heard. As a result, some journalists have continued with the same unethical practices even after there has been a peace agreement between government and rebels. An additional problem is low wages.Private companies also play an important role in this deplorable practice. A big airline company invites some journalist for an inauguration flight to another country, with everything paid for. It means that when the journalists get back to the newsroom they all write positive stories, which certainly does not reflect the reality of this company.Another example ­ the inauguration of a beautiful hotel in the middle of the jungle, near a pathway of elephants. A room in this luxury hotel can be as high as 1000 dollars per night. What the owner does, is to invite some journalist for the weekend, to experience the wonders of the jungle with an intention that when they get back to their newsroom, they will write positive things about the hotel. The Journalists in this case were used as publicity instrument, and they were aware of that, but they did not care. All they wanted was to have a good time in the jungle.

(This comment was posted on the FOJO-Sweden website, during the training course on Journalism & Democracy 2004)

No peace for us- Plight of people in Thalaimannar ,Pesalai Welfare Camps

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
in Trincomalee and Mannar

“I have two sons, who studied in India. Now after coming to Sri Lanka they are refusing to go to school, as they are over aged. I do not know what to do. They want to go to work, but I want them to continue their studies. My husband is a fisherman. He did some odd jobs like cutting trees, taking sand when he was in India. Now he has no permanent job, he earns Sri Lankan Rupees 75/= -100/= per day, and it is not enough to look after the family” says 35 years old Vijaya Alagumuththu, who went to India in 1990, and returned to Thalaimannar from India in 2004.

Her family lives in a very small hut in Thalaimannar. There are fifty huts like this in Thalaimannar, which are given to refugees returned from India, who had no place to go. Their houses are either in the high security zones or they have no land . These huts have basic facilities such as toilets and wells, but there is no privacy.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that the total number of persons displaced by ethnic conflict is 352,374. Out of this 72,791 persons are in the welfare camps and 279,583 persons are staying with their relatives and friends. There are 276 welfare camps.

The internally displaced persons started to move from Sri Lanka to India in late 1980’s. By 1995, the ethnic conflict intensified and had generated widespread displacement, uprooting over a million internally displaced persons and driving over 100,000 refugee to neighbouring India.

After the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the then Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2002, refugees from India started to return. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since then, 6,823 persons returned from India to Mannar district through December 2004. There are six welfare camps in Mannar district. 3,479 persons are living in welfare camps, and 26,809 persons are living outside the welfare camps in Mannar district.

This is a policy innovation introduced after much lobbying by Mr. William Clarance, when he was the head of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Colombo in the early 90’s. It was to send the Internally Displaced Persons in the same camps with the same facilities to refugees, who alone had been the responsibility of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We have no land, where shall we go? I am very frustrated, because nobody is taking care of us. Nobody comes here to ask what we need, except the politicians who visit us, when the elections are nearing. We do not have enough toilets and water tanks. We do not have voting rights either. When we applied the application forms were returned, and we have been asked to apply from our original places. If we can go to our original places; Why are we staying in a welfare camp and undergoing several problems?”, queries 58 year old Meenaambal Subbiah in Pesalai welfare camp. She was displaced from her own place Midaththanai in the hill country after the July 1983 riots, and went and settled in Kilinochchi. Then she was displaced to Pesalai from Kilinochchi in 1996. There are 932 persons staying in the Pesalai welfare camp. They say that they do not get anything, other than coupon for foodstuffs, which is not enough to look after everybody in the family.

Most of the men are farmers, and have no lands to cultivate. They go to sea for fishing in Pesalai. Others do labourer jobs and earn Sri Lankan Rupees 300/= per day. Old women in this area go to the shore and help the fishermen to sort out the fish, clean the fishing nets and mend the fishing nets and earn some income to look after their families. But young women cannot do these job as they are shy and insecure. And there is no self employment scheme for these young women. Therefore they stay at home after they leave school. There is only one school. They cannot afford to buy medicines from the pharmacy.

“I have five children to look after, and I am a mason, and earn Sri Lankan Rupees 300/= per day, which is insufficient. We are neglected, no one knows about us”, says 40 years old Ratnam Mahalingam, who was displaced from Kilinochchi in 1999.

“The cost of living is rising daily, I cannot feed my three children. We do not have enough to eat” says 37 years old Selvamalar Segar, who was displaced from Adamban to Pesalai in 1996.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 930 families have returned to Sri Lanka from India through mid April 2005. It provides traveling cost for all the returnees and they get Sri Lankan Rupees 25,000 worth of materials to build a temporary shelter. And if they have a land ,they will receive Sri Lankan Rupees 1,50,000 to build a permanent house. But most of the returnees have no lands.

Alles Garden Welfare Camp, Trincomalee:-

“If the Sri Lankan armed forces do not leave from our lands, we will not go back to our own places. And we do not want to live next to a camp of security forces. We want them to leave from our lands permanently and let us go there to restart our lives. There had been three years of peace in Sri Lanka, but we are still living in a welfare camp. Our small huts were washed away by tsunami as well. Since we have no place to go, we are living here. How many years can we live like this? The government has to do something sooner than later, otherwise we will take up arms as well, we have no choice” says 44 years old fisherman Thangarajah Yogarajah, who is staying at the Alles Garden welfare camp in Trincomalee district. He was displaced from Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee district. He went to India with his family in 1985 , returned in 1990 and lived in a welfare camp, went again to India in 2000 and returned to Sri Lanka in early Januray 2004.

There are 1,479 persons staying in this welfare camp. People who were displaced from Thiriyai, Kumburuppitty, Kallampattai, Pulmottai, Nilaveli, Saambalthivu, Kuchchaveli, Muthur, Trincomalee , Pankulam, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Irakkakandy are staying here.

This welfare camp was destroyed by the tsunami. Most of them lost their temporary shelters, boats and fishing nets. They have neither boats nor fishing nets to go to sea for fishing. They find it difficult to run their lives and do labourer jobs to earn. The most of the refugees in this particular welfare camp are frustrated, as they are living there for more than ten years.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,991 persons returned to Trincomalee district from India up to December 2004. There are ten welfare camps in Trincomalee district, 2,395 persons are living in welfare camps, and 17,188 persons are living outside the welfare camps in Trincomalee district.

“How can I have private life, because we are sharing our temporary shelter with my parents. Nothing is private for us, everything is public” says 18 years old Udayarani Tharmarasa, who got married and has a ten month old son. She lives at the Alles garden welfare camp.

“I do not earn a living now, because I am a farmer, and I need a land to cultivate. My land is in Kuchchaveli, and it is occupied by the Sri Lankan armed forces and they are refusing to leave. I am too old to fight back, I want to go back to my land, and die there. But I do not know, whether my dream will become true or not”, says 66 years old Murugesu Kandiah, who was displaced from Pankulam.

There are 150 families, which were displaced from Kuchchaveli in Trincomalee district living in the Alles garden welfare camp. The fishermen from this area used to earn Sri Lankan Rupees 10,000/= as their average daily income, but now they hardly earn Sri Lankan rupees 500/= daily.

“If the Sri Lankan Navy soldiers see us , while we are out in the sea fishing, we have to give the catch to them. And they do not pay, so we have to really work hard to earn our daily income” says 49 years old fisherman Konnamalai Tharmarasa, who was also displaced from Kuchchcaveli in Trincomalee district.

The people face numerous problems daily in these areas. 60,000 people had been killed due to the ethnic conflict. Although we are enjoying three years of temporary peace in Sri Lanka, refugees in the welfare camps and who are returning from India are undergoing several hardships.

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Tsunami: “It took only few moments to shake the whole world”

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

"I feel guilty, that I could not save Arabi. I lost control and let her die. I am responsible for her death. I cannot forget her, because I loved her so much. I still can’t believe that she is dead. I carried her dead body from Mullaithivu to Mulliyawalai “says 13 years old Niranjala Balakrishnan and she burst into tears in Mullaitivu, North East of Sri Lanka, under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"Tender Sprout" was located in the coastal area of Mullaithivu, North East of Sri Lanka.

This home for the war orphans had 175 children when Tsunami hit, only 52 children survived;30 of them experienced the Tsunami and 22 children were with their relatives, since it was school vacation, when Tsunami hit.

They have accommodated more tsunami orphans recently.

There are 126 children living here and they want to accommodate more in the near future.

Although they are relocated to a different place inland, recent floods affected them once more.

Most of the children here are affected by the Tsunami.

Either they have lost their beloved brothers and sisters or struggled to survive.

They believe that, their beloved brothers and sisters who are still missing from the group will return home sooner or later.

They can't eat, sleep or play.

The cherished memories of the loved ones keep bothering these children.

They are unable to forget the past.

The lost loved ones stayed, ate, slept and played together.

They get up in the night and shout.

Mullaithivu was one of the worst affected areas by Tsunami.

"I was putting cover for the new exercise books, and getting ready for the new school term, which was supposed to begin in early January 2005. I heard a noise and everybody started to run. I also ran and climbed on a tree. I saw my little sister under that tree. And later she was washed away. I witnessed it. But I never saw her body. I was told that, she died on the way to the hospital" says 9 years old Susi Sinnathurai, who burst into tears.

There are more children, who do not know what has happened to their loved ones.

These little children are already affected by the two decades of ethnic conflict.

I was in London in December2004 undergoing training, when Tsunami roared Sri Lanka.

I had a very late night on 25th of December 2004, at my uncle's house in London, as we had a Christmas party.

I could not fall asleep at all, as I was thinking of traveling to Manchester to see my uncle and aunt who have come from Toronto to see their daughter.

I got up at 4am and had a shower.

I packed my bag, and got ready to catch the coach to Manchester, where my cousin lives. whom I have not seen for many years.

I was planning to be with her, and my uncle who came to Manchester from Toronto.

I made a cup of coffee.

And switched on the television, and watched BBC World.

Then I found out that Tsunami has hit Sri Lanka.

I immediately called my parents in Colombo to see whether they were keeping well

But the telephone lines to Sri Lanka were not easy to get through.

I informed my uncle and aunt that I have to return to Sri Lanka as soon as possible.

Then I have decided to cancel my trip to Manchester, and return to Sri Lanka.

I called my cousin and uncle to say that, "I am not coming to Manchester as I have planned".

They were not happy to hear that from me, but there was no other choice.

Then I called my good friend and former colleague Frances Harrison and explained what has happened in Sri Lanka.

She wasn't happy either.

And later my mobile was jammed.

I was unable to get through to anybody from my mobile or others couldn't get through to me on my mobile.

But I managed to send text messages to my colleagues.

And I have already started to make arrangements to my colleagues, who were rushing to Sri Lanka for news coverage.

Further I informed everybody that I am returning to Sri Lanka.

My uncle and his children came to the Heathrow airport to bid goodbye.

But my aunt couldn't come to the airport, as she was not feeling well.

I can still remember very well, that she advised me "Dushi I know that, you have taken risks in the past. But make sure that you take care of yourself, while being on the field and keep us informed how you are keeping".

I boarded the Emirates flight.

The President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga flew on the same flight.

I called home and my sources from wherever and whenever possible to update myself.

And watched the television in the flight.

When I left London the death toll has already gone up to few thousands.

And it kept on increasing.

I arrived at the Katunayake International airport on 27th of December 2004 morning.

I went to the office straight to pick up some equipment.

I pulled out some hot weather friendly clothes from my bag, as I had all winter clothes to wear in London.

Although I was in Colombo, didn't have time to go to my house.

And went to the Ratmalana Domestic airport to catch a military flight.

The scheduled flight was cancelled due to the bad weather.

Managed to speak to the Sri Lankan Air force officers and got the permission to fly to Koggala Air Force Base in the South of Sri Lanka.

I flew with the military officers, who were dropped off at Peraliya, where the train accident took place.

I saw the devastation from the aerial view first, while flying to Koggala.

And I started to take photos, by using a small Canon, which produced enormous amount of unimaginable images from North, East and South of Sri Lanka later.

Landed at the Koggala Air Force Base at 6.30pm.

But there was no transport to go to Galle, South of Sri Lanka., because the roads were devastated.

I saw foreigners who were on holidays in the South, were queuing up at the Koggala Air Force Base to fly to Colombo as soon as possible.

Spoke to Air Force officers, and they provided a jeep to get myself dropped at Galle Light House Hotel, where my other colleagues were staying.

I traveled in the jeep, which had food parcels for the affected people.

But they have already started to spoil, as time flew by.
The road was deserted.

It took three hours to get to Galle from Koggala.

I went to the Light House Hotel in Galle at 12 midnight.

I had to start work immediately.

I went to the Karapitiya Base Hospital in the morning.

I witnessed dead bodies coming endlessly to the hospital.

The hospital morgue and corridors were full of dead bodies.

Most of the bodies were beyond identification.

Wailing relatives rushing to the hospital to identify their loved ones by their belongings such as rings, clothes, identity cards, and wrist watch.

I witnessed the mass burial in the South and in the North later.

The dead bodies were wrapped in polythene sheets.

The military was transporting the dead bodies from the sea shore to the hospital and burial place in the South.

But in the North the cadres of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cleared the area quicker than expected, disinfected the places, and transported the survivors to a safer place.

I saw nobody in Mullaitivu town, except the cadres who were carrying out their duties and dogs, which were searching for their owners.

And especially in the nights it was very disheartening to see a place, which was bustling after the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the then Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2002.

Then I went to the Eastern province of Sri Lanka, where the most number of people killed by the Tsunami.

Witnessed the suffering by all three communities- Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.

There was no proper place to stay in the east, unlike other places in the country.

The roads were cut off by water.

I managed to find a guest house to stay in Kalmunai, East of Sri Lanka, which was affected as well.

There was no water to drink or bathe.

I used mineral water to bathe.

The owner of that guest house knows my dad very well, as he comes from the same place as my dad's.

Therefore he was extra hospitable to us.

As the shops were shut, he served us French fries, sausages and coca cola.

But I didn't have any appetite for food, because of what I have witnessed so far started to bother me so much.

Especially I witnessed in Kalmunai that the dogs have started to eat the dead human bodies which were unattended.

This was staggering to see.

I immediately informed the relevant authorities, but no action was taken.

As a Hindu, I even respect a dead body.

So I have decided to do a mass burial for five females, three males and three children –one male and two females.

My parents, brothers and relatives live in Sri Lanka and abroad kept calling me to keep them updated.

I requested all of them to send anything possible from edible to money to Sri Lanka as soon as possible to help the survivors.

They acted very promptly and quickly.

Some of have decided to sponsor Tsunami orphan through out the life time, widowers and men who lost their livelihoods.

And some of them lobbied in their countries and got long term monetary assistance for the tsunami affected victims in North, East and South of Sri Lanka, for which I really appreciate all the kind hearted human beings who extended their fullest co-operation to the survivors, without any hesitation.

Further, I have witnessed the suffering of the survivors from all three communities.

The people have become closer to my heart.

As I travel widely to the Tsunami hit areas very often people recognize me by my name, especially in the North, where I call my home always.

Most of them call me in Tamil "Amma"-Mother, "Magal"-Daughter, “Pillai” –Child, "Thangachchi"- Younger Sister, "Akka"- Elder Sister, "Monai" and "Nachchiyar", and share their heart breaking sad stories without any boundaries.

I still treasure those unforgettable and unhappy memories.

And I gathered new experiences in my decade long career, by covering the worst ever natural disaster- Tsunami, and the largest ever relief operation in the world. I had the opportunity of working with several world renowned Journalists.

On 26th of December 2004- boxing day, Tsunami- seven hours that shook the world, approximately 220,000 lives killed, so many million people made homeless and many of them still live in the temporary shelters.

In Sri Lanka about 38,000 people killed, 2, 34,000 affected and 1, 14,000 made homeless.

And most of the survivors still live in pain, while thinking about their lost loved ones.

There were two waves, the first was- a wave of killer, and the second was a wave of compassion.

"I loved my wife so much. We never had an argument. She was very affectionate. I miss her a lot. We were in the house, when tsunami hit. I survived, but I couldn't safe her. I feel guilty now. But it's too late. I don't know how to make a cup of tea even. That's how she took care of me. I can't forget the happy moments with her and remarry. I want to commit suicide. Because it's killing me day by day' says 56 years old fisherman Sundaramoorthy Sriskandarajah from Vannaankulam in Mullativu district, North East of Sri Lanka.

The Tsunami has made 80% of the men widowers in Mullaithivu district alone.

And most of their children, who survived the Tsunami, are living with their extended family members, as the fathers are unable to take care of them.

Twelve months have flown by since Tsunami, but the nightmares are never far behind them!

“The Tsunami was much destructive than two decades of civil war “the most of the survivors reiterated.

Most of their voices are still to be heard, by touching the peoples' lives with passion.

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