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DateLine Tuesday, 28 August 2007

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Joy of learning Chinese

Sri Lanka's links with China are known to-date back over two thousand years. One of the drawbacks of our colonial period was that our links with this great land were interrupted for a few centuries.

However, 'nothing is permanent' and the stage looks to being set for our future association to be forged even stronger than at any time in our past history. The Norochcholai Power Plant will, for instance, help towards containing the ever rising Cost-of-Living, when it comes on stream.

My first direct encounter with China was on an invitation extended by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) to several members of the Sri Lanka-China Society, a couple of years ago.

Although I had been to some thirty countries previously, the blend of ancient and modern civilisations and the hospitability we experienced on that visit made the Chinese experience rather special. Out of this grew a desire to know more about the language (or, at least, the principal form).

I recently learned that the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies was commencing a Beginners' Course in Chinese and promptly enrolled.

The first thing I learned, when classes commenced, was that it is difficult to purchase Chinese readers and English-Chinese dictionaries in Colombo bookshops, so one is dependent on class notes and occasional peeks into Chinese readers obtained by fellow students from overseas sources.

The next thing I found in my first month (of nearly three so far) was that the initial steps were fascinating and not too challenging. We also encountered items which added spice to our studies. This included the intriguing discovery that the Chinese for father is 'papa' and for mother is 'mama'.

We have recently embarked on the more challenging task of memorising Chinese characters. A set target of memorising around one hundred characters by the end of the four month-long Beginners' Course (of three hours per week) may appear formidable at first sight but we are making progress.

The progress is accompanied in all the students by a sense of satisfaction, which is in direct proportion to the challenges overcome.

A sense of comradeship and identity has grown among the students and teacher in the class. It is likely that many of the students, who are of a range of ages and diverse interests, will continue on to the Intermediate and Advanced Courses. The course fees are well worth the investment.

This undertaking of learning Chinese has, to-date, been a most satisfying experience. The study of Chinese is gathering momentum in countries around the world, including the United States. It is timely for Sri Lankans to take up the challenge, at least for pleasure, if not for commercial and scientific and technological reasons.

As Esther Tyldesley of the University of Edinburgh has noted in Collins Chinese Dictionary 'Not only it is an absorbing and intriguing language, which can express both brutal frankness and extreme delicacy, it also brings with it great opportunities to explore and understand a country and (a) culture that is very different from that of the West'.

(This article is adapted from one included in the souvenir 'Sri Lanka-China Diplomatic Relations 1957-2007; Golden Jubilee Celebrations' published by the Sri Lanka-China Society in May 2007)


Global warming

"Between 1850 and 1980, glaciers in the European Alps lost approximately one-third of their area and one-half of their mass." So where were the SUV's from 1850 to, say, 1960 and the planes from 1850 to the Wright brothers? What about the severe conditions of the little ice age, prior to 1850, from which we are now recovering?

What about the ice free arctic a couple of thousand years ago when Inuit travelled 3000 miles across the Arctic to Greenland in Kayaks? What about the agricultural settlements in Greenland a thousand years ago? What about the Nov. 2, 1922 edition of The Washington Post: "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt."

What about the fact that NASA just changed the hottest year from 1998 to 1934?

What about the fact there is no science that proves current warming is other than a natural cycle? Everything is based on computer models with a massive range of inadequate inputs.


Cruelty to animals

I live close to the forest reserve 'Wakera wathe' bordering Rajapihilla Mawatha, Kandy.

This forest reserve and the bordering areas has become a killing field and very often at night, residents living around are haunted by the painful howling of animals caught in traps.

This happens close to the hallowed grounds of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth and Malwatte Temple. There is no mercy for these innocent creatures even in a reserve. You can't imagine such cruelty to animals taking place in this sacred area. Very often pet dogs of the houses around are caught in these traps.

Scathe said "Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in this web." Man has no right to kill another being. Animals too have a right to live, killing is against the preachings of the Buddha who said Sabbe Saththa Bhavanthu Suki Thaththa". I hope the authorities will take necessary action to prevent this inhumanity.

All the preachings over the radio or television to build a Dharma Rajya is useless but the dedication and commitment of the authorities. If not all life forms will disappear leaving only a set of barbarians.


Summons

Summons are served on a person for the following main purposes:

(a) To appear in courts and give evidence;

(b) To produce documents required by the courts;

Non compliance of summons is a criminal offence and the person who violates, may be arrested immediately. Therefore, utmost care should be exercised as regards receipt and compliance of summons. At the same time, same care should be exercised when serving summons as well.

I regret to note that on several instances, summons have been served via ordinary post where there is a possibility of loss in transit. Summons have to be served either by courier or by registered post.

When summons sent by ordinary post, are not received by persons concerned they may be charged in courts due to no fault of theirs. Therefore, I appeal to the Legal Authority to ensure that summons are properly served.


Beaming light across tourism

Yes, tourist arrivals are increasing but the they would not come for a second time due to harassment and inconveniences meted out to tourists at checkpoints and touts at shopping places in tourist areas.

Let the authorities make arrangements to tackle these issues and tourists delicately.

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