Those Pilgrimages to Madhu Church – By GEORGE BRAINE “Pilgrims” now complete day trips to Madhu, a 250km roundtrip from Colombo and Negombo, leaving at dawn and returning by late evening. They are boastful of this “achievement”, made possible by a fast, auto drive, air conditioned, power-steering car, on well paved roads, helped by cafes on the way where they could pause for tea. But, they have no idea of what they are missing on such quickie trips. My father, the youngest of nine children, wrote about his trips to Madhu as a child. This was in the 1930s, and his English father had bought a Galloway saloon car for the family. He even remembered the registration number: S-264. His Sinhalese mother (my grandmother) was a devout Catholic. The pilgrimage to Madhu, an arduous journey through dangerous jungle, to a shrine reputed to have miraculous powers, was expected to bring ...

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In praise of trains, buses, and bicycles By GEORGE BRAINE Recently, while taking a walk in my neighborhood in Sapporo, Japan, a mother and a son passed me on a bicycle. The mother was riding, and the son, about three years of age, was safely belted to a seat in the rear. They appeared to be happy, chatting about something that made them smile. Once again, I found this, a scene that I witness often, charming. Japan is a wealthy country. In my neighborhood, some households own three cars. But, many people also ride bicycles. Middle school and high school students, working men and women, housewives, the elderly. Wide pavements and bicycle lanes encourage the practice. A habit children have gained while riding with their mothers is carried onto adulthood.  Compare this to Sri Lanka, a poor country, where bicycles (till the economic crisis hit recently) were a rarity on ...

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Baththalangunduwa Island – ideal destination for beach camping – By Arundathie Abeysinghe A tiny island of approximately five square kilometers in size, located approximately 38 kilometers (20 nautical miles) away from *Kalpitiya in the Puttalam District of the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, Baththalangunduwa is popular as a beach camping site. It is an island located in the Dutch Bay (also known as Portugal Bay).  Baththalangunduwa is one of the few inhabited islands to the north of Puttalam Lagoon. Battalangunduwa is a fishing village with a population of approximately 3000 inhabitants. The majority of them are Catholics, mostly from *Chilaw and *Negombo with a substantial population of Tamil Catholics from Jaffna. Hence, the culture in Battalangunduwa is a stimulating mix and the language is a mixture of Tamil and Sinhalese, similar to residents of Negombo. The one and only livelihood within the Island is fishing. The Island borders the ...

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Another 91 held in aborted illegal sea voyage: Human traffickers exploiting current economic crisis – By LEON BERENGER Source:sundayobserver.lk Human traffickers are believed to be exploiting the current economic crisis in the country to convince unsuspecting persons to part with large sums of money in return for a safe boat passage to Australian territorial waters, the Navy said yesterday. The warning came even as another 91 Sri Lankans were nabbed on land and sea last week while planning to embark on an illegal voyage to Australia bringing the total number to 203 over the past three weeks. Among those apprehended were 17 women and 11 children including a month-old infant, Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told the Sunday Observer yesterday. He said among those rounded up were some 16 people described as the handlers of the attempted illegal sea voyages. “Time and again, the Navy along with other State ...

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Scared of hunger, Sri Lankans are willing to risk their lives on boats – By Chris Barrett Source:theage.com.au Sri Lanka/Singapore: At a fish market in Negombo, an hour’s drive north of Colombo, Mallika Fernando had a message for me via my interpreter. “Tell him to take us to Australia by boat,” said the 57-year-old fish seller, as she struggled to offload what she had at her waterfront stall last week She was only half joking. Sri Lanka’s crippling economic collapse has seen the prices of everything – from fish to rice, to petrol – soar, triggering a food security crisis in a nation already bankrupt. Now, as people struggle to make ends meet, some are looking for a way out and the boats towards Australia have resumed. Last month, on the morning of the federal election, a small trawler was intercepted by Australian Border Force west of Christmas Island. Its 12 ...

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