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Three women on a “palu” tree – The Island – The

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In December 1949, my parents, Teddy and Fernie, travelled to Ranna in the deep south, to spend the Christmas holidays with Eddie and Bridget (Bee) Wambeek. Bridget was my father’s sister, and Eddie was the local PHI. At Ranna, they met Dr. Tissera, and his wife. My late father wrote about this visit, so I’ll borrow his words for a first-hand account.
“Dr. Tissera suggested going into the jungle to watch wild elephants. The three ladies in the group – Mrs. Tissera, my sister Bee, and my wife Fernie – were all in an advanced state of pregnancy. But they readily consented to go on the trip without realising its gravity.
Having walked about half a mile into the thick jungle (munching various sour fruits) and laughing at Eddie’s jokes, we finally arrived at the foot of a huge “palu” tree which had a rough platform called “messa” built at a height of over 30 ft. A ladder made of jungle creepers was the only way up. It was getting dark, the time being about 6.30 pm, when the guide said we had to climb up to the platform before the elephants appeared. Going back was out of the question because we might run into the elephants making their way to the water hole. But the ladies refused to climb and wanted to go back. It was only on hearing the trumpeting of the elephants approaching at a distance they consented to climb through fear.
Bee (the tomboy she was) said she would go up first helped by Eddie and me; Fernie went up next with a lot of pushing and swaying of the ladder; Mrs. Tissera had to be virtually carried to the top with much difficulty as she was fairly stout.
At last we were seven adults high up on the crude platform looking very silly but grateful to be above the elephants. But the elephants took their time, and Mrs. Tissera kept repeating “enawado, nathido” (coming or not). Much later, a herd of elephants with young ones entered the nearby water hole in full view from the tree, and enjoyed themselves for over two hours in the moonlit night. It was only after daybreak that seven hungry souls came down to stretch our benumbed limbs and walk back to the car, then home and straight to bed. In due course, the three ladies were blessed with three sons: Premalal Tissera, George Wambeek and George Braine.”
Incidentally, Premalal, George, and I became schoolmates in Negombo, around 1960. But, we were not aware of the event that took place at Ranna, so never talked about it.
My aunty Bee, a wonderful raconteur, never tired of repeating this story. I must have heard it dozens of times, while egging her on. She especially relished repeating Mrs. Tissera’s immortal words, “enawado, nathido”, with varying stress and intonations.
Years later, around 2005, I accompanied my father on a visit to Mrs. Tissera at Marawila. It was their first meeting in more than 50 years, but she recognised my father at once. Mrs. Tissera was over 90 years old at that time.
Everyone who climbed the “palu” tree have passed away. The last to leave was Aunty Bee, in 2013.
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Some 150 Chinese war planes are said to have violated Taiwan’s airspace over four days in the recent past and the question that is recurring among some Western political observers in particular is whether China is planning a forced annexation of the breakaway territory. In the event of such moves by China, would the West, led by the US, be compelled to intervene militarily in Taiwan to protect the latter physically?
Is a global or even a regional war in the offing in view of these fast-breaking developments? Such are the intensifying fears of concerned sections of the world in relation to Taiwan, which is veritably in the eye of a regional political storm currently.
On the face of it, there seem to be substantial grounds to entertain fears of this kind. Not only are Chinese air incursions a reality but the foremost Western powers seem to be getting their act together to intervene militarily in Taiwan, should the need arise. As this is being written, there are said to be ships of six leading navies off the seas of Japan. This amounts to a display of mainly Western military muscle in the South China Sea against China, besides being a gesture of support for Japan, a staunch Western ally.

In an apparently linked development, members of the Quad group have begun Phase 11 of the Malabar naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal. US chief of naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday was quoted saying that the Malabar exercise could expand to include like-minded partners and allies. He went on to say that the “India-US relationship is central to a peaceful, free and stable Indo-Pacific.” This amounts to a further endorsement of the ally status, India holds for the US in particularly the “Indo-Pacific”, which is an arena where the power struggle between China and India is pronounced.
The immediate backdrop to the seeming Chinese military threat against Taiwan is the celebration of its National Day recently, with a notable display of military might, by Taiwan. This amounted to a strong re-statement by Taiwan of its independence and sovereignty, which was a factor in prompting China to display its air power repeatedly over the island republic.
In her National Day address Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was quoted saying, among other things, that, “Taiwan won’t be forced to bow to China”, besides staunchly defending the country’s “sovereignty and democracy.” Such sentiments are perfectly in keeping with dominant and popular opinion trends in Taiwan which hugely favour the state’s independence and sovereignty. This is clearly opposed to the official Chinese position that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China. It is also at strong variance with the Chinese “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
So, to the question whether there is going to be a regional war over Taiwan, if not a global one. The temptation could be strong to take the view that the US could not be relied upon to stand by Taiwan in consideration of the precedents set by it with regard to Afghanistan and earlier Ukraine, to cite just two examples, where the US veritably walked away from what seemed to be its commitments. But there’s more than meets the eye in Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific, where the stakes for the West are exceptionally high. The issue to weigh is to what degree a military involvement, for instance, in Taiwan would serve the US’ vital foreign policy goals in the Asia-Pacific region, which is turning out to be very much integral to the US’ and the West’s closely watched economic fortunes.
The forming of Quad and AUKUS along with the importance attached by the US and Britain to the nuclear empowerment of Australia seems to indicate that the West would be standing up to China on the issues coming up with regard to Taiwan. If the US withdrew from Afghanistan, seemingly tamely, it is because it needed to focus sharply on ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region where the economic stakes in particular are notably high for the West. It does not follow from these observations that the West would recklessly risk going to war with China, but it would be deploying all the means at its disposal to impress on China that it would not be standing idly by in the event of a Chinese military strike against Taiwan. That is, the West would be trying out all deterrent measures to discourage China from having its way in Taiwan.
These considerations are not lost on China. Although it has been attacking Taiwan verbally and has displayed its military muscle consistently to the breakaway territory, the indications are strong that the Chinese political leadership is currently softening its policy stance with regard to Taiwan. For example, Chinese President Xi Jinping was quoted recently as saying that his country is for a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan. This is in contrast to blunt threats of a military nature issued earlier by his administration. One has the proof here that China is far from adopting a cavalier, risk-laden approach to Taiwan.
Why then is China going through the motions of subjugating Taiwan? One reason could lie in President Xi’s need, as some commentators have pointed out, to consolidate his hold on the Chinese people. China is going through a couple of economic debacles at home and a show of military force abroad that stirs nationalistic sentiments could garner for the President badly needed domestic support.
However, the fact should not be lost sight of that Taiwan is prized by the West as well. Given the current global power distribution, it is the South and East China Seas that need particularly close watching. One the one hand, these regions are of tremendous economic and strategic importance to the West, being part of the Asia-Pacific. On the other, Taiwan is an economic power house of the region in its own right. For instance, from the viewpoint of technological prowess it is notable among countries. It has enviable foreign exchange reserves and a thriving stock market, to name just two of its domestic economic strong points. Accordingly, letting go of Taiwan would not prove easy for neither China nor the West.
You may recall that S.O.U.L. (Seekers Of Unconditional Love), is a group that operated in the early 2000s, with a powerful message of God’s Unconditional Love that is accessible to anyone.The group was originally launched, very specially for musicians, and later encompassed people in the show business scene, as well.
At the time, monthly S.O.U.L coffee evenings were held, at nightclubs in Colombo, most often at The Galadari Hotel’s Colombo 2000, and The Supper Club, at the then Oberoi Hotel, and a number of musicians, and showbiz folks would gather, at these venues, to receive inspiration, prayer, to join in song and, above all, to learn about God’s love.
Veteran Noeline Honter says: “At a time, such as this, when Sri Lanka, and the world, is experiencing a devastating pandemic, which has led to millions of deaths worldwide, and when people are at the risk of extreme poverty, it is a time for us to seek and experience God’s love.
“We have the good news that S.O.U.L. has now been revived, at a time such as this, when none of us can survive without love. S..O.U.L. plans to share love with people, especially with musicians who are now experiencing untold hardships, and, in some cases, absolute misery… most of them being unemployed, perhaps since the Easter Sunday bombings, in April 2019.
“The S.O.U.L. group aims to help meet the needs of as many of their friends and colleagues, in music, (within their limited resources), but, above all, S.O.U.L. will introduce them to a God whose love and resources are limitless…The Author of Unconditional Love, The Lord Jesus Christ,” says Noeline.
She went on to say that S.O.U.L. is not about a club, it is not about a church, or a religion, and that S.O.U.L.’s love, aid, and services, are open to musicians of any community, or creed.
The core group of S.O.U.L. comprises leading musicians – Chandral Fonseka, Noeline Honter, Piyal Perera, Sohan Weerasinghe, Gerry Jayasinghe (one of the country’s prominent, and pioneer, DJs, and the group’s co-ordinators, Krishanthi Jayasooriya, and Tina Fernando.
Many Sri Lankan musicians, in the country, and around the world, are participants of S.O.U.L., and they will all gather together on Zoom, for their first meeting at 6.30 p.m. on Monday, 18th October.
Noeline adds: “If you are a musician, and would like to be part of the S..O.U.L experience, text 0765331118 for registration.”
Red, puffy and bleeding gums is a common complaint from patients visiting the dentist. Gums should never bleed even when you brush or use dental floss. If your gums bleed even sometimes, something is wrong. Gums should never be red or swollen.
World Health Organization sources have indicated that a significant proportion of adult populations suffer from some form of periodontal disease, or more commonly known as “gum disease”, and it has even overtaken dental caries as the main cause of tooth loss.
More than 60% of adults in Malaysia tend to suffer from some form of periodontal disease. It is also the main cause of tooth loss amongst our adult population. Oral health professionals in Malaysia are now spending more time treating this disease than before.
The modern era is characterised by longevity and better health, but unfortunately, many adults continue to suffer from periodontal disease, leading to early loss of teeth, and jeopardizing quality of life.
Every day, a sticky, almost invisible film forms on tooth surfaces, which is derived from salivary glycoproteins. If not removed by proper oral hygiene, it matures into what is called plaque, (also called plaque biofilm or oral biofilm), and this biofilm is the primary aetiology of periodontal disease.
If you do not remove this plaque biofilm, it will be contaminated by bacteria, which are found in abundance in the oral cavity. It is said that there are more than 650 species of bacteria present in our mouths, and some of these bacteria can lead to periodontal disease if it multiplies outside the normal range.
Plaque biofilm can be seen particularly at the gingival margins. The bacteria within the plaque biofilm produces toxins that make the gums red, swollen and bleed easily.
This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease.
The toxins produced by the bacterial plaque biofilm not only cause inflammation of the gingival tissue, but also cause destruction of the alveolar bone, which holds the root of our teeth.
When sufficient bone has been lost, the tooth loosens. Finally, when deprived of most of the periodontal ligament and supporting bone, the tooth becomes so loose that it either falls off or has be extracted.
Our immune system, which has a role in targeting the bacteria within the plaque biofilm, can also contribute to the destruction of the tooth-supporting tissue, which will eventually lead to tooth loss.
There are several local and systemic contributing factors that can lead to the initiation and progression of the disease.
Symptoms of gum disease are bleeding gums, migration of teeth, receding gums, mouth malodour (halitosis), taste disturbances and tooth loss as the disease progresses.
Signs of gum disease include inflamed gingiva (gums) and the space between the neck of the tooth and soft tissue known as sulcus becoming deeper, resulting in a term called periodontal pocketing (which harbours multiple anaerobic bacteria causing the destruction of the supporting structures).
There will be radiographic changes indicating the destruction of alveolar bone.
Periodontal disease in the early stages, only involving the supra gingival area, is called chronic gingivitis, and when it proceeds to the roots of teeth via periodontal pocketing, and affects the supporting structures of teeth like the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone, it is called chronic periodontitis.
Gingivitis is reversible if early treatment is sought, but periodontitis is irreversible, and treatment only prevents more damage.
It is unfortunate that what is lost due to the disease (especially bone) is hard to gain back, even with sophisticated dental treatments.

No early signs
In its early stages, periodontal disease is almost painless, and this will prevent many individuals from seeking dental help and intervention.
You may not notice the gradual onset of puffiness of your gingiva or pay attention to occasional bleeding when brushing.
Four out of five teenagers and adults have some form of periodontal disease, and most do not even know it.
That is why people lose more teeth from periodontal disease than from all other reasons combined.
But the good news is that most periodontal disease can be prevented, or treated in its early stages.
Most people have varying resistance to the disease at different times in their lives. For example, a person’s immune system may be normal for years, and then when immunity diminishes, it can cause the “resting” periodontal disease to flare up.
No one knows why our resistance to the disease varies.
Periodontal disease can have an active phase where the disease progresses rapidly, and a “quiet phase” where the disease practically “hibernates” for a certain period of time.
Some experts feel that the immune system of the host plays a major role in these cyclic changes in the progression of the disease.

Periodontal disease and
systemic disorders
Ongoing research and scientific papers over the last decade have linked periodontal disease to systemic conditions like diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, osteoarthritis, respiratory tract and lung infections, obesity and renal disorders.
These conditions are considered as systemic host-mediating factors that can contribute to the progression of periodontal disease.
Research has now shown that diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease, and gum disease in turn has been implicated in poor glycaemic control in these individuals.
Even some cancers are linked to periodontal disease, and recently, Alzheimer’s disease has also been mentioned.
The exact mechanism whereby this association occurs is still being debated, but it has been suggested that the by-products of periodontal pathogens and the host immune response to this bacterial infection may play a contributory role.
Research and clinical trials conducted at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Dentistry on the association of periodontal disease and systemic conditions like diabetes and obesity have shown that there is a link. More research is being carried out to determine this link.
Findings from such research will make the prevention and management of periodontal disease even more important for our patients.

Management of periodontal disease
Periodontal disease is very unpredictable. We think that the disease is caused by a group of bacteria present in our mouth and not by any one particular microorganism.
Thus, it is difficult to develop a vaccine for the disease as several species of microorganisms may be involved in the initiation and progression of the disease.
The main clinical periodontal parameters that dentists assess are the plaque and bleeding scores, and periodontal pocket depths, before we can embark on any non-surgical or surgical interventions.
This will give us information on the stage of disease progression. Radiographic evaluation of the hard structures can also be done to evaluate, among other findings, the alveolar bone levels.
The management of periodontal disease will consist of removing the bacterial plaque biofilm from the mouth, along with any deposits in the supra-gingival and sub-gingival parts of the teeth, and making the roots of the teeth as clean as possible by a procedure known as scaling and root planning/debridement.
Scaling and root planning/debridement aims to reduce the bacterial load in the mouth by removing deposits that are contaminated by bacteria.
Local contributing factors like overhanging restorations, ill-fitting prosthesis, carious lesions and malocclusion can act as traps for bacterial plaque biofilm and have to be addressed.
The bacterial plaque biofilm can become calcified (if not removed regularly) into hardened calculus (tartar). Calculus can also harbour plaque biofim due to its rough surface, and its removal has to be done professionally because of its tenacity.
The systemic host-mediating factors may require referral to our medical colleagues, if the patient is not under medical care.
To maintain this lowered level of bacterial load, it is imperative that patients practise proper oral hygiene. Oral hygiene education has now become an important and integral aspect of periodontal therapy, and should be reinforced at every visit and review.
Mouth rinses like chlorhexidine, which have antibacterial effects, can be used as an adjunct to mechanical oral hygiene methods like tooth brushing and flossing.
These mouth rinses are especially useful in individuals with poor manual dexterity, such as patients who have had a stroke.
It is also useful in patients who have undergone periodontal and maxillofacial surgery to look after their oral hygiene during the post-surgical phase.
I would advocate antimicrobial mouth rinses for any individual who has issues maintaining their mechanical plaque control.
The prevention of periodontal disease is literally in our hands, and together with oral health professionals, we can try and identify the disease early and prevent it from causing damage to tooth-supporting tissue, thus, preventing tooth loss and improving our quality of life.
We should make regular visits to the dentist and we should treat oral health as an important aspect of our lives. (The Star/ANN)
Prof Dr Dasan Swaminathan is a specialist periodontist. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice.

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