Mount Lavinia Hotel celebrated its 210 year anniversary from July 8 to 10. The event titled ‘Words on the Mount’ was curated by Shevanthie Goonesekera, author of the Second Edition of Mount Lavinia – the Governor’s Palace. The first two days of the event was dedicated to book launches and literary events, commendable, according to Nation sources. It was the day three schedule that raised a few concerned eye brows.
Day three consisted of a long three part workshop for children conducted by British author Nicholas Allan. Nicholas is the author and illustrator of many best-selling picture books, including The Queen’s Knickers, The Hefty Fairy, Father Christmas Needs A Wee and Jesus’ Christmas Party. In his book The Queen’s Knickers written through the eyes of a little girl, the range of royal underwear – from the garden party and Christmas speech knickers to the VIP (Very Important Pair) for the opening of Parliament – is revealed.
The second part of the Day 3 workshop addressed children aged six and above. The many choices that the Queen makes in knickers for her various engagements were described in fine detail during the session, according to sources. “The children were then asked to colour a template of a knicker with essentially Sri Lankan designs that would suit the Queens interest in Sri Lanka. British High Commission, Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Laura Davies picked three winners,” said the source.
Sources further raised concerns about subjecting Sri Lankan children to such exposure, especially considering the presence of boys and very young children. “Some of the older boys were between 13 and 17 plus,” said the source. “This is a very impressionable age. While I am inclined to think British children may be used to such exposure, I have my concerns about our Sri Lankan children.”
When contacted British High Commission, Deputy High Commissioner Laura Davies said, “It isn’t for me to comment on Sri Lankan cultural norms, but I saw what a wonderful time the children had at all three workshops that day. They and their parents had clearly been enjoying learning from a great children’s illustrator, and the 12 winners and their parents were very proud.”
However, according to sources some of the children who took part in the event were boys from an orphanage in Negombo and a school for the deaf in Moratuwa. More unsettling was the short translation delivered by a local lady employed by the Mount Lavinia Hotel for the benefit of these children. “Lankawe lassana knickers thiyena wa ne? Ithin oya gollanta puluwan hada vada daala knickers paata karanna hondada.”
“When the kids heard it, they first laughed,” said Tineke de Silva of Dr. Reijntjes School for the Deaf, Moratuwa. When asked, being of Dutch origin, if she considered herself fit to decide whether to subject Sri Lankan children to such exposure, Tineke refused to comment. “But they weren’t exposed to anything indecent. They didn’t even look like knickers. They were excellent works of art. And the children enjoyed it.”
When asked whether the school management was aware the children would be asked to draw knickers, Tineke answered in the affirmative. “We answered an advertisement, and it was mentioned in it. It was conducted by a famous author.” When asked whether the children were aware they would be asked to draw and color knickers, she said, “I think so.”
Mount Lavinia Hotel, Group Director – Business Development and Corp. Communications, Lakmini Raymond refused to comment. Both Mount Lavinia Group of Hotels, Chairman, Sanath Ukwatte and General Manager Bazeer Cassim were unavailable for comment despite repeated efforts.