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tuesDAY, april 17, 2012

Sheikha Suad pleased at current women status in Gulf but calls for greater improvement KUWAIT: The eminent Kuwaiti poet, Sheikha Dr. Suad Al-Sabah, has praised Kuwaiti women for their success in breaking social and traditional chains and occupying status among fellow male nationals for public services. However, she cautioned that they need to struggle more for greater achievements and liberties. In an interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), on the occasion of her current visit to the Saudi capital for taking part in the “first women poetic charitable soire,” Sheikha Suad, a Kuwaiti poet and writer, well known in Kuwait, the Gulf and the Arab world, said that the Kuwaiti woman “has broken the chain, opened up springs (of creativity) and realized herself.” “She needs to do a lot more, although in every single house in Kuwait, she is the hanging mist,” Sheikha Suad said in metaphoric terms, alluding to the females’ basic role of caring for families and upbringing the youth. Noting that the Kuwaiti women have largely succeeded in staying in the development process of the country since many years ago, when the Kuwaiti society was very much conservative, Sheikha Suad boasted that many of her fellow female citizens occupied senior posts, acquired high education, served as teachers, employees in various departments and worked in the press, as editors and chief editors. On her outlook of future of the cultural and intellectual relationship between the Kuwaiti and Saudi women, she re-asserted that females of her country “were ahead of the Saudi women regarding some issues, however the path ahead of them remained a long one.” “The Saudi women have solid potentials that render them capable of pursuing the struggle at the intellectual level for realizing themselves and they have to carry on with the battle against those who seek to put them, solely, in the houses of obedience.” “Hearts (of the Kuwaiti and Saudi women) are united however putting hands together has remained on the

FILE-Kuwaiti women attend the parliament session at the Kuwait’s national assembly on Dec. 14, 2010 in Kuwait City (AFP).

waiting list,” she said, affirming in her distinguished poetic language that little has been done for coordination between the females of the two neighboring Gulf countries. On the role of women intellectuals for cementing the ties among the GCC countries, Sheikha Suad said, “Culture is our real passport to have access to each other; it is the beautiful bird of freedom known by all trees in the Gulf.” “The educated Gulf women are rays of light that feed the hearts with love, compassion and solidarity.” On a recent decision by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, to grant the Saudi women franchise rights, the renowned and veteran Kuwaiti poet praised the King for leading the nation in line with “the spirit of modern times and with deep sense of responsibility of a

leader who knows that life can only exist with women presence.” Regarding her winning of the Korean “Manahi” award, Sheikha Suad indicated that this honoring was actually devoted for all Arab women who have chosen to struggle with words. Asked on her work plans, she hinted that memories with her late husband, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mubarak, were gripping her mind and that such experiences would lead to new poetic and prose works. As to the present lack of women representation in the Kuwaiti parliament, Sheikha Suad indicated that results of the recent polls should be accepted as some aspects of democracy, expressing her certain belief that the women activists in her country would push for another major comeback to the political arena in the future. Asked on her assessment of the Arab

Quake-hit Christchurch to build cardboard cathedral FRANCE: A temporary cathedral made from cardboard will be built in Christchurch to replace the historic Anglican building destroyed in last year’s earthquakes, Church officials said Monday. The spire of the original cathedral,

a symbol of the New Zealand city, collapsed in the February 2011 quake that killed 185 people and the structure was condemned after sustaining more damage during tremors in June and December. The Church unveiled plans Monday

This Anglican Church of New Zealand handout photo received on April 16, 2012 shows an impression of a temporary cathedral made from cardboard which will be built in Christchurch, New Zealand to replace the historic Anglican cathedral destroyed in last year’s earthquakes. (AFP)

to erect a temporary cathedral designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban by the end of the year, describing it as a “symbol of hope” for the shattered city, which is still struggling to rebuild. Costing NZ$4.5 million ($3.7 million) and capable of seating 700 people, the cathedral will be made from cardboard tubes, timber beams and structural steel on a concrete pad. “It will give a location for people to come and reflect on what we’ve been through and, hopefully, gather inspiration for the future,” project organizer Richard Gray said. Ban has previously built cardboard and paper structures following earthquakes in Japan’s Kobe, L’Aquila in Italy, and Haiti, although the A-frame cathedral is his largest so far. “The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” he said. “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes. It’s also consistently lowcost.” Work on the temporary cathedral is due to begin next week. Plans have not been finalized for a permanent replacement for the 131-yearold cathedral, which the Anglican Church says would have cost up to NZ$100 million to rebuild. -AFP

Lao New Year’s traditional focus draws tourists VIENTIANE: On the first day of “Pi Mai Lao,” or Lao New Year, the capital Vientiane wakes up to the sound of Buddhist monks chanting in the ancient Pali language as women in traditional silk skirts gather at dawn to offer alms to monks in orange colored robes. Phonesavanh Xaypanya, 63, is one of them. Together with her five-year-old granddaughter Malaythong she kneels down to offer homemade sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. “I’m offering wish for good health and success this New Year,” said Phonesavanh. “This is an auspicious day to offer food and receive blessings.” The slow pace and lagging modernization of Laos, just starting to gain recognition among foreign tourists, means that traditions long abandoned in Thailand, just to the west, remain a key part of life - and are now an important draw for foreign visitors. As this nominally Communist and landlocked former French colony slowly opens, courting neighboring China, Thailand and Vietnam to develop its resources and infrastructure, the old-fashioned pace of life is becoming an important resource of its own, charming visitors jaded with more modern capitals. The three-day New Year’s holiday that this year ended on April 16 is just one example of the hospitality and easy-going people that have earned the “Laos People’s Democratic Republic” - the country’s formal name - the nickname “Laos Please Don’t Rush” among its expatriate community. Whereas Thailand’s Songkran festival is characterized by often raucous celebrations, in Vientiane’s gilded temples ven-

dors sell jasmine garlands, sticks of marigold flowers, incense and candle sticks for the religious ceremonies that take place throughout the holiday. At Pha That Luang, a gold stupa in the center of Vientiane, tourists and locals file in to pour scented water over Buddha statues decorated with flowers, a cleansing act that is far more than just a sign of respect. “It will bring good luck and prosperity this year,” said a smiling Phong Chandala, 28. As the festivities continue, religious chanting makes way for electronic music played at full volume. Locals and tourists gather by the road-side for a full day of water-fights, splashing and drinking. By sun-set the party is in full swing across the city. Young people dance and throw buckets of water at each other until the next day when the celebrations begin again. “The atmosphere today is amazing,” said Margret Bjorndottir, 20, from Iceland. “We’re travelling around southeast Asia and heard wonderful things about Laos and we were not disappointed.” Visitors from Thailand also travelled to Vientiane in search of ways that have vanished at home. “Lao people still respect the old customs, that’s why we like it. And the water fight is more relaxed than in Bangkok. It’s so crowded there,” said Malee Vongchumyen, 39, from Thailand. Her husband, 42-year-old Saksith Vongchumyen, agreed. “It’s not the same anymore in Thailand, there is too much drinking and stupid behavior. Laos reminds me of traditional New Year when I was a kid,” he said. -Reuters

Sheikha Dr. Suad Al-Sabah

media, at present, she likened it to a military tank driven by a confused soldier who cannot determine the course of driving. She revealed that she was a fan of the electronic socializing, “for I love people and my verses blossom with aroma of their spirits.” She also expressed satisfaction that some of the supporters posted excerpts of her works on websites. Sheikha Suad forecast a blossoming future for Arab poetry. “The Arab is born a poet and dies as a poet but there is a verse for each time...” Sheikha Suad, who arrived in the Kingdom late on Sunday, was received by the chairperson of the women department of Prince Salman social center, Princess Al-Johara Bint Saud Al-Thuannyan Al-Saud, and the Kuwaiti Charge D’affaires, Thiab Farhan Al-Rashidi, along with his spouse, Sheikha Mohammed Al-Rashidi. -KUNA

Harry Potter encyclopedia in progress, says JK Rowling LONDON: Her first novel for adults is due in September, but JK Rowling isn’t ready to leave behind the world of her most famous creation. The author has confirmed she is hard at work on her long-promised encyclopedia of the Harry Potter world, reports The Guardian. In the “frequently asked questions” section on her new author site, Rowling said that “for a long time I have been promising an encyclopedia of Harry’s world, and I have started work on this now - some of it forms the new content in Pottermore. It is likely to be a time-consuming job, but when finished I shall donate all royalties to charity.” Four years ago Rowling took small American publisher RDR Books to court over its plans to publish the Harry Potter Lexicon, an unauthorized A to Z of the Potter stories. Rowling called the book “wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work”, and won the case. The news that she is finally working on an encyclopedia herself is the latest in a series of announcements from the author, from last week news that she will publish adult novel ‘The Casual Vacancy’ this autumn to Saturday’s newsflash that her website Pottermore is now open to all comers. While the chance to venture back between the pages of the Potter universe will be welcomed by her millions of fans - sales of eBook editions of the Potter books topped £1m in just three days when they were launched earlier this month - the author nipped hopes of an eighth Harry Potter novel in the bud. Responding to the question “Will there ever be another Harry Potter novel?”, she said: “I have always refused to say ‘never’ to this question, because I think it would be foolish to rule out something I might want to do in a few years’ time. However, I have no immediate plans to write another Harry Potter novel, and I do think that I have rounded off Harry’s story in the seven published books.” Readers on fan website Mugglenet were nonetheless rejoicing about the forthcoming encyclopedia. “Happiness x10000,” wrote one fan on learning of Rowling’s new project. “IT’S LIKE POTTERHEAD CHRISTMAS!” said another. “I can’t even express how excited I am right now. I’ve been nostalgic lately, thinking back on how the series used to be, but all of this news and anticipation has reminded me that the magic is still alive. So I have one final thing to say to my fellow Potterheads, here we go again.” When Rowling published the Harry Potter fairytale spin-off ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard for charity’ in 2008, she sold 368,000 copies in just three days.

Remote Indian state struggles for identity

FILE-Local Manipuri youngsters play a game of carom in front of their homes in a small by-lane of Imphal in the north eastern state of Manipur on Feb. 20, 2012. (AFP)

FRANCE: Promoted in official tourist brochures as the “jewel of India,” the tiny state of Manipur seems closer to an ignored family heirloom than a proudly coveted gem. “Backwards,” “marginalized,” “isolated,” “insurgency-wracked:” the adjectives that most frequently precede any mention of Manipur -- for all its stunning natural beauty -- are overwhelmingly negative. And for many Manipuris, the concept of being “of India” in any meaningful sense is one they find difficult to entertain. “Why should I care about India when India does not care about me,” says Jiangam Kamei, a 22-year-old history student in the state capital Imphal. Such expressions of alienation are common in a number of the “Seven Sisters” -- the group of northeastern states encircled by five other countries and connected to the rest of India by a sliver of land that arches over Bangladesh. Their relative isolation is not just geographical, but also ethnic, linguistic, economic and political. “We look so different to start with,” said Kshetrimayum Onil, who works for a local human rights group in Manipur and also runs a youth network called ReachOut. “We are often mistaken for Chinese or Koreans because of our Mongol roots,” Onil said. One of India’s smallest states with a population of just 2.7 million inhabitants, Manipur borders Myanmar and its people have always tended to look eastwards in their search for cultural links. “We are virtually cut off from mainland India,” said Shyam Singh, a history professor in Imphal. “Culturally and socially, we identify ourselves more with the countries of Southeast Asia as they are closer to home.” One striking example is the massive popularity in Manipur of Korean movies, soap operas and pop music, which have filled the vacuum caused by a separatist-led boycott of Bollywood films. Separatist violence has been part of daily life in Manipur for decades, as it has been in most of the northeastern states that have spawned more than 100 militant groups whose demands range from autonomy to secession. Manipur was incorporated into the Indian Union on October 15, 1949, two years after the country won independence from British rule. According to political analyst Sharat Chandra, the

enormous problems India faced after partition meant its leaders neglected remote states like Manipur which were never properly integrated into the socio-political mainstream. The central government’s “step-motherly treatment” fuelled separatist sentiment from the outset and rebel outfits sprang up “each vying for political supremacy and promising secession from India to its people,” Chandra said. The perception of New Delhi as a quasi-colonial power was reinforced by the huge deployment of security forces armed with sweeping anti-insurgency powers to counter the separatist violence that peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. “The government exists only in name here,” said Inder Laishram, who runs a shop in Imphal’s main Burma Bazaar, where heavily armed commandos are a constant presence. “The real power is in the hands of the army and the underground outfits. Both run the show with the power of the gun. We have nowhere to turn to,” the 35-year-old said. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the myriad rebel groups are largely formed on tribal or ethnic lines with rival agendas that regularly erupt into bloody internecine disputes. Manipur has a strong ethnic mix, and the state’s Meitei, Naga, Kuki and Pangal communities are all deeply committed to preserving their own cultural autonomy. Laishram belongs to the Hindu Meiteis who dominate the Manipuri plains, and it is that community which provides his primary identity, as he makes clear when asked whether he voted in recent elections. “Why should I? We are Meiteis. We are not Indians,” he said. The disconnect with the rest of the country extends to sport. In the streets of the bazaar, young boys play a game of sepak takraw, or kick volleyball, a sport native to the Malay-Thai Peninsula, as opposed to cricket. Manipur has a primarily agrarian economy and is one of the least developed states in India -- one of only five with a per capita income of less than 30,000 rupees ($600). The charge that Manipur has been neglected and marginalized by the Indian government has found a powerful symbol in the person of Irom Sharmila -- a 40-year-old activist who has been labeled “the world’s longest hunger striker”. -AFP

April 17, 2012  
April 17, 2012  

Al Watan Daily - Kuwait