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ENDING THE FIRST YEAR WITH A BANG! – Part 7

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CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY

By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

chandij@sympatico.ca

Orders by Herr Kollmann

In the early 1970s one of the Expert Lecturers in Restaurant and Bar Service at the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) was Herr Lothar Kollmann.. He dressed well with white shirts that were fashionably embroidered with a small Black (Schwartze) Rose. As a young man in his late teens, he had served in the German army during the World War II. He had lost two fingers in his right hand, due to a pre-mature grenade explosion. He often came to our class and said, “I need five volunteers”, showing the three remaining fingers from his right hand and two fingers from his left hand. This confused us. As this was for extra hard work, we never wanted to volunteer. Therefore, we would look down to avoid eye contact. Annoyed with this reaction, on one occasion, he waited for one minute and then turned red in anger. He pointed his index finger and ordered, “You, you and three of you, Kommen Sie, NOW!” We quickly marched behind him, obediently.

On another occasion when a group of students were relaxing during our 10:00 AM tea break, he came to us and asked, “Who has a licence to drive?” A third-year student, Walter Perumal, stood with his arm up and proudly announced, “Me, sir. I do”. Walter was anticipating an opportunity to drive the new van of CHS. Herr Kollmann grinned and said, “OK, Walter. Excellent. Now drive this tea trolley back to the kitchen and wash all these dirty tea cups.” That was the last time Walter volunteered for anything until he graduated from CHS.

 

Missing Cigarettes

Herr Kollmann smoked Rothmans Cigarettes imported from the UK, while students shared locally made much cheaper Bristol Cigarettes. One day we managed to hide his packet of cigarettes, but wondered why he never commented about it. Later we enjoyed smoking his Rothmans after we returned to the CHS hostel. Over thirty years later Herr Kollmann was invited by one my batch mates, Chris Isaac, to dinner at his home in Germany. When he noticed that Herr Kollmann had forgotten to bring his Rothmans, Chris had offered a cigarette to him. Herr Kollmann lit one cigarette and proceeded to put the whole packet of Rothmans into his coat pocket. He then stated, “Isaac, we are now quits!”

CHS focussed a lot in teaching us food production and service. It was able to recruit several expatriate experts with the generous funding from the Carl Duisberg Society and the West German Government. In addition, CHS was fortunate to obtain help from the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations. The Food and Beverage Service training provided to us by a Swiss national, Mr. Jorge Müller, an ILO expert Maître d’hôtel was very popular. Mr. Müller was a very friendly person and loved to see his students progress in their careers. The ‘hands on’ basics in food and beverage service skills I learnt from Mr. Müller laid a strong foundation for my early career in hotel operations.

Nineteen years later, Mr. Jorge Müller and I became work colleagues. In 1990 we both worked for Schiller International University (SIU) Hotel Schools. He lectu

red at the SIU Hotel School on the Engelberg campus in Switzerland. I ran the SIU Hotel School on the London campus in the UK, as the Acting Director. We became good friends. Every time I went to Switzerland to teach hotel management as a Visiting Professor of the International Management Institute (IMI) in Lucerne, he hosted me to dinner.

I founded the International Hotel School (IHS) of Sri Lanka as the Managing Director, 30 years ago at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. I recruited a few former CHS personalities to assist me in establishing IHS. They included Mr. Eardley Edrisinha (our Vice Principal at CHS in the 1970s) as the Principal, Mr. Jorge Müller as an Adviser and a CHS graduate senior to me, Mr. Kamal Happuwatte (later the Principal of CHS) as the Curriculum Development Consultant. By then I had learnt that for any project to be successful, a leader must wisely surround him/herself with people better than him/herself. IHS will celebrate its 30th anniversary as the second oldest hotel school in Sri Lanka in September 2021.

 

Learning to Plan Hospitality Events

We learnt a few basic steps in event planning when we were involved in organizing a holiday party at the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS). That event was a success, so some of us continued looking for an opportunity to practice our newly acquired skills in event planning. The idea of celebrating the graduation of the third-year diploma students came up during a booze party at the CHS hostel. Our temporary “Dutch courage” made us ambitiously innovative in our suggestions. After the student representatives presented the concept of a Graduation Ball dinner dance open to public, the Principal and the teaching staff decided to support this idea. The leadership of the event was entrusted to the second-year students. As the first-year students, my batchmates were grouped into various sub committees to support the event.

The top venues for dinner dances in Sri Lanka at that time were three well-reputed hotels established in the 1860s – Galle Face Hotel, Mount Lavinia Hotel and the Grand Oriental Hotel (later Taprobane). These hotels were too expensive for us. Therefore, after we raised a small amount of funds through dance souvenir advertisements, we settled for the relatively inexpensive Samudra Hotel as the venue for the CHS Graduation Ball in 1972. The students did most of the work to organise a memorable event. We managed to raise sufficient f

unds to hire one of the most popular dance bands in Sri Lanka at that time – Gabo & the Breakaways. My good friend, lawyer-turned-musician, Sohan Weerasinghe, was their lead singer.

 

First-ever CHS Graduation Ball in 1972

In preparing for the big day, some of my batchmates learnt ballroom dancing and practiced at the hostel using broom sticks as phantom dance partners! Apart from learning ballroom dancing, one of the biggest challenges we had was finding actual dance partners. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to join the table of one of our German-trained lecturers, Mr. Rohan Dias Abeysinghe. Knowing that his beautiful younger sister was attending the dance, I had some hope of partnering her. That plan did not materialise, as her brother was over-protective of her.

My other choice was a British teenage girl staying with her parents at Samudra Hotel. Unfortunately, a handsome CHS graduate who was two-years senior to me, acted promptly to book that girl as his partner. I was still not out of luck, as I finally found an Australian teenage girl holidaying in Sri Lanka, who became my partner. I liked the hot pants she wore to the dance. These were fashionable in the Western countries, but shockingly new to Sri Lanka at that time. With that trendy and groovy attire, my last-minute dance partner quickly became the talk of the event. A few of my poor batchmates who could not find dance partners were hoping to get an opportunity to dance with her, if and when I took a b

reak from dancing. I selfishly blocked any such partner-sharing arrangements by simply dancing non-stop with my partner. We nearly won the Baila dance competition held at the end around 5:00 am.

The first CHS Graduation Ball was a great success and we had lots of fun. We also made substantial profits. This tradition that we initiated has now continued with 25 more CHS Graduation Ball dinner dances held during the last 49 years. This event was rebranded as ‘Gravitas’ since the year 2009, to attract non-CHS hospitality professionals. It is now considered the most popular and prestigious event in the social calendars of the Sri Lankan hospitality industry management professionals. Not bad for an event wit

h a humble beginning that evolved during a student booze party at the CHS hostel in 1972.

 

The Worst in Class

Soon after the graduation and dance events were over, I received the bad news on the last day of our first year at CHS. I have placed last out of 28 students in my batch during the final examinations of year one. Unlike now, at that time the common practice was to publicly announce class overall positions and display final results on school notice boards. That was a humiliating practice, especially for the person coming last in class! As I was the only student in my batch who did not study at all, my batch mates were not surprised about my poor performance at the year-end examinations. I was too scared to go home for the summer vacation with my report card. When I finally went home, I was happy to hear that my father was away on some government business. My mother wanted to see my report and I told her a white lie, “CHS will send it by mail”. I had some breathing space which I used to hang out with my neighbourhood buddies. However, I felt like a ‘crab in boiling water.’

When my father returned from his trip, he opened the mail and there was an envelope with the CHS logo on it. The letter was from the CHS Principal, Herr Reinhold Sterner, and addressed to my father. The letter referred to my report card, which my father had not seen yet. The letter ended with a forceful paragraph which read, “Do yourself, your family, your son, this school, and the hotel industry of Sri Lanka, a big favour by removing Chandana Jayawardena from the Ceylon Hotel School immediately. He will not succeed in a profession such as hotel-keeping, which requires hard work, commitment and discipline.”



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New Trend of Defeated Democracy

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One does not know whether Minister Udaya Gammanpila is enjoying his time of special prominence with the SLPP Secretary calling for his resignation and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya moving a vote of No Confidence in him.

The cause for his delight must be that the price of oil remains at the new high levels that were announced by him. He will certainly go down in history as one who replaced the Rajapaksas in leadership on a national issue of importance. Gotabaya, Mahinda, Chamal and Namal are all in the background on the fuel price hike – this is the Gammanpila Gift to the people, not the Rajapaksa curse, when they are trapped in burdens of the Covid pandemic.

The price of fuel is the stuff of governance. Gammanpila has shown how well he can burden the people with a huge fuel price hike. A new trend in fuel price politics was seen in the statement by the smaller parties of the SLPP government that opposed the SLPP Secretary’s call for Gammanpila to resign. Among them were members of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, the Communist Party and the Democratic Left Front. Three left parties that were definitely not against the rise in fuel prices, and the hardships it will cause the people.

Just try to keep alive in your memories how the old left parties – LSSP and CP – with Vasudeva aligned with them, being strongly opposed to burdens imposed on the people. That is the fading history of the Left. What we now have is the Saubhagyaye Thel Mila, the Prosperity and Splendour of a Fuel Price Hike.

The new Thel Mila is the garnish on the dish of the people cooked with the banning of chemical fertilizer imports. There will soon be more of such painful decorations for the people of this not so pearly island.

While the Thel Mila will keep making its inroads into the lives of people with a Gas price hike, the rise in prices of vegetables, rice, flour and all other food, and essential clothes too, Gammanpila will dance, seeing how much he has progressed in crooked politics, forgetful of his past records in law and order.

There is a different joy that we are entitled to enjoy with the Court of Appeal allowing the application for bail by Shani Abeysekera, former head of the CID, and another police officer held in detention for nearly ten months. This has certainly strengthened our faith in the higher judiciary just as the Supreme Court saw to it that 25 clauses of the Port City Bill that were in violation of the Constitution were removed.

The details of that judgment by the Court of Appeal, not fully reported in the media, shows a very dangerous trend in the activities of the police and the authorities on governance, with complete disregard for the rights of the people, or Human Rights, that is an increasing topic of political manoeuvre.

The release of Abeysekera and the other police officer brings into focus the other issue that is the burden of governance in Sri Lanka today. It is the passage of a resolution by the European Parliament, with a huge majority, that consideration be given to the withdrawal of the GSP-plus facility for imports from Sri Lanka if important changes are not carried out to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and this country acts in compliance with international agreements it has signed of the principles of the Rule of Law.

Let’s just bring back to our knowledge the full name of this Act. It is the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1976. Why are we hanging on to all the temporary provisions of this law, passed at a time when the temporary provisions were necessary?

In a fast changing world on issues of the rights of the people, whether it is the Black Lives Matter in the US and Europe too, and the rights of women and children that require constant updating, as well as the rights of workers that are moving away from the days of colonial dominance, should we not update our legislation on matters that relate to humans, as well as animals too.

If we have as a democratic country – that we keep boasting about despite the 20th Amendment to the Constitution – signed so many international agreements relating to Human Rights and principles of justice by several governments, should we keep talking about issues of sovereignty, when the call is to fall in line with recognized international norms of Justice, Law and Order, and Human Values?

It is time to bear in mind that the denial of GSP-plus to Sri Lanka, will hardly affect the business sector that owns the garment industries – who can always go to other countries; but the several thousand workers in our garment factories. Why are we making so many adjustments to the ‘lockdown’ rules to keep these factories working? Is it not because of the foreign exchange they bring to the national treasury, coffers being emptied each day. We cannot afford to lose the benefits of GSP-plus, which will drive thousands out of employment and the country to much worse than it is today.

It is time to bear in mind that Udaya Gammanpila would bring no solution at all to the GSP-plus issue. It is time to go much beyond Gammanpila politics of today!

Come next week, Gammanpila will be largely replaced by Ranil Wickremesinghe. That is the new emerging politics. What a fine democracy we have, when a party leader whose party of political history was wholly defeated at the last general election, without even a single elected member – including himself, is appointed to the National List and crept back into Parliament.

Are we moving to the new trend of Defeated Democracy, whether fuel prices, Gammanpila or Wickremesinghe?

 

 

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Prominent Persons in society

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I saw a letter in the newspapers the other day purported to be from “prominent persons” in society. Now every single person in that collective had appended their signature and it was virtually a directive to the President to follow certain instructions issued by these people. Firstly, there was no detailed plan just instructions to do as “we say”. Secondly, I was left wondering as to how one becomes a “PROMINENT PERSON”? If you have held down a government job, not achieving anything of any consequence for your entire working life, or wormed and slimed your way through the mercantile sector to the detriment of countless dozens of your fellow workers, does that make you prominent? Furthermore, can you appoint yourself as a prominent person? Should you not be recognised by an established and more importantly a credible body, preferably with international credentials? What happens in a failed state? Are prominent people prominent failures? Heartfelt apologies to our Dear Mr. Haniffa, purveyor of all knowledge logical to the Royalists of my era!

Now, I am not saying all those prominent persons who had signed that letter fitted the above description. No doubt there are people who have been of great service to the Pearl and even the world. My point of contention is why have they got to call themselves prominent people? Of course (in my opinion) it is a clear indication of their ineffectuality, the fact that they have not included any plan how to get a hold of the number of vaccines required not to mention how to administer them and circumnavigate the inherent, corrupt system that is in place. Maybe their prominence would be better established if they could use their “prominence” and in some cases, international credibility, to get some doses of the vaccine by ensuring fair distribution of same? Rather than simply issue directives (probably in a feeble attempt to assuage their consciences’ and maintain their prominence in their own estimation), they should offer to get involved or better still abandon their refuge in academia and put forward some practical ideas on how to ensure fair distribution. These are undoubtedly (in some cases) some of the best minds left in our country, surely, they can come up with a plan? If they can’t can a bunch of barely O’-level-qualified parliamentarians and army officers do better? To venture into the ridiculous, if the aforementioned members of parliament (read as the scum of the earth) do come up with a plan does that make them “PROMINENT”!

On the subject of what is published in the newspapers and featured on the web of the Pearl, it seems like the discarded leader of the Yahapalanaya regime, and I say this because even if he wasn’t on paper (or prominence) the leader, he was and certainly should have been, Ranil Wickremesinghe is beginning to worry “the powers that be”, again. Virulent descriptions of him and his supposed perversions in the form of a crudely worded obituary is doing the rounds. Surely, all those who condemned him in all possible ways CANNOT be thinking “could we have been wrong”? The two-thirds of the oh so “literate” voter base who gave a clear majority to an established cohort of robber barons to take over and continue to decimate their country, couldn’t be wrong? The “prominent citizens” who either stayed silent or actively promoted this electoral result with nothing but selfish ulterior motives couldn’t be admitting to the fallibility of their “judgment”? BTW another petrol price increase, the super cars that are being imported for the MP’s will help finish the petrol and thereby leave less petrol for the people to waste their money on! Another referral to the convoluted logic of today that also decrees that printing money will have no effect on inflation.

I see a typically innocuous statement from the Covid reprieved leader of the opposition, saying that he would donate his shots of the vaccine to the people of the country. One wonders if this statement has had input from his advisor on foreign affairs! Is there any use of vaccines for someone who has already had the disease? The answer is pretty obvious even to this “unprominent” person. Therefore, the grandiose and dramatic statement that this doubtful specimen of humanity, will not be vaccinated until every last citizen of his beloved country is vaccinated falls into the category of unadulterated excreta of a bullock, as does most of the other things he says.

When the prominent citizens of this country survey the aforesaid alternatives for leaders in their motherland. The selection between robber barons, retired army officers, and moronic parliamentarians, leaves the purportedly sexually deviant well in the lead, doesn’t it? I must admit that I never ever thought that this line of reasoning would ever be activated!

The inquiry into who was really responsible for the Easter massacre, the strong words of the Cardinal and any possible action by the Attorney General seem to have been swept under the carpet by the various diversions that have either been put into place or that have fallen into place, due to the “curse of Kuveni” that dogs the past present and future of our beloved ex-pearl of the Indian ocean. It is up to the people of the country to make up their own minds, based on the available evidence and at least now decide, not to allow people with even a semblance of doubt attached to them, anywhere near the seats of power. That is assuming they get another chance in the form of another democratic election. The possibility of which does not look too good at present!

Meanwhile the G7 countries have been enjoying a great beach party in Cornwall that extremely picturesque part of England and during the two days of summer that England enjoys, to boot! No Aotearoa NZ at the party, but we are having our own having thrashed England at test cricket and all the Aussie rugby franchises in the trans-Tasman super rugby tournament. I guess parties do happen and the games must go on, regardless of the situation?

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Journal mention is not fame but infamy; ‘reversed’ is not ‘cancelled’; public figures shown up

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In this time of natural disasters and government’s omissions and commissions; a leaky burning ship surreptitiously invited to seek haven just outside our Colombo Port for money considerations, destroying our wonderful sea and life in it for a hundred years, one hugs little bits of normalcy that intrude joyfully our woeful state. Such was my emotion when I opened my front door on Friday 11 June and saw The Island newspaper in crisp print lying there waiting to be read. I actually hugged it as I would a lost child. So many of us newspaper readers yearned for paper copy. You could read on-line but there’s nothing like holding a newspaper in hand.

 

Oo-la-la! Featured in The Economist

Yes, yes, Sri Lanka has got a column in the British Economist, one of the most prestigious of weeklies. It is not about our economy (sinking) or C19 spread (exponential) or being the first country to ban chemical fertilizers (disastrous in its overnight implementation). It’s mainly about a slip of a girl with strident voice and apparent clout with high ups, and other pluses we suppose which to us Ordinaries are deplorable minuses. I quote part of the article for you to enjoy or curl your noses in disgust at how low we are sinking as a nation. I must add I could not believe that the Economist would devote half a page to this but verifying, found it was The Brit weekly. Here below are excerpts with title intact.

 

Push the boat out: An influencer’s rant overshadows an ecological disaster in Sri Lanka “Influence” is, after all, part of the job description

The Economist 12 June 2021

“For two weeks an inferno blazed on the X-Press Pearl, a container ship off Sri Lanka’s western coast. Its cargo—everything from frozen fish to hazardous chemicals and tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles—burned up or spilled into the ocean. Eventually, on June 2nd, the ship sank. Nurdles and other debris are washing up on beaches. Hard questions have been asked about why the vessel, which was known to have a leaky container of acid, was allowed to enter Sri Lankan waters.

“But naturally all that many Sri Lankans have discussed for the past week is Piumi Hansamali, a 28-year-old model and actress. On the same day that the ship sank, police in the capital, Colombo, bundled Ms Hansamali and more than a dozen other people into an old bus and drove them to Passara, a distant village, for a compulsory two-week quarantine. Ms Hansamali had earlier been arrested and released on bail for attending a birthday party on May 30th for Chandimal Jayasinghe, a beautician and beauty-pageant impresario, in a five-star hotel, in violation of a lockdown that started in the middle of May.

“Ms Hansamali, an accomplished social-media influencer …. heaped wrath on a television journalist who had urged police to punish the revellers (he later complained to police of death threats). ….allegations later emerged that Sarath Weerasekera, the public-security minister, had ordered the bus to turn round so that its occupants could pick up clothes, the maritime disaster was all but forgotten. On June 5th a local news website wryly noted that searches on Google for Ms Hansamali and Mr Jayasinghe far exceeded those for the sunken ship. Ms Hansamali, for her part, made the best of a bad situation and took to posting pictures on Instagram of her quarantine digs”The episode reflects a deeper unhappiness with the government’s enforcement of lockdown rules. For days before the bus incident, police had cracked down on violators, in some cases physically carrying them off the streets. But the partygoers were detained only after pressure from the media. Nor was the hotel punished for allowing the bash. Three recent deaths in custody—including one on June 6th, in which a man seeking food for his family was detained for breaching travel restrictions and died after falling from a police vehicle—have sharpened the sense of double standards. Mr Weerasekera addressed Parliament two days later, to defend himself against allegations that he gave Ms Hansamali special treatment after she called him.

… Ms Hansamali and her friends may have meant to cause the government grief. In reality they did the opposite.” The imputations are important.

That is this resplendent Island of yesterday, now decadent. But the humour of social media keeps the people going and unintended jollification in Parliament where in apposition to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who earns respect, his argumentative co-Parliamentarian Sarath Weerasekera has earned a new sobriquet to precede his first name. It sticks in Cass’ throat as ribald but that is the way this land like no others goes. He earned it for being considerate to Hansamali’s need for fresh underwear!

Remember a film starlet garnered more manapes than Karu Jaysuriya and at her first press interview said she knew nothing of the legislature and its rules. When rioting MPs of the Opp took over Parliament when Sirisena turned traitorous and ousted PM Ranil W, Pavitradevi of peni and mutti fame was the loudest rioter beside Johnston and company. Aney, now Health Minister! That’s Sri Lanka for you.

 

The intelligent and knowledgeable write on current matters

The Sunday Island of 13 June also came out in favoured paper/print copy. And it contained excellent reading on present matters. The eminent group led by Prof Savitri Goonesekera dealt with the misappropriation of Covid A-Z vaccine from those who rightly deserved the second dose. Chandra Jayaratne went deeper into this matter in his article “‘Fraud on a Power’- exercised in Vaccinations Management?” listing methodically cases of mismanagement. Sarala Fernando brought to light the help given by USAID to us and further help like free A-Z vaccines to be send by the government under Biden’s order. The Editor succinctly dealt with the “Aftermath of X-Press Pearl.” What had Cass calculating and getting tied up in Rs and dollars and not knowing whether the ship compensation to come would be in USDs or Singapore. But one thing hit her so it knocked her off balance and sent her almost reeling: The compensation for a hundred years of disastrous damage to the seas around us, a fertile resource to this island nation, is 50 M while the luxury cars ordered by the Prime Minister and readily and greedily rubber stamped by the Cabinet would cost us (we tax paying Ordinaries) 3 B. I had a banker help me in my calculations but the 50 M converted to rupees from USD was still totally inadequate payment to us and actually disproportionate to what was to be spent on luxury cars for fat MPS: 225 MPs, 399 cars.

 

Gentlemen meet, ladies included

Cass turned away from the degradation that is over here and listened with delight to BBC World News and saw wonderful pictures of Farnmouth, Cornwall, and Biden and other G7 leaders. No one can accuse Nan of being Suud savvy. See how civilly they sat at a round table and discussed seriously Covid recovery/ stronger global health systems; climate change; and trade. They have committed to handing over millions of vaccines to poorer countries. Chair Boris Johnson, coined their slogan of ‘Build Better Back’ which Biden adroitly directed to countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Cass particularly liked seeing merciful, sane Biden and teacher-wife meet the Royal Family; so gracious on both sides and so very civilized as against our mess and bits of partying fluff that even the Economist comments on as symptomatic of what prevails in this now cursed and battered island. The girl will boast being featured in an international journal little realizing the connotation she is mentioned in. This is the brash new type of young woman we are burdened with against all the beautiful, intelligent young adults we have.

 

Bright spark of news

That brightest star of Sri Lanka has yet again brought fame to the country. Kumar Sangakkara has been inducted to the ICC Hall of Fame, joining the other deserved Sri Lankan star already there – Muthiah Muralitharan. These two are definitely the greatest and both from Kandy, if you please. The accompanying thought is of how despicably the sports minister of then, Aluthgamage, and many on SLC Board badgered and bullied Sangakkara particularly when he was lauded overseas, particularly in Britain. This is why Cass is willing even to be stoned for an idea expressed which is a TRUTH. Class, upbringing at home and school, breeding and even caste hold good to sieve grain from the gross; the decent from dross.

All balanced Sri Lankans congratulate Sangha. We love and admire him.

A PS about Aluthgamage. Cass was told over the phone that the Anniewatte residents were all geared up to receive first vaccination at Kandy High School premises, tented and all, when a call of cancellation came through. Supposedly Minister Aluthgamage had appropriated the vaccines and hijacked them to Nawalapitiya or some such. Don’t believe Cass; please verify, then vilify.

 

Flash news:

The decision to import luxury vehicles for MPs has been reversed said Rambukwella. That probably means postponed, as this Minister himself said earlier the order could not be cancelled. MPs and others are not going to give up so easily on yet another perk.

Flash Comment:

We Ordinaries will never forget this heinous crime which was planned to be executed while the country was in dire straits on several fronts.

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