Tiger comfort in deep jungle
By Athula Bandara
This 3-star luxury guest house in war ravaged Wanni, was a soothing sight
for journalists who visited the area recently.
Run by the LTTE and popularly referred to as a hotel, the guest house
boasts of four air conditioned rooms, a reception area with carpeted floors,
and a lounge with mirrors, a piano, and teak paved walls adorned by a portrait
of Velupillai Prabhakaran.
This hide-away guest house located in Mallawi on about two acres, is
well concealed even from an aerial view as it is surrounded by thick foliage
and its asbestos roof has a thatched covering which blends with other thatched
roof hamlets in the area. In this poverty stricken area where residents
have little or no facilities, a generator supplies electricity to the guest
The location serves as the LTTE's headquarters for local and foreign
visitors and it was here that Norway's peace envoy Eric Solheim had met
Prabhakaran last year.
The gates to the guest house fortified by a wall of barrels, remain
closed and those who work there have to use a different exit.
The architect of this guest house-complete with a car park and an auditorium
for about 50 people - is reportedly the secretary of the LTTE's political
wing leader Thamil Selvam.
A young LTTE cadre manages this jungle guest-house where uniformed cadres
work as waiters. A large map of Sri Lanka with Eelam boundaries marked
on it, adorns the entrance.
Power crisis further confounded
Blow to Karu: Italian job undone
By Shelani Perera
Promises or plans to ease the power cuts by the end of this month ran into
a major setback with an Italian company responsible for repair work on
the Kelanitissa Fiat Gas Turbine delaying the repair work.
As the average water storage level in the hydropower reservoirs dropped
further despite rain in some catchment areas, Italian engineers are reported
to have informed the CEB that they cannot resume repair work until March.
The engineers had left for a short vacation during the Christmas season
and were due back last months but the delay by at least three month is
believed to be linked to a dispute over repair costs.
The Kelanitissa Deputy General Manager, Shavi Fernando, said it was
unlikely the gas turbine — which was expected to provide upto 10 percent
of the country's daily requirement — would be in operation by the end of
this month as promised.
Renewing operations of the gas turbine was cited as one of the short
term projects in the 180-day programme by the new Power and Energy Minister
The minister has vowed he would quit if he could not solve the power
crisis within 180 days.
According to CEB engineers, the gas turbine which was installed in 1997
has never functioned to its full capacity. Now it lies dismantled, with
the Italian job undone.
Mail going down the drain
Shortage of staff, mismanagement, lack of facilities crippling postal service
By Nilika de Silva and Tania Fernando
While Postal Department workers demand long delayed promotions and the
filling of more than 4,000 vacancies, the public suffer at the hands of
an archaic and inefficient service. Even today a letter delivered from
a distant province will have to travel to Colombo before it can be distributed
to the adjoining village.
All units of the Postal Department suffer from a 15% shortage of staff
with only 22,700 employees to handle the postal needs of a population of
18 million. The shortage includes a short-fall of six Deputy Post Master's
General. There is also a need for 7,278 postmen, but there are only 5,883.
The Mt Lavinia Post Office and Kollupitiya Post Office which are of
Supra grade are also suffering due to acute staff shortages. There are
48 Supra post offices in Sri Lanka of which only 20 have Post Masters.
At Mt Lavinia there is no Chief Post Master and of the 23 cadre positions,
only 14 are filled. The posts of three supervising staff officers are also
vacant. Kollupitiya where a lot of mail passes through has only seven staffers,
while the requirement is 22.
Sources at the Postal Department claim that another reason for the shortfall
of staff is the delayed promotions since 1994. Prior to the Parliamentary
Elections in October 2000, 333 promotions took place in August that year.
Promotions are normally given on a yearly basis, and the failure to
give promotions is being seen as a weakness in the PMG's office. The staff
further stated that recruitment of new cadres could be done at no extra
cost because large sums are being squandered on over time payments.
Post Master General (PMG), W.M. Piyasena told The Sunday Times that
this shortage in cadres was due to the earlier plans to turn the Department
into a Corporation. "For five to six years we had this problem of cadre
shortage, because no recruitments were taking place and no promotions were
being given, and this posed a major obstacle to work," he said.
The Union of Posts and Telecommunications Officers (UPTO) in a letter
to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Mass Communications this week
requested a meeting to discuss the massive shortage in staff, but so far
they have received no response to this and other communications to Minister
Imtiyaz Bakeer Markar.
Meanwhile acute shortage of stamped envelopes, postcards and stamps
in small denominations exists and workers complain that the Department
is losing even the 0.25 cents it could have earned by selling a post card.
The PMG however stated that 164 mn stamps ranging from Rs. 2 to 20 had
been printed following tender procedure and were available for purchase.
He agreed that there was a shortage in stamped envelopes, but said this
was due to a 1 1/2 month delay in awarding the tender. People who could
not obtain the tender and caused a problem were responsible for this delay,
he said. He said the minister had called for an investigation regarding
allegations of tender violations.
The Sunday Times learns there are further allegations that uniform material
has not been provided for the past four years, though the department is
receiving an allocation of more than Rs. 16 million. In the Northern and
Eastern parts of the country, the postal workers have been deprived of
this uniform material for more than ten years, workers complained.
Sources at the Department said the Khaki coloured uniforms which were
previously used had been stopped for security reasons. In 1999 25,000 Mt.
of blue material had been purchased for uniforms, however todate no uniforms
have been given.Workers also ask why material is being imported from China
without using local suppliers.
However, the PMG assured that under the 100 day program of the new government
this and other matters would be sorted out with 95 percent of those eligible
receiving three sets of uniforms. The new uniforms will be ash-blue and
accompanied with a peak cap.
While delays in letters are often blamed on the postman, the public
is unaware of the hardships endeared by department workers. With shortages
right down to the basic necessities like seal for the mail collection bag,
staffers are forced to improvise by using arrack bottle tops for this purpose.
The bicycle used by the postman is his own, and he is paid a measly
Rs. 100 per month for maintenance. The areas covered by the postman have
also extended with many houses coming up in newly developed areas. This
accounts for mail going missing and being dumped as was recently reported.
However, it was clear that while the worker was suffering making ends meet,
someone was cashing in on the allocation made for the hiring of vehicles.
The shortage of vehicles has resulted in the department hiring about
24 vehicles at Rs. 1250 a day, while the middleman pays only Rs. 750 to
the owner. Sources say that these vehicles run less than 30 km a day.
While administration cuts corners by withholding many essentials for
the smooth running of the department, massive sums are being spent due
to bad management of resources.
The building which housed the GPO since around the 1800's, was taken
over by the President's security in 2000. However, now the department has
to pay a rent of Rs. 114, 416.12 a month for the GPO which has moved to
Bristol Street and is housed at the MICH Building, where it lacks even
a fax machine.
Vast sums are spent on renting out premises for sub post offices and
for renovation of post offices, however, there is little to show the public
that there is an improvement in the service.
The Nuwara Eliya Post Office renovated at a cost of Rs. 12.5 million,
has no lights in the rest rooms. Although many gates have been put in quite
unnecessarily, sources said essentials such as the lunch room had been
While this ancient building which is more than a 125 years old, has
lost its teak counters and brass pipings, department staff lamented that
each time a post office is renovated the valuable wooden parts simply vanish.
Castle Hospital rewarded for service delivery
For the first time in Sri Lanka, a state hospital — the Castle Street Hospital
for Women — won a national award for exemplary services.
Castle Street Hospital Director Wimal Karandagoda said the two awards
they won at the National Productivity Awards 2001 in the service sector
were a recognition for the hospital's commitment to the patients' health
and team work.
He said that if other hospitals too followed the 'patient first' concept
the Castle Street Hospital had adopted, they too could win awards.
"We should adopt scientific approaches for management. We should adopt
the 'patients first' concept like companies take the 'customer first' concept,"
Dr. Karandagoda said..
The hospital also won the Taiki Akimotot Award for the best 5s implementation
in the service sector. The 5s include clearing, sorting, cleaning, standardizing
and training and self discipline.
Dr. Karandagoda said the hospital was hoping to win more awards by maintaining
a good environment and improving services in areas of patient needs and
He said that hospital staff were given training at workshops conducted
with the help of the Health Ministry, the World Health Organisation and
the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration.
Container hijack probe goes on reverse gear
By Sunil Jayatillake
Supporters of a UNP parliamentarian from Katana are alleged to have detained
a container carrying 'cut pieces' from a Katunayake garment factory and
demanded Rs. 500,000 from a businessman to release it.
But when the matter went to the police, investigations turned towards
how the businessman got the cut cloth pieces instead of the illegal detention
of the container.
The gang had told police the cut pieces were being illegally removed
from a BOI factory but the businessman claimed that he had obtained them
after paying Rs. 1.6 million to the company, Rs. 150,000 to the customs
and Rs. 94,000 to the BOI.
When The Sunday Times spoke to the Seeduwa police they refused to comment.
But when pressed for a comment on why they were not taking action against
the UNP supporters, the investigators said they should have tipped off
the police instead of illegally detaining the container.
Nobel Peace Laureate to visit SL
Leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party of Northern Ireland, Mr. John
Hume will be visiting Sri Lanka this week at the invitation of INPACT (Initiative
for Political and Conflict Transformation).
Mr. Hume won the Nobel Peace prize in 1998 and a recipient of the Mahatma
Gandhi Peace Award this year. During his stay he will address a group of
invitees on Tuesday, 5 February at the Trans Asia Hotel at 6 p.m.