Asanka Pradeep, who is both mentally retarded and physically disabled,
now lies on a bed in Ward 23 of the Ragama Teaching Hospital, with
his left hand amputated just above the wrist.
stringent state control
Child Protection Authority Chairman, Prof. Harendra de Silva
said the need is to ascertain whether it was accidental or
whether there was neglect in a case like this.
Social Service Officers carry out periodic checks at this
home and we have not encountered any problems before this,"
says the Wattala Divisional Secretary under whose purview
the home falls.
recommendation of the Social Service Officers, the Department
of Social Services of the Western Provincial Council provides
Rs. 300 monthly for each person being looked after by Prithipura.
However, as it is run as a voluntary service organization,
with only a small contribution from the state, there is no
stringent state control.
What led to
the amputation? Was it a bona fide accident or neglect by the caregivers
of the Prithipura Infants' Home in Hendala, Wattala? This is what
the police are trying to ascertain.
has many aspects. It is not a simple open and shut case. Investigations
are underway to find out what happened," says OIC Sheila Attanayake
of the Women's and Children's Bureau of the Kelaniya Division under
which Prithipura comes.
have recorded the statements of the management of the home and the
26-year-old "housemother" who was looking after Asanka.
They are also collecting medical and other information before forwarding
the file to the Attorney General's Department for instructions.
had taken place on the morning of April 10. "Asanka cannot
do anything on his own, he is suffering from multiple disabilities.
He puts his fingers in his mouth and from the statements recorded
I gather that they usually bandage his hand to prevent this. On
April 10, they forgot to remove the bandage after a while,"
says OIC Attanayake. Then they showed him to the home's doctor and
later, on April 16, took him to the Apollo Hospital.
the housemother's intention? Was it good or bad?" asks Wattala
OIC, Chief Inspector Sena Suraweera who initiated inquiries on a
complaint made by the Apollo Hospital in Colombo.
The child had
been in the habit of putting all his fingers into his mouth. This
had led to many infections and flies hovering around his face. The
people looking after Asanka had been in the practice of bandaging
his hand to prevent this. On this particular day they had done it
too tightly, says Inspector Suraweera.
When The Sunday
Times contacted the Prithipura Infants' Home, its management refused
to comment until police investigations are concluded.
Times learns that Prithipura Home started in 1964, has about 80
mentally retarded and physically disabled people ranging in age
from six years to 50 years. The plight of Asanka who is severely
handicapped (both mentally and physically) and bedridden, unable
to sit, stand or speak is pathetic because he had been abandoned
at the Ragama Teaching Hospital, before being brought to Prithipura.
Hospital contacted the police, OIC Attanayake had gone to the home
where Asanka had been brought back after being discharged, and taken
him to the Ragama Teaching Hospital.
Director of Medical Services, Dr. Rohith Sharma confirmed that a
patient by the name of Asanka, 8, was admitted on April 16 and discharged
on April 19. "When he was brought in the doctors noticed that
the fingers of the left hand had turned black. Gangrene had set
in and there was no alternative but to amputate his hand just above
the wrist," he said.
admission the reason given by those who brought Asanka had been
"accidental entrapment of wrist by a rubber band two weeks
is a doubt about the circumstances of an accident, the doctors treat
it as a medico-legal case. "Thus we informed the Wattala Police,"
said Dr. Sharma.
As this tragic
case stands now, Asanka who is in a stable condition, has been shown
to Ragama JMO Dr. Ananda Samarasekera. "If and when the courts
instruct me I will provide an independent report," he says
declining to reveal his findings.
the police investigation, which is trying to find out whether there
was an intention to harm, what needs to be looked at is what should
be done for Asanka. The issue that requires an immediate answer
is: What of his future?
50 years after Summit of the gods
In 1953, a wiry
New Zealander and his diminutive Nepalese companion hauled themselves
up and stood on the "symmetrical, beautiful snow-cone summit"
of the tallest mountain on earth.
later, Britain's Royal Geographical Society is marking the anniversary
of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest with a book of more
than 300 images of Mount Everest drawn from the Society's photographic
archives and tracing more than a century of attempts to ascend the
Everest: Summit of Achievement, it all began in 1852, at the headquarters
of the Grand Trigonometrical Survey of India at Dehra Dun, 140 kilometres
north of Delhi. Radhanath Sikdhar, the head of computations, burst
into the office of Superintendent General Andrew Waugh and announced
that he had discovered the highest mountain in the world!
In the midst
of the Himalayan mountain chain between Tibet and Nepal, he said,
one peak towered 8839 metres above sea level (in 1999, the latest
satellite technology put the height at 8850 metres).
In fact, Sikdhar's
calculations were the culmination of at least 50 years work measuring
and surveying the topography of the entire Indian continent, including
the towering Himalayan peaks to the north.
And, with typical
imperial hauteur, Waugh promptly proposed naming Peak XV after Colonel
George Everest, his predecessor and the man who had started the
This came as news to the Tibetan locals who lived beneath the Himalayas
and called the snowy peak Chomolungma or "the Goddess Mother
of the World". Nor did they understand the motives of the British
men who, by the 1880s, began to arrive to climb the place they believed
to be the home of the gods and therefore off limits to mere mortals.
measured and named Mount Everest, the British were now determined
to literally stamp their authority on it. Indeed, climbing expeditions
multiplied with every season as the race was on to become the first
to conquer the summit.
the most unforgiving of mountains, pitted with hidden crevasses,
and prone to avalanches and unpredictable storms that can last weeks.
What's more, once climbers pass 2,400 metres (8,000 feet), they
are vulnerable to altitude sickness that can hinder their reactions
and cloud their judgement.
metres (25,000 feet) and into the "death zone", they are
in danger of oxygen deprivation as the percentage of oxygen in the
air plummets. To compensate, their breathing and heart rate increases.
whether making a cup of tea or climbing into a sleeping bag, can
leave climbers exhausted.
increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes; insomnia sets in;
and loss of appetite is common just at the very point when climbers
most need to stay nourished and hydrated.
In 1921, the
Royal Geographical Society sent a team to explore and identify would-be
routes to the summit without any co-ordination of equipment or gear.
was free to choose his own clothes and footwear, yet the team somehow
managed to reach 6,700 metres before the icy cold and wind of the
Himalayan autumn forced their retreat.
A year later,
a better-equipped expedition using oxygen at high altitude reached
8,320 metres before wind turned them back. Sadly, on June 7, during
a second attempt, an avalanche struck four rope parties, killing
seven of the local Sherpa who had already become indispensable as
porters and advisors to the British climbers.
They were the
first recorded climbing fatalities on Everest, but they would not
be the last.
In 1924, the
Royal Geographic Society launched another attempt on Everest with
a team that included George Mallory, a veteran of both previous
expeditions, who, when asked why he was so desperate to climb the
peak, had famously answered, "because it's there".
Now aware that
the entire climb had to be planned in meticulous detail and executed
carefully, the team set up three camps between 7,750 and 8,300 metres,
and decided to make two simultaneous attempts at the final ascent.
On June 8,
Mallory and his climbing companion Andrew Irvine (chosen because
he knew how to work the oxygen equipment) set off for the summit
with photographer Noel Odell and two Sherpa following some distance
day, as the sky cleared, Odell looked up toward the final peak and
saw a dark dot moving across the snow, then a second.
He kept watching
the ridge and wall for a long time but did not spot them again.
The next day,
with the help of oxygen, Odell continued up to the highest tent
where he hoped to find a victorious Mallory and Irvine. But the
tent was empty and his whistles and yodels went unanswered. No one
will ever know whether the pair succeeded in reaching the summit
of Everest, only that they did not return.
It was another
nine years before a new Everest Committee was formed to try again,
but it too failed. In 1933, Francis Sydney Smythe came within 300
metres of the summit before exhaustion and hallucinations forced
him to descend and rejoin the rest of his climbing party.
A year later,
Maurice Wilson, an eccentric former officer in the British Army,
attempted to climb Everest alone. His body was found the following
spring at 6,400 metres, near a food depot abandoned by the 1933
Again and again,
new routes were mapped out and attempts were made only to end in
failure or tragedy.
1953 when Edmund Hillary set out with the rest of the new British
team, much had changed. Led by Colonel John Hunt, who had studied
every previous assault on the mountain and the prevailing weather
conditions, the climbers were dressed in high-altitude nylon weatherproof
They were also
equipped with lightweight oxygen for the final ascent.
also rotated his climbers, and, once they neared the peak, sent
on the strongest to make the final assault. After an earlier pair
had been forced to retire just 300 feet short of the summit, Hillary
and Tenzing Norgay, recognised as the fittest in the team, were
chosen for the last attempt.
know if it was humanly possible to reach the top of Mt Everest,
recalls Hillary. "And even using oxygen as we were, if we did
get to the top, we weren't at all sure whether we wouldn't drop
dead or something of that nature."
After an uncomfortable
night, they left the last camp at South Col in the freezing chill
dawn of May 29, 1953. Five hours later, at 11.30 a.m. Hillary and
Tenzing stepped on to the summit. Their first task was to scan the
peak for signs of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.
discover any evidence that they had been beaten, the pair then spent
15 minutes taking photographs and eating mint cake, before making
Buddhist offerings of sweets and biscuits and planting the flags
of Britain, Nepal and the United Nations in the snow.
The 1953 conquest
did not put a cap on Everest expeditions. Sadly, many others have
tried to follow in Hillary and Norgay's footsteps only to stumble
Of the 4,000
or so people who have tackled the mountain, only 660 have succeeded,
while more than 140 have died trying.
On one single
day in 1996, eight climbers died during a private climbing expedition.
One of the survivors, Beck Weathers, a doctor from Dallas, Texas,
lost his nose, his right hand and part of his right arm, and the
fingers on his left hand to frostbite.
For the most
part, Chomolungma remains the territory of the gods.