The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

26th January 1997



Farewell Rosery

Courageous cancer girl loses battle

By Shelani de Silva

The pain and trauma she went through in battling cancer may have been too much for 24 year old Rosery Canagarathnam, when she finally lost the fight early yesterday.

Rosery who seemed fine until Thursday morning developed rash on her left foot, by night she had to get a blood transfusion. However, by Friday morning her condition worsened and doctors told the family there would be little purpose in the bone marrow transplant in which Rosery had seen a ray of hope. Still the family did not give up until she bid her last good bye around 2.00 a.m. at Ward 10 of the Cancer Hospital at Maharagama.

Last week 'The Sunday Times' featured Rosery's heart breaking story. Her determination and her positive attitude towards this deadly illness, moved many readers who immediately came forward to help her.

Many were the praises showered on Rosery for her faith in battling leukemia. Many inquired as to why we did not publish her Account Number at the Bank of Ceylon where a special fund was opened. But we did not want Rosery to feel that we published her story for the sake of charity. Instead, it was to highlight her courage in fighting leukaemia.

The public response was immense. So much so that people had been phoning Rosery's Ward to inquire after her health. Since it was inconvenient for the hospital, Rosery's father requested us to publish her Account Number (which appears on page 12 of the Plus Section). Rosery had not given up hope even after doctors told the family they would have to collect 2.25 million Indian Rupees. Some thought this was impossible but she had immense faith in God who she believed would help her to find the money.

God indeed acts in mysterious ways. It was seen in Rosery's case. Even after getting part of the money through charity she could not go ahead with the operation. Maybe after all, the money could be spent to realize one of Rosery's dreams, which was to open a special ward for leukaemia patients in her age group. In her own words, this is how she felt about such patients: "There are many young girls like me who do not even have the ability to write a letter. At least I have friends and family who can do something. I am determined to help others because I know the trauma one has to go through."

Sons who defied death

By Christopher Kamalendran

The arrival lounge at the Bandaranaike International Airport was packed with an emotionally moved crowd of relations and friends. They were about to receive a group which had literally escaped death in Christmas day high seas drama in freezing weather, thousands of miles away from their homes.

As minutes ticked away the Pakistan International Airlines plane touched down at the airport at 11.50 carrying among other passengers 29, all of them Tamils, excluding one - a Muslim. Parents anxiously awaited for another 45 minutes.

The local INTERPOL division team led by its Director, SSP, Mithra Siriwardena, aware that their kith and kin were awaiting for the returnees, was swiftly taking down details and photographing them. The details of the returnees were being recorded as the police is keen in tracing the masterminds who had smuggled them out of the country.

Many of the returnees had seen their colleagues including Pakistanis and Indians perishing after a boat to which they were loaded collided in the Malta-Sicily channel while they were heading to Germany and Norway. The boat was overloaded by almost four times more than the number it could accommodate.

An anxious mother and father waiting for their son at the airport said: 'Our 18-year-old-son, Mariyanayagam was studying at St. Patricks. He was studying for his Advanced Level exam. Due to the prevailing situation there, we decided to send him abroad. Our daughter in Norway had arranged the passage and he left Sri Lanka in the first week of December'.

'Few days after Christmas we heard that a ship carrying Sri Lankans had collided. When the location was given we knew that our son would have been on the ship. My son had called his sister in Norway before boarding the ship,' they said.

'For almost a week we did not have any information. We were in a desperate situation. We contacted our daughter in Norway for more information, but she too had not heard anything, except about the tragedy. We were praying for his safe return. We went through all newspapers, but found nothing', they added.

'A week later one of the newspapers said our son's name was among the survivors. Our son who had miraculously escaped had meanwhile called his sister in Norway', the parents said.

Watching the son, Mariyanayagam walking into his parent's hands at the airport was a poignant scene.

Jerard, one of those who not only survived the tragedy, but also helped along with several others to save nine lives - six of them Sri Lankans described the great escape. He told 'The Sunday Times' that the tragedy occurred when the 'human cargo' was being transferred from one large ship to a smaller one.

'The small vessel could accommodate only about 80 persons, but we saw nearly 300 persons being loaded into it. Some of them hurriedly got into the ship as they were starving and wanted to reach their destination - the Italian border as soon as possible', Jerard, a former seaman said.

'When the vessel was trying to move we saw it swaying. We heard people in it screaming. The captain had lost control of the vessel and it moved closer to the main ship and collided. The next we saw people just jumping into the sea from all directions,' he said.

'The captain of the smaller vessel which later sank had managed to escape by getting into the main vessel in which there were about 240 others. We narrowly escaped as we did not try to board the small vessel which was over-crowded', he said.

Jerard and few others managed to throw a rope towards the persons who were struggling to survive. Nine persons clung on to it and were drawn to the main ship. The group had sought further help from the captain, but he had threatened them brandishing a pistol.

Sixteen-year-old Sivabalan, who was one among those who travelled on a forged passport, said he was heading for Germany when the tragedy occurred and forced to return.

'With the greatest difficulty my parents found Rs. 200,000 as the first part of my passage. All this money has gone down the drain. But I am happy that at least I am alive', he said.

For the relatives of Pulendran from Kotagala, it was bad news at the airport. They were waiting for the arrival of Pulendran, but none of the returnees were able to provide any information about him.

The relatives showing the national identity card of Pulendran, were desperately trying to find out some information about him.

The returnees on Thursday were able to spend only about half an hour with their parents, relations and friends as they were driven away in a police bus to the Mirihana detention camp, where they will be further investigated before being released.

SSP Siriwardena explaining the procedure said the first move would be to make sure of their identity and thereafter they would be screened to ascertain whether they have been involved in any unlawful activities. He said that as inquiries were over they would be released.

"Our main aim is to trace the mastermind of the racket of smuggling people out of the country," he said.

Students say law degree enough to practice

By Chandimal Mendis

The Students Union of the Faculty of Law blames Justice Minister G.L.Peiris and Higher Education Minister Richard Pathirana for turning a blind eye to their request for a discussion regarding their agitation campaign to make the Law degree a professional qualification.

A students union statement said that since none of the authorities listen to their grievances they would take strong steps to get professional status to the LL.B. So far some of the students of the Law Faculty have staged three protest campaigns in front of Law Faculty, University Grants Commission and Justice Ministry. Also on the 20th of this month they had a protest campaign at Thunmulla junction.

Minister of Higher Education Richard Pathirana when contacted by The Sunday Times said that this matter does not come under his authority. "This is a matter for the Council of Legal Education and not the Ministry of Higher Education. I really don't know why the students should ask for a discussion on this and then blame me for not giving it".

"What is the purpose of having any discussions when it is clear that there is nothing I can do about this matter", he said .

Solicitor General Upawansa Yapa, a member of the Council of Legal Education told The Sunday Times that the council will be meeting in early February, if they are unable to meet in January. So far he was not aware if this matter will be taken up or not as they get the agenda only the day before the meeting.

"This issue had been discussed earlier and there are members of the Faculty who have tried negotiations on this. But recently there had not been any discussions on this", he said.

According to normal practice, students of the law faculty, after the completion of their degree have to sit an examination conducted by the Law College and pass the exam in order to be enrolled as an Attorney at Law of the Supreme Court.

However the students of the faculty who get through their finals are exempted from facing the first and the second year of the Law College.

Students of the Law College are selected through a highly competitive examination where there are around 5000 applicants every year including some of the students of the Law Faculty.

The students who go through the Law College have to complete three years at the Law College and an apprentice period of six months after passing the final examination in order to get enrolled as an Attorney at Law.

Tension over party huts

By Chandimal Mendis

A dispute between rival PA politicians and their supporters in the Puttalam district might be assuming crisis proportions, residents said.

One group led by an MP is alleged to have encroached on state land belonging to the Forest Dept. and the Urban Council and put up huts there.

Reacting to this the other group also encroached on state land and set up huts.

Representations were made to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, after which one group of encroachers had left. But the other group still remains and tension is high because of some communal undertones, residents said.

A spokesman for one group said police had not, intervened due to political pressure.

Recently one group had broken down the huts put up by the other group.

Puttalam District MP D.M.D. Dassanayake said he would be complaining to the President about the conduct of some PA politicians of the area.

TULF, PLOTE optimistic about devolution package

By Roshan Peiris

Tamil political parties are stepping up efforts to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict - with some of them being optimistic after talks last week with President Kumaratunga and opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

TULF leader M. Sivasithamparam said the meetings were "cordial and open" and he was optimistic that a fair devolution package could be worked out.

EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda who was not present at last week's meeting, said he was scheduled to meet the President on Tuesday and press for the appointment of a civil administration for Jaffna, under political leadership.

PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Sidharthan said they found the President to be very accommodating at Wednesday's meeting and she had expressed willingness to consider UNP proposals for the devolution package.

The Tamil parties explained to her the steps they were taking to bring about a consensus between the PA and the UNP, adding that the opposition leader also was positive.

Mr. Sidharthan explained, the Tamil parties were focusing on three main issues - constitutional reforms, land issues and the unit of devolution, and he hoped that differences on these matters could be sorted out.

But TELO leader N. Sri Kantha sounded a pessimistic note saying his party had lost faith in the parliamentary select committee and doubted the sincerity of the commitment by the President or the Opposition Leader to find a fair political solution. TELO is not represented in Parliament and did not attend last week's meeting.

EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandran was equally pessimistic saying the devolution package had already been diluted and he feared that even the ineffective package would be shelved until local elections in March.

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