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21st June 1998

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Volunteers bring comfort to soldiers

The Sunday Times Investigation Desk

Reports by Christopher Kamalendran, Chamintha Thilakaratne, Faraza Farook and Nilika de Silva Pix by Lakshman Gunatillake

Doctors are playing a dual role of caring for patients and as public relations men in hospitals in the city and suburbs.

Their new role has been prompted by the presence of soldiers among the patients receiving daily care.

"We have had an unexpected increase in the number of patients. Not only have we to tend to the large crowds gathering to enter the hospital but also in having to attend to soldiers", said Dr. D.L. de Lanerolle, Director of the Sri Jayawardenapura hospital.

However, not all patients are pleased about the new set up at the hospitals for the simple reason that they fear their health requirements are being ignored by medical officials.

"We have been forced to shift from our wards in order to accommodate the incoming soldiers. Now the paying ward in which we were staying earlier has been turned into an army ward while we have been overcrowded with the remaining paying wards where only 60 beds could be accommodated under normal circumstances", said one displeased patient.

Hospital authorities agreed that the civilian patients have had to adjust accordingly. "Some surgical wards, casualty wards, medical wards have been allocated for the soldiers in order to accommodate them. Even a Class 2 paying ward had to be used.

"We shifted the 40 odd patients to another paying ward due to a lack of choice", Lanerolle said.

Although sharing a bed with another maybe difficult, patients at the Wetara district hospital have welcomed the move with both hands. By voluntarily handing over their beds to the needy soldiers the patients have expressed their gratitude and appreciation. We don't mind, we are ready to sacrifice our comforts for them", they unanimously said.

Patients whose operations have been delayed, appointments and checkups postponed till further notice are not among those sympathetic civilians.

On the other hand, doctors, nurses and attendants are working round the clock to attend on all patients. But their duties do not end at that. We give preference to soldiers and we treat them very kindly and nicely said a nurse in charge of ward 7 at the Jayawardenapura hospital.

"Most often apart from having to treat the injured we have a tough time in getting their relatives around", said doctors at the hospitals. They said that the relatives who have travelled from as far as Middeniya, Baddegama, Polonnaruwa refuse to leave. It is difficult to know how to make them go once the visiting hours are over.

"Amma it is time to go now. You must go because we have to take your son to the operating theatre in a little while and we need to prepare him. You can come early tomorrow morning to see him when he is better. And I am sure he will be waiting", a lady doctor was heard consoling a soldier's mother at Kalubowila hospital. Although the uncertainties of tomorrow prohibited her from leaving, the assurance helped.

Ajith Prasanna Mathangaweera has been warded for 10 days but no one came to visit him. While other soldiers' relatives who have come to know of their plight through means other than official arrive at their bedside, Ajith can only hope that his family was there by his side.

Gamini Ranjith's family had no idea that he was warded in a hospital until a family friend from Anuradhapura informed that he was flown to Colombo for treatment. Gamini's family members are not alone.

This was the usual case in the hospitals that The Sunday Times team visited, where arrangements for relatives to see injured soldiers who arrive from remote areas have not been made. As a result, they come too early or too late for visiting hours that they are either forced to stay back in Colombo or return the next day.

But volunteers at the hospitals helped soldiers get over their longing for family. Ven. Thuruvila Wimaladharma Thero, the Advisor to Hospital Buddhist Society is busy organising volunteers which includes school children.

The volunteers who turn up at the hospital as early as 8am and leave as late as 5pm, have become the hands and feet that the soldiers for a moment thought that they had lost. The Sunday Times team was met by several volunteers who were busy shaving the soldiers, paring their nails, writing letters to their loved ones, ironing their clothes and helping them to move about, helping them to forget their disability.

Most of all, the morale booster of knowing that they have people who care at times of distress has strengthened the soldiers in their fight for a better tomorrow.

Hospital needs public help to make soldiers cosy

Dr. D.L. de Lanerolle, Director, Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital has appealed for public co-operation for the better care of soldiers undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Dr. Lanerolle said that public contributions of food items, sweets, wheel chairs, crutches, soap and books for them to read will be appreciated by the soldiers.

He said that there is a corporal station - a unit at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital, manned by a corporal who will co-ordinate with the soldiers and channel the contributions. Eight operating theatres, surgical, casual, paying and medical wards along with three general surgeons and one each of the other available surgeons have been allocated to the soldiers at their corporal station.

With the paying wards occupied by the soldiers and the operating theatres allocated to them, many of the civilians coming for treatment are turned back.

Drugs and other facilities provided by the army hospital are regular although certain facilities like crutches, wheelchairs and other necessary equipment are lacking. According to Dr. Lanerolle, the Army hospital provides Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital Rs. 70 per soldier per day which is not sufficient when the cost of a daily meal is about Rs. 110.

"We try to vary the menus and provide them with excellent food, but we are running on a deficit because we don't receive extra funds for this purpose. Even the Rs. 70 is not paid for all the soldiers currently admitted to the hospital," he said.

'Anyway we see that they enjoy a good meal with meat, fish and eggs and dessert which is a grade two diet", he added.

Another blast brings down Eravur tower

In yet another of the series of mysterious explosions, LTTE women cadres destroyed the Eravur Telecommunication tower early yesterday by firing rocket propelled grenades at it, reports from the area said.

The exchange had a capacity of providing 1500 lines. The blasted tower fell on a high tension wire disrupting electricity supply to a part of the Batticaloa town.

This Eravur exchange had been declared open only six months ago. A Telecom spokesman told The Sunday Times that it would take another two months to restore the telephone lines.

Meanwhile, another transformer was blasted at Ratnapura yesterday.

Postpone elections, say Maha Nayakas

The Four Mahanayake Theras have called on the Government to postpone Provincial Council elections till the conclusion of the war.

The statement was signed by the Maha Nayake Theras of the Malwatte Chapter, Ven Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Thera, Asgiriya Chapter, Ven. Palipane Sri Chandananda Thera, Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya, Ven. Madihe Pagnaseeha Thera and Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya Ven Weweldeniye Medhalankara Thera.

The text of the statement is as follows;

Provincial Councils were established in Sri Lanka and Power was devolved with the hope of finding a solution to the ethnic problem through the involvement of the majority of people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in the administration and development of the Provinces. When the Provincial Councils Act was proposed many controversies arose. This 13th amendment to the 1978 Constitution was passed disregarding them. Though a considerable time elapsed since the establishment of the Provincial Councils it did not produce the desired results. Yet the previous Government tried to implement it through amendments. People of the country are aware that the present Government is also making similar attempts.

We know that the North - East Provincial Council had to be dissolved within a short period of its institution and that subsequently it is administered by a Governor. Thus it is evident that it is not a solution to the basic problem.

Though the rest of the Provincial Councils are functioning, we believe that their results have so far not been assessed.

According to the present Provincial Councils Act some Provincial Councils whose term of office has lapsed have already been dissolved and those Councils which are to complete their terms of office are also to be dissolved very soon.

It is stipulated in Law that nominations should be accepted during a specified period and that elections should be held within a specified number of days from the date of nominations.

The people are aware elections in this Country be they General, Provincial or Local Government were not conducted in a free and fair manner.

There were media reports, which spoke of malpractices, intimidation and other forms of violence and killings during elections.

Therefore, it is opportune for the Government, the Elections Department and Party leaders to assess wisely whether elections could be held safely by employing only Police and army personnel who are already in the areas where elections are to be held.

End of the road for Wijepala

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

After a crisis that dragged on for nearly one year, the UNP on Friday decided to suspend its most senior member Wijeyapala Mendis, but the party will oppose the motion which comes up in Parliament on Tuesday to expel him.

The decision to suspend Mr. Mendis on charges of misuse of power was taken at a three-hour meeting of the Working Committee at Sri Kotha, though several former ministers had objected to the action against a veteran member who they said had sacrificed much for the party.

UNP sources told The Sunday Times the suspension would be an interim measure pending the Supreme Court decision on Mr. Mendis' application challenging the findings of a Special Presidential Commission (SPC).

The SPC last year found Mr. Mendis guilty of misuse of power in a land transaction. Mr. Mendis had refused to appear before the commission and challenged its verdict. On the recommendation of the SPC, the government in March this year, introduced a motion to strip Mr. Mendis of his civic rights and expel him from Parliament for seven years.

From the time the SPC made its recommendation, the UNP has been divided on what action should be taken against Mr. Mendis.

One section of the party felt action should be taken against him as a sign of the party's strong stand on corruption, but another section felt they should not betray a stalwart who had sacrificed much for the party including his son.

Among those who spoke in favour of Mr. Mendis at Friday's crucial meeting were A. C.S. Hameed, Festus Perera, A. M. S. Adhikari, M. H. Mohamed, Nanda Mathew, Susil Moonesinghe, Stanley Kalpage and Tilak Marapana.

Friday's decision was taken after a three-member committee headed by General Secretary Gamini Atukorale had studied the Mendis issue.

The Atukorale committee submitted its report a few days ago and a disciplinary committee then made the final recommendation to the party. Last week Mr. Mendis filed an application in the Court of Appeal challenging the findings of the SPC.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal referred the issue to the Supreme Court.

After Friday's meeting Mr. Mendis collected his files, thanked the Working Committee and went out of the room with many wondering whether the road they had travelled together for 50 years had come to an end.

Minister's two guards killed in collision

By Ratnapala Gamage

Two private security guards were killed and three others were seriously injured when Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Rajapakse's back-up vehicle was in collision with a CTB Bus.

The accident occurred when the minister was returning after visiting the funeral house of the UNP Secretary General' Gamini Atukorale's father. yesterday. The incident took place at 11 a.m. on the Ratnapura Eheliyagoda main road. The vehicle was going to Moneragala from Colombo.

The Minister's vehicle was three vehicles ahead of the ill-fated double cab.

The American patient

By J.A.L. Jayaratna

The presence of an American patient in a ward of the Kandy hospital, has caused a stir among hospital staff and employees alike.

The refusal of this patient to have his blood tested has added more speculation. According to his bed head ticket, an operation has been performance on him, while several tests, too have been done.

Hospital staff fear that the American is down with AIDS. Speculation is rife, that his condition is kept a close secret, because he is wealthy. He is said to be a partner in a textile industry.

Hospital authorities said that this refusal to have his blood tested, has given rise to doubts, that he is suffering from AIDS.

Clarification by Hotel Developers

Cornel's Derivative Action

Lawyers for Hotel Developers (Lanka) Ltd., has sent "The Sunday Times" the following clarification on our news item last week under the title "Cornel's Derivative Action - Enjoining Order to Stand".

*The Supreme Court has not upheld the case, as a derivative action in law.

*The Application to the Supreme Court was only on the question of the jurisdiction of the commercial High Court to have entertained the plaint. The Supreme Court in its order, inter-alia, stated - "The Learned High Court Judge made his Order on the question of jurisdiction, prematurely.... any party is free to raise the question of jurisdiction at any subsequent stage.... That order is pro forma set aside".

*The Supreme Court intimated to our counsel, that the court would be prepared to grant leave, but that it would protract the litigation. In such circumstances, the Supreme Court in its order stated - "Leave to Appeal is refused pro forma".

*Accordingly, the Supreme Court order stated - "This case will be called in the High Court on 12.6.1998, and the learned High Court Judge will decide whether the said inquiry fixed for 15.7.1998, will be on the basis of written submissions only, or oral submissions only, or both.

*The Supreme Court order further stated - "The Plaintiff may file a formal counter-affidavit in reply, on or before June 29, 1998, annexing any documents relied on, strictly in answer to any new matter in the documents filed on behalf of the petitioner and the Defendants - respondents."

*The Supreme Court extended the enjoining order, that had been obtained ex-parte, specifically stating - "The enjoining order issued by the High Court will stand extended until an Order is made in the Interim Injunction Inquiry, unless the High Court in its discretion rules otherwise" (emphasis added). Accordingly, you have deliberately mis-stated the position in your news report.

*The aforesaid dicta was in the context of the petition annexed, which the Supreme Court did not entertain, since the same had not been canvassed previously before the High Court, and thus the Supreme Court Order further stated - "It is unnecessary to consider the question of the enjoining order any further".

Nelum's reaction to Chairman's letter

Former Director General of the Commission to investigate Bribery and Corruption, Nelum Gamage, reacting to the letter sent by the Chairman of the Commission, J.A. de S. Wijesundera to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and published in newspapers, claimed that some of the matters referred to were distorted.

Mrs Gamage reacting to the allegation that she did not resign form public service, claims that she has more years in public service and presently in good health. She asked the Chairman why he thought she should resign form the public service.

Mrs Gamage states "I am happy if you consider my present posting a 'promotion'. But I am rather curious to know how you came to such a conclusion?

She denied the allegation that S.I. Rupasinghe while being attached to her personal security unit of having borrowed Rs. one lakh from Mr A.C.S. Hameed.

The former Director General also denied that Chairman Wijesundara had made a request from president to move her from the post of Director General.

"Those present at the meeting held in early August 1997 with the President would state that no such request was made excepting to say that the Chariman found it difficult to work with me". I do not want to comment now on the "request" made by you at that meeting with the President", she states.

She added that the Attorney General was represented in her Writ Application by an eminent counsel from the AG's Department whose integrity is beyond question.

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