27th August 2000
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LDA to contest in Jaffna

By Ranga SriLal
Former Parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara's Democratic Left Alliance (LDA) will contest Jaffna district in the upcoming general elections.

A high-ranking member of the party had gone to Jaffna last week to submit the nominations for Jaffna district from the LDA, Mr. Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times.

My life is under threat, says television boss

TNL chief Shan Wick-remesinghe has complained to Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku that he has been intimidated by alleged government goons who identified themselves as policemen.

He said there was a serious threat to his life as well as his TV station.

It all began on Friday after dusk when a red car with two occupants including the driver was found parked close to the gates of the TNL station .

According to the complaint Mr. Wickremesinghe alleged that the car began to move cautiously forward on seeing his vehicle. He said the driver apparently was not aware of the road since he ended up at a nearby hotel which was a dead end.

The car later reversed and one occupant got out of the vehicle and began making inquiries at the hotel, which is usually closed after 8.00 pm. Security officers attached to the TV station also said that the same car with its occupants was seen hovering around the place earlier in the day .

Security officials identified the driver of the said as one Nihal who was formerly the driver for MP Chandana Kathtiriarachchi MP and presently working for the PSD, the complaint states.

In his complaint to Police chief Mr. Wickremesinghe said there wasa threat to theTV station and his life. "I will be making formal complaints to Article 19, the UN and other international organisations for the protection of media" Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

Adult feud claims little Supun Kumara

By Tania Fernando
A feud between two adults resulted in the death of seven-year old Supun Kumara of Kolonnawa, an innocent victim of a revengeful man.

It all started on Tuesday morning when Malu Chuti had started a fight at the shop owned by Swarnalatha, Supun's mother. She had intervened in the fight and asked Malu Chuti to leave the shop, but while he was leaving, he had said that before the day is over he would make sure that there were tears and sorrow in her life.

Swarnalatha had not taken any notice of him, but had got on with her work. In the evening she had returned home with Supun and while she was getting the dinner ready she had seen him riding his bicycle on the road outside.

By about 5.30 pm Swarnalatha had started looking for Supun, but she did not panic thinking that he would be watching TV in a neighbour's house, which was often the case. When her sister had come home she told her to start looking for Supun, and thus began their search. They began the search for him in all the neighbours' houses, but no one was able to help them.

Even Malu Chuti the accused in the murder had been helping them to look for him. He had even said that he had seen Supun riding his cycle.

"By about 8.00p.m. when we were unable to trace Supun, we decided to look in the marshy land just behind their house where he often used to fly his kite," said Swarnalatha's sister.

"The whole village came to help us look for him. Even Malu Chuti was there and when he got into the mud, he stood at a particular place and kept saying that it was slippery and Supun could not be there. Of course, we never suspected him," she said.

After a fruitless search which ended at about 10 pm, the search party had headed for the police station where they had to wait for more than an hour to give a statement. The officers at the station had at first refused to take a statement and asked them to keep looking. While they were stepping out of the station the OIC had returned and had requested an officer to take a statement.

When they had got back home Malu Chuti had come and spoken to Swarnalatha and stroked her head saying he was sure Supun would be back home the following morning and not to worry.

By about five on Wednesday morning the whole village had got back to the search, and for some reason had headed towards the marshy land again. Suddenly they noticed a slipper which belonged to Supun , which they claim was not there the previous night.

They had started to suspect Malu Chuti after a few neighbours had said that they had seen him carrying a fertilizer bag and had come out of the marsh with mud all over his body and had been washing himself at the wayside tap. Meanwhile, when Swarnalatha's brother had questioned him about the statement he had made about taking revenge, he had denied having said such a thing and also denied having been anywhere near the marsh.

Another neighbour said he had seen Malu Chuti calling Supun, but the boy had refused to go near him saying that he was lying about getting him a kite. 

A distraught Swarnalatha said she could not believe how he could have strangled her only son and buried him in the marsh. While they were all engrossed in finding the body Malu Chuti had tried to escape, but a few villagers had stopped him and beaten him up and now he is in hospital.

School children taken for vaccine ride?

By Faraza Farook and Tania Fernando
With increasing competition for various items in the market, companies are looking at innovative methods of promoting their products, and the latest target has been schools.

According to the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), a private company has launched a massive promotional campaign of vaccines against chicken pox, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. 

The sole importer of these vaccines is allegedly involved in the promotion of these products. It is further claimed that this importer has approached many private schools.

The company denied any direct involvement in the promotion. "We have never carried out any campaign directly" the company's marketing director said. He claimed the company only made available the vaccine at a discounted rate to doctors who wanted to carry out the campaign. 

He said they were only carrying out a service to the public and refuted that it was a mass immunization campaign or a marketing strategy. Meanwhile, schools that had been approached said the company had conducted the programme with all aspects of the promotion being handled by them and the school authorities not having to do anything.

"They even provided us with letters to be given to the students while all brochures with regard to the vaccines were also provided" a secretary of a leading international school said. She said the promotion team included a doctor and a nurse.

The campaign was carefully planned to avoid any complications or claims for damages from the company. Since advertisements of these vaccines are prohibited and they are issued only on the prescription of a doctor, the leaflets were worded in a manner that would not cause a controversy. The leaflets distributed in the schools were given along with a letter signed by a doctor, which outlined the dangers of contracting infectious diseases and the benefits of taking the vaccines. Dr. Mario Fernando, the signatory of this letter when contacted by The Sunday Times said he was not obliged to answer any questions .

The prices quoted by them were attractive in comparison to the market price. The margin between the usual price and the discounted price was about Rs. 400. As the vaccines were very costly outside, this discount was supposed to attract customers.

Investigations revealed that one of the reasons for targeting private schools is that a majority of them have students from well to do families. Another reason for the product to be marketed through schools is that it had a tremendous influence when teachers acted as middlemen.

A medical officer said that the vaccines against chickenpox, hepatitis A and B were not part of the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) conducted by the state health sector. Owing to the high costs, these vaccines were only available in the private sector.

Although only in rare circumstances the vaccine could prove fatal, the medical officer said the authorities should be ready to encounter any type of emergency. "The promotion of medicine is different from the promotion of consumer products," he said.

On the other hand, the vaccine being made available at a very low cost itself becomes a reason to give the vaccine. "Usually the family physician, GP or the paediatrician advises the parents about the vaccine - the benefits and the rare possibility of its fatal reactions. The reaction is often within the first half an hour where the child can suffer from shock and collapse" he said.

The SLMA's primary argument is that this is an issue where business concerns are overriding ethical and professional concerns.

Meanwhile the Epidemiological Unit reported that the matter is to be brought to the notice of the Director General of Health and the Deputy Director General of Public Health Services. "We will investigate why and how they have carried out the promotion and we shall take appropriate action, on the instructions of the Director General," an epidemiologist said. Parents who spoke to The Sunday Times said that although they were not pressurized into buying the vaccine, there was insistence that they fill out a tear-in-slip which was addressed to parents giving details of the vaccines.

"Since it was a private company involved and I did not know who the doctor was or any other relevant details, I decided that it was better to take my children to the family doctor and get it administered", said one parent S Kapuwatte.

Mrs. M Ramanathan said she did not want to buy the vaccines because it would cost her a tidy sum if she were to buy them for her three children.

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