The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

17th March 1996



Refugees run into more fire

Three hundred Muslim refugees were displaced again when their temporary cadjan huts were gutted in a fire caused by an accident in the Kalawewa area of the Anuradhapura district, police said.

The fire started when one of the refugees had attempted to get a temporary electricity connection. An elderly man had died of a heart attack minutes after the fire broke out while three others suffered burn injuries. The refugees, all of them from North East are now being accommodated at the Kalawewa Muslim Maha Vidyalaya.

Britain helps in ICRC work here

Britain has granted the ICRC additional funds of £ 250,000 (Rs. 20 million) to help it continue the work Sri Lanka has asked it to undertake in the North, the British High Commission said.

This contribution brings the total amount the British government has given to the ICRC this year for its Sri Lanka programme to £ 750,000 (Rs. 60 million), the High Commission said in a press release.

This money will help the ICRC to carry out the full programme of work they have agreed with the Sri Lankan Government on Relief and Human Rights.

30,000 Lankan children in sex trade

Child related problems are on the increase in Sri Lanka with 100,000 children being used a domestic aide, while about 30,000 are involved in the sex industry. This was revealed at a press briefing on New Law on Child Exploitation and Protection of Flora and Fauna which was held on Friday at the tourist Board.

The ideal place for a child to grow up in is the family. Crisis in the family such as family disputes, single parent families and abject poverty are some of the reasons that give rise to child related problems.

"The most pressing problem is the sexual exploitation of children", said Child Care chief S. L. Rannuge told at a news conference in Colombo on Friday to outline proposed new laws against child abuse.

The Ceylon Tourist Boards Additional Director General J.F.R. Perera said the tourist industry must be planned on a sustainable basis to preserve our heritage.

Missing persons: relief offers go a begging

By Shyamal Collure

Though around 40,000 people were reported missing after recent civil disturbances and provisions to grant death certificates and compensation to them have been streamlined, only about 15,000 have sought and obtained relief.

Ananda Wijepala, Assistant Director of Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industrial Authority (REPPIA) said the ministry had been allocated Rs. 145 million for the current year to provide financial assistance to such affected families.

"Even though around 40,000 people are reported to be missing according to the Special Presidential Commission inquiring into involuntary disappearances, our fund has received only 15,000 applications to date. About Rs. 55 million has already been released to Divisional Secretariats to be paid as compensation", he said.

The Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 2 of 1995 was enacted exclusively to overcome the practical difficulties that arose from the Births and Deaths Registration Act in connection with the registration of deaths of persons who have died during civil disturbances.

Samanthi Jayamanne, Legal Officer of the Family Rehabilitation Centre pointed out that the intention of the legislature in passing this Act was to find a solution to the difficulty of issuing death certificates to "missing people". It is very important that widows and families of these missing people should obtain death certificates without which they are not entitled to the provident fund, pension, property or compensation. However the Act, as it was intended to be in operation for 2 years from the date of its enactment will be effective only till January 1, next year", she said.

For such a missing person to be presumed dead, he or she should not have been seen alive or heard of, for over one year. The form to be used when applying for a death certificate on these grounds are available at all divisional secretariats.

CID interviews Kadurugamuwa

The CID is probing the Tawakkal cement deal and detectives have interviewed veteran attorney U. K. Kadurugamuwa, who is handling the case for one party.

A statement from Mr. Kadurugamuwa was recorded.

Meanwhile opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has accused the Government of blocking the no- confidence debate on the cement deal and instead having only an adjournment debate on the statement made by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Mr. Wickremesinghe told newsmen on Friday the UNP wanted to press President Chandrika Kumaratunga to probe the Tawakkal issue. "This is the first time that a minister has pointed out malpractice and the PA wants to pressurise the Foreign Minister to change what he has said."

Mr. Wickremesinghe referred to an interview the Foreign minister had given to The Sunday Times on the Tawakkal issue, and said Mr. Kadirgamar had admitted there was malpractice going on.

"At this point we are in a dilemma whether we can trust the President and the government," he said. "Some members of the government, including the Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, wanted investigations. So why is the government keeping it down if there is nothing fishy?" he asked.

Saline dispute still dripping

'The absence of clear cut instructions and lack of co-ordination among the different officials handling Tender matters had operated in a manner to support a particular supplier'

By Shelani de Silva

The GMOA has rejected the findings of the IV fluid inquiry, claiming that two vital matters were overlooked by the one man committee.

Despite the GMOA requesting the committee to probe the procedure adopted in re-registering the nipple tip type variety of IV fluids and the standard quality and safety of this particular brand, it had not been included in the inquiry.

A GMOA spokesman told 'The Sunday Times' they had informed the minister, but received only a letter of acknowledgment.

"Our representatives forwarded contaminated samples of saline to the committee. But it insisted that probing the quality and safety of the drug is not in the terms of reference. Thus it is clear that these factors were not looked into. We categorically state that inquiring into such matters is more important from the patients' point of view", he said.

The GMOA said the Committee had taken only one complaint which was given by a general practitioner who did not usually use the IV fluid. "The committee ignored the complaints made by 12 consultants and 11 institutions who frequently use IV fluids and also the complaints of heads of seven hospitals, he said.

The GMOA alleged that for no particular reason the tender which was earlier awarded to Braun- Malaysia was canceled by the Secretary to the Ministry of Health.

According to the GMOA they had requested the minister to appoint a three-member committee comprising a pharmacologist, retired judge and an administrator as the problem was a highly technical one. "But for reasons best known to the minister he informed us that he does not agree with the idea of appointing a three member committee", he said.

D. A. Wijewardena who was appointed to investigate the IV fluid tender in his findings said;

"Judging by the saving of about Rs. 9 million in 1996, it could be said that an artificial situation had been created where the government had incurred high expenditure unnecessarily in the previous years for the reason that the particular type of Container had not been specified in the tender documents.

"The failure to indicate a particular requirement of a container in the Tender Specifications had operated as an obstacle to fair competition in these supplies.

"The absence of clear-cut instructions and lack of co-ordination among the different officials handling Tender matters had operated in a manner to support a particular supplier, B-braun Malaysia to the disadvantage of Core-Parenterals. However, blame cannot be apportioned to any particular individual in this matter.

"It may now be concluded that since the rubber-disc type of container has now been specified for the supplies of 1996 and since there are no reported complaints on these supplies, an unhealthy trail of events as to these supplies over the years has now come to a happy and satisfactory finality".

The committee has recommended that random checks of stocks of drugs to be carried out, registration procedure be set down in clear terms by a ministry circular and a manual of procedure be compiled to show the duties of the different officers involved in dealing with tender matters.

Threat to campus

The Vice-Chancellor of the Peradeniya University has received a threatening letter, Police said.

The letter written in Tamil but signed 'Bhumiputra' said the campus and the nearby botanical gardens were serving no useful purpose and should be destroyed.

Police are investigating.

Contiune to News/Comment page 4 - The cement mix-up: the plot thickens

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