The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

22nd September 1996




ICRC warns of epidemics if...

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

A top ICRC official has warned of a severe outbreak of pestilence very soon, in the Wanni region, where hundreds of thousands of displaced persons live under poor conditions, with little access to water.

ICRC's Water and Sanitation Chief John Fleming told 'The Sunday Times' that in the wake of a very long drought and the virtual destruction of tube wells in the Wanni region, the water and sanitation facilities have dropped to nil, leading to a terrible situation.

Mr. Fleming said the rain being experienced nowadays would make the situation worse. "The general perception is that monsoon rains bring water. On the contrary, they pollute open wells as surface water contaminated with animal excrement and other waste materials, are washed into these wells.

"This is a very serious situation, and an outbreak of cholera, diarrhoea or other diseases would be chaotic, as groups of many hundred families depend on a single well. Besides, there isn't any chlorine available for purifying water", said Mr. Fleming.

He said that the ICRC urgently needs clearance from the defense ministry to transport chlorine, spare parts for tube wells and so forth, into the Wanni region in order to prevent a major disaster. "So far the government has been very cautious but cooperative with us", he added.

Mr. Fleming said that the ICRC has launched a micro project in Mullaitivu District to install 25 hand pumps and repair of a further 50.

The ICRC will also hold an emergency buffer stock of 250 fiber glass squatting pans at Mallawi for use in the event of a sudden epidemic. Already 10,000 leaflets have been issued among people on 'Safe Water'.

Mr. Fleming added that water is the first medicament and the need for a pure water supply has become an absolute necessity in the Wanni region.

The ICRC has begun installing hand pumps in Thunukkai and Manthai East. Oddusuddan, Puthukudiyiruppu and Mullaitivu divisions are earmarked for installation of tube wells and repair work.

LTTE no militant organization: Thonda

Livestock Development Minister S. Thondaman has said in India that it was politically wrong to treat the LTTE as a militant organization, as it is being looked upon the world over. Mr. Thondaman speaking in Tiruchi described the LTTE as a movement fighting for the democratic rights of the Tamil people.

No coins in banks

Customers doing transactions at some banks, including the state banks, have been told that they do not have coins to return their change. Shopkeepers too have complained of a shortage of coins.

Sources of the Central Bank were surprised at the shortage. They said there were two counters where people can get coins for even thousand rupees.

SLUN charge to be probed

The Foreign Ministry has asked the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canada to inquire into a complaint made by a Sri Lankan group who allege that they were not invited to a meeting with Minister G.L. Peiris who is visiting Canada.

The group, Sri Lanka United National Association (SLUN), said they were disappointed that they were ignored by the High Commission. They claimed that as a group which had been defending Sri Lanka from Tiger propaganda it was unfair of the High Commission not giving them an opportunity of meeting the minister.

British Universities Proud of Lankans

By Shyamal Collure

Maintaining long summer vacations in overseas universities has now become quite an obsolete idea, claimed a Senior Lecturer of the University of Buckingham who is currently in the island.

David Hunniford, Senior Lecturer in German and Director of the European/Language Center who is also the Student Recruitment Coordinator of the University of Buckingham for Sri Lanka, in an interview with The Sunday Times, said the salient feature of this university was its two-year Degree Program. "The traditional long summer vacation is perceived as obsolete and Buckingham students study throughout the summer months. The result is that students are taught for 80 weeks in two years, the equivalent of three years' teaching at other universities", he said.

A close-knit community in itself, the university at present has a multi-cultural student population of around 1,000 (including 10 Sri Lankans) drawn from over 80 countries worldwide.

Its buildings range from the seventeenth century to the present day. The former British Premier and Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher is the Chancellor while Sir Richard Luce occupies the seat of vice-chancellor.

"We do recognize Sri Lankan Ordinary Level, Advanced Level and university Degrees. We welcome Sri Lankan students because they are well prepared for higher studies, motivated, industrious and eager to achieve academic qualifications. The two-year Degree programs are tailor-made for this caliber of students", he said.

More details regarding courses of study, admission, fees etc. can be obtained from the British Council, Colombo.

Hat collections to bury unidentified

By Marcus Joseph

Authorities at the Base Hospital, Panadura, are compelled to bury unidentified bodies lying in the morgue with 'hat collections' from employees to cover expenses.

Earlier a few unidentified bodies lying in the hospital morgue for nearly two months were said to have been given to the Urban Council authorities to test the newly constructed crematorium at the Minuwanpitiya public cemetery.

The Divisional Secretary, Panadura has told the DMO, Panadura Base hospital that although unidentified bodies were buried at the expense of the Divisional Secretariat, it could no longer do so as the necessary moneys have not been allocated.

Man in woman's guise nabbed

Kandy police took into custody, on suspicion, a Tamil man said to reside on Beach Road, Trincomalee who was disguised as a woman and frequenting the streets of Kandy town.

At the time of the arrest, he was dressed in a saree, and sporting long hair, and wearing a stud in the nose, as do Tamil women. He was identified as 40-year-old S. Arumugam. Police headquarters said that he was nabbed close to the bus stand.

Sick leave after assault

The husband of a nurse, at the Pallekele Ayurvedic hospital, had attacked a hospital laborer with a bucket, resulting in the nurses walking out of hospital on sick leave. This is in spite of Menikhinna Police taking the assailant to custody, after which he was produced before Kandy's Chief Magistrate, allowed bail in Rs. 1,500.

The four nurses who left on sick leave have not yet turned up, according to police. They have told the Central Province Commissioner of Ayurveda, Ms. S. Ratnayake, that, if no action is taken to have an inquiry and punish the culprit, the members of Peradeniya Govt. Medical Union would stage a token strike.

Peradeniya police are investigating

WFP to prove Rs. 19.8m aid

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), has agreed to provide food aid worth Rs. 19.8 million to drought affected areas, in response to a request from the Sri Lankan government.

Under this program 1058 metric tons of mixed food items comprising rice, dhal, sugar and canned fish will be provided to villagers mainly in the drought affected areas of Vavuniya (south), Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Matara.

WFP Country Director Joseph Scalise says that the works to be undertaken are designed to rehabilitate some 50 minor irrigation schemes and improve 25 km of agricultural road in an effort to increase agricultural production in areas affected by the recent drought.

This WFP assisted program is being implemented by the Department of Agrarian Services of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Police warn of 'trap accidents'

By Shelani de Silva

Police stations have been alerted to track down on persons who stage fake accidents.

Such 'accidents' came to light through complaints from drivers in the city and the suburbs. According to police, such incidents have been taking place for the last one year and are on the increase.

The drama takes place most often at level crossings and the victims are lone drivers. The tricksters generally fall on the rear of a slow moving car and signal to the driver to stop. Once the vehicle stops he explains to the driver that he was knocked down by his car.

According to SSP, C. Abeygoonewardene, Director Traffic Admin., and Road Safety the tricksters very politely tell the driver that he will not go to the police station to make things difficult for the driver. "Pretending to be in pain he will then get into the vehicle and ask the driver to take him either home or to the hospital. Giving a false address he will get down half way and then demand money. But till he comes to a certain place he never forces himself on the driver, he carries on a very sympathetic conversation, it is later that he demands the cash and gets away with about Rs. 1000," said SSP Abeygoonewardene.

The SSP stressed the need for car doors to be locked to prevent anyone forcibly entering the vehicle. "We appeal to the public to report such incidents to the police stations. Since it is difficult to track down the culprits the next best thing would be to inform the public of such incidents," he said.

Political witch hunt

A prominent lawyer has written to the Attorney General, protesting that moves to prosecute an opposition MP on the basis of an anonymous petition would be an act of political victimization and an abuse of power.

Desmond Fernando, Vice President of the International Bar Association, said he had been informed of moves to prosecute UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene on the basis that he had drawn a salary as a physician to two former Presidents, while in addition to his work at the General Hospital Colombo.

Even if the allegation was true it could be the result of an administrative lapse and the responsibility should be borne by the Head of Department or Ministry.

Dr. Jayawardene who heads a UNP committee looking into ethnic integration and the plight of refugees, has also written to UN Chief Boutros-Boutros Ghali saying he is being politically victimized and his human rights are being violated.

Rs. 25,000 fine

Trincomalee Magistrate D.D. Wickremasinghe fined P.B. Anand Rs. 25,000 and one year's rigorous imprisonment when he pleaded guilty to possessing 40 mg heroin. The accused was further ordered to serve six months' imprisonment in default of fine.

FMM condemns court attack

Describing the attack on Sanjeewa Niroshan, photo-journalist of the Lankadipa as yet another threat to media freedom, The Free Media Movement has issued a statement condemning it.

Following is the statement:

The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the assault carried out on Sanjeewa Niroshan, photo-journalist of the "Lankadipa", within the premises of the Colombo Fort Magistrate's Court, as yet another threat to Media Freedom and the freedom of the journalist. We are all the more perturbed that this assault has taken place within the premises of a Court, where there is extra security.

The statement issued by the Registrar of the Fort Magistrate's Court in this regard makes it clear that employees of the Court were directly involved in this assault. The registrar attempts to justify this act of violence, by stating the journalist was engaged in an illegal act in attempting to remove photographs within the premises of a Court. This gives the impression that this assault has taken place with the knowledge of the Registrar.

Although we are well aware that photography within a court premises is prohibited when a Court is in session, we are not aware of any regulations which prohibit photography within the premises of a Court when it is not in session. In fact we could point to several instances when photographs taken within Court premises, including the premises of the higher judiciary have been published in newspapers. Therefore, to impute that Mr. Sanjeewa Niroshan, the photo-journalist was engaged in any illegal activity appears to us a crude attempt to protect the perpetrators of this violence.

We wish to make clear that whatever laws that may exist with regard to the Courts, there is no official or employee of a Court who has been empowered to assault a journalist or to encourage such assault by anyone.

In view that considerable publicity has been received with regard to this incident, we call upon both the Hon. Chief Justice and the Inspector General of Police to expedite inquiries and take necessary action against those responsible.

A degree without tears

By R. S. Keeriyawatta

A youth who attempted to obtain a degree certificate from the Engineering Faculty of the University of Peradeniya, posing off as an undergraduate who had completed his education was nabbed by the campus authorities and handed over to the police.

The 28-year-old man from Badulla was produced before the Kandy Chief Magistrate, Ms. D. C. Mirinchchiarachchi and remanded until October 1.

When he called over at the University to obtain the degree certificate, he was arrested by the police on information given by the University staff who were suspicious about him.

Flying fees: DG explains

Department of Civil Aviation has increased the aviation charges by hundred- fold due to meet current needs, a statement from Civil Aviation Director General, M.L.U. de S. Malalgoda said.

The department said that the Air Navigation Regulations (ANR) on fees have not been revised since the Regulations were originally promulgated in 1955 and therefore such the department recommended a hundred-fold increase of all relevant charges, the statement said.

Earlier the fee for a Commercial Pilot's License was Rs. 5/- and this has been increased with the revision to Rs 750.

This is certainly not an exorbitant amount as airline pilots are some of the highest paid public officers. The Commercial Pilots have not protested to the Department of Civil Aviation about this increase, the Director General said

He also said the department is prepared to consider the claims made by the National carrier and Private aircraft Operators in relation to the relatively high Airworthiness charges and make an appropriate recommendation to the Minister of Aviation to revise these charges.

The last of the Mohicans

Ram Perry Kesewan Nayar, personal body guard and driver to the late Earle Lord Louis Mountbatten, passed away in Kandy last Wednesday at the age of 77. Nayar, who was a sergeant of the Indian army, served Lord Mountbatten when he was commander of the South East Asia Command in Kandy from 1942 to 1946.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - Clarke happy with beach cleanup, Electric train a reality by 2000, Kuwait officials deny reports, Comfy cops, UNP ticket only for party members, Mud and fish

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