The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

24th, November 1996




Heed your brother's cry-advice to Thomians

"Youth of today must not lose sight of the ideal of doing things well for their own sake-studying merely for the sake of obtaining distinctions but for the sheer joy of discovery or playing games, not merely for securing a place in the college team, but for the sheer fun of it," said Nalin Abeysekere, P.C., Legal Draftsman, chief guest at the annual prize-giving of S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, held on November 20.

S. Thomas' continues to retain its place as a centre of excellence in learning and in sport, and that extra-curricular activities which are a special feature of the school are still flourishing. "They are the catalysts which make for the diversity and creativity which give S. Thomas' its special flavor," he added.

Mr. Abeysekere pointed out that much had been given to the boys of S. Thomas' and much is expected of them. "When you leave school and enter university or go out into the world, you will meet and have to work with people whose experiences of life would have been vastly different from yours. Some of them would have suffered hardships and privations you would never even have dreamt about. The great gulf that separates you can only bridged by understanding," he said.

He added that in his own lifetime this country has been convulsed by two youth insurrections due, in part of the insensitivity of the privileged and those in authority to attain their hopes and aspirations. "Let us hope that there would not be another such conflagration in our lifetime," he said.

He said that the words of Rev. Lakshman Wickremesinghe which he spoke twenty years ago at the prize-giving in Gurutalawa are relevant today as it was then: "Learn to respond to your brother's cry. It is the hardest virtue to possess. But it is the basis of our true relationship with other people."

Questions amidst tears on twins tragedy

By Chamila Jayaweera

As a shocked nation pondered on the tragedy that befell its much loved conjoined twins, their mother Ramyalatha Rupasinghe is asking through her tears, why? why?

"Why did the foreign airline have to forego such a mercy mission? Could they not have treated this case as an emergency," the sad, somewhat angry mother asks as do many concerned Sri Lankans.

The twins, whose plight had drawn a response of love from millions were to have been flown to the United States on Friday Nov. 15 for an emergency operation. But the foreign airline on which their seats were booked had faced a technical problem, compelling the authorities here to put off the trip.

Two ministers then intervened and the national carrier AirLanka offered to fly the twins free of charge last Sunday. But it was too late. Hours before the flight the twins who shared one heart died of cardiac failure.

Lady Ridgeway hospital sources also said a work to rule campaign by para medical staff had hampered the delicate treatment needed for the twins.

Tears brimming in her eyes, Ramyalatha Rupasinghe (31), clutches her nine year old son Ruwan to her, trying to overcome her sorrow that might haunt her for years to come.

Angry that her babies did not get the opportunity to undergo the operation, Ramyalatha says she has scores of questions flashing through her mind.

For the father, D.B.M.O. Jayalath (33), the entire episode has been a nightmare. From the time his babies were born, he was constantly making trips to Colombo, struggling to get two passports made, and other arrangements with the hospital to send little Hansini and Hansika abroad.

Jayalath who owns a small shop, has closed it down and according to his wife, has not touched his meals. His eyes filled with despair, and his tone dejected, he wondered aloud why it had taken so long to send the babies overseas for treatment after they had received such a massive response from foreign agencies as soon as the news spread.

Ramyalatha who was recovering from her second Caeserian operation, had been shielded from knowing her children's condition until about three days afterwards. "I was told they had to be sent to Colombo immediately since their birth weight was very low," she said and "when they were brought to my bedside straight after I delivered them, I was far too tired to notice anything different, since they had been wrapped up in a towel. However, I did think it was strange they had been bundled together", she said.

She said that she had not taken any medicine even for headaches during her pregnancy, for fear of harming the babies. Her old mother, who is now taking care of her, commented in a matter-of-fact tone that it must have been some bad fate.

And despite all they have gone through, these simple folk are still not embittered. Early in the week, they signed all the papers, agreeing to release the babies' bodies, for research purposes at the Medical College. "What satisfaction can we get from just burying them, when we can give them for a worthier cause?" they said. Meanwhile, the General Manager of the foreign airline has defended the decision made by his company. "There wasn't a question of seats being unavailable, since it was Jumbo flight that day. Instead it was a matter of safety," he explained.

When its authorities had been contacted they had been told not to take the risk of carrying an incubator on the aircraft since this had previously not been tested by the Civil Aviation authorities there, he said.

"It's similar to using a CD player on board.. it may not seem dangerous, but it can affect the airline equipment, and has been known in some cases to send planes off the track. Hence the cancellation of the seats given to the twins", he added.

Don't repeat Shell mistake

Citing the apparent misadventure with Shell Gas, the Ceylon CEB engineers union has warned the Govt. to be cautious in any plans to privatize any other public utility services.

In a statement the CEB engineers recall this year how they had protested against plans to privatize the Lanka Electric Company (LECO). That crippling three day strike had forced the Govt. to reconsider the privatization of LECO and now the validity of that protest was clear.

Spies on high if you fly

Hundreds of police officers in plain clothes will launch a tough crack down on traffic offenders in the city from tomorrow, the police traffic chief said.

Senior Superintendent Camillus Abey-goonawardena told a news conference yesterday the severe traffic congestion in the city necessitated tough action to make the road safer. He said traffic police in civvies would be placed at important points, some of them even on high-rise buildings to track down offenders.

Other traffic policemen will travel under cover in private coaches to nab errant drivers.

The SSP said they also hope to use a helicopter to identify and clear areas where there were traffic jams.

Disclosing some staggering figures the SSP said more than 48,000 accidents were reported this year with up to 12,000 of them in the city at cost of Rs. 2.5 billion. Traffic experts had warned that the cost of road accidents might soon reach Rs. 5 billion - apart from the horrible human price.

Unmarked police cars would also be on the prowl while an extra alert would be maintained to nab drunken drivers.

He also announced that the parking fee in the city was being raised from Rs. two to Rs. ten.

300 missing, says MP in alarm

More than 300 people have disappeared after being taken into army custody in liberated areas of the north during the past three months, the TULF has charged.

Recently six decomposed bodies were found in a shallow grave in Thenmaratchy and around 20 other killings of arrested persons have also been reported, TULF member Joseph Pararajasingham has told President Kumaratunga.

In a letter the MP has called for the appointment of a judicial commission to probe all these alleged disappearances and killings.

When relatives of the missing persons made inquiries from the army they were told that no such people were taken in, the MP said.

Restore privileges, Mps plead to Speaker

By Dinith Karunaratne

Forty-two government MPs and Deputy Ministers have called on the Speaker K.B. Ratnayake not to make any changes in the requirement for police to seek the Speaker's permission before arresting an MP.

They point out that the procedure which obtained up to now is a privilege enjoyed by MPs.

The letter is reported to have been sent to the Speaker a few days ago.

This is a sequel to a statement said to have been made by the Speaker, that his permission is not required to arrest MPs or to question them.

The letter signed by 42 MPs said, that they were surprised to read in our sister paper Sunday Lankadipa a statement purporting to have been made by the Speaker, that his permission is not required for police personnel who want to question or arrest an MP.

They have said that such a stance would pave the way for conspiracies where MPs would be grilled or even arrested at will by law enforcement officers.

"If such a thing happened at a vital time like when a vote is taken it would even result in the downfall of a government," the letter said.

The MPs have requested that such a move be considered carefully at it is a privilege they hitherto enjoyed. They appeal that no change be effected in the privilege.


The first-ever workshop in Human Rights conducted by the International Bar Association in the Asian Region will be held in Colombo from 14 to 16.

Another storm over JSC post

In the immediate aftermath of the saga involving the appointment of Prof. Shiranee Bandaranayake to the Supreme Court over many others yet another storm seems to be brewing regarding an appointment to a senior post in the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

Justice Ministry sources have said they were unaware and concerned of a move by another Minister to have the President make this appointment when the Minister was abroad.

Subway to the airport

An underground railway to help ease movement for passengers is to be built at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Transport Minister Srimani Athulathmudali said.

Mrs. Athulathmudali told 'The Sunday Times' that at present passengers who do not have transport at the airport, find it extremely difficult to transport their bags and baggages and an underground station linked to a surface rail line at the airport will solve the problem.

"With a railway station right under the airport, people would not be stranded," she said.

The underground railway station will enable passengers traveling abroad directly to get to the airport by train, even from outstations by getting the connecting trains. This would prevent them having to hire vehicles to the airport spending large sums of many.

The Minister said this project would be implemented along with a major proposal to expand the country's railway network. This station will link up to all other major stations and be maintained at a very good standard," said Ms. Athulathmudali.

She added the Kurunegala line is to be extended to Puttalam, while work on the Matara-Kataragama line is to be expedited. All other existing lines are to be renovated and expanded in the longer run, but none will be scrapped, said the Minister.

JR a special man, says Nancy Reagan

Former US First Lady Nancy Reagan has sent a letter of condolence to Elena Jayewardene on the recent death of former President J. R. Jayewardene.

Describing Mr. Jayewardene as a "special man," Ms. Reagan recalled "with fondness" the visit by President Jayewardene and Ms. Jayewardene to the White House in 1984.

"Please know that our thoughts are with you and that we send our heartfelt condolences across the miles," Ms. Reagan has stated.

Novena 450

The 450th Novena to the Infant Jesus, at the Shrine of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Slave Island will be celebrated on December 6.

RMD puts a break to licensing

The Department of Motor Traffic has temporarily suspended the issuing of licenses because one of its buildings is near collapse.

Commissioner of the Department of Motor Traffic, D.F. Edirisinghe said that the building which houses the printing and issuing of licenses is virtually 'sinking' and he has shifted the staff in this section to another section.

"About 100 staff members who work in this section are now in the main building which is already congested.

I have asked the Buildings Department to investigate the matter," he said.

Cleaning up 'L' of a mess

By Kshalini Nonis

Owners of driving schools have been directed to bring their training programs including vehicles up to standard, an official said.

D.F. Edirisinghe, head of the Dept. for the Registration of Motor Vehicles said they would be checking the road worthiness of all vehicles used by the schools for driver training.

He said that according to reports many of these L board vehicles did not have proper brakes, lights and other basic requirements. Examiners from the dept. would be going to driving schools all over the island to check the L board vehicles.

After these checks the dept. would issue a certification sticker and vehicles without it would not be allowed for driving lessons.

Coalition to end political violence

Recent political violence has led to the formation of a coalition of leading personalities lawyers, journalists and others who will seek the cooperation of all political parties to put a stop to all types of violence.

The Coalition Against Political Violence in a release said it met opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on November 21 seeking the party's cooperation to put an end to political violence.

The coalition's first meeting with the UNP was held at Siri Kotha, where the UNP leaders pledged to join other political parties in arriving at a consensus towards achieving a political culture based on concepts of peace and morality and devoid of violence.

The UNP leaders admitted that recourse to violence was wrong and said all its members have been told that the party rejects such practices.

They also affirmed that as a token of their commitment, the party would take disciplinary action against members, whatever their rank, who resort to acts of political violence.

They also declared that this commitment to eschew political violence would be publicly proclaimed to the people and demonstrated in action.

Both sides agreed at this meeting that early measures were needed to ensure the autonomy of the police, the judiciary and other institutions of the state from political interference if violence is to be eradicated from the political process.

CWE floods market with rice

The CWE is flooding the market with imported rice at heavily reduced prices, Chairman Peter Jayasekera said yesterday.

He said one variety would be sold at Rs. 18.50 a kilo and another at Rs. 19.75.

He said the rice had been imported from India and Vietnam and more would be obtained from Pakistan next month.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - * Doctor on the move: Fowzie's solution, * Hospital employees protest against below-nurse place, * Where do I go from here?, * Security wall for Gardens that KMC does not want, * JR: the quintessential politician

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