The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

13th April 1997


Patients condemn doctors' strike plan

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Many people and patients condemned and complained about the doctors' unilateral decision to strike on Thursday without taking into consideration the patients' plight.

A random survey done by `The Sunday Times' revealed that patients throughout the country, were subjected to severe inconveniences due to the 24-hour strike. Even some private hospitals said, `no, not now' to patients.

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), which decided to strike after the Cabinet failed to take a decision on their salary anomaly issue, said it had an excellent response from doctors all over he country.

A Health Ministry official said that the doctors would only earn the wrath of the people as patients no longer want to be pawns of doctors to win their demands.

A resident from Kalubowila T. B. Arewegoda, said that doctors should never have struck work, holding the innocent patients to ransom. He said that his unethical action must be curbed at any cost in future.

Hospital sources in Galle, Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya criticised this action as hundreds of patients were turned away from the hospitals, some with serious ailments.

`The Sunday Times' learns that many patients who reached the peripheral units of several hospitals in the Nuwara-Eliya district were virtually chased out in the bitter cold weather.

Lal Gunapala from Kandy said he knew of certain instances where doctors stood without attending to patients, calling it their "rest day," he said adding that they should have resorted to a different course of trade union action.

Other trade union officials of the state sector, who did not wish to be named, also had their reservations on the doctors' issue and considered the strike, as an inhuman action. "Doctors are supposed to treat patients even under the worst of circumstances," the spokesman said.

The trade unionist said that the doctors should have resorted to a milder action without affecting the innocent patients. Doctors heading medical institutions, however were not critical of the strike as the issue concerned them as well. Several doctors when contacted refrained from commenting on the strike action.

JVP not interested in CBK's briefing

By Shyamal A Collure

The JVP which secured 101 seats at the local government polls, has described President Chandrika Kumaratunga's move to enlighten the newly elected members of all political parties on their duties and functions among other matters, as yet another gimmick.

On a directive of President Kumaratunga, the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Sports & Rural Development has organised a series of seminars and workshops aimed at familiarising the newly-elected on the law pertaining to local government; by-laws; duties and functions of mayors, chairmen and officials; the procedure concerning the conduct of meetings, financial management etc. The first phase of the programme is exclusively for the members of the People's Alliance and is scheduled to be held at the Sugthadasa Stadium on April 22 while the successful candidates of all other political parties will be briefed on these in May.

JVP's Secretary (Publicity), Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times that they had not been informed of such a programme as yet and they would be least interested in taking part, even if invited.

"It is crystal clear that this so-called programme has been organized to cater to the designs of the People's Alliance. Moreover, our members have already undergone a comprehensive series of educational and training activities on similar lines. Therefore, we are simply not interested in these seminars and workshops" he stated.

HelpAge sends message of peace through soldiers

HelpAge Sri Lanka has donated 50,000 New Year greeting cards with message of peace on them to the Defence Ministry to be distributed among soldiers on the frontline.

HelpAge has prepared these cards with the specific objective of contributing to the peace process. The greeting cards are meant for people on either side to enable them to reactivate their lost friendship and brotherhood and also for the benefit of the many migrant Sri Lankans who cannot share in the Avurudu sentiment during the coming Sinhala and Tamil New Year, a HelpAge official said.

"We appreciate this donation for the heroes who are safeguarding the independence and the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and unable to visit their loved ones during the festive season, a Defence Ministry official said.

Hindus urged to pray for peace on New Year day

The Ceylon Hindu Congress has appealed to all Hindus to make the New Year a day of prayers for peace and of helping refugees.

In a New Year message, the Hindu Congress has stressed the need to pray for peace in the country. `'Pray that the hopes people made last year should not be shattered as in the previous years, the Congress General Secretary has urged.

He has called for all people to make an effort to end the North-East conflict, stating that if all unite, the peace that all long for will not evade the people.

Describing the PA-UNP agreement as unity of the Sinhalese people, the Hindu Congress has called on all Tamil people to unite together irrespective of political differences and the means adopted to achieve peace. `'The unity we urge is not for a battle but for a meaningful economical and social equality among the nationalities.

If the Tamils do not unite they will continue to be divided and ruled by others. Let us pray that such unity is achieved and mistrust among the nationalities of this country fades,'' Congress says.

The Hindu Congress has urged President Kumaratunga to take steps to stop alleged harassment to Tamils in the North-East.

The statement states that the government and the UNP should rise above the divisive politics and give a political solution recognising Tamils also as citizens of this country with equality and dignity.

Ahungalla animals at home in Dehiwela

By Chamintha Tilakaratna

Were the animals of the Ahungalla Zoo drugged! Dehiwela Zoos' Veterinarian Dr. P Kandasamy says it cannot be proved now.

`'It is too late now to check if they had been drugged. A drug remains in the body for about 24 hours and is passed out in the urine. So it is not possible to find if they were drugged,'' he said.

Tamed animals are approachable but these animals are not approachable, he said. `Drugs may have been used to keep them quiet,' said Dr. Kandasamy. `But one cannot be sure,' he added.

Ahungalla zoo shot into the limelight with the mauling of a school boy by its lioness Shama.

`'The general condition of the animals is all right,' Dr. Kandasamy said. `But the lions have been poorly exercised. These are active animals who usually run about in the jungles, but they have been kept in very small cages and when not in their cages chained in such a way that they cannot move about. As a result they have a weakness in their limbs. They cannot balance themselves when they walk. Their back leg-muscles have become weak, and the back legs seem paralyzed,'' he said.

The eight crocodiles lived in a highly polluted hole with stagnant water. One crocodile had no lower jaw, because many animals were kept in a congested environment they would have been fighting due to severe stress, it is claimed. Some crocodiles had injuries on fore and hind limbs and other parts of the body. One crocodile had a badly injured eye, whitish in colour, swollen and blind. The crocodile could not find its way properly due to the injury to the left eye. This crocodile could not balance its body properly in the water, claimed Dr. Kandasamy.

The antlers had been removed from two spotted deer. It was found that several kites were unable to fly properly because they had been kept for a long time in a small cage. These birds showed a tendency to stay in one place. When set free they did not fly away.

At present the Dehiwela Zoo does not have the space to accommodate these animals for one has to keep these animals separately, but the zoo authorities have already started to make room in the zoo for the lions, leopards, bears and the rest of the animals that they brought in.

Dr. Kandasamy said that usually a mature lion should be kept in at least a 20 square metre cage with enough room to walk about. At the Ahungalla zoo they had been kept in a smaller cage with no space to walk.

"The lions, in particular have not been fed properly," he claimed. "They have not been given adequate meat," Dr. Kandasamy said. Asked whether it would have been better to leave the animals at the Ahungalla zoo, Dr. Kandasamy said that the Ahungalla zoo does not have adequate space to keep these animals. The entire zoo is 2 acres for 110 animals. Once, it is alleged, lion cubs had escaped from the cages. There is no security in the zoo and it is a highly residential area so one cannot recommend it as a healthy place to have a zoo, he said.

At the Dehiwela zoo animals are not kept in captivity for they are neither chained nor restricted from roaming about. We take all precautions to make sure that the public cannot get close to the animals. We have enough funds to take care of these animals and our purpose is not commercial, only education, exhibition and protection of species that are in danger of becoming extinct, he said.

The Dehiwela zoo authorities have already made plans to send the bears and the lion cubs to the children's section of the zoo.

Dudley remembered

To commemorate former Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake's 24th death anniversary, his statue at Borella will be garlanded by Colombo's Mayor-Elect Karu Jayasuriya on April 13 at 10 a.m.

The chief guest at this ceremony will be Cultural Affairs Minister Lakshman Jayakody.

Other invitees will be MEP Leader Dinesh Gunewardena and Parliamentarian Rukman Senanayake. Students of Dudley Senanayake Vidyalaya will sing the commemoration song.

Insight on Ignorance

A panel discussion on "What is ignorance in Buddhism" will be held at the Colombo YMBA in Borella on April 20 at 11.15 am.

The panelist will be Alec Robertson, Granville Dharmawardena, Ananda Grero and moderator Rajah Kuruppu.

Turfman's press burnt down

A press belonging to the Kandy Lake Club who are also turf accountants, was set ablaze last Thursday around midnight by armed men, Kandy Police said.

A club employee said important correspondence went up in flames. It is believed that the cause of the feud is private enmity, according to police investigations.

Kandy police led by SSP Nimal Mediwaka and OIC Headquarters, Saliya de Silva are are conducting further investigations.

Batticaloa villagers hit on the belly

By S. S. Selvanayagam

Boutique owners and residents in villages around the Batticaloa lagoon are experiencing more hardships with the imposition of new restrictions at a checkpoint on day-to-day provisions, a Parliamentarian has complained.

The boutique keepers in the villages of Puthur, Veechchukalmunai and Sethukudha are not being allowed to take provisions and other household items from the Batticaloa town to their villages. They are stopped at the Sumaithangi checkpoint, EPDP Parliamentarian A. Rasamanickam said in a complaint to the Batticaloa Senior Superintendent of Police.

"Security forces believe that these provisions could reach the rebels. But this is not possible as security forces at the Valayiravu checkpoint check persons and vans crossing into rebel-infested areas thoroughly" the MP said.

Mr. Rasamanickam has appealed to the SSP to remove these new restictions immediately.

Vegetables, fruits from Jaffna

By S.S.Selvanayagam

Another consignment of vegetables and fruits were shipped from Jaffna to Colombo on the eve of the New Year promising a year of plenty and prosperity with the government now in control of the peninsula.

Four hundred metric tons of agricultural products - onions, vegetables, carrot, beetroot, brinjals and plantains - were last Thursday loaded in `Maho' cargo ship at the Jaffna Port.

Although food items are aplenty in Jaffna and Wanni regions, civilians have no cash to buy them, said Mullaitivu Government Agent Tharmakulasingham and officials from the Jaffna Secretariat.

They said that the relief stamp which was stopped from February 1 has not been restored in spite of the assurance given by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The GA said that though food items are available in plenty and stagnated, prices shot up making it impossible for the poor to buy them.

He said that the average price of a coconut is Rs 40, coconut oil Rs 200 per litre. The population in the Mullaitivu district alone is around 250,000 including the displaced people. And a significant number of civilians were not aware of the dry ration or relief, he added.

In contrast, the Jaffna peninsula suffers from lack of manpower for work as the youths are apparently reluctant to venture out due to the prevailing situation, the sources said. `Food is aplenty but the stomach is empty.'' This is the picture of the situation.

Wild Life chief admits: We too are at fault

For the first time the Wild Life Conservation Department has admitted that it is partially responsible for the incidents at the Ahungalla Zoo recently.

Director of the Wild Life Conservation Department, N.W.D. Dissanayake said since 1993 when the permit was granted to exhibit the zoo animals, the Wild Life Department had not supervised the conditions at the zoo. "Two reports were made in '94 and '95 but they excluded any information in relation to the conditions or space."

The department has not looked into the security and health of the animals on which the owner was expected to submit reports but failed to do.

"Conditions have been violated by both parties," he said. "We admit that what had taken place could have been avoided."

"If any action is taken, action would have to be taken against the Wild Life Department as well," Mr. Dissanayake said. He simply defined it as a `lapse' and not a `misdeed' that needs to be punished. The only action that has been taken is the cancellation of the permit to exhibit animals, except for domestic animals. However, the director admitted that the owner can apply for permission to establish a zoo.

"Our mission is to provide protection, conservation and preservation to the animals under the Flora and Fauna Ordinance and that is what we have done. We cannot do anything beyond that," Dr. Dissanayake said. "The department believes in correction and not in punishment," he added.

Meanwhile, people in the neighbourhood, who protested against the closure claim that many people had lost employment at Ahungalla. Also affected are those who made a living serving the zoo visitors.

They have appealed to the government to allow the zoo to reopen so that they may find employment again.

Rs 3m for jumbo airlift

Plans are afoot to airlift elephants after a much publicised elephant drive by the Wildlife Department from the Makaldeniya and Diyaluma area towards the Yala wildlife sanctuary failed and the beasts starting returning to their habitats.

The drive started by Wildlife officials mainly to protect some 450 families came to an abrupt end soon after the recent local elections.

Uva Opposition Leader, Upali Samaraweera is heading a move to collect funds from foreign donors to organise the airlift. He is now in Japan on a fund raising mission.

Provincial officials said the air lift may cost around Rs. 3 million.

Fear grips Hanguranketha

By J.A.L Jayasinghe

Hanguranketha area has been in jitters after a series of violent incidents in the area over the past few days, including an attack on the Pradeshiya Sabha office in which property of the office had been damaged and set on fire.

Government officials who wish to remain unidentified told `The Sunday Times' that a number of important documents had been burnt and a sense of fear prevails among the people in the area following the incidents.

Sporadic incidents were reported fraom the area on Tuesday.

A mob held a demonstration opposite the Hanguranketha Pradeshiya Sabha. Hanguranketha, MP., Rohan Abeygoonasekera told `The Sunday Times' that complaints had been lodged with the DIG Central Province, A.A. Samarasinghe.

DIG Samarasinghe said that soon after the reports police teams had been rushed to the area and the situation had been brought under control.

Rich man fined for robbing electricity

A rich businessman from Ampitiya who was charged with electricity piracy was fined Rs. 62,745 by the Kandy Magistrate's Court.

The businessman had tampered with the electricity meter so that the reading would be much less than the electricity consumed, the court was told.

The CEB flying squad and the Kandy Police which raided the businessman's house also found many electrical items that were operated with the illicitly obtained electricity the Court was told.

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