The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

25th April 1997




Bomb victims still waiting for help

By Christopher Kamalendran

For some, the bomb explosions in the Colombo city may be things of the past. But for the injured the experience is harrowing. The institutions they served disown them, dodging their claims; insurance companies refuse to pay their claims putting them into misery.

Most of the injured are breadwinners and this has made the problem worse. After the tragedy struck these people, their incomes have dropped and the families are undergoing severe hardships.

N.T. Fernando, 36, from Moratuwa who was employed at the Ceylon Cold Stores and injured in the Dehiwala train bomb explosion in July last year claimed he had so far received only Rs. 25,000 as compensation from the Ministry of Rehabilitation.

‘I am bedridden with a serious spinal injury. I am almost totally paralyzed as I have been in bed since the incident took place. Until last December I was in hospital and since then I am at home’, Fernando said.

He claimed that he served for 12 years in the company as a permanent employee. ‘’They paid my salary for six months and informed me that they were unable to pay my salary beyond that’’, he said.

But his company had told him that if he is cured and able to return to work he would be reinstated in the same position.‘This is out of the question as the doctors have said my condition would be the same’, he said.

According to his wife, Nishanthi Perera, her husband had taken a life policy for Rs.50,000 from the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, but after the incident their attempts to claim for insurance had failed as he was not covered for terrorism, civil riots and commotions.

‘However I clearly remember that after a politician was killed in a terrorist bomb blast his wife was handed over Rs. one million after the incident by the Insurance Corporation chairman, despite the fact that only one premium was paid’, she said.

‘How could the same corporation treat similar cases in two different ways?’ she questioned.

However the assistant general manager of the Insurance Corporation Thalagala said that in this particular case they had not taken the additional cover for terrorism, civil riots and commotion and therefore were not entitled for any claim.

He said in the case referred to by Ms. Perera the politician had obtained a personal accidental insurance cover under which he was entitled to the claim.

Manjula and familyManjula Wickermasinghe with her family
Manjula Wickramasinghe of Gangodawila, Nugegoda, who was employed at a leading computer company was on a business matter to collect a cheque from a private company at Stuart House when she was injured in the Central Bank explosion on January 31 last year.

‘The company paid two and half months salary as compensation and she continued to work there.

The explosion took place a month before she was due to get married and for her luck the marriage went ahead as scheduled the following month. However the problem cropped up with the employer when she applied for maternity leave.

Manjula claims she made a valid application for leave, but later she received a letter saying that they had terminated her services for vacating the post. She produced a copy of the application which she claims to have made.

MaheswaranMaheswaran. Pix by Lakshman Gunatilaka
However a company spokesman claimed that Manjula had not made an application for leave and therefore the company had no alternative but to terminate her services. Balakrishnan Maheshwaran who owned a small laundry was a victim of a bomb blast in the Colombo city.

Maheshwaran was on his way to the Western Provincial Council Chief Minister’s office when an LTTE suicide bomber carried out an attack. He lost sight of one eye.

‘So far the Ministry of Rehabilitation has paid me only Rs 2,500. Just imagine, what can I do with this money after losing one eye. My business has been badly affected. I am not in a position to go on my own and collect the linen as I did earlier’, he said.

To help those affected by this type of incident an NGO known as the ‘Family Rehabilitation Centre’ has put into action a programme under which the victims are visited at their homes or hospitals, special counselling is provided and legal assistance is given for them to obtain compensation.

Anita Nesiah, Executive Director of the Centre told ‘The Sunday Times’ that this was the only organisation which has launched a project to rehabilitate bomb victims.

‘We so far have selected 30 persons who have been affected by bomb explosions and launched a project to rehabilitate them. We hope to expand this project islandwide, but funds are limited’, she said.The centre also has other projects to help torture victims, families of torture victims, families of missing and dead persons and other victims of armed conflict.

UNP wants Matale MC results quashed

UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale has moved the Court of Appeal for writs of certiorari and mandamus praying that the declaration of the final result of the local government polls held in March for the Municipal Council of Matale be quashed and a fresh election be ordered instead.

The petitioner has named 18 respondents including the Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, Returning Officer P.D. Amarasinghe, General Secretary of the People’s Alliance D.M. Jayaratne, General Secretary of the JVP Tilvin Silva and the Attorney General Sarath N. Silva.

Invoking the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 140 of the Constitution, the petitioner alleged, inter alia, the use of duplicate polling cards, excess ballot papers being found in certain ballot boxes and systematic intimidation and violence committed especially against UNP polling agents at the local government election held on March 21.

The petitioner stated that the election to the Matale Municipal Council was not conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance and hence the result was or may have been affected. It was further pleaded that the election was of no legal effect and the result declared was liable to be quashed in pursuance of the provisions of Section 69 of the said Ordinance.

The court directed that notice be issued on the respondents when the matter came up for support before Justice Dr. R.B. Ranaraja on May 15.

President’s Counsel L.C. Seneviratne with attorneys-at-law P. Vimalachanthiran, Buddhika Kurukularatne, A.P. Niles and Arjuna Kurukulasuriya instructed by Shihan Nagoor appeared for the petitioner.

Senior State Counsel Sri Skandarajah took notice on behalf of the Elections Commissioner.

The case will be heard next on June 13.

Empty stomachs lead to empty benches

By Chamintha Tilakaratna

The withdrawal of the free mid-day meal has led to a decline in the number of students attending schools and an increase in the drop-out rate, teachers said.

They said rural schools were the worst affected with many parents complaining their children were now denied the only meal through which they were getting some nutrition.

As a result, these poverty stricken children are now more vulnerable to malnutrition and are keeping away from school.

The mid-day meal, pioneered in the 1950s by the ‘bunis mama’ Wijayananda Dahanayake who passed away this month, was in the Premadasa era up-graded to a scheme whereby each child received a free ration card to buy several kilos of nutritious grains every month.

This scheme was scrapped after the ruling People’s Alliance took office.

Teachers in rural schools also complained that though there was a big show recently for the distribution of free uniforms, several rural schools had not received their quotas yet while others had got a stock that was inadequate to go round.

District education officers said they had not received enough from the stores while stores officers said the factory had not sent enough stock.

Five opposition members head CMC’s standing committees

By Kumaradasa Wagista

Five out of 15 standing committees of the Colombo Municipal Council will be headed by PA backed independent councillors.

The others are held by the UNP.

The earlier council comprised 12 standing committees but Mayor Karu Jayasuriya has added three more standing committees for a more efficient service to ratepayers.

Ananda Vasantha Nanayakkara was voted chairman of the standing committee on solid waste and hazardous waste management, the committee directly responsible for keeping the city clean.

“Our aim is to work for the welfare of the ratepayers without any political confrontation. We solicit the cooperation of all in the council to fulfil this task before us, Mayor Jayasuriya who is ex-officio Chairman of the Finance Committee

Farmers’ fast called off

The fast to death begun by farmers of Vendrasanpura, Kantale six days ago came to an end around 2 p.m. yesterday.

This decision was taken at a special meeting between the representatives of the Independent Farmers of Vendrasanpura and officials headed by the Kantale Divisional Secretary Aluthge Wijedasa and Irrigation Engineer E. Ramanayake with the timely intervention of the UNP parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene and President of the United Farmers Federation, Jayawarna Jagoda.

Two participants in the hunger strike who were in a critical condition were admitted to the Kantale Hospital last Thursday.

Ex-bank boss in the net

The former manager of a State Bank branch in Kandy has been remanded on charges of involvement in a fraud amounting to nearly Rs. 900,000.

The suspect had been evading arrest for more than six months.

He later surrendered through his lawyer and was remanded by the Kandy magistrate.

One killed in paper mill pipe burst

One person was killed and eight others were injured when a chlorine pipe burst at the Embilipitiya Paper Mill yesterday.

The deceased has been identified as K.L. Nimal Aruna, (42), an employee of the factory. The injured were taken to the Embilipitiya and Ratnapura hospitals.

According to the police, the pipe line had burst due to pressure.

Valikamam awakes

Houses, schools, hospitals and roads in the once war torn Valigamam north area are being rebuilt under a 90 million rupee programme to resettle some 3000 families there from next month, a Jaffna secretariat official said.

Empty wing awaits help

A new five-floor wing of the Colombo South General Hospital in Kalubowila is all built and ready but cannot begin work for lack of equipment, an official said.

Hospital committee chairman Akbar Marikar said the new building including special clinics and a maternity ward needed all kinds of items including beds and wheelchairs. He said the hospital which caters to people from as for off as Kalutara and Homagama was hoping that businessmen and other well wishers would make generous donations to enable the new wing to start operating as soon as possible.

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