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28th March 1999

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Doctor, don't make us your pawns, cry patients

By Faraza Farook

As usual it was the poor patients who suffered as a result of the unresolved conflict between the Government Medical Officers Association(GMOA) and the Ministry of Health.

The Out Patients Department of the National Hospital which usually treats around 1000 patients a day was virtually empty as patients were turned away due to a token strike by the GMOA on Tuesday.

Though emergency services were carried out, hundreds of patients from outstations were let down by the doctors move.

A member of a family from Kegalle condemning the strike said, "It is unfair for doctors to victimise patients to solve their problems. My husband was to undergo surgery, but it was postponed due to the strike."

Another patient who had been brought down from the Kuliyapitiya hospital to the National Hospital was sick of the rotten deal he was getting. Sarath Wijesighe, a relative of the patient said, "We discharged him from the Kuliyapitiya Hospital and brought him to Colombo for better medical attention as there was an ongoing strike there.But Colombo is no better."

But there were some people who apparently were not affected by the strike.

"Doctors came on Tuesday as usual and carried out tests and I even received the reports of the tests,there was no problem," A.G. Sunil suffering from a urinary problem said.

S. Kunamani, a mother of a child at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital said, "the usual ward doctors did not come but other doctors did and examined the children here".

Reports from outstation hospitals revealed that although work was disrupted on Tuesday, all emergency services were attended to.

Although the GMOA called off the strike scheduled for Friday(26), the minor staff of the National Hospital went on a picketing campaign , disrupting work at the hospital again.

Doctors during the past few years have struck work more often than any other sector. Nurses have taken the cue and come next in line in terms of strike and now hospital staff are joining in for good measure, patients say.

While tens of thousands face inconvenience and additional suffering, several strike related deaths have also been reported.

A woman lost her first baby when her delivery was put on hold because of the nurses union strike.

In another case a 28-year-old businessman from Dompe had been shot and was rushed to the Dompe hospital, but due to the ongoing nurses strike the hospital authorities refused to admit him. He was later brought to the National Hospital, but died in the course of the operation. If treatment was given earlier the patient might have been saved.

Meanwhile the Cabinet on Wednesday appointed a ministerial sub committee to look into the GMOA's 17 demands covering mainly administrative matters.

Minister Alavi Moulana member of the sub committee said they would meet tomorrow and hoped to work out a solution soon.

Dighavapi in the news again

By Shelani de Silva

The Archeological Department has discovered monuments at the controversial Dighavapi site during excavations carried out by a team of officials.

Director General of the Archeology Department S U Deraniyagala told The Sunday Times the excavation will be done in three stages.

'We started work about two months ago in the area surrounding the temple. It is a large area so it will be done in stages,' he said.

The controversy arose when a minister had ordered a land adjoining the temple to be bulldozed. Although it had not been marked as an archeological preserve, many believed that it contained historical ruins.

The bulldozing of the land alerted the Sanga Sabha which immediately sent members to the site for inspection. Thereafter several protests were carried out with the participation of the villagers and Buddhist prelates who urged the authorities to take steps to prevent further destruction.

Dr. Deraniyagala, while confirming that excavation started after the incident said they were unable to carry out work on the bulldozed area since it was badly damaged. He said there may have been historical monuments at the site.

According to an official of the Archeological office at Ampara, two years ago the authorities had tried to remove sand from the area but they had been prevented. However he said they were not aware of the bulldozing when it took place last November.

The Government Agent of Ampara A Wickremaratne told The Sunday Times in 1996 a model village was built on this 500 acre block of land which is believed to be a historical site.

'Even before that, in the late 70s land was distributed to Muslim and Sinhala families During that time this area was not surveyed by the Archeological Department. However, we have informed the authorities that once the monuments are discovered in any area we will vacate the families living there,' he said.

Meanwhile the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress last week appointed a five member committee to inquire and submit a report within two months. It is learnt that the committee will conduct an inquiry and the authorities who ordered the bulldozing be summoned.

Please release me, says Abdul Cader

By. Susitha R. Fernando

A petition by a UNP parliamentarian challenging his continuing remand at the Bogambara prison will be taken up by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Parliamentarian A.R.M. Abdul Cader was remanded after he surrendered to the Gampola Magistrate over a shooting incident in Gampola during an election meeting on March 10, in which one person was killed.

He said there was insufficient evidence to connect him with any of the alleged acts of violence that took place during the meeting or with the death of the person. Mr. Cader said he has been in remand since March 12, and it was causing embarrassment to his party and affecting its election campaign. He is asking for an interim order for his release forthwith subject to any condition the court may deem fit.

Residents fear wire of death

Residents of 3rd Lane in Model Town at Ratmalana have accused local authorities of trying to kill or harm them by installing a dangerous High Tension Powerline across their narrow lane.

In a strongly worded letter to the Minister of Power and Energy, 23 residents have appealed that the move be stopped immediately and one of two alternatives proposed by them be chosen.

The residents said that when they first heard of the proposed project by the Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) they had objected and an inquiry was held by the Divisional Secretary of Moratuwa. They charged that the Divisional Secretary was biased and aggressive against the residents and had come to an unfair or immature conclusion.

Book for hearing impaired

The Lions Club of Gampaha Metro will today launch a book that is bound to help the hearing impaired.

The book is a translation of 'Learning to Listen' published by the Canadian Hearing Society. For Mrs. Neeta Weeraratne, who translated the book, it is the culmination of a search for a cure for her hearing impaired grandchild.

First she followed a three-month course in Rehabilitation of the Hearing Impaired at Dalhousie University and came across the book which impressed her.

On her return she used this hearing therapy as set down in the book on her grandchild. The result was tremendous and she translated the book into Sinhala so that it could be of help to thousands of mothers of hearing impaired children.

The book will be launched today at 10 a.m. from Sanasa hall by the Lions Club of Gampaha Metro

Call for non-violence

Top Religious prelates and others will meet on Tuesday to make a joint appeal for non-violence, peace and democracy.

The leaders, meeting under the auspices of the national movement for justice, peace and reconciliation have also called a media conference to outline the appeal they are making to the government, all political parties and other groups for a commitment to principles of non-violence.

Among the prelates making the appeal are the Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayake Thera, Ven. Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayake Thera, the Ven. Dr. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera, the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, Bishop Oswald Gomis who is the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Swami Athmagahanandaji Maharaj, Head of the Ramakrishna Mission and a Muslim dignitary.

New vehicle park soon

A vehicle park adjoining Sugathadasa Stadium to accommodate 500 trucks or buses will be open for use during the coming week.

The land belonging to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has been developed to park heavy vehicles to clear congestion in Pettah and Fort and for security reasons

"Hundreds of lorries transporting goods from the outstations are parked at various places in Colombo after unloading. These vehicles leave after taking a load of goods from Colombo in the evening," Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil said.

Still no Gazette notification

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The relevant Gazette notification for the formation of a presidential committee comprising two former judges to probe alleged Wayamba election malpractices has not been issued as yet, authoritative sources said.

The two-member committee which was expected to make a thorough investigation now finds it cannot probe the conduct of politicians as its scope is merely confined to public officials.

The committee was appointed on February 20 in the wake of protests from all quarters demanding the nullification of results and condemning the poll as the most corrupt. It has also been highlighted that leading PA politicians, including several cabinet ministers have been implicated as violators of the law.

The two- member committee comprises Justices Ananda Coomaraswamy and N. Abeyweera.

CM aspirants talk garbage

By Nilika de Silva

Candidates vying for the Chief Minister's post in the Western Province will meet at Hanwella this afternoon to put before the people their proposals for an efficient and environmentally-friendly method of garbage disposal.

The proposed landfill site at Meepe, Hanwella is believed by many to be not the ultimate solution to Colombo's garbage problem.

PA candidate Susil Premajayanth said, "I do not agree fully with this kind of land filling."

He also said the Provincial Council was not a party to the agreement.

The Colombo Municipal Council is responsible for the disposal of 1000 metric tonnes of garbage a day, he said. He believes the solution is a compost fertilizer factory, which would take care of 80 percent of the garbage.

Although funds have been set apart for a long term solution to garbage disposal Tissa de Silva, a consultant environmental engineer feels that no solutions have been found yet. "From 1993, funds have been spent on consultants, trips for bureaucrats, maintaining a huge office etc, but no solutions have been found," he said.

Today's meeting which is to take place at near the proposed Meepe landfill site in Hanwella is organized by a joint committee of voluntary organisations in Padukka.

Film importer wins rights case

By Kumaradasa Wagista

The Supreme Court has held that the National Film Corporation (NFC) has violated the fundamental rights of an association which imported foreign films by insisting that they import only brand new prints and ordered the NFC to pay Rs 400,000 as compensation and costs.

The Bench comprised Justices Mark Fernando, R.N.M.Dheeraratna and L.H.G.Weerasakera.

The petitioner, Videsheeya Chitrapata Ananaya Karannange Sangamaya (Foreign Film Importers' Association) of Chatham Street, Colombo 1 cited the Chairman, National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka, two other officials, Lakshmi Pictures (Pvt) Ltd and the Attorney General as respondents.

Justice Fernando in his judgment (with the other two judges agreeing) stated the petitioner complains that the fundamental rights of its members under Article 12(1),have been infringed by the 1st respondent by permitting the 5th respondent (Lakshmi Films) to import and supply used prints of films, while permitting the members of the petitioner to import and supply only brand new prints.

The petitioner further alleges that the 5th respondent was allowed other concessions as well-that it was permitted to import five copies instead of a maximum of three; that it was allowed to supply and advertise films even before it signed formal agreements with the 1st respondent ( NFC); and that the first respondent made payments of sums due to the 5th respondent direct to a non-resident account so as to evade the levy of taxes due thereon.

Sanjeewa Jayawardena appeared for the petitioner while Kolitha Dharmawardena, Deputy Solicitor General with N.Pulle, SC, appeared for 1st to 4th and 6th respondents and S.Mahenthiran with K.S.Ratnavel for the 5th respondent..

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