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News

   
 

              victims of a ‘humanitarian’ war


       The tragic fall out of the fight against terrorism

 

War will end in a matter of hours
Is Pirapaharan gone?
By Risidra Mendis
The military yesterday said that it is concentrating on rescuing thousands of
civilians held hostage by the LTTE.
Military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader that a time
frame cannot be given in this context, on when the war would come to an end.
There were speculations that LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan had blown himself up
along with other Tiger leaders.
The military however was not in a position to confirm whether Pirapaharan had killed
himself, as it had not yet reached the area.
"There were explosions in the remaining LTTE area. However, we cannot confirm
whether Pirapaharan and the LTTE leaders had blown themselves up," Nanayakkara
said.
However, the military confirmed that a victory is now down to a matter of hours.
World opinion has described this war as being the bloodiest on the planet. The last
24 hours have had international television stations beaming heartbreaking pictures
of civilian casualties, which however failed to cease a massive military onslaught
against Tamil Tigers, forcing the once feared rebel organisation to a bloody end.
The military said that it was not sure of the whereabouts of Pirapaharan. Brigade
Commander of the 58 Division, Brigadier Shavendra Silva was quoted as saying that
the military was not in a position to confirm whether Pirapaharan was in the newly
demarcated safe zone.
e had said that only the voices of Pottu Amman, Soosai and Swarnam were heard in the
communication systems, but not Pirapaharan. Nanayakkara however said Pirapaharan 
generally does not come on radio.
Friday May 15, the military said they expected Pirapaharan to either surrender or be
killed over the weekend.  "We do not know what he would do. But we are prepared for
anything," Nanayakkara said.
The UN also on Friday appealed to the Government to end the conflict and allow
thousands of civilians still trapped in a tiny coastal strip of land to escape.  
UN figures show that some 7000 Tamils have been killed between January 20 and May 7
this year.  
But despite grave concern being shown by the UN on the number of
civilian casualties and the international community calling on the government for a
ceasefire President Mahinda Rajapakse refused to be cowed by international criticism
insisting the war must go on and that a military victory is imminent.

The military said civilians were continuing to crossover to government held areas
and a specific number of the remaining civilians could not be given.
He said some 20,000 civilians in a do or die attempt on Friday escaped from the 'new safe zone'
during the last three days, even as rebels fired at the fleeing group of hostages as
they desperately ran for their lives.
At least four doctors who were working in the hospitals in the 'safe zone' who had
left with the civilians Friday are believed to be held for questioning by the
military on the basis that they released information to the media on government
shelling of the safe zone which killed hundreds of civilians last Sunday May 10. 
Nanayakkara however denied these reports stating that no doctors had reached the
government areas.
Two days later on May 12, Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry vehemently denied the news
item carried on some international media and pro-LTTE websites alleging the security
forces shelled at a hospital inside the "Civilian Safe Zone" (CSZ), killing at least
45 civilians, according to LTTE and alleged hospital sources. 
"This is another deliberate attempt made by the LTTE terrorists and its propaganda
machinery to tarnish the image of the security forces" military spokesperson
Brigadier Nanayakkara said. 
On May 14, the defence ministry charged that the LTTE were using white phosphorous
bombs as a weapon against advancing forces in a bid to halt the final attack. 
The military said the bombs had been deployed by the rebels, as landmines along their
defence lines to halt advancing troops.
The government's decision to bar journalists form the war zone has prevented any
independent verification of claims made by the conflicting parties.


IMF funding delayed 

Desperate govt.  turns to ADB

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The delay in securing the US$ 1.9 billion standby facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pushed the government to look at enhanced funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to ease the country's foreign reserves crisis.

The government is currently holding discussions with the ADB to obtain enhanced funding for this year and 2010 to solve the balance of payment crisis.

However the ADB has clearly stated that it does not provide balance of payments support.

ADB Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, Richard Vokes said, while the bank has set aside additional funds and mechanisms to help developing member countries, which also includes the possibility of some front loading of ADB's proposed support in 2011 to 2009 and 2010, discussions on extending the initiative to Sri Lanka is still on-going.

Responding to questions posed by The Sunday Leader via e-mail Vokes said, "In view of the serious financial and global economic crisis affecting the region, ADB has set aside some additional funds and mechanisms to assist its Developing Member Countries to weather the current economic difficulties.

"This also includes the possibility of some front-loading of our proposed support in 2011 to 2009 and 2010. In line with these initiatives, ADB has had and is having discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka but these are still on going. These could result in a limited enhancement of lending levels in 2009 and 2010."

When asked if the ADB would release additional funds for Sri Lanka given the delay in the release of the first tranche of the US$ 1.9 IMF billion bail out package to Sri Lanka due to various issues, Vokes said that ADB funding is primarily for projects and thus depends mainly on the needs of the projects and project readiness."We believe that it is important to try and keep capital expenditure up as much as possible during this time of crisis so that the country is well placed to benefit from the global recovery when it comes," he said.

Meanwhile, an IMF spokesperson in Washington told The Sunday Leader that discussions with the authorities on an IMF-supported programme for Sri Lanka are still ongoing.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka meantime is also holding discussions with the Malaysian Central Bank to obtain a US$ 200 million loan.

Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Finance and State Revenue Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya were not available for comment.


Investigations into both Golden Key and Gold Quest quashed by Nivard Cabraal

By R.Wijewardene

A Central Bank report now in the possession of The Sunday Leader reveals that Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal used his authority to dismiss the findings of a high level investigation into the Gold Quest pyramid scheme.

The 2005 Central Bank special investigation unit progress report details the findings of the SIUs investigation into Golden Key and Gold Quest.

The report reveals that a special team hadinfiltrated the Gold Quest scheme and having recorded promotional speeches made by Gold Quest members the SIU informed the Securities and Exchange Commission, which moved to arrestWeeraman, Manager of the Rhythm Collection shop in Premier Pacific.Rhythm Collection owned by a friend of Nivard Cabraal's - Anura Fernando distributed the gold sovereigns that were at the centre of the Gold Quest scam. The SIU simultaneously took action against Fern Tea - another company headed by Anura Fernando in which a Gold Quest front company, based in Hong Kong, held a controlling stake.

The SIU discovered that Fern Tea was being used by Gold Quest to import gold into the country.

While action was taken to stop Fern Tea importing further consignments of gold as of 2005 further investigations into the company were pending.

However the company Suntex International which owned a controlling stake in Fern Tea also owned a majority stake in Nivard Cabraal's own business- Capital Reach Holdings.

Facing the prospect of having his own business investigated for their relationship with Gold Quest, after his appointment as governor in mid 2006, Cabraal- actively disbanded the team that had compiled the initial reports on Gold Quest. Investigation into both Golden Key and Gold Quest werereported in the 2005 SIU progress report but by 2006 these investigations had been swept under the carpet.

2006 marked the transition from the governorship of Sunil Mendis to the incumbent Cabraal and its clear the responsibility for terminating both reports rests entirely with Nivard Cabraal.


Restraining order on Leader Publications vacated

The order restraining Leader Publications preventing the publication of articles defamatory of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse was vacated by Additional District Judge Mohamed Mackie on Thursday (14).

The order was granted on the basis that the defending company, Leader Publications undertook to refrain from publishing articles defamatory of or injurious to the defence official.

The defending company will be held liable for legal action for a future breach of the court's directive.

When the case was called before Additional District Judge Macki Mohamed, M. U. M. Ali Sabry, Senior Counsel for the Defence Secretary submitted to court that Leader Publications should avoid publishing any articles or statements defamatory to the Defence Secretary.

Counsel Sabry told court that any violation of the said undertaking would result in the filing of action against the defending company.

Counsel for the Leader Publications D. W. Johnthasan who deputised for Senior Counsel Ronald Perera undertook to instruct his clients to refrain form publishing articles or statements defamatory to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse.

Leader Publications was not required to tender any apology in court or to make any admission of guilt in this regard.Under the Civil Procedure Code, defamation is an offence punishable by law.  The country's penal legislation relating to defamation was repealed in 2002.

Ronald Perera with D. W. Johnthasan instructed by Reshan Gamage appeared for the Leader Publications. Senior Counsel M. U. M. Ali Sabry with Erasha Kalidasa instructed by Sanath Wijewardena appeared for the Defence Secretary. The case will be called again on July 9, 2009.


Colombo will not smell of roses soon! 

The sewers of Colombo: an epidemic in the wings

By Faraz Shauketally

The 1900s is famous for many things: Joseph Conrad wrote the Heart of Darkness, mass production of cars began, the Panama Canal was built and in Ceylon, the sewer pumping stations of Colombo, too, were built. An immensely helpful part of the infrastructure build undertaken by the British colonial rulers: the fact that it has lasted this long is testimony to their engineering capabilities and indeed the robustness of the system. It has hardly needed ongoing maintenance which probably was just as well - given the typical Sri Lankan penchant for carrying out little maintenance as possible.

All good things must come to an end and that is exactly what has happened to the pumping stations and much of Colombo's sewerage system. It is over 100 years old, and is under performing, leaking and threatening the sanitary levels in Colombo.The development of Colombo city over the years - the hotels, the houses, the high rise buildings with their growing number of apartments, schools and the increase in the population has had a heavy burden on the sewerage system.

The antiquated equipment and the aged pipes are taking their toll and it shows. Pumps are partially working or not at all. The collateral damage is very much in evidence: wastage, incorrect meter readings (when air gets into the system as pipes leak) and most frightening of all, the potential for an epidemic of gigantic proportions: the repercussions will be felt everywhere.

The tourism industry will shudder at the thought of an outbreak of any disease. The industry is susceptible to even minor threats as it is. It is still struggling from the impact of the tsunami, low occupancy levels due to the global economic crisis and the perceived terror threats - especially the LTTE attacks in areas that were never a part of the terror threat like Galle for instance. It certainly can do without another potential liability.

The much anticipated war effort has finally shown results. The stock market is expected to once again display its traditional (and now well known) buoyancy. Anticipation of a boom - despite the global crisis - in the economic fortunes of this country is at an all time high. The fall in the housing sector is expected to rise sharply on the back of the permanent lull in the northern parts of the island as the war comes to an end.

The sewerage system is quite literally breaking - bursting even - at the seams. Pipes are bursting, the leakages seep into water lines in parts of Colombo like Maligakanda and Wellawatta. The leaks underground cause further damage too: roads are collapsing adding to the chaos on the roads in the city. As the leaking sewers slowly but surely seeps into the water lines as well as wells, the potential for a disaster of immense proportions is a real possibility.

The Colombo Municipal Council is presently being run by an unelected administrative official acting as Competent Authority. Such a move whilst being prudent and necessary to take care of the day to day administering of the CMC functions - is inadequate to forge development policies, which are usually politically driven.

With the recent convincing election victory by the UFPA and the appointment of a new Chief Minister, the immediate future of the CMC looks set to be better. Notwithstanding this, the Competent Authority has made moves to obtain support and funding from the Department of National Planning.

However, with the enormous additional drain on the Treasury in terms of spend relating to the Internally Displaced, for instance, funding for projects such as these - however critical and essential it may be - will be at a premium.

Sources close to the CMC say that this project will need to be escalated as a priority project and foreign funding agencies and donors will need to be approached.

What is certain however is that Colombo has a grave and imminent risk on its hands - its citizenry expects that their elected legislators will be responsible enough to recognise the urgency and the reality of the problem well before it is too late and that all party support will bring about a solution sooner than later.


Shortage of drugs at Cancer Hospital

 By Nirmala Kannangara

The lack of Chemotherapy drugs and vials at the Cancer Institute (CI) Maharagama have driven innocent patients into untold suffering, a Medical Specialist attached to the CI told The Sunday Leader.

According to the sources Boxorubicin, Cisplatin, Carboplatin, Ifphosphamide, Vinblastin and Gemcitabine drugs that are widely used for patients are not available at the Cancer Hospital for the past few weeks.

Chemotherapy is a special way of drug administration for cancer patients. These drugs and vials are very expensive and cannot be afforded by poor patients that visit the hospital. Knowing their mental agonies we still have to request them to bring these medicines from private pharmacies. Bad administration policies are the main reason for the drug shortage at this most important hospital in the country,” added the sources.

The sources further said that although the Health Ministry has allocated necessary funds for local purchase the funds are rarely used to buy Chemotherapy drugs that are very expensive.

“It is the sole responsibility of the hospital management to find out the drugs that are being widely used and to order them on time to avoid any shortage. When we speak to our patients they tell us their agony but how can we help them rather than prescribing them to buy the medicine from outside,” claimed the sources.

However refuting allegations Deputy Director CI Maharagama, Dr.Vasantha Dissanayake told The Sunday Leader that there is no such drug shortage in the hospital as claimed by certain doctors. “There was such an issue for a few days but when we informed the Health Ministry they immediately allocated special funds to the hospital enabling us to purchase the necessary drugs locally. Earlier it was the Medical Supplies Department that supplied the medicine to the hospital but since last week we have been purchasing the necessary medicine locally. As a result there is no such shortage in the hospital,” Dr. Dissanayake said.


TNA urges the Tamil Representation

In the Northern Dev. Task Force 

By B.M.Murshideen 

The Tamil National Alliance has expressed its disappointment on the lack of Tamil representation in the newly appointed Task Force for the Northern Development.

TNA Parliamentarian Mavai Senadhiraja told The Sunday Leader that the representatives of the Tamil people should have been included in the Task Force. 

The Cabinet has approved this week the appointment of the 19 member Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province headed by parliamentarian and Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa.

Senadhiraja pointed out that the Task Force represents only the Sinhalese army officials and the Ministry Secretaries. He also said that they have to wait and see the outcome of the Northern Development Task Force.

Meanwhile, TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree told The Sunday Leader that the Government feels that there is no one to advice them from the Tamil Community. 

The Sunday Leader failed to contact Ministers Douglas Devananda and Vinayagamoothi Muralidharan on the Northern Development Task Force.   


ICRC suspends operations 

By Arthur Wamanan

The only available lifeline for thousands of civilians and the sick and the wounded in the combat zone was shut down last week when the ICRC suspended its operations after three failed attempts.

“The ICRC has decided to stop its medical evacuation operations due to the intense and uninterrupted fighting in the area, which means that transportation of food items will also not be taking place,” ICRC Spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne told The Sunday Leader last Friday.

Thousands of civilians are reported to be trapped in the shrinking coastal strip off Mullaithivu. The UN says that at least 50,000 civilians are still trapped in the combat zone.

The ICRC had attempted to transport 25 metric tonnes of food and essential items on May 12, 13 and 14 but was not able to do so due to uninterrupted fighting.

Food and medical supplies have been transported to the combat area at least twice a week, according to Wijeratne. “The amount of food transported varies,” she said.

No food has reached the conflict zone since May 9.

In addition to the ferry, a cargo ship, the Oriental Princess, carrying another 500MT of food from the WFP, also could not reach the combat zone due to clashes. The ship too was waiting off the coast north of Mullaithivu, ready to deliver the food to civilians, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its situation report last Thursday. The ICRC had evacuated 516 persons the last time it reached the combat zone.

Nearly 14,000 patients and their accompanying relatives have been evacuated by the ICRC and 2350 metric tonnes of food have been transported to the region since mid February.

The ICRC began its medical evacuation process on February 10 and had so far carried out 31 such operations.

Wijeratne however stated that the medical evacuations and transportation of food and essential supplies would commence once the ground situation becomes conducive for the organisation to go into the area.

“This is suspension is temporary. We will recommence the operations once the ground situation returns to normal. We will continue to keep in touch with both, the government and the LTTE on this regard,” Wijeratne added.


Call to transfer murder investigation

By Nirmala Kannangara

The police yet again failed  to submit the investigation report into the assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor-in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge to the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate when the murder trial was taken up on Thursday, May 14.

Attorney at Law Athula R. Ranagala who appeared on behalf of the slain editor’s wife Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge requested the Acting Magistrate to hand over the investigation to the CID since the police had failed to make any breakthrough for the past four months.

“The police neither submitted the investigation report nor disclosed any investigation details.  I had to request the court to hand over the investigation to the CID. The Acting Magistrate said that it could be considered at the next hearing date on June 11,” Ranagala told The Sunday Leader.

When queried as to why the police failed to submit the investigation report for the third consecutive date, Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera said the delay in submitting the report was that there were more details to be uncovered but declined to give details into the investigation process.

“The police could not divulge the details as it could derail the investigation process,” claimed SSP Gunasekera.

SSP Gunasekera further said that the police are conducting special investigations based on Wickrematunge’s telephone details and the Government Analyst’s report.

Meanwhile Attorney Ranagala said that he could not see any genuine effort by the police to make any breakthrough and added that unless it is handed over to the CID this investigation too will come to an abrupt end. Wickrematunge’s murder trial will be taken up again on June 11.  


PHIs to issue notice on offenders as dengue statistics swell

By Ranee Mohamed

The coming weeks will see PHIs armed with the powers of a new law - the Prevention of Mosquito Breeding Act -  issuing notices on offenders who do not comply with this new act.

Meanwhile dengue statistics are continuing to swell, with 4605 cases  being reported countrywide as of Wednesday. These statistics however do not include the 63 deaths that have occurred among patients who have battled long and hard with this  disease caused by a virus.

Dr. Hasitha Tissera, Consultant,   Epidemiology Unit when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that there is a clear increase in the reported cases of dengue in the first few months of this year as compared to 2008.

"There were 948 cases reported in February this year and  868 cases reported in March and 1045 cases reported in April. Statistics for the first weeks of May alone  show 497 cases being reported," pointed out Dr. Tissera.

 Statistics are expected to distend as the month progresses and a red alert is being issued to all citizens to be aware of dengue and more particularly to be aware of potential  breeding grounds for this mosquito in and around their neighbourhood.

Dr. Nimalka Pannilahetty, Community Physician, National Dengue Control Unit, speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the rising trend calls for immediate and harsh measures to arrest the situation.

"We have taken steps as early as in the first week of April which was declared Dengue Week. The National Dengue Control Unit urged people by mobilising health care officials, to clean their environment before the rains. But this has not happened satisfactorily and after the sudden bouts of rains, the mosquito population  seems to have increased," observed Dr. Pannilahetty.

"We have begun at the MOH level for a 'forced reduction.' We have  urged the elimination of breeding places, requested for stakeholder meetings, to mobilise resources and more importantly to gain the support of the people," said the doctor.

The National Dengue Control Unit is at present concentrating on prevention and elimination by instilling awareness at school level, divisional secretary level and grassroots level.

Case management is also a significant feature of this multi-pronged approach in dealing with the dreaded dengue that threatens us all.

An infected female Aedes aegypti - a mosquito - is responsible for the transmission of the deadly dengue virus.   Medical sources say that there is no vaccine or cure for the disease as it is caused by a virus. Supportive treatment is the only available medical response.

Children and infants are advised to  be extra careful as they have weaker immune responses compared to adults.


 

 

 

More News....

 

Desperate govt.  turns to ADB

Investigations into both Golden Key and
Gold Quest quashed by Nivard Cabraal

 

 

Restraining order on Leader
Publications vacated

 

The sewers of Colombo: an epidemic
in the wings

 

Shortage of drugs at Cancer Hospital

 

TNA urges the Tamil Representation

 

ICRC suspends operations 

 

Call to transfer murder investigation

 

PHIs to issue notice on offenders
as dengue statistics swell

 

 


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