18th November 2001, Volume 8, Issue 18

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SPOTLIGHT

spotlightpic1.jpg (17674 bytes) Multi million dollar locomotive deal that derailed train service

By Frederica Jansz

An arbitrary decision by President Chandrika Kumaratunga to import ten locomotives from France for Sri Lanka Railways has finally resulted in the new

General Manager for Railways, Priyal de Silva, being forced to appoint a special committee to investigate the shortcomings reported by various sectors with regard to these locomotives.

Priyal de Silva has been compelled to appoint this committee after various railway engineers have maintained that the French locomotives cannot be used upcountry beyond Nawalapitiya and are stalling continuously on their runs down South to Galle and Matara.

Already, since the arrival of these locomotives in November last year, three are at present undergoing repairs at the railway’s Ratmalana workshop. The fuel tanks on these locomotives are completely corroded and as a result the engines cannot be used. The engines have been in Sri Lanka for only a year since they arrived last November.

Rail tracks distorted

On October 29, this year, de Silva nominated A. N. P. Wickramasuriya, a mechanical engineer as chairman of this committee to probe the defects found in the M9 class locomotives purchased from GEC Alsthom Transport S. A. France. A. G. Mahanama, Chief Engineer (Track & Bridges), M. J. D. Fernando, Mechanical Engineer (Loco/Power) and A. D. Leelaratne, member, RMC are the other appointees to this committee.

The Sunday Leader has reported ad nauseam since 1997, the widespread controversy which surrounded President Kumaratunga’s decision to purchase ten French locomotives which were fitted with ship engines for Sri Lanka’s railways in 1997. In addition, Kumaratunga chose GEC Alsthom which among a shortlist of bidders had quoted Rs. 500 million more than the other bidders.

Since the first engine arrived in the country in November 2000, various modifications were made in order to make the engine more compatible to local rail tracks.

Railway engineers have found that during the trial runs of the M9 French locomotive beyond Nawalapitiya, the rail track was getting shifted or distorted by the M9. This distortion or shifting, The Sunday Leader was told, can cause serious operational problems such as potential derailment or increase the cost of track maintenance.

After the M9 locomotive repeatedly derailed at Watawala during trial runs this year, the then Chief Engineer, Tracks and Bridges, Priyal de Silva, who is now General Manager for Railways, filed a report on June 18, 2001, which noted various shortcomings.

In this report, de Silva points out that a required slackness of ¼" (6mm) usually kept in the gauge at the switch when the points are located on a curve was not sufficient in the case of the M9 locomotive. In fact, the leading high side wheel of the bogey on this locomotive was unable to negotiate the curve on the rail track while climbing at Watawala. De Silva maintains that the wheel gauge should not be more than 5 ft 3 inches. In this instance the wheel gauge on the French locomotives is a ¼" inch more than on other engines Sri Lanka Railways use.

Service derailed!

This may be why, de Silva asserts, that as a result the rail track gets pushed out and the engine derails.

In order to accommodate the locomotive, and prevent further derailments on upcountry tracks, de Silva at the time gave instructions for the gauge slackness of ¼ inch to be increased to 1.8" (3mm) on the track. Thus, the railways increased the tracks by a ¼ inch. This however also did not work and the engine continued to derail beyond Nawalapitiya.

The railways thereafter took a decision backed by the former General Manager W. K. B. Weragama to weld and shave the wheels of the M9 locomotives in order to make the necessary adjustment and remove the excess gauge extent of ¼ inch. This too did not work and the problem persists.

Why the supplier was not asked to carry out this operation is not clear. Furthermore, if this adjustment will lead to longer-term problems, particularly in terms of the strength of the flange, is another question in point.

Another problem, Priyal de Silva noted early this year in his report was that the tracks maybe getting pushed out because of a wheel base specification of 10 feet 6 inches. The length of the wheel base which in other engines is not more than 9 feet could perhaps also be a contributory factor to the tracks getting pushed out at points where there is a sharp incline or curve on the upcountry lines.

The other engines negotiating these curves possess a wheel base specification of not more than 9 feet. Engineers from GEC Alsthom have also been summoned by the present GM to now help rectify the shortcomings found in the M9 locomotive.

Meanwhile, the railways has dumped more money on the rail tracks and are replacing the sleepers at various points on the upcountry line in a desperate attempt to strengthen the tracks, which they hope will then be in a position to hold the M9 locomotive.

Priyal de Silva had observed after four trial runs at different speeds on this spot with the M9 locomotive, at Watawala, that there was a tendency for the leading wheel of the lead bogey to grind itself on the switch blade, thus trying to mount the switch blade and ride on the stock rail. De Silva notes that this condition is very critical when the loco is in slow motion as it can mount the rail track and get derailed.

Priyal de Silva also noted that with regard to the M9 French locomotives, the bogey pivoting centers are not coinciding with bogey centers and the M9 bogey pivoting is the longest in comparison to the other makes of engines used by Sri Lanka Railways.

He further stated that the wheel base specification of 10 ft 6 inches stipulated in the original tender document was arrived at without any calculation and was not based on any scientific or technical study.

Railway engineers point out that even world class manufacturers like General Motors of USA and Samsung Korea could not comply to this wheel base specification which should have made the Technical Evaluation Committee at the time reconsider this specification and dwell on its viability. Only GEC Alsthom was surprisingly able to comply exactly to this specification.

The Alsthom locomotives were brought primarily to run longer trains upcountry. It was hoped that the engines would pull up to 17 carriages. However, the M9 locomotives cannot pull more than 10 carriages on the hill country rail tracks.

As we have pointed out, three of the locomotives cannot be used at present since the fuel tanks have got completely corroded. Senior engineers said that as a result rust particles are blocking the filters. Hence, these engines cannot even pull six coaches leave alone 10.

Operating Superintendent, G. R. P. Chandratilake, in July this year submitted a confidential report to the General Manager Railways where he too detailed the shortcomings of the French locomotives.

Weak brakes

In this report, Chandratilake notes that the French engine was unable to pull even 12 coaches to Kandy. He further notes that there is a restriction imposed on the M9 locomotives that they should not run light and needs to be run with a brake van attached, is indicative of its weak powered braking abilities. In short, the hand brake and the vacuum brake power in these engines is insufficient. Another condition laid down is that whenever the trainload exceeds 28 units (which based on a metric tonnage of 11.106 per unit equals 310.968 tons) beyond Rambukkana, auto couplers have to be used throughout the train, which Chandratilake says is difficult to achieve on a practical basis.

The manner in which the drivers seat is located in the M9 locomotive does not give him direct visibility to what is happening below and has to rely heavily on signals relayed to him which can cause catastrophic results considering the delay in such signals being passed.

Meanwhile, on the southern rail line guards working the coaches have revealed to Chandratilake, that at times the lights in the carriages go dim or sometimes go out completely. Another defect in the M9 locomotive does not indicate to the train driver that the lights in the carriages have failed. On the southern line the M9 is able to pull upto 18 coaches, as it is flat land. The train driver for some reason remains unaware of any electric failure to the long line of carriages.

The above mentioned errors are compounded by the fact that these engines were bought despite the fact that they violated tender specifications. Their main attraction was that they were French manufactured and that connection was all that mattered for Lanka’s rolling stock.

Travellers’ safety not a priority?

Despite both the American and the Korean governments and other reputed railway engineers, pointing out four years ago, that the French engines were not suitable for Lankan tracks and that the award had violated tender specifications, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga insisted the French product was the best for Sri Lanka.

Safety for Lankan railway travellers was obviously not a priority when the president and four of her ministers including the present premier, insisted that Sri Lanka buy ten engines from a French firm to power local locomotives which was Rs. 500 million more than the other bids. Engines which had previously only been used on ships and had never been tested on rail tracks in a tropical country or used in any other part of the world for locomotives.

In 1997, the scandal broke and the government was accused of corruption and fraud, while both the Unites States and Korean government took issue over the deal that was seen to have unfairly favoured GEC Alsthom of France. The tender which was awarded to the French firm raised a storm of protest when it was proved that the engines could not even be tested in the country of manufacture, France, as the French have a different gauge of rail track to Sri Lanka. Why should the French after all waste time trying to test the engine on French rail tracks as the engine was manufactured in the first place for ships and not trains.

Despite this fact, the Sri Lankan Government on whose behalf four cabinet ministers sat on the cabinet appointed subcommittee recommended that the offer made by GEC Alsthom was the most suitable for Lankan locomotives.

This committee, in 1997, comprising of Ministers, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Kingsley Wickremaratne, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Lakshman Jayakody rejected recommendations and warnings about the French engines brought forward by the Cabinet Appointed Tender Board (CATB) and the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC). The four ministers instead found it suitable to spend about Rs. 500 million extra on the French offer. They also threw away collective decisions to standardise the railway equipment, which had been at the time identified as essential for substantial cost reduction and efficiency purposes.

At the time, the Maharaja Organisation, which is the local representative for General Motors, USA/Canada accused Presidential Additional Secretary, Cyril Gunapala of having gone against a decision of Finance Ministry Secretary, B. C. Perera and Transport Ministry Secretary, Cecil Amarasinghe, with regard to a clause in the locomotive tender. According to tender clause 4.8.3, it was specified that the wheel base should not be greater than 10 ft 6" and on this basis Gunapala recommended GEC Alsthom over Samsung and General Motors, Canada both of which had a 3.5" or 2.8% deviation on wheel base. This clause was a key factor in ensuring safety of rail travel.

Perera and Amarasinghe initially recommended that five locomotives be purchased from General Motors Canada and five from Samsung Korea, on the basis of standardisation and cost. Samsung Korea, are reportedly agents for General Motors locomotives, parts of which are assembled in Korea.

President Kumaratunga caused more than a stir over this tender when she rejected these recommendations by Perera and Amarasinghe using very strong words at a cabinet meeting. Breathing fire and brimstone, the president insisted that the tender be awarded to GEC Alsthom and forcefully brushed aside concerns raised by Treasury Secretary B. C. Perera. The latter threatened to resign over this issue and retired about two months later.

Infact Kumaratunga summoned the tender board to Temple Trees and told them the tender should be awarded to the French, despite the tender board report to the contrary.

Perera was only too aware that the wheel base specification among other things asked for in the government tender document was inaccurate and needed to be adjusted. His concerns however were rudely brushed aside and he was told in no uncertain terms by the head of state to — shut up!

As pointed out previously, the 10 feet 6 inch wheel base of the M9 locomotive may be, the reason why the engine causes the rail tracks to shift on upcountry lines.

Sample testing

GEC Alsthom officials in Colombo while denying that these engines are indeed unsuitable for local tracks, have admitted that the engines had previously been used only on ships and had never before been used for railway. Alsthom however maintained that the Ruston 12RK215 engine has undergone a sample testing by rail authority. While the engine could not be tested on French tracks Alsthom claims that it was tested by both Lloyds and British Rail who found it compatible for rail track. However, according to the Jane’s Handbook on World Railways, the Ruston 12RK215 engine has never been used on locomotives anywhere in the world. The handbook is considered a bible of all railway operators as it catalogues locomotives used by each and every railway in the world.

Top railway engineers told The Sunday Leader that the suitability of the Ruston 12RK215 engine is highly questionable as it originated from the same stables as the Paxman engines which has performed adversely in Sri Lanka Railways.

Since this controversy erupted and the first engine arrived in Sri Lanka in November 2000, after testing it for a period of one and a half months, railway engineers also found that the engine was overheating and that computer controlled functions had to be re-adjusted.

In fact a thermostat malfunction caused the train on one of its trial runs to stall at Kadugannawa while carrying Deputy Transport Minister Kumar Welgama. Passengers on the train said they fumed for over half an hour until the engine cooled down and computer adjustments were made to alter the thermostat.

S. D. M. Mahindraratene, Chairman of the committee appointed by the former GM for Railways W. K. B. Weragama, of which the present GM Piyal de Silva was also a member, on July 23, this year defended the purchase of these locomotives. Mahindraratene pointed out that the technical problem that caused difficulty in the haulage of trains on the upcountry line was due to the temperature of cooling water at the low temperature end of the cooling system exceeding the stipulated value by about two degrees centigrade.

Lauding M9’s functions

He says, as a result the computer reduced power when this occurred, causing reduction of speed and stalling. The railways thereafter had made provision for the installation of two more radiator elements in the cooler group and the problem, Mahindraratne claims was solved.

Mahindraratne also claims that the use of six power axles with a bogie wheel base not exceeding 10 ft 6 inches is the adoption of co-co wheel arrangement decided upon by a panel of engineers "of all disciplines," he says.

His report however was signed solely by himself. The present GM for Railways Priyal de Silva, who at the time was also a member of this committee signed with a note stating his objection. "I have my reservations with regard to this report. Hence a separate report on aspects pertaining to derailments is submitted herewith," De Silva wrote. Both G. R. P. Chandratilake and A. D. Leelaratne who were members of the same committee also disagreed with Mahindraratne’s claims and refused to place their signatures to this report which lauded the functions of the M9 French locomotive.


Adele; securing a remedy

The Sunday Leader today reproduces extracts from the semi-autobiographical book The Will To Freedom written by Adele Balasingham, the Australia born wife of LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham. The extracts gleaned from the last chapter and postscript of the book relate mainly to events concerning the serious illness that befell Anton and the manner in which suitable remedies were secured. Written from Adele's perspective, the relevant passages catalogue her experience in striving to save the life of her husband. Much light is shed on a number of matters including that of a clear refutation of claims made by President Kumaratunga regarding this issue.

Page 354 The Will to Freedom by Adele Balasingham

Bala's condition steadily deteriorated with him unable to get up off the bed and confined to dark rooms away from the sunlight, and it appeared that he would rapidly progress to a stage requiring emergency renal replacement treatment in the near future. In such an eventuality, the doctors were acutely aware, there was nothing they could offer Bala in terms of treatment with the facilities that were available in the Vanni...

The news that Bala was gravely ill and might not recover spread throughout the movement like wildfire. Mr. Pirabakaran had obviously informed his commanders of Bala's deteriorating condition and one by one they appeared at the door anxious to see him, perhaps for the last time...

Daily reports

In the meantime, Dr. Suri relayed daily reports to Mr Pirabakaran on Bala's deteriorating condition. Mr. Pirabakaran sought and received the collective medical opinion of several doctors in the Vanni. In their medical opinion, Bala's best chance of survival and his long term prognosis hinged on him being evacuated out of the country as soon as possible to a place where medical facilities for the management of renal failure were available. We immediately considered Tamil Nadu as a preferred option for emergency medical treatment. Though some Tamil political leaders -- our friends and sympathisers -- were willing to help, we could not take the risk because of the proscription of the LTTE in India. We pinned our hopes on a request to a foreign country after Mr. Pirabakaran instructed our international secretariat to contact the Norwegian government.

The Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, Mr. Jon Westborg was thoroughly briefed by the former Foreign Minister Mr. Hameed, on the significance of Bala to any future negotiating process between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka government. Westborg was given the green light by his government to investigate the authenticity of the information concerning Bala's condition and the ICRC was called in to assist in this process. About five weeks after the onset of Bala's illness, an ICRC team headed by Mr. Max Hadorn, then the chief of the delegation in Colombo, accompanied by a doctor, arrived in the Vanni with a request to visit Bala and to carry out a medical examination. The delegation visited our house in Puthukuddiruppu and the response of the doctor to the delegate leader following the examination of Bala was, in his words, 'He must be removed as early as possible.' After collecting blood and urine specimens for further analysis to validate the full extent of his illness, the ICRC delegation returned to Colombo with a promise of follow up.

The Norwegian Government, with the moral support of the ICRC, approached Chandrika Kumaratunga to seek a safe evacuation of Bala out of Sri Lanka on humanitarian grounds. Chandrika was told that Bala was critically ill with renal insufficiency and that he needed emergency treatment abroad and the Norwegian Government was willing to help. The Norwegians had also impressed upon Kumaratunga the significance of saving Bala's life for a possible future peace process between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Government. There were extensive deliberations in Colombo and Mr. Kadirgamar was also consulted. The Norwegians had informed us through our representative in Oslo that the Government of Sri Lanka was favourably considering Bala's case and even discussing logistics for the evacuation of Bala. Mr. Pirabakaran looked relieved and pleased when he brought this news. On that particular day, as a measure of goodwill and as a significant humanitarian gesture, Mr. Pirabakaran released nine soldiers (prisoners of war) and crewmen in the custody of the LTTE. Now we were waiting for a positive response from the Kumaratunga Government. Several anxious days passed. There was no response and Bala's condition was deteriorating. In desperation we contacted the ICRC. To our dismay, the ICRC delegate told us that their organisation was kept out of the Colombo discussions on Bala's case since Mr. Kadirgamar did not trust them. After two months of waiting in anxious expectation, we finally received a message from the Norwegian Government. Chandrika and Kadirgamar had worked out a list of demands (or guarantees) for the LTTE to fulfil as 'significant reciprocal humanitarian gestures' if Bala had to be evacuated with the assistance of Sri Lanka.

With honour

Firstly, the Tiger leadership should guarantee that the LTTE should not disrupt or impede the Government administration in the northeastern province nor should they attack and destroy any Government property in Tamil areas. Secondly, the LTTE should not threaten or attack any sea or air transport (supplies) to the Northeast. Thirdly, the LTTE should not attack any public property throughout the country. Fourthly, the LTTE should release all persons in LTTE's custody, not merely those known to the ICRC, but others also. In this context, the Government claimed -- without any concrete proof -- that the LTTE was holding at least two hundred and fifty persons without the knowledge of the ICRC. Fifthly, the LTTE should release all cadres under the age of eighteen in its forces to the next of kin.

From this list of demands or rather 'guarantees' we knew that Chandrika was demanding her pound of flesh exploiting the vulnerable situation of the LTTE. These demands -- which were of a military nature affecting the very mode of armed struggle -- had no relevance whatsoever to a humanitarian request seeking only safe passage for the evacuation of a person suffering from a critical renal illness. This attitude betrayed the callous and calculative nature of Chandrika Kumaratunga. Bala and I rejected these conditions outright. Bala said he preferred to die with honour and self-respect rather than acceding to these humiliating demands. Mr. Pirabakaran was furious with Chandrika and Kadirgamar for stipulating such unacceptable conditions. The president's position on this matter had a profoundly negative impact on the thinking of the LTTE leadership. If she could not favourably consider a simple humanitarian plea compassionately for the future prospect of peace, how would she be able to resolve the most difficult and complex of all the issues the, Tamil ethnic conflict? This was the feeling that prevailed amongst the LTTE leaders at that time.

Miraculously, as weeks passed by, new blood results revealed that Bala had survived the acute crisis he had been in and had settled into chronic renal insufficiency. Nevertheless, the urgency of Bala leaving the Vanni for medical care did not decline. The doctors were constantly concerned that the environment posed a serious threat to his health and they were uncertain of the length of time before Bala would require renal replacement therapy. For me, every day management of his wellbeing became a nightmare. His strict diet precluded so many foods and his weight dropped dramatically. I was constantly aware of the coming monsoon season and that the seas would then be impassable, condemning us to another four months wait in the Vanni until the weather changed. I was desperate that he should leave the Vanni while he was well enough to make the journey and before the monsoon set in. The anxiety within me surfaced when Mr. Pirabakaran and Mathy made a visit to our house. I explained to the couple about Bala's precarious health condition emphasising the urgency of evacuating him abroad for treatment. If this was not done immediately, Bala's death was inevitable, I told them, while struggling to contain my emotions. Apparently moved by my distress, Mr. Pirabakaran understood the critical situation. He too loved and respected Bala and was deeply concerned about his wellbeing. He consoled me by assuring that he would do everything within his power and resources to send 'Bala Anna' abroad for treatment. Mr. Pirabakaran acted immediately. He alerted his international network to arrange a ship to evacuate Bala. Within weeks we received news that our ship was moored in the deep sea, waiting for us.

With news of our imminent departure, leaders and cadres of the LTTE flocked to our house for a final farewell. My stomach grew tighter and my appetite declined in the days approaching our departure on 23rd January 1999. Of course it was imperative for Bala to be taken out of the Vanni, but I had no appetite to leave the people and the struggle behind. When Tamilenthi came to our house on the afternoon of our departure day I knew that our time to leave was near. When Tamil Chelvan arrived in his Pajero to escort us to the beach, the time was nearer. When Soosai swung into our driveway in the vehicle to take us to his camp on the Mullaitivu coast I knew we would be on our way soon. We had only to wait for Mr. Pirabakaran's arrival. When he finally came, he briefly spoke to Bala and me bidding us goodbye. Jokes and smiles hid each other's sadness. Bala, restraining his emotions, ignored Jimmy, his faithful old dog of fifteen years, who looked up at him expectantly, got into the Pajero and stared ahead. Unable to resist Jimmy's beckoning to us, I patted her on the head then looked around at everyone, and finally to Mr. Pirabakaran for the last time. Our vehicle sped away from the house. It was all over.

It was the first week of February 1999. The location: a bustling and enterprising capital city of a South East Asian nation. As we walked into the reception hall of the modern, clean hospital to which Bala was to be admitted for emergency medical examination, a sense of relief that I was no longer alone in my efforts to keep him alive swept over me. Doctors with the knowledge and a hospital with facilities to manage his illness were readily available to deal with medical problems that might arise. Within thirty six hours of his admission all the results of the main medical tests were available and the caring and reassuring consultant finally clarified the medical picture concerning Bala's ill health and gave us some insight into what lay ahead for us. He confirmed that the medical reports were consistent with diabetic nephropathy and that it was a progressive disease: he was reluctant to commit himself to our queries regarding the duration before he would require renal replacement therapy. But more urgent and a cause for concern for the medical staff was the grossly enlarged left kidney that was revealed on ultra-sound examination. The kidney was totally obstructed and non functioning; the doctors were unable to identify the cause of the obstruction but they were conclusive that it would have to be removed as soon as possible.

The renal surgeon at the side of Bala's post-operative bed in the intensive care unit picked up the specimen bag. He showed me the huge sick kidney he had taken four hours to remove from Bala and pointed out that had there been any further delay in operating, the kidney would have ruptured, causing a medical crisis. Nevertheless, under the caring and professional management of the doctors and nurses, Bala made a remarkable recovery following his left nephrectomy and he was discharged with advice concerning management of his nephropathy. One hurdle was over. It was now imperative to find away out of the country before we were arrested as illegal immigrants and while Bala was well enough to travel before he progressed to the stage of requiring renal replacement therapy.

We continued to live an underground life in the capital, trying to avoid drawing attention to ourselves, while we pondered a safe way out of the country to return to London. Since we had entered the country without valid documents and out of date passports it was impossible for us to run the risk of passing through airport terminals. We had no intention of acting foolishly and jeopardising our safety and freedom at this stage. Our first task in the process of leaving the country was to reverse our illegal status by securing at least a valid passport. We established contact with our old friends in London, which led eventually to an agreement by the British Foreign Office for arrangements to be made for Bala to collect his new passport at a British Embassy outside England. The Australian Embassy in London was co-operative in allowing my appointed representative to collect my new passport for me. Friends in the country we were trapped in willingly endorsed our travel documents, allowing us to pass safely through immigration on our way out of the country.

Our return to London, in my view, heralded the beginning of another challenging chapter in my life. Bala's medical needs would require fundamental adjustments to our lifestyle and priorities. The nephrologists in a London hospital fobbed off any suggestion of renal transplant for Bala, ruling out the prospect of him regaining his lost quality of life since he became unwell. It was during these uncertain days the Norwegians entered into our lives as brokers of peace. Mr. Erik Solheim, Mr. Wegger Strommen, the former State Secretary in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Mr. Jon Westborg, Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, and Ms. Kjersti Tromsdal, Executive Officer, met us at our residence in South West London to explore the feasibility of peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Government. After having consulted the leadership in Vanni, the LTTE agreed to the Norwegian facilitation.

Viable option

In view of Bala's steadily deteriorating renal condition, the Norwegian Government offered medical assistance on humanitarian grounds. In Norwegian medical opinion, renal transplantation was a viable option for Bala and one worth exploring. Subsequently, Bala was flown to the Norwegian capital Oslo, and admitted to the main general hospital where he was subjected to thorough medical tests to ascertain whether or not his physical condition was conducive to successful renal transplantation. He received a positive response to his suitability for transplant and we decided to proceed. In the early part of 2000 Bala underwent renal transplant surgery and made an uncomplicated and steady recovery. He was discharged from hospital almost a new man.

While Bala was staying in a hotel in Oslo recuperating from his transplant operation, Chandrika Kumaratunga, in an interview given to the Far Eastern Economic Review, incredulously claimed that it was she who granted permission to the Norwegian Government for Bala's treatment. This was a blatantly false and irresponsible statement. We contacted the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and registered our protest. The Norwegian government was also annoyed: they had not sought permission from Kumaratunga for Bala's treatment. The Norwegian Government made the decision purely on humanitarian grounds. Of course Chandrika was informed about Bala's successful transplantation surgery later, through the Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo. We requested the Norwegian authorities to clarify the matter. Accordingly, a senior Norwegian Foreign Ministry official issued a statement rebutting Chandrika's claim. Bala also gave a lengthy interview to the Tamil Guardian (25th March 2000) explaining how Chandrika and Kadirgamar imposed impossible conditions on the LTTE and refused to help Norway and the ICRC who sought a safe passage for Bala out of the island. Following the renal transplant Bala was able to resume his political work and we have subsequently continued our involvement in the struggle at the diplomatic level in London.

 

 

 

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