service commanders, Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, Navy Chief
Daya Sandagiri, Air Force Head Donald Perera and Police Inspector
General T. E Anandaraja stand nonchalantly at attention as Woman Police
Constable (WPC) Thanuja stands in for President Chandrika Kumaratunga at
the final dress rehearsal for the Independence Day celebrations on
February 3. The WPC
hoisted the national flag, took the salute, and stood in for the
commander in chief while the national anthem was played.
Photo by Sena Vidanagama
agrees to drop child recruitment
Lasantha Wickrematunge in Berlin
LTTE agreed to a complete cessation of recruitment of and recruitment
campaigns aimed at persons below 18 years following discussions with the
government at the fifth round of peace talks in Berlin.
LTTE has taken action to release 350 children who had joined the
organisation for reunification with their parents and guardians.
government and the LTTE also decided to hold a meeting between them and
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission to ensure that incidents similar to
last week's off Delft do not
chief negotiator Dr Anton Balasingham denied that the LTTE was involved
in the act of smuggling weapons. He said that the three Sea Tigers had
committed suicide as an act of defiance after the Navy insisted
that they surrender. According to Balasingham, the Sea Tiger gun
boat had come to the rescue of the trawler that had developed engine
trouble. According to the LTTE, the trawler was engaged in fishing.
G L Peiris said that the
government had raised the issue and discussed mechanisms that would ensure that such
incidents did not recur.
joint statement issued by the Royal Norwegian Embassy said that both
parties expressed concerns about the incident and their strong
commitment to ensure that similar incidents do not reoccur. Last
Friday's incident saw three Sea Tigers die after one of them exploded a
statement said that the meeting with the SLMM was to be held soon and
both parties recognised the gravity of the incident.
two sides also agreed to invite human rights envoy Ian Martin to draw up
a human rights road map for human rights issues relating to the peace
talks. The draft road map would be ready for discussions at the sixth
round of talks in Japan scheduled between March 18 and 21.
draft map will include recommendations on training LTTE cadres and
government officials on human rights and human rights laws including
police and prison authorities.
parties agreed that children have been the worst victims affected by the
war between the government and the LTTE. UNICEF estimates that there are
900,000 children in the North East and most suffer from malnutrition,
poor health care and education facilities and are threatened by
landmines. The LTTE agreed to seek UNICEF help to draw up an action plan
for children affected by the conflict.
parties also reviewed the progress report on the work of the
Sub-committee on Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs of the
North East (SIHRN). The
concept papers approved at the previous meetings of the SIHRN on January
16 and 16 have been developed into proposals for concrete projects that
can be approved and begun immediately. The joint statement said that the
agreement on World Bank custodianship of the Northeast Reconstruction
Fund is close to finalisation and will be signed within the next week. It also said that implementation of the Action Plan for
Accelerated Resettlement in the Jaffna district was ahead of schedule.
joint statement said that the report
on the return of displaced Muslims from the North has been submitted for
their consideration. The LTTE and the government also agreed to
establish three committees one in each district in the Esatern Province
to address land issues and other areas of concern.
searches for weapons
authorities yesterday used divers to investigate the wreck of the blown
up LTTE trawler. A high
ranking officer of the Sri Lanka Navy who spoke in confidence to
The Sunday Leader Saturday said the Navy was
in the process of conducting diving operations in the waters off
Iranaitivu. The entire
exercise has been initiated
he said, to locate further evidence and ascertain if the LTTE trawler
was carrying more weapons than those
originally seen by international monitors.
are almost convinced the Sea Tigers were transporting more weapons
than those seen at first
glance by the SLMM monitors,' he said, adding it
is the first time the LTTE have been known to transport a 23mm
anti aircraft gun. He explained this weapon is highly sophisticated and very
large in size.
23mm anti air craft gun is 6.54 meters in length 2.25 meters in
height, 2.95 meters wide. The
weapon is capable of acquiring, tracking and engaging low-flying
aircraft (as well as mobile ground targets while either in place or on
the move). The armament consists of four 23mm cannon with a
maximum slant range of
3,000 meters. The Sea
Tigers on Friday were also detected transporting the
dismantled gun together with 2 boxes of ammunition, 3 grenades
and some other explosives including some communication equipment.
Government gets tough on LTTE taxes
The government last week raised the issue of taxes with the LTTE during
the fifth round of peace talks. Government delegation leader Prof G L
Peiris and Defence Secretary Austin Fernando both spoke to the LTTE
about taxes and raised concerns about taxes levied on the CWE. They told
the LTTE delegates, that taxes were a clear violation of the MoU and if
the taxing of goods destined to the CWE did not stop, the government
would have to close down the branch.
LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham, however, told the
government representatives that no government institutions were taxed.
He thereafter informed LTTE political wing head S P Tamilchelvan to look
into the matter and take action in consultation with the LTTE Finance
Secretary. Meanwhile, a recent study by a private researcher revealed
that the LTTE was earning Rs 2.34 billion through its domestic taxes. On
the A9 highway, alone the study said that the Tigers were making Rs 5
million a day on taxes.
Sarvananthan of the Interntantional Centre for Ethnic Studies who
conducted the study estimated that the Tigers were making an annual
revenue of Rs 3 billion from its local tax and business activities. The
research criticised the LTTE for not undertaking any development work
with the revenue and said that the MoU had opened a gold mine to the
incident: CBK blames govt.
Chandrika Kumaratunga on Friday (7),
blasted the government for allowing "a tragic incident to
take place" at Iranaitivu, where three LTTE cadres blew themselves
up with explosives when their trawler with weapons was detected by the
Sri Lanka Navy.
as Norwegian facilitators in Berlin struggled to reach a compromise
formula as the crisis situation in Sri Lanka's northern waters erupted
hours before peace talks were to begin, the President chided the defence
minister and the government, saying "it is about time that the
government of Sri Lanka demonstrated serious interest for peace and
ending the war in a durable manner."
President's stern letter to Defence Minister Tilak Marapone was sent
even as government negotiators and the LTTE in Berlin agreed with
Norwegian facilitators that a press statement be issued reiterating that
due to a breakdown in communication between the LTTE naval commander and
its cadres, three of its crew members took their lives on Friday the 7th
meanwhile charged "if not for the 18-hour delay in taking action
despite her instructions to the contrary the outcome may not have been
in her capacity as Commander in Chief of the armed forces had earlier
ordered Navy Chief, Daya Sandagiri to seize the weapons on board the
LTTE trawler and to release the Tiger cadres "in view of the
ongoing negotiations between the government and the LTTE."
her orders could be carried out however, drama in the high seas unfolded
when and the Tigers on board the vessel ordered the two Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) monitors to jump overboard before blowing
themselves and the trawler to bits.
President is of the view that although only confidence building measures
have been undertaken in almost one year of negotiations since the
signing of the ceasefire agreement, the LTTE has consistently violated
the agreement raising serious concerns about their credibility in the
the crisis developed
in Sri Lanka's northern waters hours before peace talks were to begin in
Berlin, the navy detected the LTTE trawler carrying a 22mm anti aircraft
barrel, two boxes of ammunition, an AK47 and three grenades hidden
beneath the floorboards of the trawler.
detection was made by two monitors of the SLMM who were later told to
jump overboard into the ocean before the three cadres on board began to
set fire to the trawler. One of the LTTE cadres had thereafter donned a
suicide jacket and exploded the device killing himself and his two
colleagues with him instantly.
in the week, navy and air force personnel were placed on high alert
following intelligence information that a boat loaded with weapons was
due to arrive in northern waters from India. The information however was
leaked to the media and made public by Friday, February 7.
navy and air force personnel have complained bitterly to Defence
Minister Marapone that as a result of the leak to the press, it blew
their cover in detecting the mystery boa
earns Rs. 2 bn in taxes annually
LTTE's tax revenue could be as high as Rs. 2.34 billion per year
according to a recent study.
paper by Muttukrisha Sarvananthan of the International Centre for Ethnic
Studies suggests that the Tigers are amassing Rs. 3 billion per year
through tax and other domestic revenue. "The opening of the A9
highway and officially undertaking political activities in government
controlled areas of the north - east have provided them (the LTTE) a
gold mine in terms of tax revenue," the paper titled 'What Impedes
Economic Revival In The North East Province of Sri Lanka?' states.
findings also reveal that the LTTE is not spending any of the income on
development projects and that the organisation has not changed its
approach from the days of fighting a war.
research that was based on 10 months of field work found that there was
an exodus of people, especially from the Jaffna peninsula and a capital
flight from the north - east. The LTTE is also accused of appropriating
property without proper compensation.
suggests that the LTTE has to undergo a major character change if the
situation of the Jaffna populace is to improve.
predicament of the Jaffna people has not changed during the current
peace process. Disturbingly, the people of Jaffna are faced with a
situation of where one tyranny is replaced by another."
paper recommends the dismantling of the High Security Zones as it
impedes economic growth. Most of the blame for the sorry economic
conditions in the north - east however, has been placed on the LTTE.
motion will be presented in parliament tomorrow, February 10, seeking
the removal of Commissioner, Commission to Investigate Allegations of
Bribery and Corruption, Kingsley Wickremasuriya.
Friday, nearly 70 members of parliament had signed a resolution calling
for Wickremasuriya's removal. After the motion is passed in parliament,
a parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) will be appointed to evaluate the
conduct of Wickrem- asuriya and thereafter make a final decision. The
PSC is entrusted with special powers to not only remove Wickremasuriya
from his post, but also punish him for breaking the Official Secrets
conduct has come into question following charges made by Minister S. B.
Dissanayake that Wickremasuriya leaked confidential information to
President Kumaratunga regarding a complaint and subsequent investigation
against Dissanayake at the commission.
Dissa- nayake is claiming a sum of Rs. 100 million from
Wickremasuriya as a result.
Wickrema- singhe Arachchige Soma- ratne is seeking Rs. 10 million in
damages from the commission for abruptly abolishing his post as OIC,
twist in SEC insider dealing case
insider dealing drama took a new turn last week when Michael Mack and
Norman Gunawardene tool their case to court. They have petitioned the
Court of Appeal to squash the decision by the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC) to prosecute them.
SEC on January 27 decided to institute legal action against its former
chairman Mack and Gunewardene on the advice of the Attorney General.
petitioners in two separate cases also asked court to issue a writ in
the nature of prohibition and grant an interim order preventing the
respondents from taking any steps to prosecute them.
two of the respondents - Cubby Wijetunge and Hemaka Amarasuriya - had
vociferously opposed any move to prosecute Mack and Gunewardene.
a member of the SEC earlier claimed the two accused are innocent of the
charges against them. He also referred to the AGs ruling as "most
Chairman Amaras-uriya went so far as to resign from the commission,
citing his disagreement with the findings of the investigators. He had
also said it was tragic that the investigators probing the case had
misrepresented financial statements, and ridiculed them by alleging they
did not even know how to read a balance sheet properly.
eight other respondents in the two petitions are the SEC, deputy
governor of the Central Bank, deputy secretary to the Treasury,
registrar of companies and SEC commission members A.D.B. Talwatte, Dr.
Nihal Jinasena, G.C.B. Wijeyesinghe and Johnson Peiris.
petitioners have basically argued that they sold their shares in Aitken
Spence when it became evident that business tycoon Harry Jayawardene was
attempting to edge them out of the company. They pointed out that it
became clear that the major shareholders including Jayawardene did not
want them re-elected.
(a former chairman of Aitken Spence) and Gunewardene (a former director)
said it was under such circumstances that they decided to sell their
shares in the company.
also pleaded that they were not in possession of any unpublished price
further stated that "in any event at any time after the advent of
this complaint, there was no material fluctuation in the price of the
shares of Aitken Spence & Company Limited."
also said in the petitions that they were never informed about the facts
constituting the alleged wrongdoing, and no explanation was asked in
this regard and there has been "a breach of the rules of natural
denies black flag welcome
a denial by Rehabilitation Minister Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena that he not
was met with a sea of black flags when he visited Jaffna recently
following another rice scandal, it is confirmed that Jayawardena's
handling of the peninsula initiated the protest campaign.
revealed that the black flags were a show of disillusionment against all
cabinet ministers of the UNF government and the fact that little effort
is being made to rehabilitate the war ravaged peninsula.
senior government sources in Jaffna who requested anonymity said the
flags were initially put up to show discontent with Dr.
Jayawardena and thereafter continued to include all ministers of
the UNF government as being totally ineffective.
Dr. Jayawardena's insistence that he personally had nothing to do with
the bad quality rice sent to Jaffna recently, sources said, does not
carry weight as the Rehabilitation and Refugees Ministry is responsible
to ensure that dry rations sent to the north are of standard quality.
they say, has unfortunately failed not once but twice in this regard.
special meeting with
Jaffna Government Agent, Selliah Pathmanathan
on February 7, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had queried as
to why rice was being imported from India to be sent to Jaffna when
there are bumper stocks available within Sri Lanka.
MP due next month
External Development Minister, Clair Short is due to visit Sri Lanka on
March 5 and 6 on a special invitation made by the Sri Lanka government.
to Berlin last week, Minister Milinda Moragoda is reported to have met
The British Minister had reportedly said that Britain will
participate in the aid conference scheduled to be held in Japan in June.
ship in the east - Military
newspaper reports that a ship came close to Sri Lankan territorial
waters in the east loaded with weapons, the military denied any such
spokesman of the Sri Lanka Army, Brigadier Sarath Karunaratne said that
there were no confirmed reports about the sighting of the ship.
asked about the reports, he said that according to the information he
had, there was no confirmation about the incident and he did not have
any information to give to the media.
naval authorities told The Sunday Leader that there were no officially
confirmed reports about this ship, that was reported to have been
sighted east of Mullaitivu.
Leeniyagolla in charge of information at the Defence Ministry said that
even the Ministry had not received confirmed reports of this mysterious.
news reports said that following the sighting of the vessel several
ships and air force craft were deployed to further investigate.
The information about the ship was received from defence
authorities after information from the Indian coast guard, according to
military spokesperson said that he had not received any reports of a
suspect ship in the eastern waters.
there was confirmed engagement west of Jaffna that had ended in three
colonel swindles millions
imposter claiming to be an army officer has swindled leading trading
companies of millions of rupees.
Rienzie Cooray is alleged to have posed as a colonel in the army and
purchased electrical goods to the value of Rs 319,000 on November 27,
2002 and Rs. 500,000 on December 29, 2002 from a company in Colombo 2.
purchases were made on behalf of the Sri Lanka Army. The purchase order
amounting to Rs. 319,000 was signed by a Colonel, D.R. Rodrigo and a
Brigadier, V. K.
Sumanasekera. Cooray has used the same method to trick other
companies as well.
when The Sunday Leader contacted army media spokesman Brigadier Sarath
Karunaratne he said a colonel and a brigadier by these names were not
enlisted in the army.
brigadier further said Cooray had applied for recruitment to join the
army. However he wasn't drafted in.
on January 8, 2003 Cooray had sent a letter to the manager of the
company requesting time to pay the cash, due to a heavy financial
difficulty. Cooray had further requested the manager to give him time
till January 17, 2003 to settle the total payment.
when Cooray requested another order for Rs 100,000 on January 7, 2003
the manager on suspicion called up the bank. Having found out that there
was no such account as claimed by Cooray, the manager came downstairs
only to find Cooray gone.
have made an entry at the Fraud Bureau, the CID and the police but the
man is yet to be traced," the manager said.
minister to visit Jaffna
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Renaud Muselier will arrive in the
island today on a four day visit.
visit will be the first by a French cabinet minister since
to the Press and Information Service at the French Embassy, the visit is
following an invitation by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
French Minister will visit Jaffna during his stay. However, the embassy
was unable to confirm if the Minister will be meeting any members of the
Muselier will also donate French books to the Jaffna Library. The
Minister will inaugurate a project for the French NGO, Caritas, which is
helping in the resettlement of displaced persons. He will also visit a
water treatment plant in Anuradhapura.
workshops for garment sector
Ministry of Enterprise Development, Industrial Policy and Investment
Promotion together with the International Labour Organi-sation (ILO) is
launching a series of consultation workshops with the apparel industry
on how to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the SMEs and
to secure and further increase employment opportunities in the
sub-sector beyond the expiry of the Multi-Fiber Agreement in end 2004.
local apparel industry will face stiff world market competition after
the abolition of the quota system under the Multi Fiber Agreement. Sri
Lanka is expected to face greater competition, particularly from
low-cost countries such as Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.
in local apparel SME is characterised by high labour intensity and low
As a result, the local apparel industry stands to lose its share
in the lucrative export markets.
main suspect in the killing of wildlife ranger M. K. C. Kumarasinghe was
arrested by the Hambantota Police on February 6. Police said that
according to evidence received, the suspect 'Sudda' was the one who
pulled the trigger.
to Director, Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWC), H. S. B. C.
Herath, when a team of wildlife officials went to the location where
Kumarasinghe was shot, they found a diary that contained telephone
numbers of police stations in the country.
some camouflaged suits and T56 bullets were also found at the location,
the diary is believed to be that of the killer.
seven member wildlife team which visited the scene of the crime the day
after the murder was successful in collecting evidence that led to the
suspect's arrest. "Having spoken to the villagers in the area, the
information was reported to the Hambantota ASP," Herath said.
to Herath, the DWC inquiry was to be completed by yesterday. However,
based on the evidence available, the Environment Ministry Secretary has
sent a letter to the IGP requesting for an independent inquiry by the
CID. The Sunday Leader learns that while a copy of the diary will be
retained at the DWC, the original will be sent to the CID for further
and ganja cultivations within the Yala National Park was kept under
control between 1995 - 1998 when the army was entrusted security. The
army was moved into the park as the threat of LTTE infiltration kept
destroyed park bungalows, abducted tourists and wildlife staff and the
park at one time had to be closed. However, with the ceasefire agreement
and the lapse of emergency in the country the army was removed on August
are still around 300 troops presently within the park premises. However,
it is not known if the army can get involved in raids conducted by
Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Rukman Senanayake has
instructed Herath to take whatever measures required to bring the
culprits to book. "Irrespective of whether the culprits are
politicians, police officers or influential people of the area, if they
are proven guilty nothing will stop us from taking the necessary
action," Herath said.
DWC having borne the full cost of Kumarasinghe's funeral, will hand over
Rs. 250,000 as part of an insurance scheme to his family. "I'm not
saying that this payment is a way of getting out of the present
situation," Herath said.
galore at Rajarata University
Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
University Grants Commission (UGC) is looking in to allegations about
nongraduates following the Postgraduate Diploma in Management (PDM)
conducted by the Rajarata University.
alleged that the university has enrolled non-graduates for this course
for some time. Although the committee investigating the matter has still
not presented a final verdict, the university continues to conduct the
said diploma course.
committee was first appointed to look in to the matter about six months
ago and since there
was no proper outcome, another committee was appointed about two months
ago to further investigate the matter. So far, even the second committee
has failed to present its final verdict.
one-year course, which started in 2000, is currently conducting classes
for its third batch, but as a final verdict has still not been released,
students are badly affected as their exam results have still not been
Tertiary Education Ministry, Saman Ediriweera told The Sunday Leader
that the Ministry does not have any information about the course's
current position or about the investigating committee's position as the
matter has been completely handed over to the UGC.
from the PDM, the Tertiary Education Ministry has also informed the UGC
to look in to allegations of irregular appointments being made to the
Agriculture Faculty of the Rajarata University. It is reported that in
October 2002, Dean of the Agriculture Faculty of the University had
requested deans and department heads of other universities to send
nominations for a temporary assistant lecturer for the university's
Agriculture Department. Unlike other times when temporary posts are
advertised in the newspapers with selections made by a committee
consisting of the vice chancellor, dean, head of departments and a
representative of the council, this time round, selections have been
allegedly made without any consideration to the normal procedure. While
some graduates from the Ruhuna University were not even called for
interviews conducted by a panel consisting of the dean, a head of a
department and a probationary lecturer, two persons not attached to any
university have been selected at the interviews held on December 4,
to Ediriweera, this issue too has been handed over to the UGC under the
directions of Tertiary Education Minister Kabir Hashim.
the vice chancellor of the university has decided not to occupy his
official residence, but to get a new house on rent. The registrar and
several other officials from the university have also decided to occupy
a house on rent without occupying their official quarters. It is alleged
that the rent of this house is to be paid by the Rajarata University.
The Sunday Leader contacted the registrar of the university, he first
thought that the journalist was calling from the Bribery Commission and
later on, denied the allegation about getting a house on rent. He then
said that it is the vice chancellor that should speak on the matter.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Vice Chancellor, K. Wijerathna said that
bids for the vice chancellor's residence was opened on January 31 after
advertising in the newspapers. He went on to explain that the final
decision on the house will be made at the university's council meeting
which is scheduled for February 21. However, as for the house for the
registrar, Wijerathna said that they will rent a house, but nothing has
yet been finalised on the matter and that the occupants of the house
will pay the rent and not the university.
Sunday Leader's attempts to contact Chairman, UGC, Prof. Ranjith Mendis
were not successful.
operators oppose liberalisation
government's policy decision to completely liberalise international
communication facilities with minimal entry barriers has run into
opposition from six incumbent telecommunication operators, who according
to sources are contemplating legal action to stall the liberalisation.
to sources, these operators face the threat of stronger competition and
disruption of oligarchic structures through the proposed liberalisation.
Ministry of Mass Communications, Kumar Abeysinghe told a telecom
operators' meeting last week that the government's decision to fully
liberalise international communications is 'non negotiable.'
also stressed that it has been done to spur further investment, socio
economic development, instill order in the telecom sector and bring
benefits to consumers.
Consultant to the Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation,
Luxman Siriwardene remarked during this meeting that the telecom
operators should not underestimate the government's will.
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently overruled a strong lobby to
restrict the international gateway liberalisation to the existing
from the six telecom companies - Sri Lanka Telecom, Suntel, Dialog,
Celltel, Mobitel and Lanka Bell observed at the meeting held at the
Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) that they are unhappy with
several changes made to the original recommendations proposed by the
foreign consultants on Gateway Licensing and Interconnection.
foreign consultants earlier came under heavy criticism by three other
telecom operators - Electroteks, Lanka Com and Lanka Internet for having
provided Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) with advice, including an affidavit for
a court case on their previous dispute on their international gateway
Consultant to the Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation,
Prof. Rohan Samarajeewa explained at the meeting the reasons that led to
the foreign consultants revising their recommendations. This included
comments received as a result of their public consultations and the
recent introduction of an international calling card named 'Sigiriya
Card' by SLT in the UK.
was pointed out that a levy of US$ 0.12 on each international incoming
call minute as proposed earlier would not be economically sustainable
when a minute on the Sigiriya card amounts to Rs. 19 in the retail
rate presently proposed by the government and opposed by the six
operators is US$ 0.06 per minute.
to sources, interconnection links which have been denied to some
licensed telecom operators despite government directives are offered for
approximately Rs. 1 million by officials in some of the fixed and
cellular telecom operators.
minute charge of approximately Rs. 3 is payable on each international
incoming call for illegal bypass to such officials. A leading cellular
company is alleged to have imported an international gateway through
to customers of this company, they receive international calls on their
cellular phones displaying this company's network code of 07x,
confirming illegal bypass by this company.
to analysts, there are about 24 million minutes of international
incoming calls amounting to about 45% of the total, that are terminated
through illegal means on which the government loses millions in revenue.
These analysts point out that several of the illegal bypass operators
have expressed a desire to obtain a license under the presently proposed
is likely to increase government revenue directly by at least Rs. 500
million a month. The government proposes to re-channel most of such
revenue to fund network extension to rural areas, informed sources said.
window in blood transfusions
methods at the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) leave an
uncomfortable three-week window period where HIV/AIDS cases cannot be
detected. NBTS's screening methods cannot detect HIV positive cases if
the infection has taken place three weeks prior to the date of giving
to NBTS officials there is a testing method currently being developed in
the United States, which can detect HIV viruses in blood donor samples
directly, by detecting its genetic material. "The test is known as
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), however, even in the USA it is still
not considered as a fully developed method of testing and cost wise for
Sri Lanka this type of testing would not be viable," said the
to The Sunday Leader NBTS officials said, "there is usually a
period of several weeks in which newly infected people have not yet
produced enough HIV antibodies to be detected. Due to blood donations
from people who are in this window period, infection could result."
officials further said that although current tests available at NBTS
detect antibodies to the AIDS viruses, unfortunately for a brief time
after infection, people make too few antibodies for these tests to
detect them. As a result, their blood passes all the screening tests,
even though it can transmit HIV.
"window period" for HIV-1 lasts about three to four weeks. And
donated blood cannot be tested after the initial screenings.
though past yearly records suggest that there had only been one or two
HIV positive blood samples detected at the NBTS screenings, according to
interviews The Sunday Leader had with Blood Bank officials, there had
been more than two dozen such cases detected within the last year. NBTS
officials say that the figure however includes unconfirmed samples,
therefore the number of actual HIV positive samples could be less.
"These numbers were recorded at the initial screenings," they
said, adding that when compared to other years their latest records show
a higher number.
to NBTS's officials, generally there are two types of testing for the
HIV/AIDS infection in donor samples. "The two tests are antigen
testing and antibody testing. While antibody testing can measure the
body's immune response to the presence of a virus, antigen testing
detects the virus itself," said the NBTS officials. However,
currently, NBTS carries out only antibody testing and the officials said
that "pure antigen testing are far more expensive compared to the
other test type."
general questionnaire for prospective blood donors does not include a
specific detailed question on the three-week window period. The absence
of a specific question which deals with the three week high risk window
period, especially in the backdrop of the defects in detection is
surprising. The availability of such a question no doubt could assist in
minimising the risk.
questionnaire queries prospective donors on homosexual contacts while no
reference is made to unprotected heterosexual contact, even though such
contact is considered to carry a similar risk of HIV transmission as
blood donation procedure for prospective blood donors include the
filling of the questionnaire followed by a confidential interview with a
medical officer. "If at interview stage we are aware of a 'high
risk donation' the donation process is immediately stopped and the donor
is deferred at that point," said NBTS officials. However, they
admitted that they solely rely on the donors' answers to the given
questionnaire and their replies at the interview.
is why the NBTS prefers the blood from regular non-remunerated voluntary
donors than blood from replacement donors. Replacement donors are people
who donate blood due to pressure from friends or relatives who are in
need of blood due to an impending surgery," said NBTS officials.
assurances by NBTS officials on the supply of risk free blood, HIV
virus' window period poses a much higher risk than what the public is
currently aware of.
least one case where transmission of contaminated blood resulting in a
patient's infection has been reported. Dr. Kamalika Abeyratne has been
the unfortunate victim of human error when she was infected with the HIV
virus through blood transfusion. Ironically however, speaking to The
Sunday Leader her husband, Dr. Michael Abeyratne said that he is 100%
sure of the safety of NBTS's blood supply. The blood that was given to
Dr. Abeyratne had come from a suburban Colombo hospital, which was not
attached to the NBTS blood supply network at the time.
to NBTS officials, there are 60 regional blood banks under their blood
supply. Regional blood banks around the country are hospital based and
are attached to teaching hospitals, general hospitals, base hospitals
and some of the district hospitals where theatre facilities are
available. NBTS is the sole supplier of blood to all state hospitals and
some of the private hospitals, which are registered under the Health
Ministry for supply of blood and blood products.
from HIV/AIDS, the NBTS tests donated blood for a variety of blood-borne
diseases. They test each unit of blood for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C,
Malaria and also the sexually transmitted Syphilis.
to NBTS officials, in their donor sample testings, they come across
around 25-30 confirmed positive cases of these blood-borne diseases.
to NBTS official data, each year they receive 160,000 units of 450-ml
packets of blood from donors. The number of blood transfusions carried
out by the NBTS for the year 2001 was 156,000.
The Sunday Leader asked NBTS officials whether they take responsibility
if and when a deadly disease like HIV/AIDS is transmitted through a NBTS
blood transfusion, they replied in the negative.
if error proof screening tests were available for every transmittable
disease, transfusion would still not be 100% safe. No medical procedure
ever is. There is always the possibility of an error," said the
officials. However, they said the NBTS takes all the necessary care in
blood donation and transfusion procedure and NBTS trained staff can be
totally relied upon for a safe transfusion.
remote risk of a serious infection of blood-borne diseases is ever
present, but for patients who need blood transfusions, the risk of
transfusion associated diseases is far less than the risk of dying or
becoming more seriously ill without a transfusion," added the NBTS
will seek UN assistance in case of another Gulf War
Lanka will seek the help of the United Nations (UN) to help evacuate Sri
Lankan migrant workers in the gulf in the event of a war.
UN Media Spokesperson in Colombo, Mohan Samaranayake told The Sunday
Leader that any United Nations intervention would have to be decided at
its headquarters in New York.
further stated that in the event of such a situation, the UN has its own
contingency plan which will be handled by the headquarters.
claims that plans are already in place to evacuate 500,000 Sri Lankans
working in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, Chairman, Sri Lanka Foreign
Employment Bureau (SLFEB), Susantha Fernando said that they were
planning to contact the UN some time last week for their help.
the SLFEB's plans to contact the UN, he did not elaborate further.
stated that the workers in the countries bodering Iraq - Saudi Arabia,
Jordan and Kuwait are the ones at risk. These workers are mostly
domestic aides and shelters will be provided for them to ensure their
the need arises for repatriation, the bureau will seek assistance from
the UN and other international agencies," he said.
Chairman also pointed out that another problem the SLFEB is facing at
the moment is the increasing number of phone calls received by the
bureau by families of migrant workers fearing the safety of their
loved ones in the Middle East.
according to Co-ordinating Secretary (Information), Employment and
Labour Ministry, Lal Kumara there are three steps in place in case war
breaks out between the US and Iraq. If war breaks out between the US and
Iraq, the Sri Lankan embassies will take in the workers and keep them in
if this plan is inadequate, the workers will be transferred to other
countries which have not been affected by the war. The workers will be
transported by road as they will not have to pay any air fare then. This
will be done with the assistance of the Red Cross and they have already
been contacted by the Sri Lankan embassies.
the last resort, the Sri Lankans will be brought back home.
to local MPs who have toured the Middle East recently, the situation of
some of the embassies in the Gulf is not that homely and the safe houses
too are in a bad condition.
Rights Lawyer and member of Forum For Human Dignity, Maheswary Velauthan
said that there have been many reports of ill treatment of these workers
by the Sri Lankan officials at the safe houses.
Kumara said that according to statistics there are more than 800,000 Sri
Lankans working in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia having 350,000
workers, Kuwait 140,000 workers, 80,000 workers in Lebanon, Jordan
30,000 workers, Bahrain 20,000 workers and Qatar 10,000 workers.
to the Ministry
there is no official figure on the number of workers in Iraq.
However, unofficially there are about 1,000 workers in Iraq and the
Ministry stated that they will be given assistance if war breaks out.
Kumara also added that during the last Gulf War in 1991, the country's
national carrier, AirLanka, had cancelled flights to Iraq.
time round, if the workers are to be sent back to Sri Lanka, according
to international laws the Red Cross can seek the assistance from foreign
governments to send these workers back.
Dandeniya of the Association of Foreign Employment Agencies said that
this time, there is a fundamental difference in the war when compared to
last Gulf War broke out when Iraq invaded Kuwait and some of the foreign
workers were abandoned while some were repatriated. However, this time,
the US is attacking Iraq and there are only a very few people there. So
it is very difficult to see why Sri Lankans abroad should panic."
to some of the workers who were in the Gulf during the last war, Divaina
Photographer D. Banduwardena said he was working in Saudi Arabia for the
Arabian Sun when the war broke out and since he was in a private firm,
they offered him an air ticket to any country and he had chosen France.
couldn't send us to Sri Lanka direct because AirLanka had cancelled
their flights to Iraq and we would have to go to Dubai to come
he was in a private firm, they provided the ticket and according to him,
he knew of about 10 to 15 people who were sent back by the Sri Lankan
were other people from different nations, but they went back to their
own countries as their airlines operated in Iraq. But it was only the
Sri Lankans who couldn't get back to their country.
Sunday Leader photographer, Asoka Fernando was also in Saudi Arabia -
Taif, Riyadh at the time of the last war.
said that he worked as an irrigation worker in the Saudi Logistics and
Transports Department and when the war was on he didn't come down to Sri
Lanka because the area he was in was not affected that much. But, they
did hear the first bombs that came down.
were also given gas masks to wear in case there was an emergency and the
rooms and doors in the building were sealed with rubber at the edges to
make them airtight in case toxic gases were being put out," he
TV they showed us that underground bunkers were ready in case of a
situation and showed us what to do at that time," he explained.
to Fernando, apart from these, they carried on with their regular work
and had 24-hour shifts instead of the usual eight-hour shifts. "We
were prepared for an emergency at any time," he said.
went on to say that foreign job opportunities were not slashed because
of the problem and since warnings were given on TV on the places being
attacked, people avoided going to these places and life went on as
when asked the role played by the Sri Lankan embassy in their welfare,
he said that they were not contacted at all by the embassy and didn't
even know where the embassy was.