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7th May, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 43

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Politics

 
Country in chaos as Mahinda considers conscription

The escalation of violence in the past weeks has propelled the nation towards a war like situation, making security the prime concern of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rajapakse has also suffered the ignominy of being attacked in his own backyard and at the very heartland of his source of security - the Army Headquarters. Each day several security personnel are being killed with the LTTE launching a war of attrition and the numbers only keep piling up.

Mahinda Rajapakse, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Anura Priyadharshana yapa and Dulles Alahapperuma 

Meanwhile, there has also been a sharp deterioration of the rule of law during his short tenure as President and it does not help that the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has been extremely critical of Sri Lanka's human rights record. In its latest report which focuses on South Asia and the struggle for press freedom, it has observed that there has been general erosion of the due process of law, democratic governance and peace. Sri Lanka is a deathtrap for journalists the IFJ has observed.

Though the international media concerned itself with civil liberties and the fact that there has been an increase in Tamil journalists being killed and assaulted in Sri Lanka in the past 12 months, the government was busy finding ways and means to curb press freedom, control information and also tighten security given the volatile situation in the north and east and the political vulnerability of the government.

From proposed new legislation that would introduce conscription, to salary increases for security personnel, to compensation for the families of the war dead, these were the issues foremost on President Mahinda Rajapakse's mind when he attended the cabinet meeting last Wednesday (3).

Cabinet meeting

As the President walked in to cabinet, he was immediately to raise the issue of his new official residence. Bordering on paranoia he said, "I was to shift to President's House on May 8 but some newspapers have published this fact making it now a risk for me to move residences at this time as the details of the proposed shift have been leaked to the media."

While President Rajapakse was lamenting the lack of confidentiality among his staff, Women's Empowerment Minister Sumedha Jayasena spoke up on a different subject. She was to present a cabinet paper dealing with sexual harassment, particularly the procedural aspect of inquiring into harassment complaints. It also focused on the procedure for departmental heads to hold inquiries into such complaints by their staff.

Shaping up

Rajapakse was to nod his head sagely. He related a story of how a woman soldier had been recently calling him incessantly at Temple Trees wanting to meet him, saying she had a big problem. "Because she was continuing to call and harass me, I finally gave her an appointment," the President said.

The female soldier had on meeting him made a complaint against her commanding officer and alleged that he was sexually harassing her. President Rajapakse then told cabinet he had got down the commanding officer as well, and that the woman, in his presence had berated the commanding officer shouting, "Why are you harassing me? Why are you calling me at midnight?"

President Rajapakse then said, "Mama shape karala yawwa" (I shaped it up and sent them off).

However the problem of sexual harassment cannot be 'shaped up' so easily as  envisaged by the President and even though the present law makes sexual harassment a crime, women's rights groups have been agitating for more stringent laws and procedures to curb abuse against women, which would make it easier for women to make a complaint without the complaint itself being a cause for discrimination or further harassment.

Nevertheless the cabinet memorandum was discussed and unanimously approved.

After the approval of this paper, for President Rajapakse again it was security and nothing else that was to take centre stage. He quickly veered away from women to security staff. He recommended that additional payments be made to his security staff and that of the Prime Minister's.

Additional payments

Rajapakse pointed out that the Presidential Security Division (PSD) and Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) were always working under pressure with increased threats to both himself and Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and they were undergoing psychological trauma as they too were prime targets for any terror  attacks and were vulnerable. Therefore, Rajapakse said, "We should make them some additional payments especially on overtime."

It was now Transport Minister A.H.M. Fowzie who spoke up for the Ministerial Security Division (MSD). " Even the ministerial security staff are working under a lot of stress, they too should be given additional payments," Fowzie interjected.

The President agreed to look into that aspect as well but advised the cabinet that no complaints should be made when deciding on additional payments for the President's and Prime Minister's security staff as they are under far more stress and pressure than the ministerial security personnel.

Rajapakse reminded the ministers that during the presidential election campaign his  security division had to visit a proposed meeting site three to four times to ensure his safety.

He also revealed that according to security and intelligence reports, he has been warned that Temple Trees could be subjected to possible air attacks. "Therefore my security staff are extremely traumatised," he said.

Marrying the security

In the case of ministerial security, Rajapakse explained the security personnel get very close to the minister concerned and even get domestically involved. They cook and iron clothes for the minister and generally act in a domestic capacity as well. Some even act as masseurs for the minister.

In fact, the President was to say, laughing, one minister even got married to the security officer. The President was of course referring to Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi who is no longer of cabinet rank, holding the non-cabinet portfolio of Samurdhi and poverty alleviation. Wanniarachchi was therefore  not present at the meeting.

JVP rantings

Be that as it may, President Rajapakse now obsessing about security in the face of a possible outbreak of war was to face many obstacles to peace from his own alliance partners.

Earlier President Rajapakse had decided to offer the LTTE two sea planes to break the deadlock over the peace talks.

However, the JVP was vehemently opposed to the move and the Marxist-sponsored National Patriotic Movement (NPC) released a threatening statement last week. The NPC issued a warning to the government that if it proceeded to grant the sea planes to the Tigers, and give in to LTTE demands at a second round of talks, they would conduct an islandwide campaign against the government and get on to the streets in protest.

But the JVP's resistance to Rajapakse's peace efforts was manifest even earlier. The air strikes in Sampur  following the suicide attack on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka had already taken its toll on the President politically.

Both the JVP and the JHU felt that the country was to face a full-on war. However, the JVP was shocked when President Rajapakse decided to back down under severe pressure and offer sea transport to the Tigers. Hearing this, the JVP was to verify this piece of disturbing news from President Rajapakse himself.

Upon hearing officially that it was indeed so, a much agitated Marxist outfit decided it could not just ignore the government's latest offer to the LTTE, especially as it came at a time when the Army Commander was recovering at the ICU following the suicide attack at the Army Headquarters. It was Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake who pushed the issue within the party. They decided to boycott the All Party Conference (APC) to be held on April 28.

Dissanayake was of the opinion the JVP should boycott the APC to record its opposition to the government's move. He also said the party should not only boycott the meeting but request a separate meeting with the President where they could not only oppose the offer but also force the President to withdraw it.

The party's decision was to immediately reach Temple Trees. Rajapakse was well aware that such a move by the JVP could create a controversy within the party and decided to force the Marxists to change their decision. He also felt that JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa would be the best person for the job and called Weerawansa to  prevail upon him to get his party to reverse its decision. The President informed Weerawansa that the JVP's move at such a decisive moment would leave him crippled under the circumstances.

Weerawansa shot back that it is difficult for the party to approve of the sea plane offer when the Tigers were still continuing their attacks. Rajapakse then agreed to grant the JVP a separate time to discuss the matter further, whereupon Weerawansa informed Party Secretary Tilvin Silva who in turn somehow convinced Dissanayake they should in fact attend the APC.

Dissanayake, while agreeing to attend the APC, was however not to be appeased by news of a one-on-one meeting with Rajapakse. He said that since the party had publicly opposed Ranil Wickremesinghe for offering sea planes to Anton Balasingham, they could not be seen approving Rajapakse's decision to offer sea planes to the LTTE.

Major blow

Rajapakse's decision to renew the peace effort was a severe blow to the Marxists who have been preaching war from the beginning. It did not help that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on April 26 assured the diplomatic community the government was committed to the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) and returning to the negotiating table with the LTTE.

While honourable politics has not been the forte of the JVP which has been vociferous on many issues in opposition and silent on the same issues in government, even their curious brand of politics was to now spoil their chances of grabbing some strategically well-placed government portfolios.

Earlier the Marxists had taken an unofficial decision to accept four cabinet portfolios offered by Rajapakse. The decision was to have been confirmed if Rajapakse decided to wage war against the LTTE. This would have also served the JVP political ambitions to destroy Rajapakse as a political leader and emerge as the driving force in government.

Rajapakse's decision to continue with the peace efforts now prompted the Marxists to inform Rajapakse they would temporarily refrain from accepting the portfolios and would instead closely monitor the government's actions towards the LTTE.

National Patriot Act

Meanwhile, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) has been pushing for a National Patriot Act on the lines of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 also known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.

While the US  Act  deals with many issues on gathering sensitive information and terrorist links to foreign regimes, it is learnt that the act's lobbyists  in Sri Lanka including many in government are pushing for several provisions which may finally muzzle an already harassed independent media.

Conscription

The bill is to provide for the conscription of youth to serve a specific period, for the curtailment of reporting during periods of national crisis, include provisions that could be used to stop publications that divulge military sensitive information or purportedly  breach rules of confidentiality and security.

 The legislation also looks to place the country on a war footing in the event a full war breaks out.  What is more frightening  is that the draft will seek to define what is "anti-national interest," in the dissemination of information.  A definition that could be well used to muzzle the media and slap a blanket censorship on any matter the government deemed was a security threat.  Issues such as corruption and the violation of human rights could also be hidden by this proposed legislation.

Media freedom in this country has been under attack never more so than during the recent World Press Freedom Day conference concluded in Colombo last week. Certainly, the brutal attack on the Uthayan newspaper, the arrest of a Tamil female news announcer who sought admission to the media conference and the stalled investigation on the murder of Dharmeratnam Sivaram are issues that even the President, International Federation of Journalists, Christopher Warren was to point out with grave concern. (See interview on Page 6)

However, regardless of such considerations, the government has sounded out both the Legal Draftman's Department and the Attorney General's Department on possible legislation in a war situation. Other subjects also said to be under discussion are how to control the free media, the access to sensitive information and methods to control mass hysteria, public outrage, etc.

A committee was appointed to look into this matter and prepare a draft. In the committee were Consumer Affairs Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Presidential Advisor and MP Dulles Alahapperuma, JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa, JHU's Udaya Gammanpila and President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga. The ommittee has already met with President Rajapakse to discuss possible provisions. 

 Included in the possible legislation  is a provision to control the flow of information on security and related matters.

Inside sources reveal that the legislation if passed would also include conferring power to the authorities to override secrecy acts such as the Banking Act or the Value Added Tax Act or any other act which contains secrecy clauses, so that the government or investigative authorities may obtain any information that may be prohibited under those acts.

Sop to media

However, as a sop to the media, a wishy-washy provision on right to access information under certain circumstances is provided for. Sources say the section is expected to be ornamental rather than practical and would probably be rendered nugatory when read with other sections or contain a number of stringent provisos in the final draft.

With security still high on the agenda the government is also intent on introducing legislation to strengthen and widen the scope of the Cadet Corp. Professor Epasinghe, a long time friend of President Rajapakse, is heading a committee set up to look into this matter.   Meanwhile Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa is said to be uncomfortable with the legislation while Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told confidants that if it went through the country would be finished internationally.

Uthayan attack

Be that as it may, while the government was preparing to draft stringent and draconian legislation while wining and dining with media personalities during the World Press Freedom Day conference last week, on Tuesday an armed gang of six was to break into the Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna.

This was another huge blow to Rajapakse who was attempting to paint a rosy picture of his government to the visiting international media.

The brutal attack which left two dead and three seriously injured was carried out even as the government was hosting a formal dinner at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo to mark Press Freedom Day. The attackers also ransacked the newspaper office and destroyed the computers and other equipment in the office building.

News of this dastardly attack on the newspaper first reached Colombo on Tuesday (2) evening, even as Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa was breaking bread with certain sections of the local and foreign media at a dinner held to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

Immediately frantic calls were being fired to and fro and the Managing Editor, Uthayan Newspaper, E. Saravanapavan was also able to get through to President Rajapakse. Immediately Rajapakse went on the defensive and told Saravanapavan, "This was done by the LTTE to discredit me on World Press Freedom Day before foreign journalists as I am due to address them tomorrow (Wednesday May 3)."

Saravanapavan shot back , "No we don't accept that because they have specifically come and asked for a journalist called Kuhanathan." Kuhanathan in fact had escaped to the roof and was hiding there while the armed gang engaged in their killing spree.

The Uthayan Managing Editor then told the President firmly, "We believe this to be the work of a paramilitary group and then named the group. (Name withheld)

Rajapakse then said, "Well, if they are the culprits then I will take action against them," referring to the group mentioned by Saravanapavan, which group is closely linked to the government.

By this time however UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya had also got to know about the attack. Shocked, Jayasuriya was to immediately grab his telephone and call President Rajapakse. He said, "This type of violence cannot be condoned by any right thinking person," and told Rajapakse he must take firm and prompt action to bring the culprits to book.

In the course of the conversation Rajapakse was again to go on the defensive. "You think I am mad to get this done especially during World Press Freedom Day? This is done to embarrass me," he said. However he assured the UNP Deputy Leader he would take action and call back to apprise him of the situation.

At the stroke of midnight Rajapakse was to telephone Jayasuriya. He told the UNP Deputy Leader that one T56 had been found and the CID had been put on the job and assured Jayasuriya all action will be taken to bring the culprits to book.

 Media  walk out

Meanwhile, at the dinner hosted by the Media Minister, anger was mounting with journalists unable to enjoy themselves when their fellow media personnel were under attack. Convenor,  Free Media Movement Sunanda Deshapriya told Minister Yapa that he could not enjoy dinner at a time like this and he together with a section of the local media and some foreign media walked out.

With pressure mounting on the government to take action and with the keen eye of the international media upon them, six quick arrests were made of four students and two traders by the security forces. The suspects arrested were produced on Wednesday at the Jaffna Courts and enlarged on bail after they were failed to be identified.

TamilNet reported that 42 persons participated in the identification parade, conducted in six groups and that a security guard and two staffers from Uthayan offices did not identify any of the 42 as the gunmen.

TamilNet also stated that the two traders who were also arrested were Selvarajan Janarthan (27) and Rathinam Sabesan (22), employees in a food shop in the Jaffna town area. The traders were reportedly playing cards after their food shop closed business, when they were arrested by  security forces immediately after the Uthayan killings.

However, contrary to earlier reports, eye witnesses say the six attackers who broke into the Uthayan office were masked.

Cover up

Ironically, while President Rajapakse is stating the attack was carried out to embarrass him before the international media, some others believe that the arrests were made for the benefit of the international media and was a cover up. In fact the Uthayan newspaper believes that the arrests are just a camouflage as they claim the six persons who broke into their office on Tuesday were well built thugs whereas four of those in fact arrested by the security forces were mere students.

Pirapaharan  acts

While the Rajapakse government, now in all kinds of chaos with law and order fast deteriorating, was trying to engage in some damage control techniques, LTTE Supremo Velupillai Pirapaharan was quick on the draw.  As soon as news reached the Wanni of the attack, LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan had called the Uthayan newspaper to convey their distress.

"Our Leader Pirapaharan is outraged and furious at this attack," Tamilselvan said. He then informed the newspaper that the LTTE would donate Rs. 100,000 each to the families of the deceased and Rs. 50,000  each to the families of those injured.

Therefore with the LTTE wresting the initiative from the government yet again in the eyes  of the international community, Rajapakse is now faced with a country in total disarray.

Even his peace efforts will not prove fruitful if he is to be constantly irritated by obstacles placed on the road to peace by the extremist elements within his own alliance and party. It is ironic that the only elements that do not support the President in his peace efforts are those within his own camp.

On the one hand the rising costs of essential items is creating increasing public frustration while the escalation in violence, the lack of proper investigations and the disruption of the day to day lives of civilians is causing mayhem.

If  Rajapakse does not want to take this country into a further state of anarchy he must step back and take stock. Perhaps his first move should be to attempt to sign a few more agreements with those who oppose him so that his government may finally be able to speak with one voice on the issue of peace. Certainly,  this is a time of reckoning for the President.


Battle hardened  Tigers clash

By Amantha Perera

Little Sama has just begun to feel the world around him, and he is a bit too anxious for his tender age. His name did not come lightly to his parents. Living in the border town of Padaviya off Medawachchiya, they were keenly aware of it, after years of bloodshed. Born on Februray 22, 2002, Sama brought with him the rays of hope, as his father said, "he came to this world on the day the guns fell silent."

Poster of the Karuna cadres killed last week

Now though, four years down the road, Sama himself is telling his father how fragile the peace could be  when he asks, "will the Tigers attack us as well appachchi?" The father who gave the name, has no answer to the question.

Since April 11, Sama's anxiety would have gone up like many other civilians. Innocent civilians have once again become easy prey to guns, both Sinhalese and Tamils have paid with their lives for the  transgressions of others. And while peace manoeuvres continued last week as well, so did the violence. 

On May 4, when government ministers said that they were hopeful of a new breakthrough, there was gunfire in the middle of Vavuniya town and a RPG went off in Thinnaveli, Jaffna. Seven persons were killed. 

The aerial bombardment that followed the attempt on the life of Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka had just subsided, when the Tigers clashed with the Karuna faction in Welikanda. The Tigers said that they had attacked three Karuna camps in the Kandalkaadu  area and were led by eastern military head Banu.

Under scrutiny

Before the attack, Banu's position had come under scrutiny and the grapevine was alive that he was to be replaced. While Banu is the official eastern military head, another Tiger military leader of similar stature, Balraj has been in the east for more than a year now.

When he arrived in the east early last year, there was speculation that while he would look after areas north of the Habarana-Valaichchenai  highway and be based in the Vakarai area, Banu would be in charge of areas south of the highway, overseeing from Karadiyanaru. Last year, the head of the LTTE political office in Batticaloa, Annupamaran confirmed to The Sunday Leader that Balraj was in the east but said that he was merely out there for routine military inspections.

Though the likes of Annupamaran tried to downplay Balraj's role, it was clearly a move by the Tigers to bolster the military set up in the face of mounting attacks by the breakaway group.

After last week's  confrontations  the Tigers said that they had killed 18 members from the Karuna group and taken a further five into custody. Thooyavan, who acts as the spokesperson for the Karuna group confirmed that there were  confrontations but denied any casualties on their part.

Three days after the battle, the Karuna group released a virtual run down of the attack through websites. It said that three groups of Tigers attacked the camps. They were from the intelligence unit, the Charles Anthony unit and the Jayanthan unit, according to the Karuna group.

Depleted camps

However, the camps that were attacked, were depleted as high-ranking members like Marcan and Sinnathamby who were in charge of two of the camps had relocated with 80 cadres from the two camps leaving only about five members at each. Only Rayaseelan who was in charge of the third camp had been with a full force of 40 cadres when the Wanni group attacked.

The Karuna group said that it lost nine men in the confrontation, but that members were able to drive out the attackers. Bodies of seven Tigers were recovered around the camp headed by Rayaseelan.

The Karuna group said that the dead were from the intelligence units and that the bodies were cremated after the name tags were removed. They also said that the Tigers had buried seven other bodies at the Martyrs' Cemetery at Tharavi and Vakarai. The Karuna group also said that neither Balraj nor Banu led the attack and that the attacking groups had been under the command of Keerthi, Tharan (intelligence units), Barani, Anparasan (Charles Anthony unit), Nagesh and Ram (Jayanthan unit).  Several Karuna cadres with injuries were later admitted to the Welikanda  hospital.

Despite the contradictory claims, one  thing was quite clear, that the Tigers had brought in special units for the attack.

Two days after the Welikanda attack, the contradictions once again erupted along with gun fire, this time in Trincomalee. It all started when the LTTE Trincomalee political head S. Elilan said that Tiger lines in Sampur had been shelled from the northern side of the bay on May 2 morning.

Charges and counter charges

Soon after the shelling, there were other reports that gun fire had erupted around Rakkuli, that lies in between Muttur and Sampur to its west. There were claims by the Karuna faction that they were behind the attack and that they had been successful in killing 10 Tigers.

A high ranking member of the Karuna group, Mangalan Master had led the attack. Elilan denied any Karuna involvement and insisted that all the fire came from the army and said that he was seeking clarification from the  SLMM as to who was in control of Rakkuli  area.

On both occasions, Military Spokesperson Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said that he could not comment as the confrontations had taken place in areas outside military control. He also denied that the army shelled LTTE lines in Sampur.

More face-offs between the former erstwhile brothers in arms are definitely on the cards. The Karuna group said later in the week that it has pulled out from a unilateral ceasefire declared in January in an effort to facilitate peace talks.

"The unilateral ceasefire is no more. It now stands withdrawn. It would be hereafter a war of attrition against the Wanni Tigers," top Karuna lieutenant Pilliyan was quoted as saying on May 5.  The Karuna group said that it was going to adopt an offensive tactic from now on.

Regular standoffs

There was also an  exchange of mortar and small arms fire at Vavunathivu, west of Batticaloa on April 29 morning. The army said that the Tigers had opened fire and that soldiers had retaliated.

Earlier on the Tigers had moved an earth-moving machine close to the frontlines and started building a bunker like structure violating agreements in the truce. The SLMM intervened and stopped the construction midway after complaints from the army. When the Tigers began construction, soldiers had been ordered just to observe, when it became clear that armed Tigers had been placed around the area.

With such standoffs, civilians living near the line of control in Vavunathivu had sought refuge at a school.  At least 123 families were reported to have relocated.

With violence spiraling around his world, Sama's little world has now turned on its head.


Medical battle that saved the Army Commander

By Chinthaka Fernando

The time was  around 2 p.m. and it was the time that the surgeons   change duties according to the roster at the Colombo National Hospital Accident Ward. Surgeon Dr. Keerthi Abeyjeewa was going off  for the day and Dr. Gamini Gunasena was arriving to start his shift as the duty officer when the unexpected fleet of casualties streamed in. 

Suddenly around 1.55 p.m. on April 25,  the injured Army Commander was rushed to the hospital along with the other injured army soldiers  without prior warning.

So many casualties from the army had been a thing of the past, a bad memory of the pre-CFA days.

" A group of casualties came without any prior notice," said the Director, Accident Service , Dr. Anil Jasinghe.  According to him they had managed to bring the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka within minutes of the attack. This had been possible because the attack took place next to the Army Hospital and therefore an ambulance was at hand. "The Commander's condition could've been serious if there was a delay in bringing him."

"Five soldiers including the Commander were taken in to the resuscitation room where his injuries were quickly assessed and he was transferred to the ICU.   We quickly transferred him to the ICU,"  Dr. Jasinghe said. "Lt. Gen. Fonseka was conscious upon admittance, he even spoke a few words. He had spoken right after the attack," said Dr. Jasinghe.

Four more casualties had been transferred to the ICU following Lt. Gen. Fonseka and one of the 11 soldiers admitted had succumbed to his injuries, according to Dr.  Jasinghe. "It was a bit chaotic inside the place at that time. Anyway when there are mass casualties it is chaotic."

The doctors had decided that an operation should be done on Lt. Gen.Fonseka , urgently, according to Dr. Jasinghe. "He was taken in to the theatre around 2.15 p.m. and the operation went for around three hours. It went on until 5.15 p.m."

Dr. Jasinghe said that before the operation some doctors quickly came there on call and some had been running to the theatre to offer their services voluntarily after hearing of the incident. "The medical team comprised 10 surgeons and around 10 more specialists. Of course only few of them actually did the operation but all the others were very actively helping them out by sharing information and experiences."

"Doctors realised that Lt. Gen. Fonseka could be saved half way through the  surgery.  And all the doctors were very confident  after the operation," said Dr. Jasinghe recalling the momentous operation.

The group of doctors comprised of Dr. Narendra Pinto, Dr. Lal Silva, Dr. Chandima Amarasena, Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, Dr. Liyanarachchi, Dr. K. S. Perera, Dr. Senaka Jayasekara, Dr. Sarath Collure, Dr. Sunil Perera, Dr. Sujeewa Gunasinghe, Dr. Ravi Dayasena, Dr. Ravi Ruberu, Dr. Ruwan Fonseka, Dr. Rajamanthri, Dr. Wijemanne, Anesthetist Dr.  (Mrs. ) Suwineetha Rathnayake.

Some of  specialists and other doctors managed Lt. Gen.Fonseka's condition after the operation. They constantly met with each other and discussed the situation.

Post-operative care was led by Anesthetist, Dr. P. Aluthge - who is in charge of the ICU.

The Commander, who was unconscious after the operation, was put on a ventilator . By this time  security at the hospital was being heightened to the maximum level, according to Dr. Jasinghe. "Army took over the total security system of the hospital and our security only assisted them in their work."

 He added that no one except President Mahinda Rajapakse, Lt. Gen. Fonseka's family and a few others  were  allowed in to the cubicle where the Commander was being treated.

On April 28 the Commander was removed from the ventilator  though still unconscious, according to Dr. Jasinghe. "Our doctors who were handling the post-operation treatment were very vigilant ."

Couple of days after removing the ventilating machine, on April 30, Lt. Gen. Fonseka regained conscious relieving the anxiety of  the medical team.

"Since then up to now he is pulling through slowly. Still he is not given solid food. Instead NG-feeds are being given through a nostril tube," said Dr. Jasinghe

 He also said that Lt. Gen. Fonseka was being given regular breathing exercises since the day he regained consciousness. "Now he moderately talks with doctors and he is comfortable. Apart from that he is doing significant body movements."


Cpl. Yakandawala and Cpl. Viraj - two brave sons of the soil

Cpl. Ruwan Yakandawala

By Jamila Najmuddin

It was the fast reaction of two men, tasked with providing security to the Army Commander that prevented the suicide bomber from achieving her objective. Corporal Chaminda Ruwan Yakandawala and Corporal Priyanjan Viraj were on the motorcycle on the left side of the Commander's car when the woman suicide bomber approached, they reacted as they were trained to do and in doing so made the supreme sacrifice.  Now posters of the two brave soldiers  decorate the entrance of the Army Headquarters. 

While their  story is now legend among colleagues, the loss felt by their families is unbearable. According to army officials at the headquarters, the children of the two brave soldiers are yet to recover fully from the sudden loss. 

Army officers added that Corporal Yakandawala who was well known for his daring deeds was also a well known professional boxer. "He was a true soldier who was very popular for his daring deeds. He was usually surrounded by other young outriders due to his popularity," an army official said.

Corporal Yakandawala was born on November 23, 1971 at  Watawala Hospital. He joined the army as a soldier in October 1991 and received his training at the Army Engineering School at Embilipitiya. He passed out in June 1992.

He studied  at the Ginigathena MMV and was  the father of three children.

He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal in January 1993 and Corporal in January 2001. Recognised for his popularity and bravery he was promoted to serve in the coveted riding team of the Army Commander's escort unit in May 1996.

According to the Military Spokesperson's office, Corporal Yakandawala was actively involved in the Riviresa Operation in 1995 and was awarded a medal for his bravery in the battlefield.

Corporal Priyanjan Viraj, the second outrider who sacrificed his life joined the Military Police in 1996. After the training he was posted to the Military Police Service Regiment until he was chosen to serve in the Army Chief's security escort on May 1998.

Born on March 15, 1972 at Warakapola, he was  the father of a baby girl. He gained his education at the Elpitiya Ananda Primary School and Dharmasoka Vidyalaya, Ambalangoda.

Both  Corporal Yakandawala and Corporal Viraj kicked the suicide bomber who  was approaching the Army Commander's vehicle. They were posthumously  promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Corporal Viraj died in the explosion while Corporal Yakandawala succumbed to his injuries at the Colombo National Hospital the morning after the devastating suicide explosion.


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