By Shezna Shums
The cyclonic storm `Nargis' currently
persisting in the Bay of Bengal about 700 km
northeast of Jaffna, is gradually moving
away from the island.
Consequently we see the heavy rain that has
been lashing the island, especially the
southwestern parts of the country ebbing
No bad weather is expected in the island in
the next few days say officials at the
Meteorological Department. But in the same
breath they also say there will be showers
in the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Central
Provinces and in the Galle District, and
thundershowers are expected in several
places in the coastal areas around the
The weathermen also predict that the
northeastern deep sea will experience very
rough and windy conditions and the western
and southern shallow seas will also
encounter fairly windy, rainy and rough
Following last week's heavy and persistent
rain on April 27 and 28, a total of nine
fatalities were reported around the island.
Six of these were due to minor earth slips
and three were due to floods.
The deaths reported were from the districts
of Kalutara, Ratnapura and Kegalle.
The most number of displaced persons were
reported from the districts of Gampaha,
Ratnapura, Kegalle and Kalutara.
Although the Meteorological Department said
Cyclone Nargis is moving away from the
island they also stated that there will be
light showers in the Western, Central and
Sabaragamuwa as well as the Southern
Provinces during these days.
The weather pattern is also likely to change
again into the usual inter monsoon
conditions with thundershowers mainly inland
during the afternoons.
Meteorologist S.H. Kariyawasam told The
Sunday Leader that last week's heavy rain
was 'abnormal' during this time of the year
and that the cyclonic conditions should
cease as the cyclone was moving away from
All in all, seven districts were badly
affected by the rains, which caused flooding
and earth slips.
Irrigation Department officials said the
Kelani Ganga and Kalu Ganga had swollen,
while most of the 50 major reservoirs in the
island were at full capacity.
The National Disaster Management Relief
Services Centre confirmed that seven
districts were affected by severe flooding
and earth slips were reported in a few
places. The centre said over 50, 000
persons were affected by the floods and more
than 30 temporary shelters had to be
established to shelter the affected
The air force and navy too had to assist
people marooned or severely affected by the
The IDP camps set up were mainly in the
Ratnapura District while most persons
managed to temporarily seek shelter with
their extended family or friends until the
The Meteorology Department on Friday said
that the weather was expected to be warm and
humid conditions that are usual for this
time of the year would prevail.
The Meteorological Department also warns the
public to be careful of lightning, as over
15 deaths due to lightning have been
recorded during the last three months.
They advice that people should be indoors
and avoid being in open areas, especially
fields, the beach, near water bodies, or
near trees when there is lightning.
The Meteorological Department said that no
household electrical appliances including
land phones should be used when there is
lightning and thunder.
The influence of Cyclone Nargis
The Meteorological Department said
last week that the country was under the
influence of Cyclone Nargis.
A low pressure area had formed to the
south of the Bay of Bengal on April 24
and had deepened into a depression.
It deepened further into a tropical
cyclone and was named 'Nargis' by April
The system moved slowly northwestward
and was about 600 km anortheast of
Jaffna by the end of April.
Cyclone Nargis at its developing stage
caused temporary monsoon conditions
resulting in very heavy rain during
April 27 and 28.
The worsening rains were evident in the
Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern
Provinces as well as in the western
slopes of the central hills.
Doctor practises 50
years of healing
Dr. Thampu Kumar
As a Sri Lankan doctor is hailed, decorated
and celebrated in the United Kingdom we
reproduce an article about Dr. Thampu Kumar
that was published in a newspaper in the UK.
When Dr. Thampu Kumar was a young man
growing up in Ceylon - now Sri Lanka - he
dreamed of being an engineer. Even the word
sounded romantic to him.
"I never wanted to be a doctor," Kumar, now
76, said. "Never. Ever." But Kumar's mother
was a highly educated woman and a teacher.
"She said to me, 'No. You will be a
doctor,'" Kumar said. "And that was that. I
had to change my mind. There was no way
With his profession set by his mother's
resolve, Kumar had no choice but to apply
himself to the science, craft and art of
being a doctor. It's a calling he still
devotedly follows, as a gynaecologist,
surgeon, and chief of gynaecological
oncology at Danbury Hospital. He's also been
a teacher who has worked with scores of
young medical students over the years. "It's
to give, not to take," he said of his life's
This year, the Fairfield County Medical
Association is honouring Kumar at its annual
meeting in May with a Certificate of
Distinction for practising medicine for 50
years. "That means 50 years of dedication,"
said Mark Thompson, the executive director
of the Medical Association. "It's a
Kumar's patients can testify to what his
experience and intelligence mean. "He's
excellent," said Betty Braught, 43, of New
Milford. "He's willing to listen. That's the
In 2005, Kumar was able to diagnose that
Braught was suffering from internal
adhesions that were causing her pain and
even making her legs swell.
"He found the problem when other doctors
just discarded me," she said. Dr. Peter
Schwartz, the John Slade Ely Professor of
Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive
Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, has
seen the same attention to detail, the same
breadth of knowledge, while working with
Kumar on Danbury Hospital's Gynaecological
Tumour Board for 25 years. That board -
which Kumar helped found - is a
multidisciplinary group of doctors and
nurses who discuss cases at
involving gynaecological cancer. Despite
Kumar's civility and reserve, born of years
working in England, Schwartz said Kumar is
always ready to push young doctors and make
them think through problems.
"He has the manner of an English professor,"
Schwartz said, "but the residents at
know that he will challenge them. They have
to be ready." At the same time, he said,
Kumar sees it as part of his mission to
learn about the latest advances in the field
and to come back to the hospital and tell
young doctors about them. "He's an excellent
teacher, and a very, very dedicated doctor,"
Training the young
"That is the most satisfying thing for me -
to train these young doctors," Kumar said.
"Both my mother and father were teachers,
and I am a teacher, essentially. Suppose I
was to die? If I teach 10 people and two
learn, that's a good thing, rather than
taking the knowledge with me."
Kumar was born in the Northern Province of
Ceylon but grew up in the capital of
Colombo. He attended the University of
Ceylon in Colombo. After six years of
medical studies there, he wanted to advance
his training and become a cardiac surgeon or
But lacking a scholarship, it seemed his
career was blocked. Then he was offered a
resident's position in Liverpool, England,
as a obstetrician/gynaecologist. "I never
wanted to be a gynaecologist," he said. "But
I applied for the job and got it." Studying
in Liverpool, in Edinburgh, and at
University College Medical School in London,
Kumar became certified as a doctor of
internal medicine, surgery and obstetrics/gynaecology.
An exchange programme took him to the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
where he became an assistant professor of
medicine. He then taught and practised
medicine in Virginia and Texas before he
came to Danbury in 1982. "I am a rolling
stone. I gather no moss," he said. But moss
or no moss, he's put down roots in the
state. "It is the place I have lived the
longest," he said.
He and his wife, Vijaya, have a daughter,
Vijayakumari, who is a financial analyst
with Solomon Smith Barney.
There is a large Ceylonese immigrant
population in the state, he said, adding to
their sense of belonging here. "It's a
wonderful place, except for winter," he
said. "When April comes around, it's great."
Kumar speaks with pride about the hospital's
Gynaecological Tumour Board, which he helped
establish with Dr. Lester Silberman, the
longtime chairman of the hospital's
department of obstetrics and gynaecology,
At the board, a variety of doctors - ob/gyns,
surgeons, oncologists, internists - would
discuss the cases of gynaecological cancer
at Danbury Hospital. It gave them the chance
to sit, share knowledge, and improve the
treatment of each patient.
"It was the first tumour board ever
established at the hospital, and they were
laughing at me at the time," Kumar said.
"Today, there's a tumour board for breast
cancer, for lung cancer, for every type of
cancer treated at the hospital.'' He's also
proud of bringing new surgical techniques
and technologies to Danbury.
"I try and go out, learn all the new things,
come back, and teach them," he said. If he
has one failing as a doctor, he admits, it's
that he does not dispense hugs - again, his
formal British training may come into play.
Luckily, Donna Moore, his office manager and
nurse, is by her own account "the
huggy-kissy" type who provides lots of
empathy. "We make a good team," Kumar said.
"The patients get the best of both worlds,"
Moore said. As a nurse with a lot of
experience, she knows how good her boss is
at what he does. "I've never seen anyone
with his skill, his expertise," she said.
"He's one of the best surgeons I've seen."
At 76, Kumar said, he has thought of
retiring. But for someone who never, ever,
wanted to be a doctor, he is totally devoted
to his work, his patients, and to teaching
the next generation of physicians. "My hands
are still good. They don't shake," he said.
"And my mind is clear. So I want to
continue. But I've also told people, 'If you
ever think I'm not doing the job you think I
should be doing, tell me.' That's the day I
lay my tools down."
- Robert Miller
Survivors of the
Kahapola bus explosion battle their trauma
Army Corporal Nishan Kumara, Ramya
Kumari: the anguish of a mother to be
and Ishara Ratnayake: a black birthday
The bomb in the bus plying from Piliyandala
to Kahapola killed 28 people and injured
over 70. Today the injured and the bereaved
are trying to continue life amidst the
triple traumas of death, threat and anguish.
"When I see a bus, I shudder," said a young
woman who was a commuter in this bus that
was bound to death's door.
By Ranee Mohamed
Corporal Nishan Kumara had long given up
active service in the army. Suffering from
war-related injuries in Vavuniya in 1997,
Kumara had settled into his clerical job at
Army Headquarters with the assurance that
there were no more terrorist attacks to face
at the crack of dawn. But it was at sunset
that his worst nightmares came back to haunt
him - this time in a bus.
"It is not that I will run away from the
enemy; it is not that I will run away from
the LTTE in the midst of an attack; but my
thoughts of the war and facing up to tragedy
were not burning issues in my mind. I have a
one year old daughter now and I felt that
there was no threat to my life," said Nishan
Kumara from his hospital bed at the Colombo
South General Hospital.
For Nishan Kumara who had settled into his
paper work under Captain Rupasinghe and
Brigadier Gallage at Army Headquarters,
April 25 was just another day of work.
On that fateful day he was making his way
home after office. He had taken a bus to
Piliyandala and on seeing the bus to
Kahapola he had used his crutches to speed
up his walk towards the bus.
"I got into the bus through the front
entrance as soldiers with disabilities have
this special privilege," explained Nishan
"Just as the bus began to move, there was a
strange sound and black smoke filled the
air. I found that I could not see, I could
not see and what's worse, there were bodies
falling over me. The nangi (sister) who was
seated next to me now lay dead over me. It
did not take long for me to realise that it
was a bomb. I felt around for my crutches
and could find an edge. Thus I eased my way,
after pushing the bodies away from me," said
Corporal Nishan Kumara reliving an attack in
a Colombo suburb, just as if it had occurred
in the war zone.
Today, Nishan Kumara lies in the Kalubowila
Hospital waiting to be removed to the Army
Hospital. He is injured and cannot hear from
his right ear - a new disability courtesy
the Piliyandala bomb explosion.
The last thing that A.B. Pushpakumara of the
Sri Lanka Navy expected was a bomb explosion
in the bus stand of suburban Piliyandala. "I
arrived in Piliyandala and was on my way to
Kesbewa when there was a huge explosion in
the Kahapola bus. The explosion threw me
into the makeshift shop that sells peanuts.
When I tried to get up I found that my hand
was injured. I could not see anything, the
whole area was filled with black smoke,
there were moans and cries everywhere," said
Don't trample me
"At home I was treated like a flower. But as
I lay there amidst the black smoke, the
tears and the moans, I felt people walking
over me. Don't trample me, I am pregnant, I
cried," said Ramya Kumari, crying
uncontrollably as she relived the horror of
the bus explosion in Piliyandala.
Three and a half months pregnant, Ramya was
usually accompanied by her husband every
evening. But on this fateful day, her
husband had to make a payment and hence had
left early at 6 p.m. "I came at 6.30 p.m.
and wanted to reload my phone. The
communication agency was taking a long time
and I was annoyed. I had to wait 15 minutes,
and because of this delay I could not get a
seat in the bus," said Ramya with relief. It
is because she was standing at the rear end
of the bus that she is alive today.
"The conductor did not collect my fare. He
got off the bus and boarded it through the
front entrance. So I had to wait at the rear
for him to arrive. I have a habit of pushing
my way to the middle of the bus. When my
husband is with me, I drag him long with me
and go and settle at the middle of the bus.
But on this day I was stuck at the rear end,
waiting for the conductor to arrive,"
explained Ramya Kumari.
"Suddenly there was a strange noise - it was
not a loud explosion. Or maybe it was, and I
did not hear it; because even today I cannot
hear. After this screeching noise the whole
bus was filled with black smoke. At first, I
thought lightning had struck the bus because
it was a rainy day. Then when I saw the
bodies falling, I thought the bus had
toppled. Then I saw blood - all over and on
my chest. And I knew it was a bomb..." cried
Today she battles her trauma alone. "I
cannot look at a bus without feeling faint.
My husband says that I am jolted from my
sleep every night. The shrapnel from my
chest has been removed, but I am suffering
with these injuries. I cannot bear it. The
hospital authorities told me that X rays
cannot be done on me because I am pregnant.
I believe it was the baby who brought us
luck and saved us from death," said Ramya
Kumari finding it difficult to move with her
Ishara Ratnayake was dressed in her best on
that fateful date. "It was my 23rd birthday
and my mother told me that I looked very
pretty. I wanted to get back home as soon as
possible because my family was waiting for
me to arrive. We had planned a happy time at
home. I was happy when I boarded the bus
bound for Kahapola. The bus could not have
gone even a few yards when the explosion
took place. I thought the bus was hit by
lightning," recalled Ratnayake.
"I was thrown atop the bodies and there was
blood all over me. I stumbled out of the
mangled bus but could not see anything.
After I was taken to hospital someone had
called my home and told my parents, my
brothers and my sister that I was okay, but
they had not believed the caller. It was
only after I telephoned them and they heard
my voice that they stopped crying," said
Ishara in tears.
Recently two strangers visited Ishara
Ratnayake at home. They brought with them
her handbag. "We found your handbag and
thought you had died. We are so happy that
you are well!" said the strangers crying for
Among the dead is W.H. Margaret Wijesinghe,
the vice principal of Madapatha Phillip
Atygalle Maha Vidyalaya. Wijesinghe was
returning home, ironically from the
Kalubowila Hospital where her husband, a
retired Captain in the Sri Lanka Army was
warded. She had been standing inside the bus
when the explosion took place.
Her only son had telephoned her from
Australia that evening and asked whether
she was going to the hospital. He had called
to find out whether she was well and safe.
Shirani Dalika and her son Ruchira Thilanka
(11) too never came home after they boarded
the bus to Kahapola. Ruchira, an acclaimed
athlete, is a student in Year 6 of Prince
of Wales College.
Shirani's husband Amila who had been
employed in the Middle East had telephoned
is wife frequently to find out how they were
keeping. Amila who arrived for the funeral
of his wife and son said that it would have
been better if the bomb had destroyed him
too, for there was no way in which he could
live without his wife and little son.
Pavani Kaushalya remains in isolation.
Having suffered several fits and convulsions
after the death of her mother who was in the
ill fated bus, Kaushalya has to relive the
anguish that death brings - seven years
after the death of her father.
Her mother Amara Kusum who worked in a
garment factory in Ratmalana had telephoned
home to tell them that she will be back
early. She had promised that she will be
cooking the dinner for them that night.
But Amara Kusum never came home, her mangled
body was found inside the bus and brought
The family has not eaten since. "It will be
a long time before a meal will ever be
cooked in this house. How can we eat without
our mother?" asks her children Pavani
Kaushalya (16) and her brother Vihanga (9).
There are several others who suffer in the
aftermath of this explosion. Among them are
Ashoka Upulani (59) of Madapatha, Nishan
Kumar (36) of Madapatha, Sujeewa (23) of
Bandaragama, Dharshana (22) and Shashika
Nethmal (13) of Piliyandala, Thaha (8) of
Mount Lavinia and Kartizani (3) of Mount
The quiet green hued areas of Piliyandala
lay steeped in sorrow and sadness as quiet
funerals wound their way across their
unspoilt inner areas. Piliyandala and its
neighbouring villages of Madapatha, Kahapola
and Batakeththara will take a long time to
overcome the bomb on the Kahapola bus that
has taken them on a one way trip to despair.
Police canines pass out
with flying colours
Officers, handlers and dogs, all stand
By Risidra Mendis
In different colours and sizes, they stood
in a row, patiently awaiting their turn to
show the audience what they had learned
during their training period. They were
dressed in their uniforms with their
regiment numbers and stood still side by
side with their handlers. The day was April
26 - one of the most important days for
police officers working at the Police Dog
Training Headquarters Kennels Division (PDTHKD)
This was the day where 60 police dogs all
aged below two years, passed out with
flying colours at a colourful ceremony held
at the PDTHKD. It was a day of fun and
excitement not only for those present at the
passing out parade, but also for the dogs
who for the first time after their training
were able to show the distinguished guests,
their donors and their handlers their
Speaking to The Sunday Leader Head Quarters
Chief Inspector Lal Seneviratne said they
received 75 dogs from donors. We were able
to train 60 dogs while the balance 15 are
still under training. The dogs were trained
under the categories of sniffer dogs,
narcotics dogs and tracker dogs. "At this
year's passing out parade there were 40
sniffer, 10 narcotic and 10 tracker dogs
consisting of German Shepherds, Labradors,
Doberman Pinchers and Dalmatians," HQI
He added that a request was made by the
PDTHKD for dogs on October 1, 2007. "We
started receiving donations from October 10,
2007 and are still receiving dogs. "We have
an agreement with the donors where after a
service period of six years the dogs will be
returned to them if requested," HQI
These police dogs are trained to obey orders
and have served the nation for many years.
But most of us are yet to realise how
valuable, efficient and effective these
police dogs have become in solving serious
crime in the country.
The PDTHKD in Kandy was started in 1948 by
the British with only four dogs. With the
passing out of a new batch of well trained
dogs the PDTHKD now has a total of 280 dogs
for detecting crimes. The breeds include
Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman
Pinchers, Alaskan Malamutes, Belgian Malinoi
and Bull Mastiffs. But what makes the
service of the PDTHKD that much more
valuable, is that the dogs are dispatched
free of charge whenever a request is made by
a police station in the country.
At the initial stages the dogs were trained
for crime detection. It was in 1985 that a
group of police officers were sent to Vienna
on dog training where the Germans trained
them to use dogs for the detection of
narcotics, because the Germans felt that
large consignments of drugs were being sent
from Sri Lanka. It was in 1986 that a
decision was taken to train dogs to detect
explosives. It was after 2005 that dogs were
trained to detect kasippu.
Work at the PDTHKD starts at 6 a.m every
day. The dogs are checked to see if they are
healthy and fit and are brushed at this
time. At 7a.m the dogs are taken to the
police grounds for physical and obedience
training. At 8.30 a.m it's feeding time and
the dogs are given bread and milk. From 9
a.m to 12 noon proper training begins.
The dogs and handlers take a break at 12
noon and start training again between 2 p.m
and 3.30 p.m. The dogs are brushed, groomed
and fed at 4.30 p.m. "The meal of each dog
consists of one kilo of rice mixed with
vegetables and meat. Once a week the dogs
are bathed - on Sundays - which is also
considered the rest day for the dogs and
their handlers. Veterinary surgeons visit
the PDTHKD once a month and give the dogs a
full check up.
The PDTHKD also has a successful breeding
programme where all pups are used for
training. Training begins when a pup is
nine months old. It doesn't matter if the
animal is a male or female as both are used
for training. At the initial stages the dogs
are trained to obey commands such as to sit,
stand, bite and catch among others.
The dogs are then separated into different
fields depending on their intelligence. The
training period for a dog is generally three
months. A narcotics dog is trained to dig
out the narcotics when it is found. An
explosives detecting dog will quietly sit
down when he or she detects explosives and
the tracker dog will go in search of
The PDTHKD has successfully trained dogs to
detect an explosive by sniffing a sample of
sand brought from the area where the
explosive is hidden. This makes detections
easy as the dogs do not need to be taken to
far places to detect an explosive. The
service period of a dog is around eight to
nine years and sometimes even 10 years.
In 1982 the PDTHKD was on the verge of being
closed down because police officers working
there were called 'balu mahaththayas.'
However in 2000 developing this division
commenced. After SSP Jayantha Gammanpila
took over as director in 2005 many
programmes were organised to improve this
division that has now gained prestige among
the police and the public.