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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, August 13, 2005

UNDP attacks Lanka's post-tsunami relief efforts

The Hindu: 08/08/2005"

Sri Lanka's tsunami survivors and their needs have largely been ignored by the authorities responsible for the reconstruction effort, a United Nations agency said today.

"Since the tsunami last year, a greater part of post-tsunami relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation work in Sri Lanka has been carried-out with minimal consultations with the affected communities," the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) here said in a statement.

The UNDP said they were supporting a new drive to gather views of the survivors through consultations with 1,100 tsunami-affected villages in 11 districts.

"No one knows our needs because no one asked us what we wanted. They just brought the same things over and over again," the UNDP quoted survivor Achala Lakmali as saying.

She said that the failure to listen to the affected people had led to a disconnect between assistance and needs on the ground.

"We got a lot of cooking utensils, but no one has given us assistance to build a house because we live with relatives. We pay a rent and have been asked to leave but we have no place to go. It is good that someone is finally asking us what we want," she was quoted as saying.

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Our imitation of Westminster spurious and antisocial

The Island: 09/08/2005" by S.Costa, Attorney-at-Law, President, Kandy Litigants’ Association
Prof. S. T. Hettige has recently stated, "Today only the government is bearing the responsibility for the (Tsunami) problem and other parties have become alienated".

We have learnt to admire Prof. Hettige’s contributions in the press in the past for their commitment to rational objectivity. The alienation which he speaks of is one of the major social derangements afflicting the life of the community in this country. We would like to draw him into an objective consideration of what, in our humble opinion, are the actual whys and wherefores of this alienation, and what must replace them.

To the lawyer, or more precisely the constitutional lawyer, it is patently clear that the alienation Prof. Hettige speaks of is, in its broadest sense, and not as confined to the post-Tsunami problems alone, but the natural and inevitable outcome of the divisiveness bred by our Westminster system of Parliamentary government constituted by a Government Party exclusively holding the reins of power, and an Opposition who remain ostracized as some kind of "outcasts" in Parliament though representing almost as large a segment of the population as the Government so-called.

This structure inevitably breeds a devilish brew of incessant and acrimonious rivalry between Government and Opposition. As it so happens, the main Government and Opposition parties in this country are more or less evenly matched in strength, and basically hold to more or less the same type of policies. The irony is that the very emptiness of the reason to differ makes notional differences all the more senseless and bitter!

How disgustingly the acrimony is played out both inside and outside Parliament everybody knows only too well.

That grown up men and women make such a devilry and dereliction of public affairs is not only a sad, and tragic, reflection on them, but more importantly on the character of the system which can reduce even the wise to the level of such sorry fools. That society resigns itself to such a system is itself an alarming pathological condition.

In what we have to regard as a memorable critique on this system contributed to the "Dinamina" of 24th January, 2004, by Retired S.C. Justice, K. M. M. B. Kulatunga, it has been pointed out that not only is it impossible to eliminate the bitterness of political rivalry between Government and Opposition so long as we remain wedded to the Westminster system, but also, on the other hand, the existing Constitution makes no specific provision to say that the Ministerial portfolios should be awarded exclusively to the political party winning the majority of seats in Parliament, in imitation of that system. Thus its continuance is invalid.

The latter view makes such a fundamental departure from the generally received notion of what the Constitution is supposed to mean, that we venture, with respect, to translate the relevant part of Justice Kulatunaga’s observations verbatim as follows:

"That ministers should be chosen only from the political party securing the majority in parliament is nowhere mentioned in the constitution. Nevertheless, what has happened all along in Sri Lanka is that ministers have been chosen only from the political party that succeeds in winning the majority in Parliament. In This manner, the power of ruling the country is vested in only one party. This practice does not seem to be in conformity with the Constitution. Public expectations are not duly represented by giving all ministerial appointments to the party securing

The majority in parliament and thus vesting all power in that party only. The composition of the cabinet in a manner that does not represent the wishes of all the people is a violation of the sovereignty of the people as clearly set out in the constitution."

Thus, the effect of Justice Kulatunaga’s observations is to hand down a damning indictment on the practice of the Constitution as blindly followed in Sri Lanka for half a century and more.

Indeed, we make bold to firmly assert that, whatever be the interpretation of the black-letter law that ultimately ought to prevail, the actual result of the present system is virtually to negate the suffrage of half the electorate – and as such pure political lunacy. It is actually not too far a cry from the other problem of power-sharing bedeviling the life of the country from the North-East.

Besides, on the other hand, the Hon.D.E.W. Gunasekera himself, Minister for Constitutional Affairs, at a meeting in Kandy a few months ago, took occasion to point out that the rivalry between the two major political parties in Sri Lanka so checkmated the life of the community as to reduce this country virtually to a "FAILED STATE"!

Thus, the combined effect of both pronouncements is to render our practice of the Constitution both SPURIOUS and ANTISOCIAL.

How long are we to mimic this vicious puppetry just because it is the best our erstwhile colonial masters knew at the time in which to cast our constitution?

There is also another disturbing aspect about this antisocial mischief self-inflicted by the people of Sri Lanka, the overwhelming majority of whom are Buddhists. As the Latin tag has it, "Quot homines, tot sententiae," and if we are not to end up in bedlam with each one heading in a different direction, ‘toleration and compromise’ is the only way out. This serves to engage the ideal of the Buddhist injunction for dispute resolution, consultation eventuating in CONSENSUS. This is therefore the essential pre-requisite for national unity. Significantly, it may be said that foremost amongst those who have urged the two major parties towards national unity have been the Venerable Mahanayakes of Asgiriya and Malwatte in Kandy.

Curiously, this underlying necessity seems to have had implicit recognition over and over again through the practice on the part of most Governing parties during the past decade or so to invite the Opposition of the time to make consensus with a view to national unity. Needless to say, the expectation is naive in the extreme, and has never been met.

And, furthermore, as shown below, noblesse oblige dictates the obligation is entirely the other way round.

This also compels us to the necessary conclusion that the Government has no warrant for confining the reins of power within the grip of solely its own hands, the bugbear of our governance, on both counts.

Therefore, if National Unity is the desideratum, the onus is unequivocally on the Government to share the powers of governance with the rest of the Parliamentary membership pro rata the suffrage the latter, too, has received from the sovereign People. The ideal, as has once been deftly put, of GOVERNMENT WITHOUT OPPOSITION!

The logic of this compulsion as actually resting principally on the Government may be analyzed as follows.

Firstly, for the simple reason that it is solely the Government that has the power in its hands, to share or not to share.

Secondly, for the simple reason that, on the very respectable authority cited, its monopolization by Government is constitutionally spurious.

Thirdly, because, as pointed out by the other authority cited, it checkmates national progress in a largely Third World nation, and defeats thereby one of the greatest ends of government, the creation of an order of economic sufficiency for the community. Thus it is antisocial.

Fourthly, in a context of universal democratic equality – even the Prime Minster it is said is no more than primus inter pares - the Buddhist injunction to consensus serves to put the burden of practising the precept squarely in the hands of the party who can effectually implement it. This is none other than the GOVERNMENT!

Fifthly, because, by essential definition, it is inherently the obligation of those in authority to oblige - N O B L E S S E O B L I G E !

The foregoing outlines the simple short cut to the elimination of one of the most intractable thorns in the side of our governance. In comparison, most other points of controversy are trivial and secondary, and in fact would wither away once the first priority is allowed.

In the minds of many, our present constitution is in such an infernal mess that it is by the very gravity of the mess fast heading in the direction of the melting pot. This is an ideal pre-condition for the necessary radical changes – we should seize the opportunity, rather than tantalizingly give it the miss and perpetuate the existing misery. The initiatives must come from ALL leaderships, not only in politics, but other ranks as well.

As the great dramatist once said, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is hemmed in sorrows and in miseries".

On such a tide are we afloat - NOW!

We fervently appeal to Prof. Hettige, and indeed other cognoscenti of the so many Universities in this country, to give generously of their wisdom to this nation in crisis.

As mentioned above, this applies to especially political leaderships of all ranks and kind, in whom lies directly the burden of steering the destinies of this country at this critical juncture in its affairs.

And last but not least, society at large must also learn to alert itself to the great issues at stake, to enable it to make the right choice when called upon to exercise its suffrage at the several opportunities now fast approaching.

Tailpiece: Upon just preparing to mail the foregoing, we have been startled by the remarkable similarity of thinking to hear over the weekend the comments of the Chief Minister for the Western Province at a recent Conference in reference to the practical identity of views shared by the two major political parties on the North-East question, and consequently the moral challenge lying upon them both to close ranks so as to hasten it to a final settlement. The comments seem to read like an unsolicited testimonial to the relevance and urgency of our message.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

The Social Impact of Microfinance and How to Measure It

Microfinance Development Gateway: This discussion paper aim at providing state of- the-art information on the social impact of microfinance Its aim is to support the ongoing discussion with partners, clients and stakeholders with the ultimate objective of developing a common understanding of key issues in the field of microfinance and social investments.
Author: ResponsAbility, Social Investment Services AG

Contributor: PlaNet Finance ( Guide )
Published Date: April 13, 2005

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Global Development Network: Knowledge Base: Research Papers

Global Development Network: Knowledge Base: Research Papers: "The Knowledge Base is a comprehensive portal to development research on the internet produced in developing countries. All research featured is available free online, is less than three years old, and is accompanied by clear conclusion-based summaries. This page features a selection of research papers."
Access this site

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

SAGT hepls to get Tsunami aid cargo cleared

The Island: 06/08/2005"

In order to support the importers of Tsunami aid, SAGT has already granted storage waivers amounting to over 1 million US$. These include 240 twenty-foot containers and 228 forty-foot containers amounting to a total of 468 containers.

Great efforts were made by SAGT to track and contact the relevant consignees in order to get the rest of the Tsunami cargo cleared. However, because of the poor response, there are still over 300 containers of uncleared Tsunami cargo at SAGT.

After a lengthy discussion with the Government authorities (SLPA, Dept. of Social Services & Presidential Secretariat), it was decided that uncleared containers carrying Tsunami cargo to be treated as abandoned cargo and handed over to the Dept. of Social Services through SLPA for disposal as per the SLPA Act and the Agreement between SLPA and SAGT.

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Development of a trauma management system in Sri Lanka

The Island: 06/08/2005" by Shirani Hapuarachchi,MBBS, MD, FRCA President, The College of Anaesthesiologists of Sri Lanka

Trauma remains a leading cause of death worldwide. This is so whether it be in the developed world or in the developing world as in Sri Lanka. In the USA 145,000 deaths are reported annually. Sri Lanka a speck in comparison to US in size also records about 2000 deaths per year. It is also the leading cause of hospitalization in this country.

For the year 2001 the number of admissions to hospital was a staggering 544,905 which is a rate of 2910.7 per 100,000 population i.e a morbidity rate of 15%.

A study done at the Accident service of the National Hospital Sri Lanka showed that the commonest cause of trauma is road traffic accidents.

In Sri Lanka with a population of 18 million 722 thousand the number of road traffic accidents in the year 2001 was 52057 and in 2002 it in fact increased to 55031.

The mortality rate remained around 2000.

We all agree that this is quite a substantial number when we consider the fact that they are fit, healthy and young. This is a sad fact. The incidence is highest in the first four decades of life. In most instances the victim is struck at the most unexpected time while getting about their daily chores, whether it be getting to their work place when it comes to bread winners or marketing or shopping when it comes to the house wives or it could even be school children on their way to school or back from school, in other words they are fit and healthy individuals getting about their daily activities otherwise they wouldn’t be on the road.

If we look at the statistics of admissions to the National Hospital Sri Lanka which is the premier Teaching Hospital in the country and which has the biggest Accident and emergency unit of the country we see over 100,000 patients seeking treatment each year. Of these about 25,000 are admitted. Which goes to show that `BC of almost all accident victims seeking treatment are serious, needing admission. The deaths have accounted for nearly 600 patients, which is about 15% of admissions.

But is this all? What about the long term morbidity or disability?. Though statistics are not available it is about three times that of mortality.

Disability at times may even be worse off for the next of kin than death as the patient needs to be cared for, for considerable periods of time. In fact the problem becomes even greater if the victim is the sole breadwinner of the family. The entire family can thus be suddenly plunged to the depths of despair.

What about the expense to the state? In a country like ours where health services are free the expenditure to the state is enormous .In fact statistics show that traumatic injuries are the leading cause of hospitalization in most districts except in Killinochchi, Mulativ, Vauvnia and Batticoloa. This is mainly due to the reduced number of vehicles on the road in this part of the country due to the war that existed but still, it ranks a close second.

What about the human suffering?

In my experience as a Neuro Anaesthetist getting involved in Neuro trauma from 1993 I have seen the mortality and the morbidity the young dying and the suffering caused by disability. The young with severe head injury dying, the salvageable ones some of whom ending up with severe functional disability, The victim of spinal injury conscious but unable to move, not even a flicker of a finger. Can you ever imagine? Living day in and day out at the mercy of others.

I think the need for improved care of the injured has become all the more important today as has never been before.

Care of the injured and the critically ill

I am a great believer of prevention better than cure. What can we as medical personnel do in this regard?

The common causes of road traffic accidents have been shown to be due to

1. Improper over taking - Have they been

assessed correctly at the time of granting the license. Has the Registrar of motor vehicles who issues driving licenses looked at it or given it serious thought.

2. Drink driving - When police bring them to us for assessment. Do we assess them properly breathalyzers, are they used adequately.

3. Excessive speeding – Don’t we have speed limits? Or are we not bothered to adhere to them?

In fact it has been reported that deaths in motor cyclists and pillion riders following the use of helmets have reduced. Pedestrian deaths too have reduced. Both these can be attributed to good education by the traffic police, introducing road regulations to the school curriculum and so on.

But there are many more preventive measures to be carried out. Spot fines by the traffic police a very simple procedure that will not only discipline drivers but earn a revenue to the police department.

Prevention does not mean preventing accidents alone but preventing morbidity and mortality following an accident. This is where I like to dwell a little. This is where we have concentrated our thinking and have put into action very many plans.

Injuries when sustained can be broadly divided into two categories.

1. The Primary injury that takes place at the time of the impact. As for this there is nothing we can do except the preventive measures that I highlighted and are being carried out commendably by the city traffic along with the Colombo Municipal Council and the education department.

2. The secondary injury - this is the worsening of the existing injury due to causes other than the impact.

What are these causes - deprivation of Oxygen, .Accumulation of carbondioxide and non respirable acids. Improper transport, further aggrevating the injury.

A survey done in the Accident and emergency unit of the National hospital showed that the majority of accident victims are brought to hospital in three wheelers by bystanders. And as you are well aware this is the worst mode of transport especially for an unconscious patient, patient with head injuries and of course to the spinal patient whose only chance of survival is also reduced to a minimum.

Our priority is to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with road traffic accidents and if we are to do this we need to put a trauma care system into action. This should consist of 1. Prehospital Care 2. proper evacuation and transport of the injured 3. resuscitation and Primary trauma care 4. Definitive care in a trauma center if necessary5.rehabilitationof the disabled 6.and Quality management of the system.

Pre Hospital Care

Pre Hospital Care is the start of a continuum of care that forms the trauma chain. It is easy to under estimate how long it takes to move an accident victim to hospital.

Even for efficient emergency services it has been found that there could be a delay of up to half an hour between the time of the accident and arrival at hospital. This is the most crucial time as far as medical attention is considered. The golden hour which determines the outcome of patients is therefore spent to a considerable extent on the road or at the road side. The golden hour therefore becomes a pre hospital event.

This prompted us to start a proper evacuation method by ambulance for all accident victims in the city of Colombo. His worship the Mayor of Colombo, The chief medical officer of health both readily agreed with our proposal without any hesitation. I must also mention the Fire Chief who readily agreed to part with some of his new fire officer recruits 30 in number to be trained as para medics.

The training was carried out in the Colombo municipal council as well the National Hospital of Sri Lanka and Colombo South Teaching Hospital by the consultant Anaesthetists So now for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka we will be able to implement a proper 110 toll free evacuation system like in the west..

Colombo city will be divided into 4 zones – North, South, east and west. 4 ambulance stations will be established so that the response time can be reduced to a minimum. There are no evidence based studies as to the best response time but in the developed countries it is around 10 minutes.

Here in Sri Lanka the experience with fire calls is about 07 minutes. But this will depend on how busy the emergency service will be after a while and the extent of traffic in the streets of Colombo. The call 110 will be monitored by a central Alarm center and will notify the ambulance station nearest to the accident site The patients can therefore be taken to hospital – National or Colombo South (where accident and emergency units are established at present.) which ever is close by thereby reducing arrival time at hospital.

Transport of the injured

Patients should be packaged for transport to reduce further injury or secondary injury. They should be transported with a hard cervical collar, head blocks, limb splints and a body splint such as a SCOOP stretcher or a vaccum mattress. Spinal immobilization is a standard practice worldwide. It is also essential that hypoxia during transport is prevented by oxygen administration and monitoring the patients as regard oxygen saturation heart rate or pulse rate, blood pressure and the adequacy of breathing.

This will not only ensure adequate oxygenation but an adequate cardiac output as well. Equipment for transport should also be available in the ambulance. A source of oxygen, suction apparatus, Pulse oximetry, ECG and a defibrillator. A Blood pressure apparatus and Intravenous infusions are a must. If these patients have life threatening injuries which will not keep them alive until they reach hospital these too should be attended to. This is where a doctor will be of help in the ambulance. He should carry out a primary survey and life threatening conditions should be attended to while reducing externally visible bleeding and rendering first aid to minimize any secondary injury which might be too late to attend to by the time the patients arrive in hospital.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tsunami hit entrepreneurs battle with banks

The Island: 06/08/2005"

The tsunami caused more than 40,000 deaths, over 15,000 injuries, 150,000 houses were destroyed or damaged displacing over a million people of which 275,000 people have lost their livelihood.

Children, women and the elderly are the most vulnerable of the tsunami victims, with over 5000 children displaced of which over 1000 children have become orphans.

The fisheries sector suffered the most, socially and economically, accounting for 90% of all deaths, 55% of displaced families and destroyed houses, and 50% of the estimated job losses, with 6 5% of the national boat fleet lost. Ten out of twelve major fishing harbours were completely destroyed, including support facilities such as ice plants etc, and eighty one percent (22,940) of fishing vessels were damaged or totally destroyed. The second largest sector to suffer was the tourism sector, with substantial property and job losses. The physical assets loss is estimated at US $ 1.5 billion amounting to 4.5% of GDP, while the output -loss estimate of $330 mn in the fisheries and tourism sectors amounts to 1.5% of GDP.

The tsunami dealt a severe blow to the country’s infrastructure. It left 83,000 totally or partly damaged houses, destroyed 1,615 km of the road network and 72 hospitals. One of the severely hit sectors was education where 182 schools were damaged and over 1.00,000 children we’re displaced. In addition, roads, railways, telephone, water supply, fishing ports, hotels and other coastal infrastructure were substantially damaged. It is estimated the damage to housing, tourism and fisheries industries amounts to 1.5% of the GNP.

However, seven months after the tsunami, the affected entrepreneurs and industrialists in the southern costal belt are still battling with bankers to obtain industrial loans

"The bankers seek co-lateral to issue loans," said the affected entrepreneurs. Meanwhile a leading printer alleged that a private bank, refused to issue a loan due to lack of collateral.

"I mortgaged my business to this bank when I applied for a loan. The bank issued my loan. I am still paying the existing loan. After the devastation I further requested the bank to issue another loan. But they asked for more co-lateral, he said. This is a pathetic situation," said the worried Printer.

A number of industrialists have made repeated complaints to the exporters forum.

"All bankers are following the same procedure, they ask collateral." (SCP)

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Simple Tsunami Alert System now in Place - UN

planet Ark: 05/08/2005" Bill Tarrant

PERTH - If another big tsunami were to roll across the Indian Ocean today, it would in all likelihood be detected and threatened nations would be alerted, the head of the UN body developing such a warning system said on Thursday.

The problem is the system cannot determine whether a tsunami would merely ripple onto sun-spangled beaches of the Indian Ocean rim or turn into monster waves wiping out towns and villages.
"Yes, we can confirm the presence of tsunami today," said Patricio Bernal, executive secretary of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which is spearheading an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system.

Pacific tsunami warning centres in Tokyo and Honolulu now have a network of experts to contact around the clock in Indian Ocean nations when seismographic data indicates an earthquake capable of causing a tsunami.

A string of tidal gauges that the IOC is maintaining off northwestern Sumatra, Diego Garcia and the coast of Mauritius are capable of detecting a tsunami. And Indian Ocean nations are setting up mechanisms to exchange data and warnings.

MINIMISING FALSE ALARMS

What the system can't do is minimise the many false alarms that come with sizeable earthquakes on the seabed that do not trigger a big tsunami or even cause damage on land. That's crucial because emergency coordinators must know when to sound the alarm that will set in motion costly mass evacuation plans.

"It's insufficient, yes," Bernal told Reuters on the margins of the first meeting of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System in the western Australian city of Perth.

"But at least we can confirm it now and that's something we couldn't do even at the end of March," he said.

There were no tsunami warning systems when the strongest earthquake in 40 years struck off the coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, triggering a record tsunami that is feared to have killed as many as 232,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean nations and left more than a million homeless.

A second, more expensive system targeted for completion by next July will involve installing a series of pressure gauges on the seabottom that would more accurately -- and far more quickly -- detect the approach and direction of a big tsunami.

Tens of thousands of lives might have been saved if such a system had been in place before the Dec. 26 catastrophe.

"We would have saved all the people in Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives at least, because the wave took two hours to reach there," Bernal said.

REGIONAL WARNING CENTRE

Five countries in the region -- Thailand, India, Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia -- have offered competing proposals to host a regional tsunami warning centre.

Bernal said no decision on that politically sensitive topic would come at the Perth meeting, and he saw no problem having more than one centre anyway.

"It's like the military," one diplomat at the conference said. "You build in redundancy. We'll end up with several nodes, but the thing is to confer with each other."

This week's meeting, which winds up on Friday, will help determine how warnings would be standardised and communicated, how seismic data can be collected and exchanged and how technology can be transferred, among other things.

With tsunami warning systems now in the works for the Mediterreanean and the Caribbean regions, the Indian Ocean system could become a global model -- a far cry from seven months ago when few people even knew what a tsunami was, the diplomat said.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

IMF warns Sri Lanka heading for more trouble after tsunamis

The Island: 04/08/2005" by Amal Jayasinghe

(AFP) - The International Monetary Fund Wednesday warned Sri Lanka to revive a peace process with Tamil rebels and step up its tsunami reconstruction or risk compounding already serious economic woes.

Large fiscal deficits and a high level of public debt are sources of macro-economic instability while inflation is galloping away and reforms lagging, the international lender said.

"The longer-term challenges facing Sri Lanka include moving toward fiscal consolidation, implementing structural reforms that enhance the investment climate and reviving the peace process," the IMF said in a statement.

The statement, issued after a review of the country's performance in the first half of the year, noted that the budget deficit was ballooning, privatisation revenues had fallen way short of targets and inflation was on the rise.

Annual inflation hit 16.8 percent by the end of December, reflecting higher food and oil prices, it said adding that economic growth this year was forecast at 5.3 percent, down from 5.4 percent in 2004 and 6.0 percent in 2003.

The budget deficit reached 8.25 percent of Gross Domestic Produt (GDP) in 2004, or 1.5 percentage points higher than originally estimated. Revenues fell short of the budget target while expenditure overruns were due to higher subsidies.

The IMF urged Sri Lanka to ensure that oil prices reflected the actual cost of production and to do away with subsidies the economy could not afford.

It also noted that although Sri Lanka had a "fiscal responsibility" law to ensure prudent economic management by the state it had yet to deliver results and also called for the independence of the Central Bank.

However, the IMF did commend Sri Lanka for its "prompt and effective" relief following the December 26 tsunami that claimed 31,000 lives and left a million people homeless.

"A key ongoing challenge will be to manage the reconstruction activity in an efficient and transparent manner by mobilising donor assistance effectively and maintaining macro-economic stability," the IMF statement said.

It noted that the troubled peace process must be revived for the economy to recover.

The tsunami was initially seen as uniting the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to work together to deliver aid to people affected by the worst natural disaster to hit the island but it has in fact deepened the divisions.

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court last month virtually shot down a proposed joint mechanism by the two former warring parties to share part of the three billion dollars in aid promised by international donors.

Sri Lanka's peace broker Norway, meanwhile, is sending Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen here Thursday to try to jumpstart the stalled peace process between Colombo and the Tamil Tigers.

Diplomatic sources said that Helgesen would try to salvage the tsunami joint mechanism to ensure that international donors could support the island's reconstruction effort fully.

The Colombo government needs the cooperation of the Tigers to carry out reconstruction work in the island's north-east, parts of which are held by the guerrillas.

Some of the international donors also insist on a joint mechanism to deliver aid as they are unable to give money directly to the Tigers who are outlawed in several countries, including the US, Britain and India.

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Sikh Donations left to rot at Port in Sri Lanka

SSNews: 04/08/2005"

When Tsunami hit South East Asia the ever big hearted Sikhs as usual were the first to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Many teams collected aid in the United Kingdom and one amongst them was the Sikh Community from Birmingham.

Through voluntary community efforts they had managed to collect 2 containers full of medical supplies, clothing and food for victims of the tsunami disaster. Now these 2 Containers have been left to rot in a Sri Lankan port.

The Sri Lankan authorities have impounded these, two 40ft-long containers packed with vital supplies as part of a crackdown against drug and weapons trafficking. The failure to get the supplies to those who badly need them has left the Birmingham fundraisers heartbroken.

Lakhdeep Singh Panesar, from Solihull, who coordinated the relief effort, said: "I shall never do anything for charity like this again. I'm so disheartened.

"I've made countless calls to officials over there but I've been ignored.

"It would have been better to have sent money to a designated person instead of sending aid."

Mr Panesar and others among Birmingham's Sikh community worked 12 hours a day to fill the two containers with medical aid from Heartlands Hospital and food and clothing donations by the public.

He told how he encouraged fellow members of the Ramgharia Sikh Temple, on Graham Street, in Hockley, to help sort the donations.

He then used his shipping company, Pan Line Ltd, to send the aid free of charge to the disaster zone in February.

But when other containers began to flood in to Sri Lanka from around the world, the authorities found some were filled with drugs, ammunition or other illegal goods sent by criminal groups.

To prevent further unwanted items spreading through the country, the Sri Lankan government stopped all aid containers from leaving Colombo, the country's capital.

Amongst them are the two Birmingham containers.

Ramgharia Sikh Temple member Perminder Singh had originally planned to visit Sri Lanka to oversee the aid distribution.

He said: "I am still prepared to go over there but the aid is still sitting in Colombo and there is nothing we can do about it."

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London has confirmed that it is looking into the case.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Sri Lankan government fails to rebuild tsunami-destroyed hospitals

WSWS: 04/08/2005" By M. Aravindan and Sarath Kumara

Being one of the most economically backward regions of Sri Lanka, the infrastructure was poor in the Eastern Province even before the December 26 tsunami. Coming on top of two decades of civil war, the tidal waves dealt a severe blow to the health sector along the coastal Ampara district.

When the WSWS team visited the district from June 28 to July 2, we found that President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government has not taken even initial steps to rebuild the hospitals. Four government hospitals—Ninthavur, Karaithivu, Sainthamaruthu and Maruthamunai—three dispensaries— Periya Nilavanai, Komari and Ullai—and one Ayurvedic (indigenous medicine) dispensary were devastated by the tsunami. All were located within 200 metres of the sea (where the government has since banned any construction) and have to be rebuilt elsewhere. In the meantime, temporary hospitals are being shifted from one place to another.

So far, the government has only allocated land for Karaithivu hospital. Villagers themselves have donated a plot of land for the Periya Nilavanai central dispensary and maternity hall. K. Slevanayagam, chief clerk at the Deputy Provincial Director of Health Service’s office in Kalmunai told the WSWS: “Some non-government organisations (NGOs) have come forward to construct hospitals if the land is provided. But so far the government has allocated no money to buy land for hospitals. The government or the health department didn’t ask us how much money has to be allocated.”

Despite the government’s attitude, hospital employees, including doctors, nurses, attendants and other staff members, are doing a remarkable job in maintaining the temporary hospitals and providing essential medical services under extremely taxing conditions. At the same time, ordinary villagers have taken initiatives to assist the hospitals.

Hospital employees told us that the government has provided only medicine and salaries. When the tsunami struck, most medical equipment was destroyed. The hospitals now operate with equipment provided by NGOs.

“This is not the proper way to treat patients”

The case of Ninthavur district hospital is instructive. After the tsunami, it was shifted to Al Mazar Girls High School. When that eventually created problems for the school, it was moved to a few canvas tents provided by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on a plot of unused land owned by Faizal Hassim, a Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) parliamentarian. According to the hospital staff, patients were unwilling to use the site because of the intense heat inside the tents.

A group of young people decided that the hospital had to be relocated so that ordinary people could use it. They brought some tractors, loaded the equipment and transported it to the K M As Safaa Vidyalaya (school). A hospital employee said that once the hospital was shifted from his land, Hassim lost interest in it.

Dr A.M. Jabeer commented: “It is only because of the initiative of local people that this hospital is functioning. The previous place was burning hot and open and we could not treat patients there. So some youth forcibly transferred the hospital here. They transported hospital furnishings and instruments, arranged temporary electricity connection, repaired the damaged water pump and provided the water supply. One NGO built the toilets and bathrooms and another one is constructing male and female wards.”

He said that without residential facilities, patients faced many hardships. “Those who must stay indoors have to come here daily from their homes for treatment. Some have to come three times, especially for injections. We can’t keep them under observation as required. This is not the proper way to treat patients. Apart from that, they have to pay for three-wheel taxis every time they come here.”

About three-quarters of the 40,000 local villagers are agricultural labourers or small farmers who own small plots of land. Another 10 percent are fishermen. To pay 60 or 70 rupees ($US0.60 or 70 cents) for a single taxi trip is a heavy burden.

Kanapathipillai Chandradevi, who was at the hospital seeking treatment for her seven-month-old baby, said: “This is my third visit to the hospital. I come from Karaithivu, 4 km away from here. I have to come at night again to get the next injection. The required medicine is not available here and I have to buy it from outside for 78 rupees. It is difficult.”

Hospital staff members explained that they have not been able to start a maternity ward because there are no sterilisation facilities. Pregnant mothers have to be transferred to other hospitals, but that is also a problem. The 20-year-old ambulance tends to break down along the way. One nurse, M I. Sithyraheela, complained: “We don’t have enough instruments to provide basic treatment.” Another nurse, M I. Inulrila, said all their uniforms were washed away by the tsunami, yet the government had not provided any replacements.

Dressing wounds in tents

We also visited Karaithivu hospital, which is temporarily conducted in a small building. Bahirathy Thamilvanan said: “We don’t have enough facilities here. Before the tsunami struck, there were two medical officers. But now there is only one medical officer. One nurse and an attendant were killed by the tsunami, but have not been replaced. From 60 beds, now there are only 17 beds.”

There are just two wards—one male and one female. Small children are in the female ward alongside patients with infectious diseases. When we visited the ward, it was overcrowded, with two patients in every bed. A young mother, A.R. Rajani, who was nursing her small child with a fever, said that because of the congested conditions, “diseases spread among the patients”. She also complained about the lack of toilet facilities.

Because there was not enough space in the temporary building, the dressing room consisted of an outside tent. But it was so hot inside the tent that wounds were dressed under the shade of a tree.

Maheswary Thedsanamoorthy, a Family Health Officer (FHO), said: “All my personal belongings were destroyed by the tsunami, together with my house. But I came to work four days after the tsunami. My husband and I are still living in temporary shelter with two children. Without any basic facilities it is difficult to come to work. There is no place at the hospital to even change uniforms.”

She complained that the government had done nothing to rebuild their lives. It had promised to lend one year’s salary to public servants affected by the tsunami. “Though we applied, still we didn’t get it.”

When the waves struck, ambulance driver Mohanakumar was taking a seriously-ill patient from Karaithivu hospital to Kalmunai hospital, even though he was not on duty. “If I had been at home, I could have saved my wife and daughter. The ambulance was saved but not my family. Yet, our [health] department is doing nothing to improve our situation.” He said it was not easy to look after his surviving two school-age children on his monthly salary of 8,000 rupees ($US80).

At Sainthamaruthu district hospital we found that there was no medical officer, only two RMOs (registered medical officers). Dr M.A.H. Sharook, a dental surgeon, was the acting DMO (district medical officer). The hospital was temporarily conducted in a building belonging to the Kalmunai municipality—its third site in six months. Earlier, it was shifted to GMMS School and then a mosque, Sinna Palli.

Before the December 26 disaster the hospital had four wards, with 80 beds catering to around 50,000 people. Now it has just three beds and only the outpatients department is functioning. The dressing room is conducted in a tent.

Dr Sharook said: “All the medical equipment was destroyed, along with the hospital, by the tsunami. The government has only provided an ambulance. We still don’t have a place to rebuild the hospital. The municipal commissioner said he had no objection to providing a piece of Kalmunai municipal ground to rebuild the hospital. But official approval has to be given by the governor of the northeast provincial council. Still we haven’t received it.”

If the government does not allocate this ground, it will be difficult to find an alternative site. There is no unused land available, only paddy fields. Acquiring and refilling them will be costly.

L.M. Niyaz, a male nurse, told us: “After the tsunami, the regional health administration attempted to close the hospital. One officer said that Ashorff Memorial hospital was near and could be used by the people around here. It is only because of the local people that this hospital re-opened. They organised the place. But without a medical officer, only the outpatients department is operating. It is six months from the tsunami, but neither the government nor any politician has taken any action to restore the proper functioning of the hospital.”

Mental health problems

Mental health is another area of official neglect. Many psychiatric disorders are developing among the victims of the tsunami.

Dr Fazal, the medical officer of health (MOH) at Kalmunai district hospital, said: “Tsunami victims have many mental health problems that should be addressed immediately. Otherwise they will face more problems. Many more patients are coming to our mental health unit, which is the only one operating along a 65 km coastal belt, than before the tsunami.

“When people are crowded together, when one family—husband, wife, children, father-in-law, mother-in-law—is living in one room, it makes them mentally depressed. These issues should be addressed. There should be more community centres and mental health centres to help elderly people, women and children.

“People have started to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which comes six months after facing a major tragedy. Unconsciously, people are trying to avoid facing the same situation. Some don’t want to see the sea. They have flashbacks of tidal waves, nightmares and cry or wake up at night.

“Usually the victims won’t come to clinics. Their friends or relatives have to bring them. When people have flashbacks and nightmares they start to behave in strange ways. Most of them can overcome this with counselling, but there are only two or three trained counsellors for about 400,000 people in the region. We don’t have a single psychiatric consultant here, and only one mental health doctor.”

Dr Fazal added: “Our mobile clinics are getting a lot of psychosomatic patients—those who complain of various illnesses but do not have any physical symptoms related to their complaints. We have treated about 50-60 such patients at a mobile clinic in one refugee camp.”

“According to WHO criteria, 5 to 10 percent of the affected population will develop mental illnesses. When you consider the affected population, this is a large number. But only two or three PTSD patients have come to a clinic. We have done research and found that many patients are seeking the help of faith-healers. The suicide rate is also rising. As far as I know, there have been 10 reported cases of attempted suicide and two deaths.”

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Crime-poverty link

Daily News: 05/08/2005" BY CHANDRA Edirisuriya

A perusal of the daily newspapers reveals that crime is prevalent mostly among the poor - "the wretched of the earth."

The tragedy of it is that most of these crimes, such as murder, are committed under sudden provocation on the spur of the moment while crimes among the rich are pre-meditated.

Suicide, the attempt to commit which is a chargeable offence, is also mostly prevalent among the poor, backward sections of society.

People below the poverty line are backward in many ways. Their economic plight makes them a frustrated lot. Their education too is interrupted owning to poverty. They being unable to have a square meal makes them physically unfit and therefore mentally imbalanced. They are far removed from intellectual and cultural pursuits.

They also lack other basic needs like decent clothing and shelter. That is exactly why in countries where there are planned economies the providing of the basic needs - food, clothing and shelter is given priority.

The Buddha never preached to a starving man. The Buddha commiserated with the poor but never condoned the commission of sin and admonished all irrespective of economic status to observe the Five Precepts.

The kings at times and even thereafter looked after the people as a father would look after his children. They went incognito to see whether the domain was administered properly. Even today in most countries the rulers are very close to the people.

Very recently Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economist of the calibre of Dr. Amartya Sen, whose forte was advocating elimination of poverty, told Collectors to implement a new deal for rural India.

"You have a unique opportunity in mediating social action for development. The structures of Panchayati Raj are in place but they need to be infused with vitality. These organisations enable you to mobilise collective action for development.

"India's strategic resource is its people. India has a billion opportunities in its people and you must see them so," he told them.

"Be sensitive enough to contribute to creating a just society. Be modest and lead decent but simple lifestyles eschewing conspicuous consumption and extravagant living. Have concern for those who work for you and inspire them through example," he concluded.

Conspicuous consumption, pecuniary emulation among others are classic concepts enunciated by the American "Marx", Thorstein Veblen, in his landmark thesis "The theory of the Leisure Class."

The State has the responsibility to look after all its subjects not simply the haves. The have nots need guidance at every step. The State must see to it that there are no idlers.

The maxim that one must move his hands to move his mouth is very sound economic thinking. A man who is engaged in a fruitful occupation will never have the time nor the inclination to be of criminal behaviour.

A household is an institution that needs be run full time. A responsible father and a caring mother will always think of the welfare of the children.

If they are engaged in some economic activity they will consequently have an income to bring up the children. Members of a happy household will always engage in activities that will increase their happiness such as religious and cultural pursuits and form habits like reading.

In contrast, the situation today is such that it has become fertile ground for the proliferation of crime.

Two incidents have been reported in the newspapers very recently of the paternal uncle raping the 11 year old niece and the maternal uncle raping the 13 year niece.

If these two able bodied men were working in their fields or engaged in any other physically exerting activity, if they were capable of appreciating nature and if they were aware of our cultural traditions nourished by one of the most refined philosophies ever known to man, Buddhism, they would never have descended so low.

Punishing them by sending them to jail, imposing fines on them and ordering them to pay damages is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The newspapers also reported of a father-in-law setting the daughter-in-law on fire and meeting with his own death when running away from the scene of the crime by being knocked down by a vehicle.

Then again, there was a case of the mother-in-law harassing the daughter-in-law with an infant and an 11 year child. Unable to bear the harassment because even her husband was misled by his mother to believe that his wife was a worthless person she leaves with the two children to her mother's house.

The husband goes to the house and invites his wife to come back with the two children. She refuses and thereafter the husband takes the elder child to his house. The wife in desperation jumps into a well with the younger child in her arms.

These and thousands of other similar incidents reported and sometimes unreported reflect very badly on the present social order. Guidance that should be provided to these backward people by the religions and the political leadership is sorely lacking. The not so fortunate have gone astray like parentless and guardianless children.

The role that law enforcement arms of the State can play in this regard has been demonstrated recently. Of late there has been tremendous success in controlling and bringing to book the underworld elements and also detecting drug offenders. The 119 service of the police is also of immense help to the innocents harassed by criminal elements

The latest innovation by the Police to visit every home to control crime by handling the problems of each household that can lead to crime is indeed very commendable.

This will bring solace to hundreds of thousands of our unfortunate brethren who are drawn to crime through poverty, ignorance and for lack of proper guidance and succour.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

ITI develops low cost animal feed from fish waste

Daily News: 05/08/2005"

Researchers at the Food Technology Division of the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) have developed a protein rich low cost feed / feed ingredient for pigs using fish waste.

This value added product known as fish silage was prepared via a chemical process where the fish waste is converted into thick slurry by totally solubilising the tissues resulting in a homogeneous feed.

The fish silage so prepared has several advantages. It is a protein supplement for livestock, especially for pigs and as the proteins are present in a partially hydrolysed state it is easy to digest and absorb. The silage also acts as a chemo-attractant (feeding stimulant) due to the high amount of free amino acids. Additionally the product has a shelf life of about two years and will not putrefy under existing conditions in local piggeries.

One of the most interesting characteristics of the product is that it has a malt odour rather than the fishy smell and it requires no pre-heating. The fish silage can also be used as an ingredient for poultry and fish feed.

Silage was first developed in 1920s for the preservation of fodder. The technique was then applied to fish waste in 1940 and Denmark is the first country to produce fish silage on a commercial scale.

Fish silage was experimented in Sri Lanka in 1955 and again in 1980 purely for research purposes.However, the research conducted by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) was aimed towards commercialisation from the very beginning. The research was initiated in 1999 when the Ministry of Fisheries of the Western Province requested the Institute to address the issue of fish waste, especially shark heads and viscera.

The ITI research team comprised Senior Research Officer Dr. (Mrs.) Yasmina Sultanbawa (leader), S. S. K. Madage, S. Rajapakse, R. A. P. Perera and D. Medis. The team has already been awarded patent rights for the process for manufacture shark silage.

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Colloquium of judicial officers on tsunami related legal issues

Daily News: 03/08/2005"

The National Centre for Victims of Crime (NCVC) in co-ordination with the Judges Training Institute and the Judicial Service Commission has organized a colloquium of Judicial Officers from the tsunami affected judicial zones on August 6 at the Eden Hotel, Beruwela. 32 Judicial Officers from Kayts to Negombo have been invited.

The primary objective of the colloquium would be to focus judicial attention on the situation of children who have lost one or both parents and whose care custody and welfare are presently regulated under two different legal enactments.

The Children and Young Persons Ordinance and Part II of the Tsunami (Special Provisions) Act No. 16 of 2005. Under the Special Tsunami Law Magistrates are empowered to make foster care orders in respect of children who have lost one or both parents.

A discussion on the International Conventions enacted for the protection of the children, minors would be a subject of discussion led by Margaret Saldin, UNICEF Consultant for Probation and Child Care Services.

A discussion on psychological aspects of children's experience of separation and loss would be facilitated by Dr. Diyanath Samarasinghe, Associate Professor of Psychological Medicine Faculty of Medicine.

Justices J.F. de Soza, Director Judges Institute and Justice P.H.K. Kulatilake, Deputy Director will moderate the seminar. The Convener, Center for Victims of Crime, S.S. Wijeratne will introduce the programme. The programme is supported by the UNICEF.

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