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AGM of SUCCESS Sri Lanka with a Naval Hero as Chief Guest

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The annual General Meeting of the Society for the Upliftment of Conservation of Cultural, Economic and Social Standards (SUCCESS) was held at the International Buddhist Centre, Wellawatte, on April 5, 2021. The highlight of the event was the person selected to grace the occasion as Chief Guest: Navy Commando Chathura Gamage.

Immense help given

SUCCESS was inaugurated by Prof M B Ariyapala and others in 1995 and has continued doing much to promote the aim and vision of the organization. They work mostly in hamlets marked as threatened villagers during the civil war and these lie principally in Vavuniya, Ampara, Trincomalee and Welioya. The temples in the area are the centres for SUCCESS activities and thus, the villagers being too disadvantaged to do much for the temples, the Organization has helped greatly in reconstruction, expansion and installation of facilities. The village people are helped with frequent medical clinics, which Dr Anula Wijesundere, President of SUCCESS for 22 of its 27-year existence, leads. We know full well how selflessly and diligently she conducted health clinics in the poorest of poor villages, doubly suffering due to proximity to LTTE held areas; with like-minded medical and nursing volunteers.

Additionally, the supply of clean water for drinking and water for households and cultivated fields is a special concern of SUCCESS. Water pumps, containers, pipes and taps are supplied; also tube wells sunk. Children are supplied with school necessities and bicycles so they can attend school notwithstanding very poor bus services in most areas.

Choice of Chief Guest of 2021 AGM

Anula spoke on her choice of invitee to be chief guest which was unanimously approved by the Committee. “l first came to know of Chathura’s bravery when I read an article by Admiral Ravindran Wijegunaratne in the Sunday Island of May 26, 2020.” We all agree he is undoubtedly an admirable man, intrepid and loyal to this fellow sailors, and the country.

Just as Dr Wijesundere is well known due to her social service, her commitment to the country and support given to the armed forces, and being an excellent specialist physician; so also well known is Navy Hero Chathura Gamage.

On joining the Navy when the civil war was raging, he was selected with a few others for special training to man small boats that were seen to be more capable than larger vessels of hitting enemy craft the LTTE had successfully built. The trainees were selected for their stature, demonstrated fearlessness and determination. Thus the trained Commandos of the Special Boat Squadron did deadly damage to the LTTE at sea, moving silently into enemy territory at night. Excellent night vision was a requirement. They dealt severe blows to LTTE ships, particularly those smuggling in arms and ammunition. To cap it all, they were almost invisible and escaped detection, capture or being blown up at sea. Victories were many – in the Jaffna Lagoon, Pooneryn and Karainagar.

Unfortunately during a battle between Tamil Tiger ships and the Special Boat Squadron, , Chathura was injured and his boat began drifting to enemy territory. Some of his mates escaped and swam to safety; a few died; and Chathura decided to escape capture by risking his life attempting to swim with a grievous injury. He had been shot in the abdomen. Holding his protruding intestines, he swam two and a half hours until picked-up by a government boat. He spent nine months in hospitals in Trincomalee, Colombo and the Army Hospital. He was first operated on by surgeon Dr Thavendran in Trincomalee. Thereafter he had to undergo several surgeries by Dr S S Jayaratne and Dr Indrani Amarasinghe who performed specialized bowel surgery so he could take solid food after five years of being solely on liquid nourishment. These two doctors were at the SUCCESS AGM.

Another even harder blow was losing his best friend, Sudesh  Dalugama, in a sea battle. This was one reason why, when only partly recovered, he returned to the North and the Navy and worked administratively and as advisor. In his address at the AGM he thanked the doctors who saved his life and got him back to near normalcy, especially the skilled surgeons, both Tamil and Sinhalese.

Chathura harboured this one ambition from a very tender age to join the Armed Forces. Even now, though retired and living in Ratnapura, he gives of his know-how and experience as a Motivator to the SL Navy

Dr Anula Wijesundere presented the year’s work done by SUCCESS followed by a video on the assistance given to the S L Army. She delivered a citation on the Chief Guest which visibly moved him to tears. He then addressed those present, often turning emotional. After tumultuous applause for Chathura, the Ranaviru song. ‘Muhuda de be Karana’ was sung by all present. Chathura was almost mobbed with everyone, young and old, wanting to speak with him. Anula says: “No other chief Guest at our AGMs for the past 27 years received such warmth, affection and adulation.”

N P Wanasundera



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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