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Colvin Stories



One day, soon after the trade union of Wellawatta Spinning and Weaving Mills, which broke the back of A. E. Goonesinghe’s trade union, was formed, Colvin was travelling in a bus. At the time his face was not well-known and he was merely a name. He found himself sandwiched between two rough looking men. “Ah bung…” said one of them speaking across Colvin. “Who is this Colvin R. De Silva and where does he live?” “I don’t know bung,” replied the other and went on to describe with lurid, blood curdling detail, the horrible things they would do to Colvin, if ever they found him! They happened to be very loyal to Goonesinghe.


The shooting of Govindan, a worker of the Wewassa Estate, set off a wave of strikes all over the hill country estates. The small police party that went to the estate to restore law and order were manhandled by the workers who later released them on the ground that both parties were wage-slaves. Later in the day, the enraged police were back, heavily reinforced and armed to the teeth and 208 estate workers were rounded up and arrested, Colvin appeared for all of them at the Badulla Courts and got them released on personal bail.


During World War II, Colvin and his friends knew that one day, before long, they would be arrested. But they did not want to give the impression that the leaders were hiding in safety and comfort while the innocent party men were harassed. One day Colvin appeared in a court case, when a man, placing a hand on his shoulder, in a grim and familiar voice said, “Colvin! You will have to come with me. You are under arrest!” It was Inspector of Police Poulier, a classmate of Colvin at Royal. “Just a minute Poulier,” Colvin said. “I can’t come just like that. I have a client to defend right now. But the moment that is done, I am all yours.” Once the case was over, Colvin left the courthouse with Inspector Poulier. Within days N.M. Perera, Philip Gunawardena and Edmund Samarakkody joined him in jail. And two years later they made their jailbreak and fled to India.


Colvin went to jail for the sake of the workers of his country and for the country’s freedom from the foreign yoke. He also made tremendous sacrifices, professionally and physically, for the cause he believed in. While in India, evading re-arrest, Colvin, then Govindan, grew a moustache. One day Bernard Soysa was ordered to contact him, at a specific spot in Madras and Bernard was looking all over for him when he heard Colvin’s famous drawl and found Colvin next to him sporting a walrus moustache. “Colvin!” Bernard had said, “I don’t mind a leader who looks like Karl Marx but not one looking like Groucho Marx.”


One day, Colvin said that when he was barely two years old his mother died. A few years later, his father married Colvin’s mother’s younger sister. “Those detestable words ‘step mother’ were never used in our home. And, had she lived, I wonder what form my political career would have taken. She loved us very much and wouldn’t bear to see any of us suffer the most minor injury, discomfort or face the slightest danger. Also, had she seen me dragged off to jail and the awful conditions there, and known when I escaped from jail, went underground and was carrying my life in my hands, she might very well have entreated me to give up politics!”


At the 1947 general elections, Colvin contested the Wellawatte-Galkissa seat from his Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI) of whose local faction, he was leader. In the course of canvassing, he went to an imposing Walawwa of a Gate Mudaliyar and knocked at the door. The laird himself opened the door. “Yes” he barked. Introducing himself, Colvin solicited his vote. “I’ll be damned if I vote for you!” “My dear sir, can I please canvass your wife’s and daughter’s votes?” So in soft measured tones he explained the policies of his party, with the mother and the daughter asking intelligent and penetrating questions from him, like the party’s attitude to Buddhism. All this time, the Gate Mudaliyar was seated in an armchair, within hearing distance, puffing a cigar. Tea was served and the candidate rose to leave. The Mudaliyar accompanied him to the gate and said, “I am going to vote for you.” Colvin bowed and said “Thank you sir!”

During one of those bouts for the Wellawatta-Galkissa seat in Parliament, between Colvin and S. de S. Jayasinghe, S. de S., speaking at one of his election meetings, said confidently “Nonawaruni! Mahathwaruni! I am winning this election, for my name begins with ‘Jaya’, Jaya for victory!” Speaking at one of his meetings a few days later, Colvin said “Come election day, I shall be the winner, for my name ends with ‘Win’, Col-Win!”


During the 1947 General Elections, a large number of independent candidates contested, whom Colvin labelled ‘three-headed donkeys’. Colvin was once asked what the best election poster he had ever seen was. He had said that it was the poster Dr. A.P. de Zoysa had published against his rival E.A. Cooray for the Colombo South seat in 1936. His one liner was ‘Eeye Cooray Ada Zoysa’ (punning on Cooray’s initials E.A.).


Once Manori de Silva presided over an election meeting in Galle. She announced the next speaker thus, “Meelangata mage piyawana Colvin sahodaraya katha karanawa etha: (The next speaker is my father, Comrade Colvin). This reminds me of a Communist MP from the South, who once addressed his father “sahodara piyathumani” (Comrade father).

The Sathasivam case had an impact on Colvin’s political fortunes, when some women voted against him, for defending the cricketer Sathasivam who was accused of murdering his wife.


It must be quite a record that a father-in-law, Colvin (Agalawatta), and his two sons-in-law, Sarath Muttetuwegama (Kalawana) and Weerasinghe de Silva (Balapitiya), were sitting together in the same Parliament, along with Colvin’s brother-in-law K. C. de Silva (Katana) in 1970.


One day Colvin was making a speech in the House, when a fledgling MP kept on interrupting him. At last, his patience exhausted Colvin paused, gazed at the young MP in a most thoughtful manner, and said in that devastating drawl of his, “You know Mr. Speaker, in our village a creature with one ‘Molliya’ (hump) is called a buffalo. But I do not know what to call one with many ‘Molliyas’. The heckler was Stanley Molligoda, then MP for Nivitigala.

During the 1977 General election, JR was keen to have two of his friends, Colvin and N.M. in Parliament. So, he fielded two weak candidates for Agalawatta and Yatiyantota electorates. But the two UNP candidates rode on the tidal wave and both were elected with convincing majorities. One day Dr. Arnolis de Silva, father of Colvin, went to meet the Registrar of the Land Registry, Galle, to find that he was on leave. He visited the Registrar again and told him that he came there on Wednesday too. “Yes!” the Registrar said, “I took leave to go to court to watch the famous advocate Dr. Colin R. de Silva defend an accused in a murder case. And, what an experience it was!” The doctor smiled and said “I am Colvin’s father.” The Registrar was delighted to hear it.


One day Colvin argued an appeal in a case of profiteering in sugar, and for some inexplicable reason, he kept using the term ‘red sugar’ when ‘brown sugar’ was the more popular one.

When he continued to use this term, the Supreme Court Judge, who hailed from Colvin’s own village, commented drily “Dr. Silva, there is too much red in this court.” And gazing pointedly at the Judge’s red robe, Colvin cracked back: “Yes my lord, and that’s the colour that gives much grace and dignity to your lordship.”


Colvin was defending an accused in a murder trial and had addressed the court for three consecutive days. As he concluded his address on the third day, Colvin said, “My lord, I hope to finish my address tomorrow.” “You are hoping, Dr. Silva” said the presiding judge E.H.T. Gunasekera, “I am praying.”


Colvin had a flair for Johnsonian English of learned length and thunderous in sound. He would use the word ‘pagination’ for a page in a book or the word ‘testification’ for the evidence of a witness. One day Colvin was making submissions in a case at the Nuwara-Eliya magistrate’s court, defending some estate workers of Agarapathana who were indicted, when the trial judge who was an Englishman found it difficult to understand him. So the judge politely told him to use simpler language. “Your honour! I am speaking in your mother tongue and not mine.” “That is so, but please use simple language. Colvin then proceeded to use simpler language but in long sentences, when a red-faced judge postponed the case and adjourned court. At the next trial date, Colvin used simpler language and won the case.


I. W. Panditha who was a leading lawyer in Galle, was once the private secretary of P.H. William Silva, the first MP for the Ambalangoda-Balapitiya seat in 1947. At the elections held that year, several persons, including Panditha, were charged with damaging the motorcar of a rival candidate. And they were all found guilty in the magistrate’s court. They appealed against the verdict and Colvin, a comrade-in-arms of the BLPI and also a fellow MP of William Silva, was retained to appear in the appellate court. On the morning of the date of appeal William Silva and Panditha went to Colvin’s house. He was getting ready to go to court. He asked them whether they had had their breakfast, but did not discuss any matter pertaining to the case. Colvin got the conviction of the accused quashed in the appellate court, as not all persons mentioned in the complaint to the police had been charged in the magistrate’s court.


In another case, Colvin admitted that his clients sold sprats at the price stated in the plaint, but certainly not ‘sparts’, whatever it may be, as referred to in the Gazette notification.


Colvin once said that H.V. Perera K.C. was one of the best lawyers he had known. One day he had been at the Law Library when H.V. had come up to him and said “Colvin! I have just been having a very heated argument with (mentioning the name of a leading member of the Bar at the time) over the interpretation of a certain law. And he said, ‘H.V., your view may be correct, but so is mine!’ Surely Colvin, there are not several correct views of the law? There is only one correct view, and that is the view that fits into the general fabric of the law!” Colvin then could not but think of a more brilliant definition than that of what the law is all about? And that it is the genius of H.V. Perera, that gives him the ability to express the most profound thoughts with utmost clarity.


Here are some more H.V. stories. H.V. was one of the most brilliant students to pass through the portals of Royal College, and at the London Inter Arts Exam he won a scholarship to Cambridge. H.V.’s father was a surveyor, who had done a lot of survey work for Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike. Meeting him one day, H.V.’s father had told Sir Solomon this good news. “Cambridge? Your son is going to Cambridge? I say Perera don’t be damned silly, ask your son to do what he can over here in Ceylon. Oxford and Cambridge are for the Bandaranaikes and the Obeysekeras!” said an arrogant Sir Solomon.


As mentioned above H.V.’s father was a surveyor. One day, when in court, he saw some of his father’s surveyor friends. He then walked up to them and asked why they were in court. They had then said that they were there on a charge of contempt of court over some court commissioned surveys. After getting the facts of the case, H.V. appeared for them and got them out. H.V. once appeared before Justices Garvin and Akbar and had come to the appellate court fully prepared for a case which, if taken up, would last a few days. However, this case was allowed to stand down and another case of his was taken up. It was a case which he had not studied. Undaunted, he then summarised the plaint to the Bench and read the defendant’s answer and the issues involved. When one of the judges asked him what the trial judge held on issue 4, he proceeded to read the entire judgement, saying that it would be best to do so. Thereafter, he put his brief aside and argued a matter of law and won his case.

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If you have a heart, say no to tobacco!



BY Dr. Gotabhya Ranasinghe
Consultant in General & Interventional Cardiology, NHSL

Tobacco harms practically all of the body’s organs and is a key risk factor for heart disease!

Smoking can impact all aspects of the cardiovascular system, including the heart, blood, and blood vessels. I know from my experience over the years that about 25% of the patients who seek treatment from me for heart conditions smoke.

Is there a strong link between smoking and heart disease?

Of course, there is! Smoking definitely contributes to heart disease. The majority of smokers experience heart attacks.

Some claim that the only people at risk for heart attacks or strokes are those who are classified as heavy smokers. Although this is the case, did you know that smoking even one or two cigarettes a day might result in heart attacks?

Young smokers are on the rise, which unfortunately brings more cardiac patients between the ages of 20 and 25 to the cardiology unit.

Why is tobacco poison for your heart?

The harmful mix of more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, including nicotine and carbon monoxide, can interfere with vital bodily functions when inhaled.

When you breathe, your lungs absorb oxygen and pass it on to your heart, which then pumps this oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body through the blood arteries. However, when the blood that is circulated to the rest of the body picks up the toxins in cigarette smoke when you breathe it in, your heart and blood arteries are harmed by these substances, which could result in cardiovascular diseases.

What does cigarette smoke do to your heart?

Atherosclerosis (Building up of cholesterol deposits in the coronary artery)

Endothelium dysfunction leads to atherosclerosis. The inner layer of coronary arteries or the arterial wall of the heart both function improperly and contribute to artery constriction when you smoke cigarettes. As a

result, the endothelium-cell barrier that separates the arteries is breached, allowing cholesterol plaque to build up. It’s crucial to realize that smoking increases the risk of endothelial dysfunction in even those who have normal cholesterol levels.

Heart Attacks

The plaque accumulated in the arteries can burst as a result of continued smoking or other factors like emotional stress or strenuous exercises. Heart attacks occur when these plaque rupture and turn into clots.

Coronary artery spasm

Did you know you can experience a spasm immediately after a puff of smoke?

A brief tightening or constriction of the muscles in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the heart is referred to as a coronary artery spasm. Part of the heart’s blood flow can be impeded or reduced by a spasm. A prolonged spasm can cause chest pain and possibly a heart attack.

People who usually experience coronary artery spasms don’t have typical heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. However, they are frequent smokers.


An erratic or irregular heartbeat is known as an arrhythmia. The scarring of the heart muscle caused by smoking can cause a fast or irregular heartbeat.Additionally, nicotine can cause arrhythmia by speeding up the heart rate.

One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking!

Did you know the positive impacts start to show as soon as you stop smoking?

After 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate begins to slow down.

In just 12 hours after quitting, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal, allowing more oxygen to reach your heart and other vital organs.

12 to 24 hours after you stop smoking, blood pressure levels return to normal.

Your risk of developing coronary heart disease decreases by 50% after one year of no smoking.

So let us resolve to protect and improve heart health by saying no to tobacco!

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Religious cauldron being stirred; filthy rich in abjectly poor country



What a ho ha over a silly standup comedian’s stupid remarks about Prince Siddhartha. I have never watched this Natasha Edirisuriya’s supposedly comic acts on YouTube or whatever and did not bother to access derogatory remarks she supposedly introduced to a comedy act of hers that has brought down remand imprisonment on her up until June 6. Speaking with a person who has his ear to the ground and to the gossip grape wine, I was told her being remanded was not for what she said but for trying to escape consequences by flying overseas – to Dubai, we presume, the haven now of drug kingpins, money launderers, escapees from SL law, loose gabs, and all other dregs of society.

Of course, derogatory remarks on any religion or for that matter on any religious leader have to be taboo and contraveners reprimanded publicly and perhaps imposed fines. However, imprisonment according to Cassandra is too severe.

Just consider how the Buddha treated persons who insulted him or brought false accusations against him including the most obnoxious and totally improbable accusation of fatherhood. Did he even protest, leave along proclaim his innocence. Did he permit a member of the Sangha to refute the accusations? Not at all! He said aloud he did not accept the accusations and insults. Then he asked where the accusations would go to? Back to sender/speaker/accuser. That was all he said.

Thus, any person or persons, or even all following a religion which is maligned should ignore what was said. Let it go back and reside with the sayer/maligner. Of course, the law and its enforcers must spring to action and do the needful according to the law of the land.

One wonders why this sudden spurt of insults arrowed to Buddhism. Of course, the aim is to denigrate the religion of the majority in the land. Also perhaps with ulterior motives that you and Cass do not even imagine. In The Island of Wednesday May 31, MP Dilan Perera of Nidahas Janatha Sabawa (difficult to keep pace with birth of new political parties combining the same words like nidahas and janatha to coin new names) accused Jerome Fernando and Natasha E as “actors in a drama orchestrated by the government to distract people from the real issues faced by the masses.”

We, the public, cannot simply pooh pooh this out of hand. But is there a deeper, subtler aim embedded in the loose talk of Jerome and his followers? Do we not still shudder and shake with fear and sympathy when we remember Easter Sunday 2019 with its radical Muslim aim of causing chaos? It is said and believed that the Muslim radicals wanted not only to disrupt Christian prayer services on a holy day but deliver a blow to tourism by bombing hotels.

Then their expectation was a backlash from the Sinhalese which they hoped to crush by beheading approaching Sinhala avenging attackers with swords they had made and stacked. This is not Cass’ imagination running riot but what a Catholic Priest told us when we visited the Katuwapitiya Church a couple of weeks after the dastardly bombing.

It is believed and has been proclaimed there was a manipulating group led by one demented person who egged the disasters on with the double-edged evil aim of disrupting the land and then promising future security if … Hence, we cannot be so naïve as to believe that Jerome and Natasha were merely careless speakers. Who knows what ulterior moves were dictated to by power-mad black persons and made to brew in the national cauldron of discontent? Easiest was to bring to the boil religious conflict, since the races seem to be co-living harmoniously, mostly after the example of amity set before the land and internationally of Sri Lankans of all races, religions, social statuses and ages being able to unite during the Aragalaya.

We have already suffered more than our fair share of religious conflict. The LTTE exploded a vehicle laden with bombs opposite the Dalada Maligawa; shot at the Sacred Bo Tree, massacred a busload of mostly very young Buddhist monks in Aranthalawa. This was on June 2, 1987, particularly pertinent today. They killed Muslims at prayer in a mosque in Katankudy after ethnically cleansing Jaffna and adjoining areas of Muslim populations.

The Sinhalese, led by ultra-nationalists and drunken goons ravaged Tamils in 1983 and then off and on conflicted with Muslims. Hence the need to nip all and every religious conflict in the bud; no preachers/ Buddhist monks/overzealous lay persons, or comedians and media persons to be allowed to malign religions and in the name of religion cause conflict, least of all conflagration.

Comes to mind the worst case of religious intolerance, hate, revenge and unthinkable cruelty. Cass means here the prolonged fatwa declared against Salman Rushdie (1947-), British American novelist of Indian origin who had a ransom set aside for his life declared by the then leader of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, soon after Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses was published in 1988. The British government diligently ensured his safety by hiding him in various places. After nearly two decades of tight security around him, he ventured to the US on an invited visit. He settled down in New York, believing he was now safe from the fatwa and mad men. It was not to be. In New York on stage to deliver a lecture in 2022, Rushdie was set upon by a lone assailant who stabbed him in the eye, blinding him in that eye and necessitating his wearing an eye band. What on earth was his crime? Writing a fictitious story to succeed many he had written and won prizes for like the Booker.

Religious fanaticism must never be permitted to raise its devilish head wherever, whenever.

Farmer’s fabulously rich son

Often quoted is the phrase coined by the Tourist Board, Cass believes, to describe Sri Lanka. Land like no other. It was completely complementary and justified when it was first used. We were an almost unique island where every prospect pleased, particularly its smiling, easy going people and the wonderful terrain of the land with varying altitudes, climates and fauna and flora.

Then with the decline of the country engineered and wrought by evil, self-gratifying politicians, their sidekicks and dishonest bureaucrats, disparities became stark. Sri Lanka is now in the very dumps: bankrupt, its social, economic and sustainability fabric in shreds and people suffering immensely. But since it is a land like no other with a different connotation, only certain of its population suffer and undergo deprivation and hardship. Others live grand even now and have money stashed high in–house and overseas in banks, businesses and dubious off shore dealings. Some lack the few rupees needed to travel in a bus but most political bods drive around in luxury cars; infants cry for milk and children for a scrap of bread or handful of rice. Plain tea is drunk by many to quell pangs of hunger while the corrupt VIPs quaff champaign and probably have exotic foods flown over from gourmet venues.

And most of those who drive luxury cars, eat and drink exotically and live the GOOD life, did not inherit wealth, nor earn it legitimately. Young men who had not a push bike to ride or Rs 25 to go on a school trip to Sigiriya are now fabulously wealthy. Cass does not want to list how they demonstrate immense wealth possession now.

One case in the news is Chaminda Sirisena, who seems to be very, very wealthy, wearing a ring that is valued at Rs 10 million, and then losing it to cause severe damnation to its stealer. Goodness! Cass cannot even imagine such a ring. Well, he lost it and 5,000 US $ and Rs 100,000. The suspect is his personal security guard. Having never heard of this brother of the ex Prez and he not being the paddy multimillionaire owning hotels, Cass googled. Here is short reply, “Chaminda Sirisena. Owner Success Lanka Innovative Company, Sri Lanka, 36 followers, 36 connections. (The last two bits of info completely incomprehensible and no desire at all to verify). He sure is comparable to Virgin Airways Branson and other top global entrepreneurs to become so wealthy being a son of a man who served in WWII and was given a small acreage to cultivate paddy in Polonnaruwa. When his brother Maitripala became Prez of Sri Lanka it was with pride the comparison was brought in to the American President who moved from log cabin to the White House.

Hence isn’t our beloved, now degraded Sri Lanka, a land like no other with Midases around?

We now have another maybe thief to worry about. No further news of the poor mother whose life was quashed for the sake of a gold ring, leaving three children motherless and probably destitute. When we were young, we were told very early on that if we lost anything it was more our fault; we were careless and placed temptation to less fortunate persons. The Tamil woman who died after being in remand was such a one who needed extra protection from temptation. To Cass her employer is more to blame for the probable theft and for the tragedy that followed.

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Snakes of Sri Lanka



By Ifham Nizam

Snake bites are a serious public health issue in Sri Lanka. It has been estimated that nearly 80,000 snake bites occur here every year.Due to fear and poor knowledge, hundreds of thousands of snakes, mostly non-venomous ones, are killed by humans each year.The state spends more than USD 10 million a year on treating snake bite patients.

According to health sector statistics between 30,000 and 40,000 snake bite patients receive treatment in hospitals annually, says Dr. Anjana Silva, who is Professor in Medical Parasitology, Head/ Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University.

To date, 93 land and 15 sea snake species have been recorded from Sri Lanka. While all 15 sea snakes are venomous, only 20% of the land snakes are venomous or potentially venomous.

The term, ‘venomous snakes’ does not mean they cause a threat to human lives every time they cause a bite. The snakes of highest medical importance are the venomous ones which are common or widespread and cause numerous snakebites, resulting in severe envenoming, disability or death,” says Dr. Silva who is also Adjunct Senior Research Fellow – Monash Venom Group,Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University and Research Associate- South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya.

Only five snakes could be considered to be of the highest medical importance in Sri Lanka: Russell’s viper, Indian krait, Sri Lankan cobra, Merrem’s hump-nosed viper and Saw-scaled viper. All but Merrem’s hump-nosed vipers are covered by Indian Polyvalent antivenom, the only treatment available for snake bites in Sri Lanka.

There are another five snake species with secondary medical importance, which are venomous snakes and capable of causing morbidity, disability or death, but the bites are less frequent due to various reasons (Sri Lankan krait, Highland Hump-nosed viper, Lowland hump-nosed pit viper, Green-pit viper and Beaked sea snake)

The snakes of highest medical importance in Sri Lanka are as follows:

  1. Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) (Sinhala: Thith Polanga/ Tamil: Kannadi viriyan)

Medically the most important snake in Sri Lanka. It is found throughout South Asia. It is responsible for about 30% of snake bites in Sri Lanka and also about 70% of deaths due to snake bites in Sri Lanka.

Some 2-5% bites by Russell’s viper are fatal. Widely distributed throughout the country up to the elevations of 1,500m from sea level. Highly abundant in paddy fields and farmlands but also found in dry zone forests and scrub lands. Bites occur more during the beginning and end of the farming seasons in dry zone. It can grow up to 1.3m in length. Most bites are reported during day time.

Over 85% of the bites are at the level of or below the ankle. It is a very aggressive snake when provoked. Spontaneous bleeding due to abnormalities in blood clotting and kidney failure have life-threatening effects.

Dr. Anjana Silva

  1. The Sri Lankan Russell’s vipers cause mild paralysis as well, which is not life threatening. Indian Polyvalent antivenom covers Russell’s viper envenoming. Deaths could be due to severe internal bleeding and acute renal failure.
  2. Indian Krait (Bungarus caeruleus) (Sinhala: Thel Karawala/ Maga Maruwa; Tamil: Yettadi virian/ Karuwelan Pambu)

It is distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is found across the lowland semi-arid, dry and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka. Almost absent in the wet zone. Usually, a non-offensive snake during the daytime; however, it could be aggressive at night.

Common kraits slither into human settlements at night looking for prey. People who sleep on the ground are prone to their bites.

Most common krait bites do occur at night. Bites are more common during the months of September to December when the north-east monsoon is active. Most hospital admissions of krait bites follow rainfall, even following a shower after several days or months without rain.

Since most bites do occur while the victim is asleep, the site of bite could be in any part of the body.

As bite sites have minimal or no effects, it would be difficult to find an exact bite site in some patients. Bite site usually is painless and without any swelling. Causes paralysis in body muscles which can rapidly lead to life threatening respiratory paralysis (breathing difficulty).

  1. Sri Lankan Cobra (Naja polyoccelata; Naja naja) Sinhala: Nagaya; Tami: Nalla pambu

Sri Lankan cobra is an endemic species in Sri Lanka. It is common in lowland (<1200m a.s.l), close to human settlements. Cobras are found on plantations and in home gardens, forests, grasslands and paddy fields. It is the only snake with a distinct hood in Sri Lanka.

Hood has a spectacle marking on the dorsal side and has two black spots and the neck usually has three black bands on the ventral side. When alarmed, cobras raise the hood and produce a loud hiss.

Cobra bites could occur below the knee. They are very painful and lead to severe swelling and tissue death around the affected place. Rapidly progressing paralysis could result from bites, sometimes leading to life-threatening respiratory paralysis (breathing difficulty). Deaths could also be due to cardiac arrest due to the venom effects.

  1. Merrem’s hump-nosed viper (Hypnale hypnale) Sinhala: Polon Thelissa/ Kunakatuwa; Tamil: Kopi viriyan.

Small pit-vipers grow up to 50cm in length. Head is flat and triangular with a pointed and raised snout. They are usually found coiled, they keep the heads at an angle of 45 degrees. Merrem’s Hump-nosed viper (Hypnale hypnale) is the medically most important Hump-nosed viper as it leads to 35-45% of all snake bites in Sri Lanka.

Merrem’s Hump-nosed vipers are very common in home gardens and on plantations and grasslands. Bites often happen during various activities in home gardens and also during farming activities in farmlands in both dry and wet zones. Hands and feet (below the ankle) are mostly bitten. Bites can often lead to local swelling and pain and at times, severe tissue death around the bite site may need surgical removal of dead tissue or even amputations. Rarely, patients could develop mild blood clotting abnormalities and acute kidney failure. Although rare, deaths are reported due to hypnale bites.

  1. Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus), Sinhala: Weli Polanga; Tamil: Surutai Viriyan

This species is widely distributed in South Asia. However, in Sri Lanka, it is restricted to dry coastal regions such as Mannar, Puttalam, Jaffna peninsula and Batticaloa. In Sri Lanka, this snake grows upto 40-50cm. It is a nocturnal snake which is fond of sand dunes close to the beach. It could be found under logs and stones during daytime. Bites are common during January and February.

It is a very aggressive snake. A distinct, white colour ‘bird foot shape’ mark or a ‘diamond shape’ mark could be seen over the head. When alarmed, it makes a hissing sound by rubbing the body scales. Although this snake causes frequent severe envenoming and deaths in other countries, its bites are relatively less severe in Sri Lanka. Bites could lead to mild to moderate swelling and pain on the affected place and blood clotting abnormalities and haemorrhage and rarely it could lead to kidney failure.



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