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Dr. Gamini Gunatillake’s Extra Mile launched in Colombo

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The author, Dr. Gamini Gunatillake presents the first copy of the book at the launch to Mr. S. Skandakumar

The Extra Mile: A surgeon’s experience

s, an autobiographical book by Dr Gamini Goonetilleke FRCS, was launched recently at the Auditorium of The College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka, Colombo 7 in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering. The book reflects four decades of experience of Dr Goonetilleke, a Senior Consultant Surgeon, narrating his life and work, during the armed conflict as the only surgeon at the Base Hospital in Polonnaruwa and later in hospitals in the combat zone especially the Palaly Hospital in the High Security Zone in Jaffna. A few of Gamini’s patients now recovered were also present as special guests. The speakers at the launch were Somasundaram Skandakumar, eminent diplomat and philanthropist, Dr Anula Wijesundere, a celebrated physician in Sri Lanka and the President of The College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka, Dr Satish Goonesinghe and the author of course.

Following is the full text of speech by chief guest S. Skandakumar: When my Sandhurst trained brother-in-law, Maj Gen Balaratnarajah, one time Commander of the Volunteers, and  Chief of Staff, of the Army said to me  that there was a  Sri Lankan doctor doing some amazing work with their injured soldiers, I could not have imagined  that 30 years later, I would be speaking at the launch of that surgeon’s second book, the “Extra Mile.”

 I am both humbled and honoured  Gamini, that you invited me to speak today, and thank you for the opportunity.

 In an extraordinary journey of a never ending mile, surrounded by chilling experiences, Gamini, to quote from his own words, learnt lessons, overcame obstacles, crossed bridges, took risks, embarked on adventures to achieve his goals.

Today having accomplished all he set out to do, he stands tall, bearing true testimony to that ever famous song by Frank Sinatra, ” I did it My Way “

His professionalism was enhanced by his compassion, and consequently his treatment of his patients revolved exclusively round the nature of their injuries and not their identity.

 A truly outstanding product of St Joseph’s College , he entered medical College with humility and excelled in the sporting field there too.

He appreciated the opportunity his country gave him to become a doctor, and so when he qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in the U.K., and had an attractive horizon ahead of him overseas, he chose to return to Sri Lanka to serve the people and repay his debt to the country he loved.

 When he completed his challenging and exhausting journey as a professional, he retired with the same humility , a true hallmark of greatness.

 A devout Christian, Gamini believed that his hands were blessed by the Heavenly Father to heal the sick and he remained unfailingly faithful to the Oath of Hippocrates that he took on graduating. He was inspired in his noble work by his faith in God and the support of his dear wife Shelendra and gifted children who must have endured many a sleepless night as Gamini battled relentlessly in serious conflict zones to save lives and limb.

The sorrow, pain, anxiety, anger and outrage that he witnessed first hand led him to lament, how a whole generation had to suffer for the follies and misdeeds of power hungry  racial politicians. Yes marginalization had led to radicalization and discrimination to extremism, at phenomenal cost and loss of lives to the nation.

 Today we stand united as a Nation after having been brought down to our knees in our personal circumstances, by these destructive racial divides, among other insidious conduct , and the ensuing strength is there for the world to see.

 The horrific injuries he encountered that he on occasion innovated and improvised to heal, pained him as much when he knew that those injuries were inflicted by one Lankan on another.

 He was always blessed in his noble intentions  because they  were  matched by sincere action. The proof of this was seen in the second lease of life he provided for many given up for dead, and  some who benefited from those gifted hands have shown their gratitude by being here today.

Among them is Charith , who having lost an arm decapitated from his shoulder, and rendered totally  blind in a mine explosion, recovered  to marry  and father three children.

 I was photographed with him on arrival and the picture is one I will frame and hang in my home till God calls time on my life.

 Thank you Gamini for demonstrating the true meaning of being a Patriot of Our country, and the Extra Mile is indeed a truly absorbing journey of immense courage, innovation, commitment and compassion, that should be experienced by every Lankan.

 So to you my friend, a medical icon and a gift from God, whose thoughts when in a place of worship, have always matched his deeds when outside it, I join a multitude of those less fortunate than us, and friends, to say thank you and may God’s blessings continue to be with you and your lovely family.



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SJB MPs tell Speaker they received death threats

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Vote in House to elect President:

By Saman Indrajith

Three SJB MPs told Parliament yesterday that they were threatened with death on the eve before the recent vote in Parliament to elect the President.

MPs Wasantha Yapabandara, Tilak Rajapaksa and Chaminda Wijesiri said that they had received death threats and demanded to know the legitimacy of the recent election of a new President by Parliament.

Badualla District SJB MP Wijesiri said that votes had been solicited from MPs by offering bribes and those who did not take bribes were threatened and intimidated to vote for Wickremesinghe.

“The votes were obtained by issuing death threats on MPs. Therefore, one has to question the legitimacy of the recent poll held in Parliament to elect a new President,” MP Wijesiri said.

The MP demanded that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena should order an investigation into death threats. “Similarly, the Speaker should inform this House whether the election held in Parliament to elect a new President is legitimate or not,” he said.

Kandy District SLPP MP Wasantha Yapabandara said an unidentified caller had asked him to resign from Parliament or face death. “I have handed over recordings of the conversation to you and I request you to carry out an investigation into this matter,” the MP told the Chair.

Digamadulla District SLPP MP Tilak Rajapsksa also called for an investigation into threats faced by MPs.

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Govt. announces 75% power tariff increase

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Janaka Ratnayake

By Ifham Nizam

The Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) yesterday said that the new electricity tariff hike of 75 percent would be effective from today.

The electricity bill of the consumers who use up to 30 units per month will increase by Rs. 198.

The average monthly electricity bill for those who consume up to 60 units will be increased by some Rs. 200.

Although the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had sought an increase of 276% for the consumers who used more than 90 units, the PUCSL stood firm on sticking to 125%, according to PUCSL Chairman, Janaka Ratnayake, who said that 75 % of the electricity consumers continued to benefit from a subsidy.

Steps had also been taken to encourage electricity consumers to promote renewable electricity generation with the tariff revision decision, he said.

Ratnayake said that the new tariff revision had been formulated to provide relief to the hotel sector and the industrial sector.

“During the last nine years, the value of the dollar has increased by 190 percent. Therefore, the industries in the export sector will not be greatly affected by this electricity tariff revision,” he said.

Instead of the 116 percent tariff increase proposed by the Ceylon Electricity Board for industries, hotels and general-purpose sectors, with low electricity consumption, will get an approved tariff increase of 39 percent for the public sector and 75 percent for the industrial sector.

Only 50 percent of the increase in the approved rates, especially for the tourism sector will come into effect tomorrow. The remaining 50 percent tariff increase will come into effect after another three months as an incentive and relief, facilitating the tourism industry’s recovery, according to the government.

In addition, it has been decided to provide a 1.5 percent discount when electricity bills are paid in dollars as a relief to the tourism and export industries.

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SLPP questions GR’s response to ‘Aragalaya’

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… won’t expect miracles from new Prez

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) didn’t expect miracles from UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe but strongly believed he could meet the growing threat posed by fascists, lawmaker Sagara Kariyawasam, General Secretary of the party, said on Monday night.

Appearing on ‘Salakuna’ a live political programme on Hiru, SLPP National List MP said that the party unanimously decided to back Wickremesinghe’s candidature, at the presidential contest, in the wake of the so-called protest movement destroying properties belonging to 76 lawmakers and those belonging to other party activists and their relatives during meticulously planned and executed ‘operation.’

The protest movement also killed Polonnaruwa District MP Amarakeerthi Atukorale and his police bodyguard, MP Kariyawasam said, emphasizing that their decision was essentially influenced by serious security considerations.

The panel of journalists, comprising Chamuditha Samarawickrema, Madushan de Silva and Kalindu Vidanage, pressed Kariyawasam and UNP General Secretary and ex-MP, Palitha Range Bandara, over their agreement on the SLPP’s support for Wickremesinghe at the presidential contest.

In spite of Kariyawasam and Bandara repeatedly denying a written agreement, or verbal understanding, the Hiru panel sought an explanation how the UNP leader managed to obtain 133 votes other than the one vote exercised by Wickremesinghe himself.

The SLPP won 145 seats, including 17 National List slots at the last parliamentary election in August 2020 whereas the UNP was reduced to just one NL seat.

At one point, a smiling ex-State Minister Bandara asked the interviewers not to portray the SLPP’s backing for Wickremesinghe as another ‘ali koti’ agreement. Bandara was referring to the much-publicized accusations, directed at the UNP at previous national elections, before President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Responding to queries, lawmaker Kariyawasam revealed that in the wake of stepped up protests, against the government, the SLPP advised the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa against appointing another member of the government parliamentary group as the PM. The SLPP felt that replacing PM Mahinda Rajapaksa with one of their own wouldn’t have helped to bring the tensions down, MP Kariyawasam said.

UNPer Bandara emphasized that Wickremesinghe accepted the premiership on May 12 after Samagi Jana Balavegaya leader Sajith Premadasa, MP, and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, also of the same party, turned down President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s offer.

Asked whether SLPP strongman Basil Rajapaksa proposed Wickremesinghe’s name, lawmaker Kariyawasam said that a committee, chaired by him in his capacity as the General Secretary, decided to field Wickremesinghe at the presidential contest. Lawyer Kariyawasam said that former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, attended the meeting, via zoom technology.

According to MP Kariyawasam, of over 30 members of the decision-making body, led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, 23 participated at the meeting. Basil Rajapaksa and SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris had been among those who didn’t attend the meeting.

MP Kariyawasam said that in spite of a Prof. Peiris acting contrary to the decision taken by the party, disciplinary measures hadn’t been initiated. The former Foreign Minister remained the SLPP Chairman, MP Kariyawasam said.

When interviewers sought an explanation as regards Mahinda Rajapaksa’s declaration, soon after MPs overwhelmingly elected Wickremesinghe, as the President, on July 20, that the SLPP fielded Dullas Alahapperuma, MP Kariyawasam asserted perhaps the former Premier said so taking into consideration his personal friendship with the Matara district MP. Lawyer Kariyawasam said that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reaction could be interpreted in different ways.

Lawmaker Kariyawasam asked the interviewers to raise the issue at hand with Mahinda Rajapaksa while reiterating the SLPP took a hard decision and nothing mattered other than electing a person who could overcome the fascist challenge.

MP Kariyawasam declined to name culprits though he categorized a section of the parliamentary group as having conspired against the government.

The SLPP General Secretary questioned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s failure to meet the threat posed by the protest movement. Declaring the SLPP had been surprised by the President’s decision to leave the country, lawmaker Kariyawasam queried whether the President cum Defence Minister refrained from exercising his powers, or the instructions issued by him weren’t carried out. Declaring that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should have stayed back and faced the challenge, MP Kariyawasam said that the SLPP’s stand on this matter would be revealed later, along with what he called self-criticism of the party.

Asked whether the armed forces refrained from carrying out instructions issued by the President, MP Kariyawasam advised the interviewers to seek a clarification from the former leader.

MP Kariyawasam said the campaign that had been carried out against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be examined against the backdrop of Western powers interventions in Iraq and Libya leading to the execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Dec 30, 2006 and killing of Muammar Gaddafi on Oct 20, 2011 at Sirte, Libya. Lawmaker Kariyawasm recalled how the Western powers falsely accused Iraq of having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) before invading that country. Those who couldn’t stomach the eradication of the separatist LTTE were hell bent on taking revenge on the Rajapaksas, MP Kariyawasam said.

When Chamuditha Samarawickrema asked MP Kariyawasam to reveal the number of Colombo-based diplomatic missions that had been involved in the anti-government project, an irate SLPP official, while declining to answer, emphasized that it shouldn’t have been raised with him.

The public would know the truth one day, the MP said.

The contentious issue of handling corruption cases, during the Yahapalana administration, compelled the SLPP General Secretary to strongly dispute the UNP General Secretary.

Responding to the UNPer’s declaration that a team, supervised by Ranil Wickremesinghe, altogether handled 448 cases whereas the other team, spearheaded by Maithripala Sirisena and J.C. Weliamuna, did absolutely nothing, MP Kariyawasam said such claims were baseless.

Ex-MP Range Bandara harshly criticized both Sajith Premadasa and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Alleging that MP Premadasa never had the guts to take up a challenge, lawmaker Range Bandara issued a dire warning to MP Fonseka over his call to revolt against the government. Declaring that the former warwinning Army Commander couldn’t operate outside the Constitution, the UNPer said that the Gampaha District MP could suffer the fate of Ranjan Ramanayake, who was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to a prison term.

MP Kariyawasam launched a scathing attack on former Power and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila over what he called the much publicized claim over an agreement with Oman to procure oil for a period of one year. In spite of such claims, nothing materilized thereby causing major problems for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, the MP said.

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