by Capt Elmo Jayawardena
This is an ancient story; most records are lost, buried or moth-eaten. Still, there is a lot remaining in the minds of men who heard how things happened and what was commercial flying like in its infant days in Ceylon.
The aeroplane popularly known as ‘Dakota’ had been the workhorse of most allied forces during the Second World War. I do not know how many DC-3s were produced during the war years but they sure were somewhere around 16,000, or possibly even more. The aircraft came in various models whilst the prototype remained the fundamental ‘Dakota’ flying machine. After the war ended, most of the surplus DC-3s were converted into passenger-carrying aircraft. The new-born airlines popping up all over the world in ‘born again’ independent countries started their airline operations with secondhand military-used ‘Dakotas’.
On the 10th of December 1947, Air Ceylon took off from the Ratmalana Airport on its maiden international commercial flight to Madras via Jaffna, operated with a DC-3, placing our little island on the world map of aviation.
That was the beginning and then came the cautious expansion.
Those were the times, when the Haj and Umra pilgrims from Sri Lanka went to Mecca by travelling to Bombay and taking a flight from there. Some preferred the sea route from Colombo to Jeddah and then to Mecca by air or overland. As Air Ceylon tested its wings flying from Ratmalana to Jaffna and a few Indian airports, they began looking for new destinations. It was then that the Haj pilgrims negotiated with the National Carrier to charter a ‘Dakota’ to fly Muslim devotees from Ratmalana to Jeddah and back.
The commercial part of the matter was all-settled at the Airline head office and the task fell on the fledgling flight operations section to find a way to fly to Jeddah. The DC-3 was more than capable of the journey, of course, with multiple pit-stops for re-fueling and overnight stays. A fully loaded ‘Dakota’ weighing 26,200 Ib could carry 21 passengers. Its fuel capacity was 822 gallons and its two Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp Radial engines drank 73 gallons per hour. The aeroplane had a ‘nil-wind’ range of approx. 1,500 nautical miles (nm) cruising at 6,000 ft. These were the performance data the flight crew had to work with, but there was a problem, a huge one at that. None of the Air Ceylon crew had flown those desert routes. Their exposure was limited to India, and to make it worse the Flight Operations office had no charts of the air-routes that could take them from Ratmalana to Jeddah! They were OK up to Bombay, but what lay beyond that was unknown or even a possible damnation.
There was no way to go from Ratmalana to Jeddah as the crow flies. The crew had to consider the range capacity of their ‘Dakota’ and make their flight plan. The answer was at the Katunayaka RAF base. where they had all the necessary charts that covered the entire Middle Eastern sky. Post-war long-range operations were well-organised by the RAF, and they very generously shared all the information for route planning with details of radio beacons for navigation and radio frequencies for en-route communication.
Air Ceylon was now equipped to make their flight plan. They worked out the route from Ratmalana to Bombay (840 nm) and then to Karachi (471 nm), to Salalah (RAF base in Oman by the Arabian Sea – distance 871 nm), then to Aden (583 nm) and finally to Jeddah (627 nm).
Night stops were planned in Karachi and Aden with accommodation for crew and passengers. Everything was ready to fly to the unknown destinations through unknown territory and an unknown sky.
When I flew to Jeddah from BIA in the 80s it was on state-of-the-art Tri- Stars. We sat in the cockpit and punched into computers our route and destination Jeddah. We took off and engaged the autopilot and the automation did the rest and took us on the planned route to King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah. Even with all the sophisticated equipment we carried it was difficult to spot the runway when approaching the airfield. Everything was dusty, brown and hazy; it was either radar vectors or the instrument landing system that brought us to touch down. I often wonder what it would have been to fly a DC-3 to that same airport in 1950. The route they flew and how they found the airfields and countered the 40-degree heat in un-airconditioned cockpits would have been nothing less than the zenith of professional ‘seat of the pants’ flying. Perhaps it may have been the romance of it too, the true essence of flying which modern day pilots like me would hardly know.
They took off from Ratmalana with 21 Haj pilgrims bound for Jeddah. The flight crew comprised Capt Peter Fernando the Commander, Capt Emil Jayawardena the Co-Captain, Lionel Sirimanne the Radio Officer and G. V. Perera the Engineering Officer. Capt Peter was a veteran and the Flight Operations Manager of Air Ceylon. Capt Emil was an ex-RAF ‘Spitfire’ fighter pilot, who flew in the war; Mr Sirimanne and Mr Perera were experts in their allocated roles of communications and engineering. Off they flew, from Ratmalana, tracking to Bombay, where they stopped to refuel; everyone had lunch there. The next sector was to Karachi and as the sun went down in the Western sky, the ‘Dakota’ made its approach to land in Karachi’s Drigh Road Airport (currently known as Jinnah International). Now, it was night-stop time and the entourage moved to the BOAC crew hotel called ‘Speedbird’ located right next to the airport.
End of day one.
So far so good, they had flown 1,311 nm staying in the sky the whole day. Even though the first day’s route was quite familiar the navigation would have been very demanding as there were only a handful of non-directional beacons (NDBs) to tune to and use as nav-aids to make course corrections. The crew depended a lot on topographical maps and cautiously calculated aircraft positions by dead reckoning. This was real hard work by any standard.
The following morning, they departed Karachi and headed to Salalah Airport in Oman located by the Arabian Sea. This was an RAF base and the ‘Dakota’ was stopping there to refuel before flying on to Aden. Nearing Salalah they noticed the ground below completely covered with a thick stratiform-type cloud that stretched like a sheet as far as the eye could see. To make the situation worse, the Salalah Airport NDB was not working and the control tower too was silent. Radio Officer Sirimanne kept trying to raise Salalah and repeatedly failed. By dead reckoning the crew knew they were somewhere near Salalah Airport but with the beacon not working and without a visual sighting they simply could not descend through the cloud cover. Salalah aerodrome had considerable amount of high ground in the vicinity and the ‘Dakota’ descending through the cloud layer without a visual sighting could possibly plough into a hill killing everyone.
The crew had no fuel to go anywhere other than Salalah and they circled above the cloud layer for a while hoping to see a break in the clouds. They kept calling Salalah and re-tuning the beacon without any success. That, no doubt, was a tight situation. Truth be told, it was a very tight situation. The pilots played their last possible trump. Their plan was totally out of the box, yet sound and safe. They flew south/east from the place they were hovering, knowing they would now certainly be over the Arabian Sea. Then they slowly descended in cloud looking for the blue waters below. The plan was to get under the cloud base and fly above the water and make a 180 degree turn and fly towards land. They were experienced pilots who flew more with common sense and airmanship than fancy flight instruments. They were right. They broke cloud and saw the water and some boats, too. Now they were safe from the rugged terrain. Then they turned back, saw land below the cloud and headed to Salalah approaching from the seaside.
The radio crackled and the beacon came alive and Salalah tower was calling them. The ‘Dakota’ was safe and they flew towards the NDB at the airport and made a safe landing in Salalah. Many a pilot could have panicked in a situation like this. What the ‘Dakota’ crew did by flying out to sea to find a safe way to descend was a class act, and in my humble opinion deserves to be remembered and reminded to others as a hallmark of the type of gutsy people who flew aeroplanes in the bygone days.
The RAF base had not received the departure signal from Karachi that a DC-3 was flying to Salalah. The skeleton staff at the airport had shut down the aerodrome and gone for a sea bath. While they were frolicking in the water they heard an aircraft circling above the cloud layer and knew some pilot was desperately trying to land in Salalah. The RAF staff ran ashore and got into their vehicles and raced to the airport. That is how the radio came alive and the beacon started working. This was 1950, and such incidents did happen in aviation. The crew received a case of beer as a gift from the RAF boys and they took off, again after refueling, to Aden.
High frequency (HF) weather broadcasts were forecasting thunderstorms over Aden. The ‘Dakota’ had no radar unlike modern aeroplanes with colour screens to detect storm cells. The DC-3 pilots depended solely on their sight to carve a safe path weaving in and out of clouds to avoid weather. At night they went by the lightning flashes to stay away from thunderstorms. An old trick in flying DC-3 was to lower the landing gear if flying in bad weather. (I really can’t remember why, but we did it when flying ‘Dakotas’). The two pilots who were flying the Haj pilgrims were well-seasoned veterans who were a rare breed of aviators; they were so different from the people like me who flew modern jets. We can only imagine their feats and marvel on how they survived in unfriendly skies in their unsophisticated flying machines which hardly had any automation.
The ‘Dakota’ arrived in Aden safely and the crew and passengers did their second night stop after a weary, event-filled day flying the unknown skies. The following morning, they flew the last leg from Aden to Jeddah, flying over the Red Sea. It sure must have been a pleasant trip of 627 nm. The ‘Dakota’ crew brought their 21 passengers safely from Ratmalana to Jeddah flying a total of 3,392 nm. The pilgrims said their good-byes and disembarked to travel to Mecca overland.
The ‘DC-3 turned back and flew to Aden for another night stop. The return journey was in an empty aeroplane. That made it possible for the crew to fly direct to Karachi from Aden. The final night-stop was again at the Speedbird Hotel. The following day they flew to Ratmalana via Bombay after a pit-stop in Santa Cruz airport to re-fuel. A little more than a week later another Air Ceylon DC-3 flew from Ratmalana to Jeddah following the first flight’s flight-plan to bring back the Haj pilgrims home.
Those who know aeroplanes and the sky would cheer such aviators who blazed their way to the unknown in the magnificent ‘Dakotas’. To the non-aviators, I can only say this was flying at its optimum best, flown by men who knew what the flying game was all about.
I knew the entire crew that flew the ‘Dakota’ very well. Capt. Peter drove a yellow and black Riley and lived in Uyana, Moratuwa, next to St Joseph’s Church. Capt. Emil, the ex-RAF fighter pilot I knew from the day I was born to the day he said his final good-bye to this world. He was my father. Mr. G.V. Perera was a very senior aeronautical engineer, a wonderful man who even had a flying license. And the Radio Officer, Uncle Siri, he is only 101 years old and is active on ‘Facebook’. Lionel Sirimanne still mows his lawn in Kohuwela and drives his car to Keell’s supermarket. I am deeply grateful to him for some of the details he gave me about this flight to Jeddah. As for the old warrior, the ‘Dakota’, one of them is spruced up and kept in the Air Force Museum in Ratmalana. It is a worthy sight to see as it majestically rests its soul among airmen and aeroplanes and aviation lovers who come to see this historical aeroplane.
Teaching for job market and ‘liberating the whole person’ during Covid-19 pandemic
by Liyanage Amarakeerthi
(This is based on a short presentation made at a promotion interview at the University of Peradeniya on November 19th, 2020. Author thanks Professors KNO Dharmadasa, Wimal Wijayarathne and OG Dayarathna Banda, Dean/Arts who encouraged him to publish this speech.)
At universities, we are busy teaching online. It is heartbreaking to find many students lack required facilities. Teaching on Zoom, for example, takes smart phones and personal computers for granted. We have to assume that Internet access is as ubiquitous as air, but reality is otherwise. Attendance at live Zoom classes can be as low as 40 percent in the Faculty of Arts, where students from underprivileged backgrounds account for the majority. Therefore, we need to record our lectures and make them available through other means. I myself have WhatsApp groups for all my classes to transmit important course content with a minimal cost. The university and the faculty take admirable care with extremely limited resources to make sure that no student is left behind. But the situation is far from satisfactory.
In addition to Corona, our political authorities routinely tell us that what we teach at the faculties of arts has become irrelevant and obsolete. They regularly ask us to produce employable graduates. Recently, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was seen in a video clip telling a graduate that she should have studied ‘something technical.’ While it is wrong to produce an endless number of external graduates merely with degree certificates to wave at media cameras at the Lipton Circus, learning something ‘technical’ signifies a poor understanding of university education.
I want to reflect on the true meaning of education at the faculties of Arts. At our faculties we teach courses in the humanities and the social sciences. As a scholar in literature and language, I am at the most pressured end of the spectrum: Learning literature is the most removed from ‘something technical.’ Therefore, we, the humanities scholars at universities, routinely have to justify what we are doing in teaching and research. There reflections are made in that context.
Vision of the founding fathers
The founding fathers of the University of Ceylon, never imagined that future scholars in the Humanities would have to face the particular challenge mentioned above. In the inaugural address of the Ceylon University movement Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the President of the movement, had elaborate plans for a university of our own. Out of 13 professorships they had imagined to create in the University of Ceylon, eight were for the humanities. They wanted professorships for vernacular languages such as Sinhala and Tamil, and when the university was established, in 1942, the curriculum had considerable focus on local language and traditions. Indeed, there were professorships for natural sciences, and many science-based subjects were to enter within the first decade of the university.
In addition, those founding fathers had much larger and grander ideals for education; here are the words of Arunachalam:
“University will be a powerful instrument for forming character, for giving us men and women armed with reason and self-control, braced by knowledge, clothed with steadfastness and courage and inspired by public spirit and public virtue.” “A Plea for a Ceylon University” (A. T. Alwis. Peradeniya: The Founding of a University).
Those beautifully profound words demonstrate that Arunachalam’s vision for education was much more than teaching ‘something technical.’
In order to rediscover the true meaning of the Humanities education, one may look into what is meant by the liberal arts in contemporary international universities. ‘Liberal arts’ is a bit more inclusive than what we call ‘arts subjects’ since they include natural sciences, basic mathematics and the like. A rich liberal arts degree programme exposes students to a wide range of subjects––languages, literature, philosophy, religion, natural sciences, mathematics, Fine Arts, citizenship education, social sciences (at least key concepts of them) and so on. Since there is nothing strictly prohibited from the domain of liberal arts, one could add numerous other things to the curriculum.
The word ‘liberal’ in liberal arts a loaded one. It includes knowledge required to liberate human beings from socio-cultural bonds they are trapped in producing hierarchy, inequality and injustice. Rousseau famously claimed that chains binding human beings were human-made’ and the hammers to break them were also made in earth not in heaven. A high quality education in liberal arts should help us see those chains and to forge the hammers that can break them. In other words, liberal arts teach us the significance of working towards a just society. For that goal, there are many sources of wisdom. Unlike political parties and rigid ideologues, universities believe that there are multiple ways to reach that goal. That goal may be always at the horizon resisting our reaching it. Still, a society that has given up on that goal is perhaps so much poor even with endless affluence. Teaching liberal arts at universities is one important way societies hold on to a richer dream even in the midst of relative economic hardships. A country can be poor but yet not philistine.
‘Liberation’ in liberal arts includes internal liberation as well, and it could include several modes of refining oneself within. When modernity was an unquestioned project, liberation from the Nature was one goal of humanity. But now we know better. While we have to keep Nature at bay, we also have to realise that we are also part of it. The time of coronavius is opportune to reflect on this. Moreover, our nature itself is something that needs refinement and taming while it is very much a part of big Nature. So, in recent times a diverse set of course related to environmentalism has made its way into our liberal arts curriculum. As Professor Spencer McWilliams has aptly put, “a liberal arts education can help us develop a more comprehensive understanding of the universe and ourselves”. (Liberal Arts Education: What does it mean? What is it worth?)
Our political authorities may ask for graduates with a certain set of limited technical skills to be productive in the narrow roles assigned to them in contemporary economy. For us in universities, a human being is not just a worker. His or her life in the world of work is only one small segment of his or her life. For us as in the Humanities, questions such as what human beings do, what they reflect on, what and how they enjoy during their non-working hours matters as much as the ‘job skills’ they are supposed to hone. To make matters even more complicated, the liberal arts is interested even in the dreams that occur to human beings during their sleeping hours. To put it simply, for liberal arts human self is much more than a human worker.
A holistic development of the ‘whole person’ is the goal of liberal arts. It includes eight interrelated aspects: intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, vocational, ethical, personal, and social. Intellectual development requires acquiring broad-based knowledge, learning how to learn, and learning how to think critically. Emotional development includes understanding, managing and expressing emotions. Developing high quality relationships with other people is the basis of social development while ethical development aims at providing students with a clear value system that enables them to make sound decisions. Physical development concerns the understanding of one’s own body and taking care of it. Spiritual development may be the most culture-sensitive as each culture may have its own take on what is ‘spiritual. ‘Vocational’ is indeed a form of development that must be a part of contemporary education. But is only one among eight. It includes exploring career possibilities and developing skills required for a career. As university teachers we do want our graduates to find jobs and achieve some sort of financial independence to pursue other goals of life articulated here. Personal development, the last of the eight, stays the last because it is the bottom line, so to speak. For personal development one needs to cultivate a strong sense of self-identity and agility to step out of that identity in being considerate towards others.
The Role of Peradeniya:
Whole Person, Whole Campus
A fully developed university must have all the facilities needed to address at least those eight areas. Holistic education believes that curriculum and co-curriculum must make use of whole campus for that purpose. Founding fathers of University of Peradeniya seem to have endowed with a concept of holistic education in the early twentieth century. Just to give only a few examples, for those who argue for making use of the whole campus for holistic education claims that for one’s intellectual development, a university has to utilise learning centers, library, academic advising services, tutoring services, information technology centers, invited talks on various topics, workshops, theatre halls, art shows and so on. This list, though not comprehensive, demonstrates that the intellectual development of a graduate is much more than following time tables and attending formal lectures. At Peradeniya, we may not have all these facilities, but when the university was founded a considerable attention was paid to these aspects. Taking a long walk through the beautiful University Park can be education in itself if one is rightly attuned to the lessons of natural beauty. I have learned those lessons at stunning campus parks at Wisconsin and Cornell.
Now, let me touch on ‘spiritual development.’ In addition to formal instructions on subjects such a philosophy and arts that concern one’s spiritual life, there should be co-curricular involvements with campus religious communities. Programmes such as inter-religious dialogue could be part of these activities. Perhaps, it was for such holistic education that places for all religions have been established within the University of Peradeniya.
Instead of cutting down funding on ‘liberal arts’ education, the government must invest more in the kind of education explained above. Even without enough financial resources some of us have been working hard to promote such a holistic education. Yes, just some of us. There are people who have no idea as to what they should be doing at universities. Among them, there are academics who believe that training students to site exams that lead to a certificate is university education. Yes, that is education often found at private tuition classes. But there is much more to university education. If our holistic education is only partially done, it is natural that authorities ask out graduates to learn ‘something technical.’
The prevailing pandemic has crippled nearly all co-curricular activities at campus. An education that does not include library, playground, gymnasium, the Sarachchandra Open Air theater, the E.O.E. Perera theatre, heated discussions with guest speakers, and, even some trips to the lovers’ lane or other ‘lanes’ cannot help achieve eight developmental goals of holistic education. COVID-19 has corroded that education. But holistic education is faced with a bigger threat. It is the demand that education be geared for the job market. True academics must do everything possible to prevent that philistine virus making inroads into our higher education institutions. Only those who are capable of realising the true meaning of holistic education envisioned in the Humanities and liberal arts can stand up to such philistine invasions. Those are the ones who really deserve to be hired and promoted.
Chinese Development Experience:
Why Have Sri Lankans Failed So Far
by Luxman Siriwardena
During the past decades, several East Asian Economies have experienced consistent high rates of economic growth while achieving unprecedented improvements in the standard of living of their citizenry, an achievement that has been described in the famous World Bank study as ‘Asian Miracle’. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were the partners of this achievement. One analyst explained this miracle as developments that have ‘telescoped into a single generation, a process of socioeconomic development that took the advanced economies of Western Europe centuries to achieve’. This group have now been dramatically overtaken by Communist China which has also eliminated poverty, probably excluding a few clusters in remote parts of rural China.
Unfortunately, however, all South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka still remain far behind China as developing economies. It has been estimated that a high percentage of the population of many of these countries are living in abject poverty and deprivation.
China’s economic development as now well demonstrated, has been associated with technological advancement surpassing many of the advanced market economies. It is only a matter of time before China becomes the largest economy in the world. Even in the current COVID-19 pandemic situation it has emerged as the only country to record a positive growth rate in 2020, according to multilateral lending agencies.
In this context it is of significance to understand how President Xi Jinping has articulated the Chinese development within the framework of Marxist Political Economy. In this regard, a speech delivered by Jinping, in the mid-August needs to be closely studied by the academics and policy makers in developing countries like Sri Lanka. President Jinping proposes in the speech that the Marxist political economy must be studied and developed as a higher stage of theoretical and practical advancement of Political Economy. Most relevant to the current development discourse is his combining of Marxist political economic principles with new practices of reform and opening up of the Chinese economy.
President Jinping has also categorically mentioned that the belief of some people that Marxist political economy and the analysis in Das Capital is outdated or outmoded is arbitrary and inaccurate. Jinping states that nowadays there are various kinds of economic theories but the foundation of Chinese development cannot be explained by any theory other than the Marxist theory of political economy.
With reference to the development of theory and practice in China, Jinping upholds the contribution by successive Chinese leaders. Going through his argument it is clear that President Jinping is contributing to the new stage of development in Marxism termed as Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.
In his analysis President Jinping refers to almost all challenges the modern-day advanced market economies are confronting and strongly advocates study of them in the context of Marxist political economy which include theories of developing a socialist market economy, enabling market to play a decisive role in allocation of resources while providing for a prominent role for the government and state-owned enterprises in promoting, facilitating and coordinating new industrialization, agricultural modernization and other essential players of growth and development. It is also interesting to learn the way China addresses the property ownership/rights and right of the farmers to contract out lands.
What President Jinping has emphasized with regard to the study of political economy has a direct relevance to Sri Lankan academics and policy makers irrespective of what they have learned in universities of the West or from multilateral or other agencies. In his presentation President Jinping has emphasized the importance of six key principles in economic development in China.
i. Adherence to people-centric development thinking
ii. Focusing on new development concepts with a futuristic view
iii. Upholding basic economic systems preserving Chinese Socialists Characteristics
iv. Improvement of basic distribution systems
v. Focusing on the direction of socialist market economy
vi. Adherence to the basic national policy of opening up when effecting necessary reforms.
His concluding remarks would be an eye-opener to Sri Lankan and other developing country policy makers, particularly economists.
Their commitment to upholding the basic principles and methodology of Marxist political economy does not imply rejection of the rational components of other economic theories. Western economic knowledge on areas such as finance, prices, currency, markets, competition, trade, exchange rates, enterprises, growth, and management do reflect one side of the general laws underpinning socialized production and market economics, and should therefore be used as reference. At the same time, however, Jinping suggests that it is necessary to keep a discerning eye on the economic theories of other countries, particularly those of the West, making sure that the wheat is being separated from the chaff. It should be ensured however, that these theories reflecting the nature and values of the capitalist system or are colored by Western ideology are not blindly adopted. Although the discipline of economics is devoted to the study of economic issues, it does not exist in a vacuum, and therefore cannot be separated from larger social and political issues.
Why have our economists, both in academia and in policy making positions, not understood this simple truth? Why have they failed to develop theories and explanations that address local needs like their counterparts in the region? For example, India, Pakistan or even Bangladesh have world class economists who have come up with homegrown theories and homegrown solutions to local problems. Could it be that our economists, unlike their regional counterparts who have succeeded, have not been able to free themselves from the clutches of the west intellectually and ideologically? How much their education in the west, reinforced through regular training given by West-dominated multilateral agencies and also frequent exposure to thinking of the West in their work, is responsible for this unfortunate situation? Whatever the reasons are, instead of thinking independently on their own they parrot their mentors in the West for short-term gains like easy recognition and self-fulfillment continuing the vicious circle and perpetuating the misery of their people. Irony is that when a solution is needed the only thing our experts are capable of doing is seeking refuge in programmes of multilateral development agencies reminding us the famous saying attributed to Einstein that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
Sri Lankan policy analysts, this applies to academics and researchers too, must desist from advocating indiscriminate reliance on foreign concepts. Their analyses should be based on objective conditions that exist in Sri Lanka and associated socio-political environments namely, political economy. thoroughly and at length to prevent them being marginalized in the emerging discourse.
It is time for our academics and policy makers to change the path on which they have been travelling, the path not only built by the West but also the road rules for the travellers have been written by them. What our academics and policy makers, especially, economists, have been hitherto repeatedly preaching and implementing are literally carbon copies of classical, neoclassical or Keynesian theories they have learnt without adaptation to meet Sri Lanka’s development needs.
It is stated by the historians that Lenin further developed Marxism where it was further fashioned by Stalin and Trotsky. In the modern era remarkable adaptations to it were brought in by Chairman Mao. Since then there have been many Chinese leaders who have made various pragmatic contributions for the Chinese economy. President Jinping has presently brought Chinese economy to a new stage of development through more pragmatic and innovative ways without deviating from fundamental Chinese characteristics.
In view of the above it can be concluded that there are many lessons that developing countries like Sri Lanka can learn from the Chinese development experience. If our academics and policy makers can come out of the ivory tower of conventional framework and improve on theories and models that they have learned in the past by adapting them where necessary to local conditions that may go a long way in help promoting effective policy for sustainable growth and development. Until and unless that happens our attempts to achieve sustainable economic growth and development in the country will remain only a pipe dream, which it is today.
Revamp CMC’s crippled Public Health Services
By Dr. Pradeep Kariyawsam
Former Chief Medical Officer of Health / CMC
When the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic started, it was inevitable that the wave would reach Colombo, as many other epidemics such as dengue fever, chikungunya, cholera, influenza started in Colombo and then spread to other areas. Here of course those who travelled from abroad obviously brought the disease to the country, and then it spread towards the city in no time. There are many who travel from Gampaha District to Colombo city area and they were the potential carriers of the virus.
Prevention activities should have been started from all fronts, especially in Colombo North and Central areas, as soon as we heard about the Minuwangoda outbreak; and without hesitating when it reached Peliyagoda which lies in the northern bank of Kelani river. Colombo North lies just a few hundred feet away in the Southern bank. True the CMC started carrying out PCR tests, but most of them were off target as hardly a patient was found initially. There is no point in crying over spilt milk now. The importance of Public Health Services should be recognized at least now, and that a proper service could save the city and country from economic collapse and social unrest. The latter mostly instigated by politicians. The deaths at home is a sign that all is not well with the prevention services. Unfortunately, some politicians and government servants do not understand this reality.
Around 40 years ago, the Minister of Local Government realized the importance and the necessity to organize the people in these areas, who actually lived in slums and shanties and the need to prevent communicable diseases and provided them with basic amenities. Hence under his direction the CMC went on to carry out surveys of the needs of the people through new recruits called Health Wardens. The Health Wardens formed Community Development Councils after having elections in the so-called Gardens (Wattas) where the people in them chose their leaders as the office-bearers to run the Councils. Women’s and children’s groups were also formed by the Health Wardens, and these GCE (AL) qualified youth were the acceptable officials to give instructions on any matter on health and welfare. I can remember they even arranged marriage registrations.
They teamed up with the Public Health Inspectors, Nurses, Midwives and Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLT), Health Education Officers, and formed a network that supported the preventive services to the hilt. In short, we were proud of our work and it was appreciated by UNICEF, WHO, UNCHS, etc. For example, when we had to get Colombo as polio free, all of them teamed up and with the help of Rotarians gave vaccines to all children under five years of age in the city in one day! In order to provide a proper service, the city needs at least 65 Public Health Inspectors, 35 Nurses, 175 Midwives, 35 MLTs and over 200 Health Wardens or Health Instructors as they are called now. (The Salaries and Cadres Commission please note!) These services are in a sorry state of affairs now, as the number of officers in service have dwindled so much that we no longer have a single maternity home that is operating at night, as only nine nurses are available, the PHIs have neglected food hygiene work, and Midwives are over stretched so much they are running a crippled service, the laboratories lack material and the poor people have to go to the private sector to get expensive tests done, when they could have got them done free at the CMC labs. But the most important aspects of all this, which are organizing the communities, health education, creation of awareness about communicable diseases, communicating with all and being the link between the people and the health units that were handled by the Health Instructors do not exist anymore.
There aren’t even Health Education Officers anymore, who used to supervise them. The information thus collected then can be analysed by the Epidemiologist to understand the vulnerable areas and direct prevention activities. Unfortunately, there is no Epidemiologist as the post of Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Epidemiology) is not filled during the last three years. That is what is lacking mainly in CMC’s Covid-19 prevention programmes today. It is not the ambulances that the people need as CMC already has two ambulance services; The ambulances run by the MCH Division and the 110-service are run by well-trained fire-fighters. The people need someone to be with them in their hour of need as it happened years ago, looking after their health and welfare needs, as Health Instructors were allocated to areas in which they were responsible for the people in slums, shanties and apartments.
Therefore, it is my humble appeal that the CMC, the Western Provincial Council, and the Ministry of Health get together and fill these posts, create higher cadres for these posts and appoint suitable persons immediately. We have to allocate vulnerable areas to these officers and get them to go to the people, organize them, look after their health and welfare needs and prevent a disaster happening as there will be more Covid-19 waves and new epidemics in the near future. This will definitely reduce deaths at homes. A stable Colombo, health-wise, will make the country stable in the same way. With all my experience I know that this is the only way to prevent this kind of disaster happening again, and this will be a feasible way of managing this crisis for the government to prevent and control this disease.
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7-billion-rupee diamond heist; Madush splls the beans before being shot
Sri Lankan drummer succumbs to Covid-19
Jackboot cannot salvage Sri Lanka
Politics3 days ago
The Burghers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka- Reminiscences and Anecdotes
news4 days ago
Sri Lankan elected as Lead position of the Royal Commonwealth Society
news4 days ago
Sirisena, who claimed he was very sick on day of attack managed to return home same night
Features3 days ago
Celebrating the Legacy of an Exceptional Man
news2 days ago
New private sector retirement age: Question mark over mandatory or voluntary status
news1 day ago
Easter Sunday probe: CB not informed of Rs 4 bn Hizbullah et al received from overseas
news4 days ago
CID was aware of possible attacks after detection of explosives at W’willuwa
news5 days ago
EU demands lifting of SL import ban