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“It’s a kind of magic”



The Superhero of safe water sets her sights upon Poonakary

Shaan Corea is a woman with a mission. Like a human torpedo she wills her way to deliver on her one and only target: safe water for all who live in a desolate war-torn area in the North of Sri Lanka.

This is her story and it reads like the lyrics by rock superheroes Queen: “One dream, one soul, one prize, one goal, one golden glance of what should be.”

It’s a kind of magic. One woman. One mission. Shaan has single-handedly moved mountains of apathy and inequity to deliver the most basic of needs: water to the children and people of Poonakary, at the cost of a mere 9 US dollars per child.

Shaan is the founder of Re-Awakening Lanka/ Appé Lanka, which was started in 2015. Her goal is to empower the 25,500 people of Poonakary, a forgotten division of the Kilinochchi District in Northern Sri Lanka and epicentre of the 30-year conflict that ended in 2009. 

“The people in Ponnaveli had undrinkable water” says Shaan about the situation in the first of 19 Grama Niladhari Divisions of Poonakary to become water secure thanks to her tireless work. The 2,000 people depended on bowsers to bring water to the villages daily. This was not always possible, due to poor road infrastructure and weather conditions. There was also no drinking water available to the 6,420 students attending school in Poonakary.

Shaan believed that the government would sooner or later solve the water issue in Poonakary but she was adamant that the issue needed to be solved immediately. Thus, since 2017 she has undertaken the task of making it happen, starting with giving safe drinking water to the schools in Poonakary. In August 2019 Shaan finished installing Reverse Osmosis Water Purification systems in 21 of the 24 schools in Poonakary. In addition, one of the biggest schools in the Division is getting drinkable water next week.

“People in Sri Lanka were shocked when they realized that there were areas like Poonakary that did not have access to safe water. The whole secret of Appé Lanka’s success is that people realised that they could give more than just their money, that they could give their talents, their resources or their know-how so that nobody goes thirsty. Once people believed in the cause, they wanted to join in and solve the problem quickly. Children broke their piggy banks… musicians sang… artists painted… celebrity chefs cooked… to ensure that the children in Poonakary have safe water all the time”, says Shaan about the reception and success of her project. 

The project continued and was miraculously completed during the current pandemic. “During Covid, it was difficult for the team to go to Ponnaveli, but because we have trained the local people including a Field Officer from one of the villages, Seladurai Rajendran, they were able to manage and maintain the system on their own”, says Shaan about what allowed her project to continue during the pandemic.

“The moment we give them safe water, families are able to successfully cultivate their home gardens, making them self-reliant”, says Shaan about the positive effects that have come about due to their access to clean water.

Ponnaveli is a coastal town, thus the main source of protein is the fish they catch but they have to travel far to purchase the fruits and vegetables they need. The added vegetables from their home gardens will balance their diets and will no doubt make a difference to their health and nutrition.” Shaan also excitedly recounts how on a recent trip to Poonakary, young children invited her to have a meal with them with all the vegetables they had grown in their new home gardens.

“Ponnaveli is the first Grama Niladhari division in Poonakary to get safe water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and tending of home gardens. This is a case study, and since it is successful, we are going to be working in the Grama Niladhari divisions of Kiranchi and Mulankavil. The plan is to give them all safe drinking water,” Shaan says about her plans for the future.

“It is very nice-tasting water Madam”, and “Very good project, thank you Appé Lanka Water Madam”, the children of Poonakary tell Shaan as they hold her hand and share glasses of this beautiful water with her.

To paraphrase the well-known expression: “The Cape fits. Shaan wears it.”

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Covishield recipients in dilemma over second jab



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (11) said that the ‘health administration’ hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the second jab for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine first dose.

The government, both in and out of Parliament has acknowledged a shortfall of over 600,000 Covishield doses.

Top GMOA spokesperson Dr Naveen de Zoysa told The Island contrary to various statements made over the past several days in that regard, health authorities hadn’t been able to take a decision, in case ongoing efforts at government level to procure a sufficient stock, failed. Responding to another query, the outspoken GMOA official said that they were in a quandary.

When The Island pointed out that the success of the vaccination programme, depended on the availability of the second dose within 12 to 16 weeks after the first, Dr. Zoysa said that some expressed the view it would be better to have the same in spite of a slight delay. Then others talked of a ‘vaccine mix’ or vaccine cocktail’ to meet the requirement, Dr. Zoysa said. However, at the moment, the issue at hand hadn’t been addressed, the GMOA spokesperson said.

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemic & Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday afternoon assured that the government was trying hard to obtain the required number of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab.

The government launched the second round on April 28. The first round launched on January 29 was brought to an end on April 6.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) President Dr. Rukshan Bellana emphasized that the government owed an explanation to the public how it intended to solve  the issue at hand. Responding to The Island queries, Dr. Bellana said that the very purpose of the vaccination programme would be jeopardized if over 600,000 people couldn’t receive the second jab.

Dr. Bellana urged the government to reveal its response to the crisis without further delay. “We know, Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. Of them, half a million were a donation. Having used 927,000 for the first dose, the country had about 330,000 at the time the government launched the second round. We are now faced with over 600,000 shortfall. That is the undeniable truth,” Dr. Bellana said.

Appreciating the introduction of Chinese and Russian vaccines and efforts to procure US vaccine, too, Dr. Bellana said that those who had received covishield were really anxious whether the second dose could be received within the stipulated time.

The GMOF Chief said that the deepening health emergency in India shouldn’t be an excuse for those who turned a blind eye to the developing situation here. If the government made timely intervention, the situation wouldn’t have deteriorated so rapidly, Dr. Bellana said adding that the country was now paying a huge price for the government not taking tangible measures ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera didn’t answer his hand phone.

Dr. Bellana alleged that influential persons had jumped the queue to secure the second covishield jab. The GMOF urged the government to look into that matter and ensure transparency in the process.

The Island also sought an explanation from Chief of Vaccination Plan Lalith Weeratunga, who is also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s principal advisor regarding how the government intended to ensure the second jab. Weeratunga said that the government was in touch with three countries in that regard. “We are quite confident the required stock could be secured to meet the shortfall,” Weeratunga said, adding that in addition to 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China free of charge, the country could get as much as 3 mn doses from Beijing. Referring to consensus with Russia to procure 13 mn doses, Weeratunga emphasized that Chinese and Russian vaccines were going to be Sri Lanka’s mainstay against the backdrop of the situation in India.

Weeratunga said that in spite of on and off setbacks, the government pursued a proper vaccination strategy. He said that the government was quite confident that by August-Sept a substantial percentage of people could be vaccinated.


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Johnston: Country will become a metropolis with efficient interconnected expressways



Chairman of the RDA Chaminda Athaluwage handing over the contracts to the construction companies to develop the Pasyala to Kadugannawa section of the Colombo – Kandy road (A001), as per the instructions of Minister Johnston Fernando.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says that with a highly networked system of expressways covering important cities of the country making transport and travelling efficient Sri Lanka could be like one big metropolis in the  foreseeable future.

 Speaking to the media after a meeting with his Ministry officials to review the tender awarding process to private companies for the widening of the Kadugannawa to Pasyala section of the Colombo-Kandy road on Monday, Minister Fernando said plans had been completed to develop the particular stretch of 55.7 km in four phases with funds from the Asian Development Bank.

 The first phase of the project from Pasyala to Ambepussa covering 14.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,603 million. The estimated cost for the second section from Ambepussa to Kegalle covering 12.9 km is Rs 1,507 million. The third phase from Kegalle to Mawanella covering 13.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,345 million while the cost of developing 14 kilometers in the fourth phase from Mawanella to Kadugannawa is estimated at Rs 1,630 million.

 Minister Fernando said that he had instructed the Secretary to the Ministry R.W.R. Pemasiri, and the Chairman of the Road Development Authority Chaminda Athaluwage to get the construction companies to complete the entire project within 18 months. A stretch covering 44.3 km from Colombo to Pasyala on the A001 Road has been widened and carpeted as of now.

 Minister Fernando said that infrastructure including the road development was continuing at an unprecedented speed as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme to provide people with better roads and boost the country’s economic development. “There is no economic development without infrastructure development and in that regard a highly developed road network is a must,” the Minister said.

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Illegal withdrawal of Rs 43 mn, using forged cheques:



Another suspect arrested, CID looking for three more persons

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Another person wanted in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 43 mn from the account of a leading steel manufacturer at the Sampath Bank has been arrested.

With the latest arrest, altogether five persons have been taken into custody. Police spokesman DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that among the arrested was a bank employee, who masterminded the ‘operation.’

Asked whether the money had been recovered, DIG Rohana said that investigators recovered a part of it. “We are looking for three more persons who withdrew money, using forged cheques,” DIG Rohana said.

The Police Spokesman said the three remaining persons too had been identified. According to the DIG, five persons had withdrawn money from six branches of the same bank at the behest of  the bank employee, and the person who printed counterfeit cheques, to withdraw money amounting to Rs 43 mn belonging to steel manufacturer Melwa. The police identified the counterfeit cheque printer as a resident of Hanwella.

DIG Rohana said that those who had been sent to the different branches of the same bank wore clothes identifying them as Melwa employees.

Though the large sum was withdrawn fraudulently on April 12, the day before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the company remained unaware of the heist until the re-opening of  its main office after the April holidays, he said.

 The Police Spokesman said that a wider investigation was required to ascertain printing of counterfeit cheques and the role played by the bank employee. DIG Rohana said that against the backdrop of the counterfeit cheque case, both state and private sector banks would have to take tangible measures to prevent similar frauds.

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