JVP stance on debt traps, fertilizer import bans, ports and PC elections
by Saman Indrajith
The JVP says that the country is caught-up in what it calls ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and warns that Sri Lanka is poised to lose more national assets in the immediate future. “Several rating agencies downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign credit ratings, the long-term foreign-currency issuer and senior unsecured ratings, while the long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating signalling concerns about the country’s ability to fulfil foreign debt repayments. In the face of this crisis, the government will either have to print more currency, borrow more or sell off national assets,” says former JVP Kalutara District MP and Politburo member Dr Nalinda Jayatissa in an interview with the Sunday Island.
Q: Some ministers have made statements about the possibility of holding elections for provincial councils. Is your party ready for provincial council elections?
A: They started speaking of provincial council elections only after Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s recent visit. The visit has jolted the government into action. The elections are to be held not because people have asked for them but because India wants the government to have them. This indicates the present plight of our nation. In 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power under the slogan of ‘Rata Rakina Viruva’ (The hero who protects the country). Now that same hero has succumbed to pressure from India, the US and China and many other foreign powers.
Q: Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that Trincomalee oil tank farm had been given to India by former governments in 1987 and 2003. The present government tries to show they are on a mission get the tanks back from India. What is your party’s stand on this?
A: We believe that Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank farm were the reason for India shoving the Indo-Lanka Accord down our throat in 1987. The then President was supportive of US camp while India was supporting the USSR bloc. President Jayewardene was considering giving Trincomalee to the US. India was upset and invaded the air space of this country, dropped parippu and sent Indian ships to our waters to terrorize that government and coerce it to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord.
The correspondence between Jayewardene and Rajiv Gandhi before the signing of the Accord shows that India would not let Lanka make independent decisions about the use of Trincomalee harbour without India’s concurrence. But such conditions are not included in the agreement. In 2003, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government leased 99 oil tanks for 35 years to India for an annual fee of 100,000 US dollars. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed to reach an agreement in six months. It is only with the signing of such an MoU that the lease would have had legal effect. However there has been no such agreement since 2003. Therefore, India does not have any legal hold of the oil tanks and that land. Yet, they have paid the annual fee for the past 18 years.
Gammanpila is only putting up a show. The former ministers who had the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) under their purview, Susil Premjayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Chandima Weerakkody, got cabinet papers passed in 2011, 2014 and 2016 stating that those oil tanks belong to the Lankan government. India continues to hold those tanks illegally. One of our trade unions in 2017 filed a case at the Supreme Court against this. The decision is pending.
In terms of the provisions of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Act No. 28 of 1961, only the CPC can import petroleum to this country. Ranil Wickremesinghe broke that monopoly in 2004 and gave permission to Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) to import fuel for 20 years with effect from January that year. That permission expires in December, 2023. Then the monopoly of petroleum importing, exporting, storing, refining, distributing and selling will return to the CPC. If government would not extend this permit, then India will lose its argument for the need to use Trincomalee Tank Farm. India’s present need is to get the oil tanks and the land they stand on for another 50 to 60 years. That was the primary objective of the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit. Their actual target is the Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank farm gives them a foothold to move in that direction.
Q: So it’s all about Trincomalee harbour?
A: Yes, it is. Not a single harbour but many. The harbour in Trincomalee is considered one of the finest deep-sea, natural harbours in a strategic location. Sri Lanka’s geostrategic location is vital not only for the Asia-Pacific region but for the entire world. The importance of that location finally depends on the control of our harbours. We have three main harbours in Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee. What has happened to them? Hambantota is now owned by China for 198 years. It is China that controls the Hambantota port and its surrounding land of 15,000 acres. The Trincomalee harbour is being eyed by India. Then we have the Colombo Port, which is considered one of the busiest harbours in the Indian Ocean and is at No. 24 in the Top 50 World Container Ports list.
This position could be bettered if we could increase the depth of the access route to that port, deepen and expand the terminals and berths and increase the number of terminal operations opening the way for the world’s largest vessels to enter the Colombo Port. Now South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) with berth of 18 meter depth is controlled by China. Mahinda Rajapaksa gave it to China for 35 years in 2012. Basil Rajapaksa recently brought a cabinet paper to give 13 acres of adjacent land to China to set up an operational and service center. So, even when the 35-year period ends, China will still have control there.
When China is given such hold, other countries also try to get a piece of the pie. The Selendiva project will enable selling many adjacent areas covering the Grand Oriental Hotel, Gafoor Building, York Building, Foreign Ministry and the old GPO. The Bank of Ceylon (York Street) is earmarked to be moved to Battaramullla, so that land too could be sold. There had been an attempt to give away the East Container Terminal (ECT) to an Indian company but it was suspended owing to protests. SAGT could be taken back by the Ports Authority in 2028. Currently it is under John Keells Holdings which is the local agent of India’s Adani Group that is involved in the West Container Terminal (WCT) development. After building that terminal, the two most important terminals of the Colombo Port will be controlled by China and India. This process shows how we have lost control of the three most important terminals during the past ten years. The income they earn is taken by foreigners to their countries leaving us with little.
Historical records show that the harbours have been among the most important feature in our civilisation. Recent archaeological findings yield evidence to prove that the Anuradhapura civilisation had been founded on the Mathota harbour which is said to be in Mannar. It was this harbour that supported the thriving Anuradhapura civilisation that constructed giant stupas and tanks during the 400 years from 150 AD to 250 AD.
During that period, South Indian traders invaded the Anuradhapura kingdom and ruled it intermittently when they had the control of Mathota and its resources. King Elara ruled that kingdom for 44 years and took away what it generated to South India. Later five other South Indian rulers before King Vattagamani Abhaya did the same. They took home what was earned from that harbour. They (the harbours) have been a principal prop of our civilisation.
Even when the Portuguese came here, they asked the King of Kotte only for one thing – that was to build a fort near the Colombo port. The present day rulers are depriving this country and its people the ownership of those harbours and thereby we lose the country’s geostrategic importance.
Q: The government describes those transactions as investments. Do not we need such investments?
A: China spent only USD 500 million to develop South Terminal of Colombo Port. The Lankan government took a loan of USD 1,400 million to build the Hambantota port. If the government took a loan of USD 500 million instead and developed the South Terminal of the Colombo Port, then we would have earned profits from there. China or India will not come here to invest in our health, transport or education sectors. Their investments have the objective of snaring us in a debt trap and taking control of our assets.
Even the previous governments used to have similar excuses. They used to say there were loss making enterprises which needed to be privatized. That has no place in the present times, so they use the word investments. For example, 40 percent of the Kerawalapitiya power plant is being sold to America’s New Fortress Energy (NFE). That plant is built and we could earn profits in the years ahead. Now it is being sold. The government is handing over the gas pipeline and floating storage system for the Kerawalapitiya power plant with the entire supply of gas to the NFE for a period of 10 years. There is massive waste, fraud and corruption in awarding this contract.
A contract has been awarded to the company without a tender to supply liquefied natural gas for 10 years at a cost of US$ 6 billion. Usually, we need electricity from the Kerawalapitiya power plant only between 6.00 pm and 12.00 pm. The ‘Take or Pay’ (TOP) deal to which we have committed ourselves is hugely disadvantageous as we will be paying for LNG we will not be using because we don’t need it. Could such deals be called investments?
This power plant is to supply around 35 percent of the power generated to the national grid. So NFE will have a near power supply monopoly in this country. It will also have the opportunity to place ships for floating storage near Colombo harbour permanently. These are not investments. If they really are investments, the government should have called for separate tenders for the floating storage and the pipeline and kept the ownership of the plant 100 percent. Gas could have been purchased at the world market prices through spot tender or term tender processes.
Q: The government says that there is economic instability therefore they are compelled to take such decisions. Is this true?
A: It is those whoz had governed this country since Independence, who should be held responsible for the current economic instability. As of now the country’s sum total of debt is nearly 17,000 billion rupees. Our total revenue is not sufficient to pay the loan and interest instalments. In this scenario, the government has solutions such as printing money, taking more loans and selling off national assets to pay the loans. It is said that the government has printed currency notes worth Rs 1,400 billions during the past 20 months. It is a sum equal to total government revenue for a year. This would certainly result in inflation.
People should ask the question why we have borrowed so much. We as a nation are trapped in debt raised for loans taken for mega projects some of which were not our priorities. A country with an economy like this should never have borrowed to build an International Cricket Stadium at Sooriyawewa, an International Convention Hall at Hambantota or the Lotus Tower in Colombo. These are neither essential nor priorities. The loans taken to pay for them were many times their actual cost with commissions ending up in the pockets of politicians. Whenever there are international exposés such as the recent Pandora Papers, many names of Lankans surface. They show how such commissions are stashed away in overseas accounts. What these political leaders do is show people a mega project and take their cut. When the loan cannot be settled they sell off national assets. This is the ultimate consequence of a process known as ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. We are in this plight because of a corrupt political culture.
Q: Hardly a day passes without a protest. Farmers stage protests everywhere in the rural hinterland demanding fertilizer. What’s the JVP standpoint on this fertilizer issue? Do you recommend continued use of chemical fertilizers?
A: The first excuse of the government when they abruptly stopped imports of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, weedicides and pesticides was that this was done to save dollars going out of the country. Then weeks later they said the ban was to save people from kidney disease and cancer. Organic fertilizers are fine but no country can switch from chemical to organic all at once. It is not feasible to ask farmers to go organic in the next Maha season soon after the end of Yala season. Farmers, agricultural scientists and everyone who dared to open their mouths in the Agriculture Ministry repeatedly said that this was not practical. But the President and the government did not listen. Now we are in a crisis. This will surely result in a food scarcity in a few months time.
The government says that it will compensate the farmers for crop losses if that happens. Such compensation would be sufficient only for few months for the farmers. But what about the food shortages? You cannot eat currency notes. This is just another example for the whimsical nature of this President. Apart from that there is a serious doubt whether this is just the beginning of a plan with the objective of compelling farmers to sell their land. When farmers cannot cultivate for two or three seasons, they have no option but to give up their livelihoods. They will have to sell their land or lease them to companies. This is an agricultural country. When agriculture is destroyed this country would go bankrupt in few years time.
If you have a heart, say no to tobacco!
BY Dr. Gotabhya Ranasinghe
(MBBS, MD, FCCP, FRCP, FAPSIC, FACC, FESC)
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.
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!
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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