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Was Madush kneeling or upright when death claimed him?



by Hemantha Randunu

“Let’s get out of here Muthumali, Danny Mahattaya is going out of control; his henchmen won’t leave us alone!” Madush told his wife Muthumali, foreseeing the shape of things to come. Yet his wife pooh-poohed his demand.

In 2002, the Chairman of the Southern Provincial Development Authority was Danny Hiththetiyage, a well known politician in the South. Hiththetiyage had begun to stealthily take over several lands belonging to Madush’s father. Due to this land issue, a rift had developed between Madush’s and Danny Hittatiyage’s families. Yet not in his wildest dreams would Madush have thought that this would change his life forever.

Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha was born on February 24, 1979, in Gathara outside Kamburupitiya. He was educated at Kamburupitiya Maha Vidyalaya and Karandeniya National School. Madush had a sister and a brother. His father, Samarasinghe Arachchige Lakshman, was an engraver, a peaceful man from Gathara. His mother was Malani Samarasinghe, an active member of the JVP.

By 1989, Madush had turned 10. He was very close to his mother and used to follow her wherever she went. During the 88/89 insurgency, government security forces were hard line in their policy of bumping off JVP members. Madush’s mother was killed after returning home from a JVP rally. Her untimely death traumatized Madush. His father had little interest in his children. He just let them be.

Madush’s aunt was the saving grace for him and his siblings. She and his grandmother took the responsibility of raising them. During that time Madush and his family had to face various hardships despite which he passed the GCE Ordinary Level Examination. But due to persistent economic issues, he had to drop out of school and face the challenges of life quite early on.

Cupid then made its move on Madush. He went through a whirlwind romance with a woman called Dayani Muthumali but they did not receive the blessings of their elders. Muthumali’s parents did not want to give their daughter in marriage to Madush who was loafing around Kamburupitiya without a proper education or job. All he wanted at the time was to marry the woman he loved and to do this he knew he would have to find a job, and establish himself as a suitable spouse.

Madush tried his luck as a tractor driver and then drove a three-wheeler and was an employee at Nihal Motors; later he was a truck driver under a businessman called Amarasinghe in Ratmalana. He returned to his village as a private bus driver. He was not satisfied with any of the jobs he had. He wanted to earn a lot of money, but with his lack of qualifications he found this hard to achieve. Nevertheless, he continued to woo Muthumali.

Madush married her in 1998 when he turned 19. The couple returned to his home in Kamburupitiya. They both got minor jobs at Matara Hospital. Around this time the rift between his and Danny Hiththetiyage’s families surfaced and widened.

With all this drama going on, Madush became a father in 2002. His first son was born with health problems. There were other problems too. Muthumali began to encounter several advances from a relative of Hiththetiyage.

That enraged Madush. He vowed to teach the Hiththetiyages a lesson. After the birth of their son the couple lived in Makandura at Muthumali’s parents’ house and in Kamburupitiya in turn.

“If I do not teach them a lesson, my wife and child will not be able to live in peace,” he said to himself. So he decided to teach a lesson to Upananda, a brother-in-law of Danny Hiththetiyage, who tended to harass Madush’s family frequently. In 2002, Madush shot Upananda at Kamburupitiya. This murder turned out to be his first crime. After the shooting, Madush parted from his wife and child and fled.

He knew an underworld criminal called Unathurupe Shantha. Having fled Kamburupitiya, he met Shantha and revealed everything that had happened. Shantha took Madush under his wing and recruited him to a life of crime. Money and the promise of riches was what Madush was after, and as events later transpired, he was to have both in life.

Along with Shantha and his gang, he started robbing financial institutions and leasing companies across the country. They were soon loaded with cash. More than ten leasing companies and financial institutions in Negombo, Kuliyapitiya and Galle were raided and robbed of tens of millions of rupees by their gang.

In 2006, the OIC of the Peliyagoda Crimes Division was Priyantha Jayakody, currently the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Crime and Organized Crime Division. Jayakody and his officers had been conducting operations for months to nab the gang. Eventually, this gang, including Madush and Unathurupe Shantha, were captured while hiding in a cave in Wariyapola. At the time Madush was merely known as “Madush of Kamburupitiya.”

While being questioned by OIC Jayakody, Madush revealed his bitterness towards his enemy: “Sir, it was Danny Hiththatige who dragged me into this life. I will send him to the afterlife someday. I can’t sleep until he’s gone.”

Later Jayakody took the initiative to inform Danny Hiththetiyage about the impending threat which went unnoticed and worse, unheeded. The gang, including Madush, were meanwhile jailed. Madush, in the Negombo prison began plotting to murder the Chairman of the Southern Province Development Authority.

At the Negombo prison Madush befriended Nissanka, a deserter from the Army Commando Unit. Madush realized at the time that Nissanka, imprisoned for several crimes, was the right person to use to kill Danny Hiththetiyage. Madush presented his plan to Nissanka, a talented marksman, and took steps to get him bailed out and set his plan in motion. On June 11, 2006, Nissanka and another underworld gang member shot and killed Danny Hiththetiyage in front of his house in Makandura.

The assassination of Danny Hiththetiyage shook not only the Southern Province, but also the whole country. The murder was initially suspected to be part of a political conspiracy, but the truth of the matter was later revealed.

Madush paid Nissanka Rs. 350,000 for his services. After this incident Madush acquired notoriety throughout the underworld. During his time in prison he established various connections among criminals, among them the LTTE member, Ice Manju who was plotting to assassinate then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ice Manju wanted help from Madush to carry out this plan offering him five million to do the job. But for some reason the plan did not proceed. Makandure Madush, who was held in the Negombo Prison for five years, was released on bail in 2011.

At that time the plot to assassinate Mahinda Rajapaksa by the LTTE was being investigated by the Terrorist Investigation Division. The TID revealed that after his release from prison, Madush conspired with the LTTE and he was arrested again by them and held for a year and a half.

He had to be released after the authorities failed to prove the conspiracies surrounding the assassination attempt on the president. His association thereafter with Maligawatte Kanjipani Imran and Kotahena Tipdon, who had become the masterminds of the Colombo heroin network, changed Madush’s life.

“There is no point in breaking into houses and robbing them and carrying out contract murders to earn a living. You have to do something big,” they told Madush who was recruited as their partner in the drug trade. At that time there are where several underworld gangs after him together with the military and the forces; so he quickly moved to get out of Sri Lanka and, with the help of Kanjipani Imran and Tipdon, established himself in Dubai.

He managed the Sri Lankan underworld from Dubai with the help of his henchmen here. After a while Kanjipani Imran also came to Dubai and the duo began to spread their wings over the heroin trade, not only in Sri Lanka but also in foreign countries like Maldives, Malaysia, and Thailand. Although he took a second wife, Madush took care of his legal wife and child by providing financial assistance. He continued his underworld activities with great precision all the way from Dubai.

It was Madush who drew out and executed the plan to assassinate Samayan by attacking the prison bus at Ethanamadala, Kalutara. The attack took place exactly as Madush had planned. Following the attack, Madush arranged for Angoda Lokka and Ladiya to be brought to India by sea from Kalpitiya. With the help of the members of his international heroin network, Madush was able to bring Angoda Lokka and Ladiya to Dubai.

After Madush’s friend Riskhan was killed by the Kaduwela underworld, he took every possible step to find the killer: Kos Malli. He kidnapped him and proceeded to cut his head off and to have it delivered to the Court Complex in Colombo, displaying his cruelty as well as his power. The extravagant funeral of Madush’s father showed the extent of the man’s power and wealth as well.

Madush’s mission of ambushing the narcotics officer in Piliyandala using a spy inside the Narcotics Department showcased his knowledge and proved why he was known as the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Underworld. His elaborate plan to loot a diamond worth seven million rupees was the biggest such case in the history of the country.

Meanwhile in Dubai, Morrill, one of Madush’s rivals, received information that Madush’s small daughter’s birthday party was being held on a grand scale at a hotel in Dubai. Morrill was in close contact with several senior Dubai police officers at the time. He also knew that drugs including cocaine would be brought to this party. He gave an anonymous tip to the Dubai Police and Madush and his henchmen were captured. After several months, the Dubai government finally extradited the Godfather of Sri Lanka home, in deference to requests made by the Sri Lankan Police.

Under the supervision of Senior DIG in charge of the Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon, Director of the Colombo Crimes Division SSP G. J. Nandana, ASP Neville Silva, and other officers, Madush was taken to the Colombo Crimes Division and two days later, on information provided by him, heroin worth over Rs. 100 million was uncovered in Kotikawatta. Madush was held by the CID for a year and a half.

The police continued investigations to seize more stocks of heroin. On information provided by Madush, he was taken to the Lakshitha Sevana housing scheme in Maligawatta allegedly to ferret out another stock of heroin. But this time Madush found not the drug stash but death. The Godfather of the Sri Lankan underworld died by a bullet through his head, at last reaping what he had sowed.


(Tranlated by Uditha Devapriya)

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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.’


Liberal Arts

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.

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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. 

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Covid-19 prevention:



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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