4th February 2001

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Family of soldiers fights for survival

By Sunil Jayatillaka

In the backdrop of a month being dedicated to felicitate soldiers and their families-the story of a three generation family of soldiers, who have been forgotten by the authorities and are facing hard times-comes from a village in Homagama.Gayan a third generation soldier in the family

The father Galhenage Dharmadasa Alwis had joined the army wayback in 1941 when it was under the British. After a two year stint he left and rejoined in 1951. He served the army until he retired in 1971 as a Corporal.

Both he and his wife Yasawathie, whom he married in 1943 felt it was an honour to have their nine sons join the Services.

Accordingly their first son joined the army's Engineering Regiment. The second son taking a cue from his father and elder brother enlisted himself in the Artillery unit.

The rest of the male children followed, the third and the fourth joining the Field Engineering unit, the fifth and sixth the Light Infantry, the seventh the Artillery unit, eighth the Light Infantry and the youngest the Field Engineering unit.

Today the eldest G.G.Alwis is 52 years old and is a Regimental Sergeant Major after rejoining the army.

His brother G.H. too, rejoined and is currently a Bombadier. The third G.J has retired and is doing a private job. The fourth G.D. is a Captain and is attached to Vavuniya. The fifth G.R is a Sergeant Major also attached to the same station. The sixth, GP is a Corporal . The seventh in the family, GK is a bombadier while the eighth, G.A. is a Staff Sergeant, attached to the Panagoda camp. The youngest G.N. Alwis is a Lance Corporal, also at Panagoda.

This family's service to the nation has not ended with two generations, but has even continued to the third generation with the son of Captain G.D. Alwis, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father now serving as a second Lieutenant.

The services of the Alwis family, is something the nation should feel proud of especially at a time when this month has been dedicated to felicitate soldiers and their families. But their story is a sad one.

The mother is confined to a wheel-chair while five of the children lack a perch of land to call their own and rough out in rented houses. They also have not been able to send their children, to any of the so-called elite schools.

" I cannot afford the luxury of sending our children to a recognized school of our choice. Eighteen of the 19 years of my service in the army, was in the troubled North-East region. However I intend enlisting my eldest son in the Sri Lankan Army, as it seems our destiny ," corporal G.A. Alwis said.

Mrs. Alwis had a tale of woe to relate reminiscing her family's services to the Army through six decades . The wheel-chair that she is confined to had been obtained on a returnable basis by one of her sons from the Army.

" A wheel chair would cost around 8000 rupees to 10,000. She is unable to afford it as her pension is a meager 3500 rupees. I have to return this wheel-chair to the Army soon," he said.

Mrs Alwis is 79 years old and needs special nourishment that the family can little afford but the sons are determined to give her the best.

Consequent to a letter sent by the Alwis family to the President stating their contribution to the Army and their present plight on June 10, 1998, they received a letter six months later requesting that they meet an official at the NHDA in Colombo.

Although they went there with expectations their hopes were soon dashed when an official at NHDA asked them to buy a house from them at an exorbitant rate of 7 or 8 lakhs, which they could little afford.

Villagers of Godagama, where the Alwis family resides, are full of praise for this family of soldiers and ask is this the kind of treatment that is meted out to a family that has dedicated six decades to the Army.

Organ twist to foetus horror

By Faraza Farook

The horrific discovery that the internal organs of the three foetuses found dumped in a high security zone in Colombo 7 had been removed has raised suspicions of a clandestine medical operation.

In the aftermath of this gruesome revelation police are probing the probable existence of a research or medical educational organisation which may have made use of these organs.

Two foetuses were found in a drain while the third whose age has been gauged around 32 weeks was found in a nearby garbage dump on Gregory's Avenue. Police said the bodies, which were heavily coated in Formalin, had been bisected.

Judicial Medical Officer L.B. de Alwis who conducted the post-mortem returned an open verdict and confirmed that all internal organs had been removed. He also said it appeared that post mortems had been conducted on the bodies prior to being dumped.

Police said the bodies were first stumbled upon by a garbage collector who immediately alerted them.

Police believe the person who dumped the foetuses might be from the vicinity as it was difficult for anyone to carry a suspicious-looking parcel and pass the checkpoints in the high security zone unnoticed.

"Someone might have even given the bodies to one of the garbage collectors to bury them or throw them away. We are still unsure of the motive, but nothing is impossible today," said one police officer.

Machine cut ends in finger chopping

By Chris Kamalendran Pix by Iresha Waduge

An employee of a private factory in the Free Trade Zone is to sue a medical practitioner at a first aid medical centre for allegedly amputating part of his finger without his knowledge.

Jayasiri Pathirana, a 28-year-old electronic technician was rushed to the medical centre of the Biyagama Free Trade Zone after the tip of his finger was injured in a machine accident.

According to the victim all he remembers was being administered local anesthesia before the nail being removed and the finger bandaged.

He says throughout the procedure he had been asked to look away and was thus unaware of the amputation.

"The doctor did not inform me of his decision to amputate part of the finger," Pathirana said.

The following day the finger started swelling and he was in severe pain.

Since the pain was persisting he was rushed to Avissawella hospital where for the first time he was seen by a surgeon.

"It was only when the surgeon asked me who had amputated my finger, did I realise what had happened," Pathirana said.

On learning that the doctor at the Free Trade Zone had no right or qualifications to perform any surgery as it was only a first aid centre Pathirana has decided to sue the medical practitioner.

Government condemns grenade attack on Oxfam

The Government yesterday condemned the recent grenade attack on the Oxfam office in Colombo and said that a full investigation into the incident had been ordered.

'The Government of Sri Lanka unreservedly condemns this act of violence against an international non governmental organisation. Such criminal and terrorist acts should be severely condemned by all civilized societies and responsible governments' a Foreign Ministry statement said.

It said that the police had been instructed to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Private grudge leads to shooting, says HRC

By Chris Kamalendran

The Human Rights Commission has advised the Attorney General's Department to indict a police officer after a probe it conducted showed that the police had allegedly twisted evidence relating to the killing of a Tamil at a checkpoint in Ingiriya.image

The HRC report on the probe says the 26-year-old Ramachandran Joseph was allegedly shot dead by the police officer in July last year not because he failed to stop at the checkpoint as the police claimed but because of a private grudge.

The state's premier human rights watch initiated the probe after a complaint by a member of the government appointed anti-harassment committee.

But, according to the complaint, lodged by anti-harassment committee member M. Yogarajan, the Police officer along with a home guard had been waiting at the scene of the crime until the van arrived.

The HRC report claimed that the bullet had pierced the victim's chest, indicating that the shots had been fired from a close range and no damage had been caused to the van to corroborate the police version.

The report also claimed that the police officer had a dispute with the victim over a block of land. The rift between the two aggravated after the police officer was transferred to an operational area for six months following a complaint by the victim that his family had been harassed and his father was assaulted by the police.

When the officer returned to the Ingiriya station, he is alleged to have arrested the victim over the death of a neighbour who was killed in gang warfare, the HRC report said. It said he was allegedly assaulted and detained but was released because there was no evidence to file charges against him.

Four months later, the victim was allegedly killed by the particular police officer, the HRC report said.

At the Magisterial inquiry, the officer had claimed that he was on checkpoint duty and opened fire when the victim did not heed his call to halt.

He claimed that other weapons were recovered from the van.

According to the HRC probe, the van had been released to the victim's father and no further investigations had been carried out regarding the alleged weapon detection.

Victim of exercise blow seeks compensation

By Chandani Kirinde

An American national who suffered a head injury while using a widely advertised exercise machine is seeking 2.5 million rupees as compensation from the company that sold it to him.

John G.Sticco claims he was injured when the machine he was exercising on gave away and its iron bar fell on his head in December last year.

He says though the wounds have healed, he still suffers from headaches and a defect to the vision in one eye .

Mr.Sticco said he had sent a letter of demand through his lawyer to the company in question and was still awaiting a reply.

However, in response to an earlier letter by Mr.Sticco the company had said it was unable to consider his claim for damages and would not accept any liability, but as a gesture of good faith would allow Mr.Sticco to return the machine and obtain a full refund of the purchase price.

The Company had claimed the accident was not due to a defect in the machine or in its installation, which is done by the company. They said the machine would have collapsed because ofMr.Sticco's failure to properly insert the pin of the machine, which had to be removed when the machine was folded up for storage and re-inserted when being used.

However, Mr.Sticco says the machine had not been folded since it was installed by a company representative on December 27. The accident happened four days later.

Mr.Sticco said the warranty on the machine does not state anywhere that the company was not liable and would proceed with court action if his letter of demand did not meet with a reasonable reply.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Standards Institute when asked if they check the standards of the exercise machines that are brought into the country said, checks were carried out only if a complaint was made through the Department of Internal Trade.

Several attempts by The Sunday Times to contact a spokesperson of the company that sold the machine failed.

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