This blog is dedicated to my home town Negombo, its people, its history, culture, its life, politics and the norms and the values which I learned from them.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Negombo people gathered in a rally to raise their issues !!!

A larger scale public rally was held in  Sri Lanka's catholic dominant coastal town of Negombo on 17/06/2015  to draw the government's attention to their issues. The rally was mainly to outline the problem caused by the evacuation of  the main seven-storey building of the Negombo general hospital, which was built in the year 2000, following the warning of  Moratuwa University revealed that the building may fall down soon. It was reported that there were more than 5000 patients in the building and it was the houses of the intensive care unit, dental care, mental health, OPD and several other departments of the hospital.

The seven-storey building of the Negombo general hospital initially constructed by South Korean company 'Kabool Construction Ltd' and the project was completed by another South Korean company of 'KeangNam Enterprises' under a Korean aid loan of US$ 8 million from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF).These two companies also constructed a seven-storey building in Gampaha general hospital premises in the year 2000 using the funds from EDCF. Both projects did not meet the required standards and had found water leaking problem from the roof since the opening of the building.

On 27th September 1998, the Sunday Times newspaper of Sri Lanka has reported that  top officer of the Sri Lanka's Finance Ministry's External Resources Division (ERD), had been moved out, amidst controversy and allegation over the collapse of a massive tender for a project of that Negombo and Gampaha hospital projects. The officer was believed to be Mr. B.H. Passaperuma, who was the director in charge of ERDs Eastern affairs, had headed a team which negotiated the tender process under the Korean Aid loan. He was transferred to the Ministry of Plan Implementation as a director of district development. The newspaper also reported that some officials in the ERD however say Mr. Passeperuma's transfer was a routine one, but other sources claim it was linked to the tender dispute.   

The water leaking  problem from the roofs of both Gampaha and Negombo hospital buildings  worsened after few months since the opening and the health department of Sri Lanka's government  paid only little interest to those issues because that hospitals were under the Western Provincial Council's control.   

The Western Provincial Council of Sri Lanka spent six million rupees on Gampaha hospital and completely resolved its problems, but did not repair the Negombo hospital's seven-storey building. The reason for that remains unknown to the public. Consequently, the Negombo general hospital's seven-storey main building has now been classified as being near to collapse. 

Since the evacuation of that main building, the Negombo general hospital is now overcrowded in housing and number of  hospital departments are stop functioning. There is a fear that some department of the hospital may transfer to other hospitals in the vicinity, which will eventually disassemble the Negombo hospital's facilities and reduce its capacity. 

So, the people who gathered in that rally demanded from the Sri Lankan government (1.) to take the Negombo general hospital directly under the central government's control from the Western Provincial Council, and (2) demanded not to transfer any departments from the Negombo hospital to other hospital in the vicinity. 

The people of Sri Lanka's catholic dominant coastal town of Negombo believed that their hometown was deliberately being neglected and gradually undermined its statues by the country's political authorities since the independence from the British colonial rule. 

During the colonial period, Negombo was the second biggest and the most developed city in Sri Lanka's Western Province after capital Colombo. Itself was a  district for sometime and then became a part of the Colombo district. But it was declassed in 1978 and brought under the newly created district of Gampaha. Then, Negombo lost its administrative significance. Sri Lankan's main international airport, which is situated just 8km away from the Negombo city centre, was previously known as the Negombo airport. But 1956 elected S.W.R.D. Bandaranayaka's government renamed that airport as Katunayake airport before it renamed Bandaranayaka airport.

The centuries-old Negombo commercial harbour down graded into a fishing harbour by a Gazette notification. The Negombo old Dutch fort, queen Elizabeth the II visited Negombo new rest house and other historical building of the town had been left to go to ruin by the Sri Lankan government and did nothing to protect them, while mainly Sinhala-Buddhist people live Galle and Matara area's Dutch forts and other old colonial building were restored. The education level and school system of Negombo area slipped down to a lower level after the government took over the management and the assets of the church ran schools in 1960. The city was the place that introduced Sinhala cinema and the live band music to Sri Lanka but still lack of a standard cinema hall and a art gallery. Still Negombo hasn't got a good quality sport stadium although it was the town that historically supplied more than half of the players for the national football team and the hometown for the Asian medal winning athlete of Sri Lanka.

Hence, it seems  that the Negombo hospital issue may be the latest and most blazing case for people in this city for this very moment but  they have plenty more issues to raise and should gather more for the  protests and demonstrations.

The 17/06/2015 rally was organised by Negombo catholic organisations and managed to bring more than 60 catholic priests from all the parish churches  and at least sisters from all the  convents of Negombo area, as well as the Buddhist monks, other Christians,Hindus and Muslims religious leaders and a larger number of people from every corner of the city. 

Mracus Priyantha Perera 

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