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Monday, 5 October 2009

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Government Gazette


Need for DNA laboratory at Government Analyst’s Department

According to information in the press, ‘DNA finger printing’ is resorted to in many cases with respect to, rape, murder and other crimes in Sri Lanka. It entails using blood, semen and other secretion/tissue samples, as it is a foolproof method, to track down the actual culprits for sure.

It was reported that there was a case in the year 2000 when the captors of a baby elephant claimed that it is the progeny of a domesticated female elephant and the court called for a DNA test.

When the captors or owners of this baby-elephant failed to produce the mother, the court decided to hand over the baby elephant to the zoo authorities.

Other cases that received wide publicity are that of the ‘Tsunami Baby’, the Royal Park murder and Hokandara multiple murder, where this technology was used. Hence, the DNA tests come in handy in a variety of cases ranging from grave crimes to humans to those of the theft of protected animals, DNA being the genetic material that provides the code that determines each person’s (animal’s) individual characteristics.

Inquiries and some fact-finding made by the writer out of sheer curiosity, indicated that in Sri Lanka, a DNA laboratory is not available with the Government Analyst’s Department (GAD), the only prime Government authority having a Forensic Science Laboratory, with specially trained Forensic Scientists in its cadre, who are mandated to give expert evidence, in court cases of relevance, reportedly handling more than 500 cases per year.

Ideally, expert evidence of this sort has to be based on a proper examination of circumstantial evidence, which involves the analysis of physiological evidence uncovered during criminal investigations (pertaining to murder, rape, child abuse etc).

To facilitate this analysis, Forensic Scientists are trained to use ‘DNA finger printing’, along with other special technologies like, ‘blood pattern analysis’, which provide 100 percent accurate reports. In the absence of the required facilities to support such examination, the reports of these scientists invariably provide only probable answers, the provision of which in court cases, leads to the benefit of the doubt being given to the accused, and consequent acquittal.

In this connection, it is also understood that the overall conviction rate in Sri Lanka is 4 percent, which is considered to be very low, and that the provision of suitable facilities to the GAD is a major factor that is bound to contribute to increasing the conviction rate significantly, without letting the criminals go scot-free, having committed the crime and also availed of the benefit of the doubt as per probable reports provided by the experts.

It transpired that around 5 years ago, the then head of the GAD had announced to the media that a DNA laboratory will be established and that an officer is already being trained in India.

But nothing has materialized up to now. In this regard, it is not clear whether this is due to the need for this facility being not recognized as a priority item by those in authority or whether it is due to lack of finances to support the same, the cost of which is expected to be affordable for Government financing.

It was also found that it will be cost effective for the judicial processes, if the GAD could have the aforesaid facility at its disposal rather than seek the analytical services outside, handled by Biochemists (with no Forensic Science background) at exorbitant cost to the Government.

Even though it is the duty of the relevant authorities to impress upon the decision makers regarding the need for the aforesaid facility, it is expected that this write-up by a member of the public will throw light on the issue and catch the eyes of those decision makers with authority (including Justice Minister) in this connection and that saner counsel will prevail to favourably consider providing the much needed finances, with a high priority, for the putting up of a DNA laboratory at the GAD.

It is understood that the operational costs for this are minimal and also that the expertise to use the same is available with the GAD. This is all the more important at this point of time when the GAD is planning to move out of the current location in the premises of the Auditor General’s Department, to a new building being constructed at Battaramulla.

Through the provision of this facility, which is a need of the hour, better use can be made of the specially trained forensic science expertise of the GAD, paid for at public expense.

Thereby, the laboratory will hopefully continue to serve a useful purpose over the years, for the benefit of the Sri Lankan public, by contributing, a) directly to the conviction of errant criminals without letting them go free and b) indirectly by leading to lowering of the current high incidence of grave crimes in Sri Lanka.

Bus route No. 336, Kottawa-Malabe

As the roadway from Kottawa to Malabe has well developed now the travelling time has reduced drastically and it takes only few minutes for the trip.

However the buses take an unnecessarily extended time as they stop and wait for passengers during the journey, mostly at Vidyala Junction.

As all the buses do the same thing there is no special advantage for any bus.

Now it has become necessary to reduce the scheduled time period from Kottawa to Malabe and this may be the solution for time wasting.

Unlike earlier days, now the route is being used by personnel working in IT Park, Students of SLIIT (IT Campus) and vast number of students.

Malabe Township is being developed as a modern satellite town of the capital city and the IT Park of Malabe to cater the present and future needs of the ICT Sector. Road Network has already tremendously developed.

Unfortunately management of public transport system is as in 3-4 decades ago, wasting valuable human resources spending unnecessary time for travelling.

At present most of the professionals working in these areas prefer to use own transport as the public transport wastes time.

If the public transport system is well managed, more people prefer to use the same saving valuable foreign exchange spent on fuel.

The National Transport Authority has the responsibility of time management of the transport system for improving efficiency of transport system and as a result the maximum utilization of valuable human resources and saving foreign exchange.

We hope attention will be paid in this regard by the respective authorities.

Cultural Affairs Bilingual Manuscript Competition

It is culturally accepted in any competition for the competing participants future guidance to know their shortcomings and failures through constructive advice and comments in judgements in the event of losing.

In the case of visual competition where the competitors and the judges are visible manually the desired advice and comments are apparently felt by all parties.

Above mentioned competition has dragged on for six months since the submission of manuscripts by competing participants on April 01, 2009 under 3 categories viz: Novels, Short Stories and Poetry in English and Tamil. In this manner it could be thought that one Panel of Judges for each category will be handling 1/6th of the manuscripts submitted for competition, which shows that there is sufficient time. It is reasonable for a competitor to know how many competitors participated in his/her category and how he/she is badly placed or well placed.

May the authorities take suitable steps to provide the desired answer as a self denial of freedom of action till October 15, 2009 has been imposed on competitors by the organizer by a letter which contained as follows: “After the manuscripts being judged thrice by a Board of Panel, the selected manuscripts will be published as a Departmental publication and only the winners will be notified as to their success. Manuscripts which were not selected for publication can be obtained during the period October 15 to November 18, 2009.

There is no usual cultural ethics in this competition to build enthusiastic cultural progress. Why let good cultures be hanged and say: “only the winners will be notified, others can obtain unselected manuscripts after October 15, 2009”.


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