"We were not able to clear them for nearly a year."
But the RSSL is hopeful of clearing the equipment after the President of the country came to their aid.
The VHF handheld communications sets were donated to the Sri Lankan radio amateurs (ham radio operators), by the Japanese manufacturer ICOM, on the recommendation of the Japanese Amateur Radio League, soon after the December 26th tsunami.
But Sri Lanka's defense establishment, which is paranoid about what is grandly headlined in the local media as 'high powered radio sets' has refused permission to clear the equipment.
After struggling for almost a year, the radio society finally wrote to the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse in November, just before he was elected President of the country.
President Rajapakse had directed the matter to be expedited soon after coming to office, having had first hand experience of how valuable ham operators are in an emergency.
Sri Lankan hams ram a shortwave (High Frequency) link between the Government Agents office in Rajapakse's hometown of Hambantota and the disaster management headquarters at his residence Temple Trees in Colombo from December 27th, to December 28th.
A satellite phone issued by the government became inoperative after three hours after the battery went down, and the amateur station was the only link to the capital for nearly two days, when police re-established communications links.
Members of the RSSL also ran mobile communications for the Hambantota Government Agent using VHF handhelds in their vehicles relaying messages to his office from outlying areas of the district.
"Members used their own vehicles and fuel," says Goonetilleke. "We did not ask for any government help, all our activities were funded by members and well-wishers."
From December 27th 2004, an RSSL station also operated from Rahula College in Matara, another coastal town badly hit by the tsunami.
Amateur radio operators have proved to be a vital link in many disasters that occurred in the world after the discovery of radio.
Ham radio operators Nicobar and Andaman islands also rendered valuable service to disaster victims soon after the December 26th tsunami.
A restriction on ham radio use in the islands was lifted only in November, a month before the tsunami, prompting eager hams to mount an expedition to the archipelago.
Expedition members supported by the Indian military with batteries and other equipment, relayed messages to victims families in the mainland for many days after the disaster.
In some developing countries, amateurs are viewed with suspicion by defense authorities.
Sri Lankan amateur radio operators are also struggling to preserve their hobby against crippling bureaucracy and paranoia.
Since the tsunami, defense authorities in Sri Lanka has not approved a single new amateur radio license, despite nearly 15 new applicants having passed the examination set by the country's telecommunications regulator.
No clearance has also been given for new equipment ordered by RSSL members.
Sri Lanka has about 200 licensed hams and only 50 have equipment but only a few can be easily transported operated easily.
The radio society has also been pledged equipment from other radio societies to set up two additional VHF repeater stations but the society is unable to bring them to the country.
"The Radio Society is not one bit of equipment richer after the tsunami," says Goonetilleke. "Not only have we not been able to bring down equipment donated to us, but even requests by members to import their own equipment have not been approved by the Ministry of Defense".
Sri Lanka's defense establishment has a history of being hostile to radio amateurs.
In August 2004, the Japan International Corporation Agency, in Sri Lanka which upgraded its internal two way radio network offered old the equipment free of charge to the radio society.
The defense authorities refused permission, claiming the equipment operated on frequencies no allocated to hams, despite the written assurance by the Radio Society that the equipment would be modified under government supervision to operate only on amateur bands.
The JICA equipment, which was in temporary RSSL custody with telecom regulatory approval pending defense clearance, was later confiscated by the police.
"If we had the equipment we would have been able to provide a much better service during the tsunami," laments Goonetilleke.
"We have now trained a group of members to man emergency stations based in schools, but we cannot import any equipment."
Twice in the island's recent history (in 1958 and 1971) their equipment had been seized and confiscated.
Except in police states such as Romania, where the dictator Ceausescu banned ham operations, democratic countries do not usually intimidate or close down amateur radio stations.
Defense authorities assume enormous powers over the ordinary citizens' lives in this strife torn country.
The entire domestic aviation industry was shut down by the Air Force in the mid nineties when the war with the Tamil Tigers intensified.
-Asantha Sirimanne: firstname.lastname@example.org