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Opinion

Anti-Covid Issue: Science versus Superstition

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By A. HETTIARACHCHI

hetti-a@sltnet.lk

In October the second wave of Corona infections appeared in Sri Lanka and started spreading at a much higher rate than the first wave. To control its spread, the Ministers dealing with the health sector – Minister of Health, State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, and State Minister of Indigenous Medicine Promotion, Rural and Ayurvedic Hospital Development and Community Health – with the objective of controlling the spread of the disease dropped to the Kalu Ganga and Kelani Ganga several pots containing water claimed to be blessed by a certain miracle healer who treats VIPs. In addition to those health sector Ministers, two other Ministers also dropped to the rivers pots containing the same blessed water. Apparently, they have done this under the advice of the miracle healer. Despite this blessed water dropping to rivers the number of Corona infected cases continues to increase. However, the people of Sri Lanka should be thankful to this group of Ministers and the miracle healer for what they did in good faith, although they made themselves a laughing stock.

Subsequently, the health sector Ministers started promoting syrups prepared by different individuals – Sudarshana Peniya, Ravana Peniya and Dhammika Peniya, as prophylactics against Covid. They even consumed the syrup – Dhammika Peniya-in front of the media, and also got the Speaker of Parliament to consume it. Thereby, these Ministers gave a message to the public that consumption of Dhammika Peniya is a reliable preventive measure against Covid. The law of the land requires any manufactured product be labelled with information concerning its ingredients, dates of manufacture and expiry, name and registration number of the manufacturer, place of manufacture, method of use, etc. No such information was available concerning Dhammika Peniya. The person who prepared and presented it to the ministers and the Speaker says he got its formula from Goddess Kali in a dream and keeps it as a secret. Are these Ministers telling the public to believe this person’s dream? Everybody knows it is common for people to dream many things, but nothing seen in dreams becomes true. Some people see in dreams some of their dead and loved ones living. Do such dreams mean that such dead persons are living?

When the public, through mainstream and social media, asked what the qualifications of the producer of Dhammika Peniya are, one other minister responded by saying that nobody asked for the qualifications of Sir Isaac Newton when the latter formulated the laws of motion and gravity, thus equating the producer of Dhammika Peniya to Sir Isaac Newton, the great British mathematician, physicist and astronomer educated at Cambridge. At a Cabinet media briefing held subsequently, one other Minister, who is one of the Cabinet spokesmen, said the Dhammika Peniya was being tested. Is it worth spending government resources for testing such a product, produced by somebody who claims that he got its formula in a dream?

Why didn’t the Goddess Kali give this formula to the Minister of Health or the Minister in charge of production of pharmaceuticals? Further, it was reported that the Government has approved Dhammika Peniya as a food supplement. Is this type of product safe to consume as a food? Approval of foods come under the jurisdiction of the Food Act enforced by the Director General of Health. Has it been approved under the Food Act? A large number of people, including members of the Police and Security Forces, were seen gathered at the place of the producer, disregarding the quarantine regulations currently under force, to get Dhammika Peniya for their consumption to save them from Corona. These innocent people have been totally misguided by the irresponsible acts of the group of Ministers concerned.

The group of Ministers who are promoting Dhammika Peniya includes a person who worked as a professor of the medical faculty of the Rajarata University. His name also appeared in the group of scientists who found the cause of the chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology (CKDU) prevalent in the dry zone, from God Natha through a dream seen by a woman. Is a person who treats a dream seen by somebody as true, fit to be a professor of a medical faculty? Further his guru who led the CKDU group of scientists, when he was the Dean of the Faculty of Science of the University of Kelaniya, used to say that western science is a palpable lie (pattapal boruwak). His guru also justified the utterances of the Dhammika Peniya producer to the Chief Monk of Atamasthana when the Chief Monk rightfully denied him entrance to the Sri Maha Bodhi carrying a vessel containing the Peniya.

Sri Lanka has eradicated many diseases using scientific methods. For instance, smallpox was eradicated using smallpox vaccine, malaria using DDT and quinine, polio using polio vaccine. These eradications have been made without the guidance of God Natha, Goddess Kali, or any other god or goddess or any devil as seen in somebody’s dream. They were done based on policies of sensible decision-makers.

Some people who speak in favour of Dhammika Peniya say we have to safeguard and promote traditional practices. Yes, it is agreeable. However, certain traditional practices are not under practice now, as the people have found that they are not logical. For instance, earlier during the days of the kings, a complaint of theft against a person was determined by getting both the complainant and accused to dip their fingers in boiling oil and examine whose fingers were burned. We are not continuing that practice and nobody is asking to continue with it.

Many developed countries are in the process of developing and manufacturing vaccines against COVID-19. It is reported that over 50 prospective vaccines are being developed and clinically tested. Six vaccines have already been approved by national health agencies of various countries, and they are being used in mass vaccination campaigns against Covid. According to media reports, 10 billion doses of anti-Covid vaccines have been preordered by mid-December. That is how people with responsibility face the pandemic. It is a shame that our Ministers do not make science-based decisions, but rely on superstitious methods to address this issue. However, the people may rely on the newly appointed State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid Disease Control for not promoting superstitious methods for Corona control.



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Opinion

Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches

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The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.

 

D.C.Atukorala

Colombo

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Opinion

‘Post turtle’ revisited

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I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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Opinion

Abuse of use of title Professor

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I read with much interest the letter by Mr. Nissanka Warakaulle, regarding the above matter, in the issue of the Sunday Island of 18th April 2021. I agree fully with the contents of his letter. He should be very familiar with the regulations as he is a former Registrar of the University of Colombo. I wish to highlight another instance where it is abused. In the 1970s, the title of Associate Professor was created. Until then there were only three categories of Professors. Firstly the holder of the Chair, secondly a co-Professor and thirdly, an Emeritus Professor. There were also, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. The title of Reader was replaced with the title Associate Professor, which is meant to be a designation, to be used after the name. However, this category of academics started using it as a pre-fix, dropping the word Associate!

Profesor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya MBE
Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics,
University of Colombo

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