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Anti-Covid Vaccines cheaper and safer than local brews!

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By CHANDRE DHARMAWARDANA

A recent newspaper headline carried a “Plea to try traditional medicine before importing billions worth of anti-COVID-19 vaccines”. There are two questions to examine here. (a) In a country afraid of even burying post-Covid corpses and insisting on cremations, should one “release” infectious patients to practitioners of traditional medicine who come in all shades and colours? Should the much abused precautionary principle be applied here? (b) If the country uses indigenous preparations, will it save billions?

We answer these two questions, and then discuss their rationale. (a) Patients who wish to be treated by traditional medical practitioners should be ALLOWED to do so, as long as they use registered practitioners. Secondly, (b) using scientific medicine and its vaccines is not only EFFECTIVE, but also MUCH CHEAPER and safer.

Choice of the treatment is open to patient

Sri Lanka reports 50,000 Covid cases since the pandemic began, together with a death toll of approximately 250 in early January 2021. This means, given 200 patients, there is going to be only ONE fatality. Of course, this low fatality rate is partly due to the success of Sri Lanka’s doctors. It is also established that many fatalities are cases of “co-morbidity”, with diabetes, cardio-vascular problems, or asthma and respiratory health problems.

So the threat of the pandemic is not its mortality rate, but its rapid infectiousness. The pandemic generates large numbers of patients, saturating hospitals and exhausting the staff. Many homes are too poor and unequipped to isolate sick individuals. Thus they need hospitalisation. So, many who need hospitalistion do not need special procedures and intensive care, but they need health care.

The known biochemistry and physiology of viral infections suggest that a good course of action is to treat the patient’s fever, body pains and other symptoms, and allow the patient to rest, sleep well, and hydrate well. Then the normal defence mechanisms of the body kick in and the viral infection passes away, just as with common influenza. So, if the patient wishes to use traditional medications, the main difference for Covid-19 is proper isolation — to prevent the infection spreading to caregivers and others.

So, patients may choose Indigenous medicine, and that choice should be respected if quarantine requirements can be ensured. The patient uses “pas-panguva” and other brews, special preparations based on herbs like “rasakinda (Tinospora Cordifolia), veni-ael-gaeta (Coscinium fenestratum), heen-bin kohomba (andrographis paniculata), pitawakka (Phyllanthus Niruri) etc., as recommended by a traditional herbalist. Heen bin-kohomba is also well known in Chinese herbal medicine. It is said to be officially prescribed for Covid in Thailand. A perusal of the “Vattoru” (herbal lists) given by the late Ven. Ananda Maithreeya, is sufficient to identify the herbs of interest for the relevant class of infections. The pharmacological properties, and botanical details of many local herbs and plants are given in the website https://dh-web.org/ place.names/bot2sinhala.html that I have developed over decades.

All these herbal medications, even the recommended “best ones”, are much less efficacious than, say, acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol, Panadol) in lowering fever and body pain. Rasakinda extracts, even when given in high doses, take over two hours to bring down the fever of laboratory mice tested in clinical studies, while acetaminophen does it at a much lower dose, and within half an hour. Furthermore, many herbs like “heen-bin kohomba” or “Rasakinda” – while more effective than the ubiquitous “pas-panguva”, also have adverse consequences (see our website).

In contrast, acetaminophen is very safe even for pregnant mothers, and the reported problems have arisen from “human error” or “patient folly”. Indigenous medicine lacks effective antipyretics like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Of course, some say, “we let nature take its course”, and do not lower the fever! But high fever can have adverse effects, and the febrile sick find it hard to sleep and get rest.

Nevertheless, if someone chooses traditional medicine for a Corona-SARS type infection, they should have their wish, subject to proper quarantine procedures that hospitals of indigenous-medicine can easily provide. Such hospitals should have the right to transfer patients to hospitals practicing scientific medicine, if the health of the patient needs it.

Covid vaccine is far cheaper than Traditional Medicine.

People are surprised to hear that vaccines and “Western Treatment” are much cheaper than local brews or herbal medications. A 500 mg tablet of acetaminophen at the State Pharmaceutical Corporation costs Rs 1.00 (or at most Rs 3.00 if a name brand is purchased). Three such tablets, costing Rs 3 per day is usually enough to control fever. A packet of Paspanguva costs Rs 200-400, and usually at least 4-5 packets may be needed since viral infections take 7-10 days to heal. The total cost of the “Western treatment” may be Rs 21, while the cost of the herbal treatment using 5 packets of “paspanguva” is about Rs 1500, i.e., 70 times more expensive. In addition, if other less common preparations (e.g., using Rasakinda, or Heen Bim Kohomba) were used, the cost would be even more.

So, the treatment of an uncomplicated viral infection using indigenous medicine is about a hundred times more expensive than using scientific medicine. The latter is also less prone to side effects (e.g., for complications from Rasakinda or Bin Kohomba, see our plant website).

It is also claimed that various special brews like the “Dhammika Peniya“, or the “Sudharshana” brew etc., can cure or protect against Covid-19 infections. Owing to politicisation, and opposition to any scientific review as being a part of “Western Hegemony”, no peer-reviewed clinical studies are available. How preparations saturated with sugar can be approved for invalids who may well be diabetic is unclear. However, assuming that accredited medical personnel of the Dept. of Indigenous Medicine accept the brews, we include them in our discussion.

The Dhammika Peniya (containing honey, nutmeg, and two undeclared ingredients) is said to cost about Rs 6.000- Rs 8,000, and needs to be taken during four days to obtain a cure. Assuming that a US dollar is Rs 200, a bottle of the “Peniya” costs $30-40. According to reports, such a bottle may be adequate for two people. Hence the cost of immunization, or treatment with the “Peniya” is $15-20 per person. The other available local preparations are as costly. They are in extreme short supply, the price would move up, and there would be no more at any price.

Unlike the “Peniya”, extensive clinical trials have been used with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, as well as with the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine. The Oxford vaccine is the most convenient for Sri Lanka, as it does not need ultra-cold storage. It is said to cost about $2., i.e., 7-10 times CHEAPER than the “Dhammika Peniya”, the performance of which is unknown.

If approximately 65-70% of the adult population were vaccinated, “herd immunity” is said to set in, benefiting the whole population. Sri Lanka’s adult population is about 14 million; the approximate cost of the vaccine for 70% (9.5 million) is $19 million. Sri Lanka can do it, and has led the way in South Asia in the past, in successful vaccination programs to counter common diseases where traditional treatments failed.

To assume that 9.5 million doses of the Dhammika Peniya (or the preparations offered by its competitors) are available at any price is pure fantasy. Nevertheless, even at $20 per portion of a local brew, the local treatment will cost the country $190 million, not including organizational costs.

Sri Lanka should avoid becoming the country that made a pooja of $190 million to “Kali Amma”, and yet earned the Wrath of the Goddess – “Deva Udahasa“. If Peniya fails to work, it is surely not the fault of the “Kapuva“, but a “Deva-Udahasa”!

 

(The author maintains a website, viz., dh-web.org/place.names/bot2sinhala.html on local plants, ethno-botany, phyto-chemistry and plant pharmacology.)



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Opinion

Where are the Maha Nayakes?

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Coincidentally, February 26th was Navam Full Moon day, when after 20 years of attaining enlightenment, the Buddha preached the “Vinaya Pitakaya” or the code of conduct for Buddhist monks. It is sad that that the majority of them hardly heed the principles laid down there.

I was anyway, contemplating writing a piece on the conduct of Malcom Cardinal Ranjith on national issues when Dr Upul Wijayawardhana beat me to it with an excellent piece in today’s (26.02.21) The Island!

The Cardinal has been very discreetly and without undue emotions addressing the national issues at stake with substance and authority, and the appropriate actions the government should take. By contrast our Buddhist priests often deviate on political riffraff, praising the political leadership or criticizing it, rather than confining themselves to the matters at stake! Often their utterances over electronic media are disdainful, full of emotion and very unbecoming of monkhood! They are unaware that the moment one becomes emotional, one loses self-control and make a mess of things! They should take a ‘leaf from the ‘Cardinal’s Bible’, as it were!

There is no argument that priests, Buddhist or otherwise should take evidence-based stands on national issues and endeavour to move the political authority in the right direction. They should not go to praise the President or other politicians unduly, but confine themselves to facts of the matter as the Cardinal always does.

What is most disdainful is the manner in which Buddhist monks conduct themselves in protest rallies, often shouting slogans, forcefully breaking through security defenses, and even climbing windows! Very often the leaders of mass demonstrations, especially of universities, are priests. Of course, they do so, knowing that the police will handle them gently, with dignity and respect!

It is noteworthy that other religious leaders hardly participate in protest demonstrations. Even if they do so it is done in a peaceful manner. Our Buddhist priests should follow suit.

The question is where the leading monks who should discipline the juniors are. Many of them are, sadly, the culprits themselves! Have they at least read the “Vinayapitakaya”? Moreover, I am not aware of any instances of Mahanayakas endeavouring to discipline monks. Should they not at least ensure their conduct is on the key principles of “Vinaya Pitakaya”? It is time the Mahanayakas and other leading Buddhist monks addressed this vital issue of discipline of monks as matter of highest priority.

 

Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha

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Opinion

A drive of great memories

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Sanjeewa Jayaweera’s recent recollections (The Island 25/2) of advantages of coming from Ceylon/SL – or rather “benefits” accruing from Mrs B’s permitting Pakistan to use Ceylon/SL airspace in 1971 — when he was living in Pakistan, remind me of similar experiences in 1974.

Four of us drove overland (well, only one of us could drive then) in a Beetle from London to Sri Lanka, taking nearly six months. At the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, neither side checked our heavily laden car.

We had gotten used to cooking for ourselves in many countries, and camping up to Turkey; so we always carried basic foodstuffs. In Pakistan, however, many things were rationed and towards the end of our stay we needed to stock up.

Just before leaving Lahore for India, we went in search of rice and sugar (rationed). One chap we happened to ask, got into the car (with four already in it and luggage overflow) and said he would get us what we needed. He insisted on giving it free — “You are my brothers!” Very strange – it was only later that we discovered the reason for this.

He jumped out near a shop and disappeared, presumably to queue somewhere. Returning with about 8lb of rice and 3 lb of sugar, he absolutely refused to accept any money. Instead, he insisted that we visit the Shalimar Gardens and wouldn’t let us pay there either. We took a photograph with him which we promised to send him. He was an Assistant Store-Keeper at Pakistan Oxygen.

However, things were slightly different at the border. The Pakistan side wouldn’t let S, our Ugandan-Asian friend, cross. No Hindu from any part of the world was allowed to cross into India. Fortunately, our group was pretty mixed (with a Sri Lankan Buddhist, Sri Lankan Muslim and an Anglo-Asian atheist! – though fortunately, that wasn’t on the passport). S’s “companion” insisted she’d become a Muslim by marriage, and signed a declaration form to that effect. Problem solved! But a moment of anxiety at Indian Customs when a cursory search was made of the car. Officials were offended by the fact that we’d brought rice with us — “We have rice in India!”

MANEL FONSEKA

 

 

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Opinion

Realities of Canada’s efforts to prevent child conscription

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Letter to PM Justin Trudeau

 

Right Honourable Prime Minister,

Canada’s efforts to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is greatly appreciated. Your statement on the 12th of February 2021, reaffirming Canada’s commitment to draw attention to this inhumane practice with the longstanding intent of ending such conscription, along with nearly 100 UN Member States endorsing the Vancouver Principles on ‘Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers’, is most commendable.

The late Honourable Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lanka’s former distinguished Minister of Foreign Affairs, too devoted a great deal of time in campaigning for the same laudable objectives, and also canvassing international support towards the aims envisioned in the Vancouver Principles, and peace in Sri Lanka. He was unfortunately gunned down on August 12, 2005, by a sniper belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which group was designated as an international terrorist movement by the UNSC in September 2001, as he was emerging from the swimming pool at his residence in Colombo.

The LTTE was one such organization that abducted and conscripted children, several of whom were as young as 10 years, over a long period, that came to the attention of UNICEF that recorded a total in excess of 7634 such child soldiers. After a short period of training, they were unleashed on remote villages in the north and east of Sri Lanka settled by Sinhalese farming communities, who were set upon in the middle of the night to be hacked and shot to death while they slept, to make them combat ready. The last such village that was attacked was Gonagala in the Ampara district in the year 2000, where 62 persons were put to death, with the lucky ones escaping to the jungle to be rescued later by Sri Lanka’s security forces. Despite the LTTE signing a pledge with UNICEF’s Special Rapporteur, Olara Otunnu in 1998, and thereafter making repeated promises to the UN officials, they continued to conscript underage children to their fighting forces. They would abduct them on their way to school or homeward bound children after school hours, and by instilling fear and making threats to the parents. Subsequently, they forced each family to release a child for their separatist war effort.

These child soldiers were given combat training and were equipped with an AK47 automatic weapon and a cyanide capsule strung around their neck, to be bitten into in the event of their being captured. They were used as stormtroopers in the LTTE’s unceasing waves military strategy, adopted in battles against the Sri Lanka Army, with many of them becoming casualties in combat. Their bodies were laid to rest in the special cemeteries set up to bury the LTTE’s martyrs, with no mention of their dates of birth, and only the date of death being recorded on the gravestones in order to hide the fact that they had conscripted under age children below 15 years, which was a war crime. Some of the children so conscripted were brainwashed to become suicide bombers, with the LTTE holding the world record, having exploded around 377 human bombs.

Those responsible for the disruption of schooling and family living and care for Tamil children in Sri Lanka, are present in Canada as well, and raised funds for the terrorist war engaged in by the LTTE through extortion of Tamil expats and Tamil owned businesses, drug and human smuggling, passport fraud, and numerous other illicit activities. Following the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, and ending of the three- decade long separatist terrorist war in Sri Lanka, these LTTE activists in Canada, have donned the cloak of human rights activists to spread their fabricated stories, doctored videos, and unsubstantiated wild allegations of IHL violations and war crimes, supposed to have been committed by the Sri Lankan security forces during the last phase of the armed conflict January 1 to May 18, 2009. It is a shame that these allegations have been swallowed by the powerful countries in the west that continue to harass Sri Lanka at the UNHCR and other fora, based on these unproven alleged violations, citing Ban ki-Moon’s one sided three- member panel report headed by Marzuki Darussman, which has been locked away for 20 years till the year 2031.

Unlike these bogus allegations emanating from born again pro-LTTE Human Rights activists, Sri Lanka rescued about 300,000 Tamil civilians held by the LTTE as a human shield, in the final battleground at Mullivaikkal on the northeast coast; sheltered them in welfare camps in Vavuniya where they were fed, provided with education, vocational training, psychiatric help, etc., until the land area of almost 1,000 sq. km was cleared of landmines, houses and infrastructure restored, and made safe for resettlement in their former villages. Among those who surrendered were nearly 12,600 former LTTE fighters, including the remaining 594 child soldiers who were rehabilitated with new livelihood skills and released to their families and society, where they could be gainfully employed under the restorative justice principles adopted in their case.

A new 12-minute video documentary has been produced under the title ‘Truth Behind Dare’ using video clips provided by the rehabilitated ex-LTTE fighters which shows the military training given to the children who were abducted and conscripted as soldiers for armed warfare, most of whom perished in battle. Some scenes show parents handing over their children to the LTTE terror organization as part of their propaganda to claim willingness of the civilian population to give up their children for the separatist cause; which obviously fails as the parents faces shows the immense pain they suffer at the time, as the alternative is violence being directed at them and their children still risking being abducted on their way to or from school.

Other scenes show Adele Balasingham, the Australian nurse who was married to the LTTE’s ideologist, in military attire, participating in a Passing Out Parade of women cadres most likely trained by her, who were being garlanded with the signature ‘Cyanide Necklace’ for committing suicide in the event of capture. Adele Balasingham today resides freely in the UK, probably supported with the tainted funds raised by the LTTE, with no questions asked about her being part of a designated international terrorist movement.

The LINK to this revealing video is given here: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpz8Cl_-YpM&feature=youtu.be> .

Please watch the video to learn the facts behind the rigged version that is propagated by the pro-LTTE organizations, which have been sold to the western powers who seek to punish Sri Lanka for geopolitical reasons best known to them.

MAHINDA GUNASEKERA

Toronto, Canada

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