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Coconut, the nation’s Kapruka needs protection



As one who has been involved in research into health benefits of coconut oil and also been managing a modest family owned coconut plantation for over 15 years, I would like to throw my hat into the ring in the debate involving President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s directive regarding a moratorium on expansion of Oil Palm cultivation in Sri Lanka.

The proponents of Oil Palm cultivation seem to suggest that Oil Palm, which finally results in the production of Palm oil, is economically more profitable, and healthwise not harmful or comparable to coconut oil. Dr. Waidyanatha, an agronomist of repute in his open letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which appeared in The Island of 27th August 2020, makes the following statements concerning effects of palm oil on health. “Some concern has been expressed over some bi-products formed during palm oil processing supposed to be carcinogenic, but the latest research has established that consuming palm oil in moderation hardly poses a health risk. Whilst some saturated fatty acids in palm oil may be cholesterol elevating, coconut oil it can be argued to be worse in that regard, in that the cholesterol elevating saturated fatty acid content is more”. Such wooly statements by one not qualified in the field of health or nutrition is not only misleading but dangerous.

I have previously drawn the attention of readers of this esteemed newspaper of the dangers of importing and consuming large amounts of palm oil by our population (‘Epidemic of coronary heart disease ‘the issue of Coconut products and heavy taxing of palm oil imports: The Island 2016/12/16). Dr. W tries to further support his argument by stating “Further, apart from others, the high (38%) monounsaturated fat content in palm oil has a distinct health benefit, in that it decreases the LDL (bad) cholesterol” doing so, he seems to suggest Palm oil decreases LDL cholesterol but coconut oil does not. However, if I may quote a study from Malaysia, which concluded that Soya bean based mayonnaise diet lowered Total cholesterol and LDL-Cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations without significantly changing LDL-C:HDL-C ratio or small LDL particle distributions compared to the Palm oil-mayonnaise die (Karuppiah T. et al Lipids Health dis. 2016; 15: 131). Many studies have shown both copra derived as well as virgin coconut oil to raise the good cholesterol (HDL –cholesterol), and several studies have also demonstrated a simultaneous lowering of LDL –cholesterol. For example a randomized controlled four week trial done in the U.K. published in 2018, showed that LDL cholesterol pattern in those consuming V.C.O was similar to those consuming Olive oil when compared to butter fat. More importantly, though was their final conclusion which is most relevant to readers of the newspaper – “The effects of different dietary fats on lipid profiles, metabolic markers and health outcomes may vary not just according to the general classification of their main component fatty acids as saturated or unsaturated but possibly according to different profiles in individual fatty acids, processing methods as well as the foods in which they are consumed or dietary patterns”.

These findings do not alter current dietary recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake in general, but highlight the need for further elucidation of the more nuanced relationships between different dietary fats and health”( Kay-Tee Khaw et al BMJ Open. 2018; 8(3): e020167.). Whether copra derived coconut oil or V.C.O. are equally effective and are yet to be decided in a well-designed controlled trial.

In another article appearing in The Sunday Times of 30 August 2020, this time against Oil palm Cultivation – Quintus Perera quoting from a recently held seminar makes the following statements: A specialist in Humanities is reported in the article to have claimed that “coconut has very strong resistance properties which could prevent infection of COVID-19 as it appears that those countries which use coconut extensively are immune to contracting the virus. In this sphere he said that Sri Lanka did not get this advantage as the coconut oil is adulterated with palm oil”. As far as I know, no such evidence exists from any source. The writer goes on further to state “that extensive research showed coconut oil contains chloric acid which is not present in palm oil, whereas coconut is good for the health but palm oil is not according to research.”! 4/5)

As far as I know, chloric acid is a highly toxic acid. The writer must surely have been confusing chloric for lauric! Lauric acid is well known to have antibacterial and possibly antiviral properties. No well documented evidence is available on effects of Lauric acid on Covid-19. Moreover, Lauric acid is secreted by Sebaceous glands of the skin, and not from mucous membranes of the nose or upper respiratory tracts.The Covid -19 virus is not known to enter via the skin!

There is then the question of economic feasibility. Dr. R. Mahindapala former Director C.R.I. writing to The Island 31st August 2020, mentions more or less in passing “coconut, at last, is getting value added by conversion to powder and packaged milk – a welcome development as we have been struggling to get away from the traditional copra and oil extraction.” — implying a greater degree of value addition for coconut products. In my humble opinion, Coconut was and still is The “Kapruka”. Apart from kernel products, coconut water is now exported. Coconut Timber is still extensively used for rural housing, coconut shells for manufacture of activated charcoal, coir which is turned into fibre, pith for planting material – mainly for export, manufacture of brooms from ekel, spoons etc. all of which are eco-friendly and biodegradable! Many of these products are not only forex generating but employment generating as well. How do these compare with Oil Palm?

If the President or someone in his office reads this, I would like to make one further comment and one plea. I was requested by the then Chairman of The C.R.I. in 2011, to help plan and execute research into medical benefits of coconut oil. This was commenced and a couple of projects were completed and a major clinical trial on use of virgin coconut oil in Alzheimer’s disease is still ongoing. Sadly with Yahapalanaya an elephant expert became Chairman, C.R.I., and thenceforth the institution did not see the need to continue the research! A further example, around 2014 I met with the Director Coconut Development Authority and proposed doing a study to determine the health effects of repeatedly using Coconut oil vs Virgin coconut oil vs” Kurutu thel”. The latter is very commonly used by small time street wadai sellers for example. He gave me a patient hearing but that was the last I heard from him! During the time I collaborated with the C.R.I., I also worked with the Asian & Pacific Coconut Community serving on their Advisory board and met with many officials from overseas. My plea is to amalgamate the C.R.I., C.C.B. and C.D.A. into one authority like the Coconut Development Board of India, which is headed by an I.A.S. officer and not a political appointee who could be a square peg in a round hole! Such a move would greatly improve the efficiency and productivity of three branches responsible for development of the coconut industry, as happens in India.

Former Prof. of Physiology, Fac. Of Medicine, Univ. of Kelaniya
Visiting Fellow, Fac. Of Medicine, Wayamba University

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Youth battle against drugs needed



Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy

If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.

They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.

Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.

Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.

Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.


Barbara Seneviratne

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Reduce number of vehicles on our roads



Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.

Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.

Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?

Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.

In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.

He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.





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A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy





As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.

In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.

The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.

Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.

Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.

Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.

The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.

1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:

a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.

b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.

c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.

d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.

e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members

f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.

g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.

h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.

i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.

j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.

All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.

2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.

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