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Perish without western science and medicine

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The credit of elimination of many deadly diseases in the known history – smallpox, malaria and polio – goes to western science.

When the malaria epidemic raged in Sri Lanka, mainly in the Sabaragamuwa and northwestern provinces in the 1830s, nearly 80,000 people died out of a population of some six million. Sufferings of people were immense, and more than hunger, in some places there was no one to bury the dead. The leaders of the leftist movements at the time, took the lead in providing relief to the poor.

This is one of the first hand experiences of them, vividly explained in the book “Revolt in the Temple”, written in commemoration of the 2500 Buddha Jayanthi. The relief workers entered a village in Sabaragamuwa. No people could be seen, as most of them have either died and some had left the area. When they traced the village deeper, a cry of a child could be heard. It was a child sucking the breast of the dead mother. By the side of the mother was a dead elder child. In front of the house was a mound of soil, the grave of the father, who had died earlier.

Finally it was western science, quinine, not indigenous medicine, which rescued people.

I must hasten to add the following. When I returned after foreign training about 20 years ago, I was posted temporarily to a major hospital at Sabaragamuwa. After seeing quality healthcare abroad, it was shocking to see more than 25 newborn deaths per month. I, along with my senior female colleague (currently at Lady Ridgeway Colombo) got the JAICA Japanese project expedited and changed to the best standards. Finally, when we left, one year later, only one or two newborn deaths occurred per month. Very small babies were surviving and the quality of care was excellent. Now such care is available islandwide, thanks to western medicine (and free health service).

In both the above-mentioned examples, quality healthcare is due to the advancement of western science. The famous evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, referring to the journal New Scientist, says, (available in YouTube,”try to understand science or you ….).

Even a bodhisathwa would suffer thirst or hunger depending on the place of birth, as per Buddhist teachings. The availability of western science and medicine for survival, is part of niyama dharma of Buddhism? (Anyone interested in niyama dhamma can browse the same).

 

Dr LAL RATNASIRI

Child Specialist/Matara



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Opinion

President’s ‘order’ to produce 70% from renewable energy: A response

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Dr Janaka Rathnasiri (The Island, 1st March 2021) has not filled-up the relatively simple table of electricity costs, when the President’s order is implemented. I reproduce the table.

I gave him a clue (last column) by stating production costs approved and published by PUCSL for 2019. Wisdom acquired from internet on grants to reduce greenhouse gases may to be translated as reduced prices paid to electricity producers from renewable energy. Dr Rathnasiri may reflect them in production costs, as he fills-up the fourth column.

Filling-up the table needs no knowledge of electrical engineering, power system engineering, renewable energy technology or utility experience. It requires only elementary arithmetic. Dr Rathnasiri has to ensure 13% + A + B = 70% (equal to President’s order).

If 2030 is too far ahead to visualize, Dr Rathnasiri may fill-up the table for year 2021. The only number that he cannot change is 9.92, which also reflects another “order” from the government not to increase electricity prices. PUCSL, too, claimed credit many times over, for not increasing electricity prices. So, Rs 9.92 per unit has to stay.

 

Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya

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Imran Khan – rare blend of politics and sportsmanship

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By the time you read this, our nation’s Goose may have been cooked in Geneva, and only the bare bones are left for political pundits to chew on. I have been consistent in my belief that our performance from 30/1 onwards was unprincipled and reckless. I am less concerned about whether the UNHCR has the authority to take us further along to judicial prosecution or not, but I am more worried about the moral and ethical dimensions of how we have handled the matter of quelling the murderous LTTE and its supporters.

When the terrorists disdainfully rejected one of the several peace offers of the Kumaratunge-led Government, Kadirgamar eloquently summed up the situation and his disappointment, ending with “If it is War the LTTE wants, then War they will get”. And boy, did they not get it! I was reminded of the lines spoken by Julius Caesar to the emissary sent by the Senate, to walk him into a death-trap “Cannot is false, dare not falser, tell them that Caesar will not come”.

The usual political pundits and social media see sinister plans among other things, of the visit of Imran Khan, whose single speech I listened to, displayed a great command of English, depth and clarity of thought, and excellent delivery. Then it crossed my mind that he was after all a product of Oxford for his B.A?. He had also spent a significant part of his life in the UK. To captain Pakistan for a long time, displaying his talent as a formidable fast bowler, an outstanding captain, and an ambitious and persistent politician, he has literally won his place as PM.

It is my belief that quality in a field, different from competitive politics, generally makes for a good politician, rather than those who can boast only of political experience. Imran Khan is by nature, a “team man”. He deserves to be honoured and admired.

He has also been a humane philanthropist, endowing a hospital for cancer patients, reportedly to honour the memory of his mother, who had died of this dread disease. Still, Sri Lanka Cricket, SLC managed to further enhance its already filthy reputation by denying Michael Tissera and Arjuna Ranatunga to a felicitation event. This, once again reinforces my view that sports should not be of concern or interference of politicians. I wish I could have retrieved that memorable speech by Lakshman Kadirgamar, to our cricketers in London while on his way to New York. Sangakkara’s selection to be President of Lords, will keep our flag flying.

I have drifted somewhat from the title of this note. I have no doubt that our counterpart upheld our 2500 years’ Sinhala culture, by delivering his speech with his characteristic oratorical splendour, in “official” Sinhala. I hope that our honoured guest did not choose to match it by replying in Urdu.

I leave it to specialists to explain the links that bring in the East Terminal issue, the recent Modi speech in South India, and the Trinco Oil tanks. We could do with some complex chatter that will stamp us as masters of the art of seeing the sinister implications of even the most harmless exercise of our nations’ hospitality. We are devilishly clever, are we not?

 

Dr UPATISSA PETHIYAGODA

 

 

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Opinion

Electricity for all by year end:

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Prime Minister’s promise

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said at the Kerawalapitiya LNG Project inaugural ceremony, that at present 99% householders had electricity and by the end of the year every household would have electricity. The question is how electricity has been supplied to 99% households.

This brings to my mind the effort of the then Minister for Power and Energy, D. B.Wijethunga, who as far back as the 1980s, had a vision to provide electricity to rural areas. As the provision made available in the annual budget of the CEB was only to extend lines to those suburban areas which were considered profitable, and provision made available in the estimates of the Ministry was meagre, he directed the Secretary to seek foreign funding for rural electrification. It was then that the Asian Development Bank was approached and they agreed, on condition that only those rural areas which were profitable be selected.

On this requirement, the CEB did an exhaustive survey and the ADB, being satisfied, granted the loan. When work started, Members of Parliament rushed to have their villages supplied with electricity. When being told that only those viable are to be supplied, they agreed to fund such villages with their Decentralized Budget allocations. I handled this project at the Ministry level. Credit should be given to the engineer who was entrusted to carry out the project – Maxi Tissera – for his personal dedication. Since then, all successive governments continued to take great interest, as it turned out to be a political issue to entice the village voter. As for the negligible 1% yet to be supplied with electricity, it is due to being in remote places. It is hoped the houses in these remote villages will be provided with Solar panels.

Next, to the LNG plant at Kerawalapitiya which was ceremonially inaugurated, it has a very unpleasant repulsive history. This project should have been constructed about four years back, if not for the scandalous interference of the then Minister for Power Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and the Secretary to the Ministry, Dr. Suren Batagoda, by not approving the tender board decision to award the tender to the lowest local tenderer -Lakdhavani; instead to be awarded to a Chinese construction company, which had quoted higher. This was contested by the local firm. As there was no response to several appeals, the local firm filed action in courts to get redress.

Fortunately, with the defeat of the Yahapalana government, the present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa intervened, and made the local firm withdraw legal action and awarded the tender to the legitimate lowest bidder – Lakdhavani. If this project was constructed earlier, the country would have saved billions. However, the culprits who delayed this project, for reasons, better not discuss, are free. It is left for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to probe and suitable action be taken, considering it a national crime.

As far as I am aware, subject to correction, a LNG terminal has not been built and when the construction of the LNG plant is completed, it will stand idle till terminal facilities are provided; hence it is suggested that immediate action be taken to have one provided in time, if not already done.

G.A.D.SIRIMAL

[Rtd. Asst, Secretary, SLAS

Ministry for Power and Energy]

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