Wednesday, 29 September 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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A case for a Private Medical College

While there are Private Medical Colleges in almost all countries in the world to cater to the needs of the population, Sri Lanka is the only country which does not want to have one. Even countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh, which our pundits believe are to be behind the Sri Lankan standards in education, have Private Medical Colleges attracting many foreign students including Sri Lankans. Each year hundreds of Sri Lankan students join Medical Colleges in all the continents in the world.

At one time, certain Russian universities recruited students to follow courses in medicine even without the basic qualification for university admission.

Even now there are many foreign universities recruiting students who are not adequately equipped to follow a strenuous and demanding course such as medicine because those universities have set a low level of admission requirements with the mere intention of attracting foreign exchange into their countries.

In many countries medicine and other disciplines are taught in their official languages, and such medical graduates face difficulty in passing the Act 16 test conducted by the Sri Lankan Medical Council. This fact was revealed in a recent report published by the SLMC.

The policy makers and legislators in this country have not given thought to the colossal amount of hard earned valuable foreign exchange drained out of this country.

It is time that they concentrated on this aspect and tried to stem the flow of foreign exchange at least to some extent when the country is now in the doldrums with its foreign reserves hitting rock bottom.

It is estimated that every year more than 150 students enrol to follow courses in medicine alone in foreign universities.

Course fees for medical studies and living expenses, etc. add up to at least 2.5 million rupees per student in Russia and up to 15 million or more in USA, UK, Australia or any other developed country.

Assuming an average of Rs. 4 million per student (living costs and airfair included), cost to the country in foreign exchange each year should be a staggering 600 million rupees (This is only for medical studies). If at least part of this amount can be retained in this country, such valuable foreign exchange can be utilized to upkeep and develop our own educational system.

As Nepal, Bangladesh and other third-world countries have attracted foreign students whereby earning valuable foreign exchange, we too could attract foreign students to study in our private medical colleges if those in power take necessary steps to open up private universities in this country.


Pharmaceutical dealers and Prof. Senaka Bibile

It is reported (Daily News of 19.09.04) that the Director of the Kandy General Hospital had been warned by some pharmaceutical dealers that if he continued to reveal that the syringes sold by them are suspected to contain germs, the fate that befell Prof. Senaka Bibile would befall him, too.

Those pharmaceutical dealers supposed to be dealing in contaminated material should be educated on the following points:

1. If the syringes they sell are contaminated with germs withdraw them from sale immediately.

2. Thank the Director for detecting the germs which could have killed or maimed so many poor patients.

3. Take it to heart to be more careful when selling syringes or any other medical equipment to anyone.

4. Note that their business thrives on the success of medical care and attention.

5. Learn from the experience that the people still do talk in praise of Prof. Senaka Bibile and is held high esteem whereas those who organised his 'diasappeance' are a totally forgotten lot with some of them too, are among the dead that nobody is talking about.

6. Death is sure to come to all sooner or later including those who threaten others with death or take the life of others for mere monetary gain.

7. One who fears death is a coward; one who kills another for one's own survival is a greater coward.

The Director of the Kandy General Hospital deserves an apology from all those who have threatened him with death.

He deserves the admiration of the public for the courageous and fearless stand he took on behalf of the poor people in this country. A country survives on such honest people and not on others.


Recycling of solid waste

The proposal of the National Programme on Recycling of Solid Waste for the imposition of spot fines for throwing garbage on the roadside - DN Aug. 19 is indeed commendable.

One clear example is the stream flowing through the Nugegoda town on the Nawala Road.

This stream is seldom cleaned, the water is dirty, the stench being unbearable. It is always full of polythene bags with remnants of meal packets, discarded plastic bottles and even tyres. These articles are seen stuck to the water pipes running across the stream thus preventing the free flow of even the remaining dirty water.

Another prominent spot seen in Nugegoda is the drain in front of the YMBA. At the time of writing the drain is full of garbage and the articles that could be seen are yoghurt and ice cream cups and used plastic plates with full of rain water making an ideal nursery for the dreaded dengue mosquitoes. This drain is just in front of the Buddha statue and people worship it chanting gathas while chasing away the mosquitoes sometimes unintentionally killing them.

Then the main drain from the Nugegoda junction up to the Nawala bridge is seldom cleaned and even if they are, once about a year, the discharged dirt is heaped by the side of the road without being removed. The dirt falls back into the stream.

A discarded shed at the beginning of the Kandewatta Road touching Nawala Road has fallen into the drain fully blocking it. It is strange that the MC officials have not seen it.

It could be seen that the traders dealing with hardware and floor tiles dump the waste into the drains.

People are used to the habit of throwing dirt all over and this practice must be stopped. It is time to start a campaign to stop this practice by issuing leaflets visiting house to house and placing notices at prominent places to educate the people on cleanliness. A notice by LANKEM in TV to the effect that littering is done only by uneducated people is one such.

To cite an example elsewhere, in Australia where the use of polythene is heavy not a spec of dirt is found anywhere on the road or in streams.

Notices are seen on the roadside that littering is punishable with an 'on the spot fine' of Aus. 20. In Singapore punishments for such offences are even more severe.

It is suggested that the MC employees supervisors on motor bikes to cover the full area of its jurisdiction and check unauthorized erections and throwing of garbage on the roads and drains and streams as they wish.

This may be in addition to the presence of PHIs if there are any as they are never seen anywhere in spite of vigorous action taken by the Health Ministry and the CMC to prevent the spread of dengue.

In regard to swift action I recall an incident where a visitor to YMBA on seeing the drain full of garbage rang up the then Mayor (C. Silva) and complained to him of the stench emanating from the garbage in the drain.

He immediately called over and directed the cleaning operations with a promise to maintain cleanliness in future.

In general, people have in recent times, may be because of the influx of people to towns have gone unnoticed on cleanliness of their environs and drastic steps to stop the practice must be taken. Such action will be greatly welcomed.


Economy in whose hands?

Under the UNF, the Treasury Secretary was a mere politician, the Finance Minister - a gentleman learned in law, and his junior - the economist for AL students but never held public post/office.

Now under the UPFA, the Treasury Secretary is an experienced economist with a doctorate, the Finance Minister - a former civil servant, vastly experienced in administration, with enough common sense and a doctorate too, and his junior - a budding economist himself.

Now compare the two sets and see which one is likely to do better.

Why I bring the comparison into public view is because the former Junior Minister, laments, boasts and is shouting hoarse that financial administration is in wrong hands, as if to say the whole country is doomed without his expertise. One is permitted to inflate his ego to any size but belittling others more down to earth, experienced and better suited should not be encouraged.

Rather than meaningful fiscal management, what he and his clique showed during the two years was misuse of funds, job training for party youth leaguers at the expense of unemployed graduates, and tax cuts for unscrupulous traders while pruning down the poor man's subsidies.

Crisis come only when capable people are there to handle them. That is the law of the universe.



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