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DateLine Saturday, 11 August 2007

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White revolution - Are we ready?

“No day comes, back again; an inch of time is worth a foot of jade,” while time is being wasted without realising the value of this land for dairy industry, Minister C. B. Ratnayaka’s attempt to increase the milk production by 50 per cent by 2020 is a new vision which every citizen of this country should appreciate.

From the early 80s to date, I have worked as a practical field veterinarian in many parts of the country and the upcountry. I can vouch that the landscape, climate and the other environmental conditions of our country is ideally suitable for dairy farming.

When there is a national concern about the raising prices of milk powder one hopes that the Livestock Minister’s programme would be practical and beneficiary to the dairy farmers and the consumers.

Around 24.5 per cent of the Sri Lankan population are between the age groups of one year and 14 years, out of which 1.4 million children are reported to suffer from malnutrition according to a WHO report.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends around two glasses of milk for school going children onwards. To achieve this, Sri Lanka needs to produce 2.9 billion litres of liquid milk per annum.

The current production of liquid milk production stands at 550 million litres (Approximately 17 per cent of milk produced). On an average, Sri Lankans consume only 25 litres of milk per annum, which falls much below the WHO recommendation of 146 litres of milk per year.

Most rural Sri Lankans now reconstitute milk powder for making tea and coffee. The consumption of liquid milk in the villages and the rural area is very poor. It’s only in Colombo and some urban cities, the people are used to drinking packeted chilled standardised liquid milk of various local brands out of thirst.

To ease the shortage of fresh milk, the dairy industry needs 150,000 heads of cow with the current production level or 80,000 heads of high yielding cows. This target would take another 10 to 15 years, if only the industry is encouraged and flourishes.

In 1994, when the Peoples Alliance Government came to power one of their election promises was to ease the malnutrition level which was at over 50 per cent below children of five years of age, by providing milk to all school going children. At that time 400 grams powder milk was sold at Rs. 50.

Currently imported milk products take a fair slice of our budget, which costs 12.5 billion rupees per annum. While there are various brand of powder milk such as Nespray, Anchor, Raththi, Lakspray, Milgrow, and Highland imported and available in the market, all such products recommend three spoons each (A spoon contains 25 Grams) to make a glass of 200 ml milk. With the increase of powder milk by 25 per cent, a glass of reconstituted powder milk would cost at Rs. 30 to 41 according to their price variation. This means a litre of reconstituted milk at Rs. 160 to 200 per litre. Whereas the price of a litre of milk produced by our local farmer is only Rs. 30.

India - the largest milk producer in the world produces 90 million tons of milk to make them self sufficient.

They have achieved self-sufficiency in milk from their ‘Operation flood’ programme. The dairy technologies across the world are puzzled and fascinated by the Indian dairy development industry. The basic philosophy of the Anand pattern scientific and professional management of a vertical integrated structure that establishes a direct linkage between those who produce milk and those who consume it. Anand is a symbol of hope for millions of small farmers spread across the length and breath of India.

It is noteworthy to mention that between 1997 and 2000 ‘Operation Flood’ master mind Dr. Kurian’s effort with technical assistance to improve Sri Lankan dairy industry of Anand based NDDB project at a cost of US 20 Million ended without any progress due to political reasons.

Presidential candidate Victor Hettigoda’s dream of providing a cow to every family will never come true as far as the interest of the dairy farmers are not looked after.

The Ministry of Livestock should draw a new strategy to see that the dairy farmers are provided with good remunerations such as good quality fodder, adequate land for fodder, modern animal husbandry technology, better veterinary services, stringent slaughter act, research facilities in the farms with progeny testing programmes are a priority. Last but not least, good income to the farmers from the dairy industry would increase the interest of the rural farmers.

People across the country should be taught to drink liquid milk instead of using powdered milk, by which the want for liquid milk would increase. School curriculum should include animal husbandry as an important subject. If the above are not met with the dairy industry it will die a slow death.

Dr. A. NANDAKUMAR –
Hatton

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Tribute to an exemplary Lankan

I write as a foreigner, from Goa, India. I would like to pay tribute to the memory of a great Sri Lankan citizen on the occasion of a month of his passing away (July 4, 2007) - Fr. Glennville Sebastian Fernando, 67, known to all as Fr. Glen. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Colombo.

The services he rendered to leprosy patients in most of the areas in the island are commendable in my experience and contact with him. He worked full time as the executive of SUROL (Society for the Uplift and Rehabilitation of Leprosy patients).

Based in Colombo, he had a wide reach, travelling regularly to remote areas with care and concern for these patients, irrespective of their creed and beliefs. Apart from taking along medicines, food items and some monetary sustenance, his main concern was to see and inspect personally the condition of their skin, legs, hands and face and direct them and insist with the authorities that they get the medical care due to them.

On the occasion of his first death anniversary which fell on July 4, 2008 I intend organising with the help of well-wishers and friends in Colombo a morning or an evening of Fr. Glen Memorial lectures on ‘Freedom for Leprosy Patients’.

Further I intend floating a time bound Fr. Glen Memorial fund for the education of children of Leprosy patients.

These children will be those that Fr. Glen was in touch with and helped so much. Modalities and approvals are in the process.

Anyone interested in any one or both of the above please write in your pledges to frglenmemorial@gmail.com no obligations to anyone. I do this just as a friend and an admirer of Fr. Glen.

What mattered for Glen was what he has printed and pasted at eye level on the wall where he sat everyday to answer telephone calls and meet his patients in the reception area of SUROL.

“I prefer to look at leprosy patients as persons. If I had leprosy today I wouldn’t be happy being a public health problem. I wouldn’t be happy being yet another statistic. I am me! I am an individual with individual needs and so are the rest of us. And Leprosy is about individual men and women and children with personal pains and anxieties.”

- Eddie Askew

FR. XAVIER PINTO –
India

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Withdrawal of Ambassador, not a solution to Rizana’s problem

Rizana Nafeek, the Sri Lankan girl who was convicted of murdering her employer’s baby child, has become a hot topic in the local media. I, as a person who has got closely involved with Saudi business community and a person closely involved with the Sri Lankan community activities in Jeddah, feel it is appropriate to make a humble request from the authorities based on my experience, for the benefit of this girl.

I had the opportunity of closely associating most of our diplomatic staff in Saudi Arabia and many Saudi nationals at different capacities on various issues during my career. In fact, I had the rare privilege of representing the Saudi trade delegation appointed by Jeddah Chamber of Commerce to meet the Sri Lankan Parliamentary delegation in 2002 which was led by former Minister Joseph Michael Perera. President Mahinda Rajapaksa (the Leader of the Opposition at that time) was also in the Sri Lankan delegation. It is not ethical for me to ‘blow my own trumpet’ but done so to show my eligibility to comment on this subject.

There was a time in Saudi Arabia sometime in early eighties, where the counter clerk in the post office throwing the letter at me, when I could not understand his question ‘ordinary post?’ or ‘registered?’ in Arabic language. Whilst accepting the fact that their attitudes too have changed over the years, I too started adopting the art and style of talking to them over the years. It takes some time until you get to know their greeting styles, standard exchange of questions and answers on health and that of other family members etc. so that they feel you are ‘one of them’. This ‘togetherness’ could not be expressed by a new comer to their culture even if that person is a fluent Arabic speaker. In my own experience, even my religion did not become a barrier to become popular among those Saudi citizens.

I have personally observed that most of the Saudi nationals are very kind, soft hearted and very friendly. But all such qualities are not visible during the initial confrontations, particularly when you want to ask for a favour. I was not surprised at all about the parents of the Saudi boy not giving even an appointment to the visiting deputy Minister. In my experience with Saudi nationals for over 20 years, they do not have any special regard for politicians.

Meanwhile, I was shocked to hear about the other development of calling back the Sri Lankan envoy in the middle of this problem. I am not sure whether there had been a disciplinary or any other serious misconduct on the part of the envoy concerned for the Ministry to take this decision. If that is not the case, I believe that the announcement of the withdrawal of the existing Ambassador may have had an adverse effect on Rizana’s fate.

It is sad to note that the value of the diplomatic staff is underestimated in such instances. It is a well known fact that the so-called self appointed ‘community leaders’ among the Sri Lankan expatriates in those countries do not like the ‘straight talk’ of some of the committed officials. I have seen some instances where the names of some of the ‘golden’ personalities were tarnished because they did not ‘dance according to their tunes’. I have had a very brief association with Masnavi Sadiq as soon as he assumed duties in Jeddah as the Consul General, which gave me a sense of confidence as to his capabilities.

I have no clue as to the political alignments of this career diplomat, but of the opinion that the announcement of his withdrawal will not make any good to Rizana. I am sure that Mr. Sadiq is well qualified and capable of handling this case by dealing with the Saudi authorities, with his experience gained during the last 3-4 years in Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, I wish to draw the attention of the authorities, to use the proper and official channel i.e. diplomatic staff, in dealing with the case if they are genuine in their efforts to help the girl in trouble.

LAKSHMAN RUPASINGHE - Founder President -
Sri Lankan expatriates’ Society, Jeddah

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Astrology and horoscopes reading

I agree with B. A. Aryatilake’s letter (August 3) about Dr. Reffai’s comments about astrology and horoscopes reading.

Astrology and horoscopes are an ancient form of science, which although has yet to be proved by modern science, has not been disproved by it either. The same can be said for Allah or God, and the rest of the other-worldly experiences that have been preached throughout the ages.

This ancient form of science has its roots and branches in all cultures.

It looks onto the visible patterns and movements of stars and planets and finds some correlation between them, and that of the living. While one could not, and should not put too much faith into astrology and the reading of horoscopes, the same can be said about putting too much faith in a deity either - what one can’t achieve through prayer (valid prayer), one in the end, has to resort to the acceptance of fate, and of course most importantly on the use of the human intellect to guide.

There is a certain frailty in the human intellect which makes one go beyond human intellect and reasoning to balance out oneself. Major religions claim to supply all that is needed for the defects of the human soul, but not without their deterrence of eternal damnation. What a way to reach out to the eternal creator - righteousness mingled and mangled with apprehensions of hell.

Astrology and horoscopes thus give a fresher and cleaner respite into human faith. I wish all astrologers, horoscope readers, and soothsayers the very best into their insights, and hope that they will use appropriately, their innate ability to see what others cannot perceive.

RAMON T. FERNANDO -
U.S.A.

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Traffic offences, stupidity or wisdom?

Further to CCE (road signs, traffic offences and stupidity or wisdom?) I was travelling on R. A. de Silva Mawatha (Duplication Road) towards Vajira Road and made a right turn at the HSBC junction. Offence was I made the right turn from the wrong lane.

According to Bambalapitiya Traffic Police authorities the road supposed to be painted correctly.

They only impose the law. I told them that I do not see any road painting to that effect. The officer told me that it is not his business to paint the road.

This has to be done by the CMC. Drivers should know the basic laws. Will any lawyer educate the public on this matter?

I think there is a problem with the Traffic section of the Bambalapitiya Police.

DONALD GAMINITILLAKE -
Colombo 6

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Commendable act

As Sri Lankans living abroad always like to hear that some peace is created in our Mother Lanka. The possibility for everyone to gather around Madhu Shrine is so encouraging.

Those who are paving way for such an important task is commendable.

We are to make bridges than walls and all those who are involved in this give and take would immesurably be blessed by Mother of Madhu on August 15 at the feastive mass. Good Lord will bless all their endeavours.

PETER NORBERT

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