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Monday, 22 February 2010

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Criminal negligence

Last week there was a spate of food poisoning. Over 130 schoolchildren and some forty odd trainees at a youth training project were admitted to hospital following food poisoning. One school girl in Matale died.

This is not the first time such stories were heard. Nor are such stories rare. That means food poisoning is becoming a regular feature. Still the authorities do not seem to have realized the gravity of the situation.

The regulatory mechanisms to inspect food produced for mass consumption are either inadequate or not functioning. There is also the possibility of collusion between the clients and suppliers in providing sub-standard food. The education and health authorities should take this matter more seriously and not allow errant contractors to play with the lives of people, especially children.

Had such food poisoning occurred in a premier school in Colombo there would have been swift action taken from the highest level downwards. Beyond the first reporting of the news even the media has thought it is not important enough to pursue and comment. Old pupils and parents would have made a hue and cry.

For example, there was much commotion when there was a case of food poisoning at a function of doctors at the BMICH. The service provider, however, hushed it up with an offer of free food to the doctors at a subsequent function.

Unfortunately the parents and old pupils of the distant schools in the periphery are still not empowered. They have no clout. They suffer in silence.

It is no secret that food served in most restaurants and eateries in the country are sub-standard. There are Public Health Officers and other officials responsible for monitoring such places and taking action against errant businessmen. Though random checks take place at large intervals or in case of an epidemic there are no regular checks. The local government authorities also share part of the blame for such food poisoning and other health-related afflictions.

There should be a three-tier - national, provincial and local regulatory system to prevent such unfortunate incidents recurring. Stringent punishment should be met to those responsible irrespective of their social or political standing. If the current laws and regulations are not enough more teeth should be given to them through appropriate legislation. Strong deterrent punishments are required to tame the ways of those who aspire to grow rich quick by providing substandard food to the people with no regard to health consequences.

Winds of change

The General Election 2010 portends positive changes in the Sri Lankan polity. The President yesterday said the next Cabinet would be small. That means the jumbo cabinets would be relegated to the position of a museum piece in history.

He also announced that youth would be given responsibilities. Thus one could expect a new and fresh Parliament. This would of course contain the veterans in whom the people still have trust. Young blood would, in any case, give more dynamism to the Cabinet and the Government.

In this sense there are winds of change that portend a better and more dynamic Parliament that would be meeting on April 22.

However, one cannot be so sure of having more women MPs as relatively a few women are contesting. It is a sad reflection on the male-dominated political system that even 60 years after independence Sri Lanka is far behind even some African countries in gender representation in its representative bodies. Though there are quotas for a minimum number of women in nomination lists there is no provision to ensure that a minimum number of women are elected as MPs.

It is left to the voters to see that the place trust in sufficient number of women candidates so that the next Parliament would have more women MPs. Politicians also should introduce a decent culture if politics is to attract more women. There are many capable and educated women that could adorn our legislature. What prohibits them taking the plunge is the unhealthy example given by numerous MPs that have close connections with the fraudsters and the underworld mafia.

It is necessary to work from now onwards to ensure higher representation of women in Parliament. Perhaps, a beginning could be made by electing more women to the Local Government bodies that go to polls in 2011.

CFA: The historic betrayal

An insight to the blackest episode in Post-Independence Sri Lanka:

On this day exactly eight years ago the country witnessed one of the most appalling acts of treachery when the sovereignty of the nation was bartered away by the Prime Minister of the country to a ruthless band of terrorists whose avowed goal was to wrest one thirds of the country’s land mass and two third of its maritime border under its control.

Full Story

February 22, 2010: Two versions

What happened in Sri Lanka eight years ago, do you remember, ladies and gentlemen? Do you remember the colour of the sky that morning? Do you remember how that day was heralded as the launching of peace and prosperity for all time and a day or two more to boot? Do you remember when there were white doves set free, trees planted to mark the historic moment? Do you know that on that occasion, a Prime Minister called all editors of newspapers and nicely told them not to criticize the Government or that process towards peace he had launched?

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Tapping the best resources

Centenary celebration of the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) of Sri Lanka, the oldest rubber research institute in the world, falls this month. Research on rubber in Sri Lanka was started by British planters as far back as 1909, in the field of coagulation of rubber latex obtained from the Hevea tree.

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