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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

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More needs to be done

Dengue is once again in the news with the inter-monsoonal rains lashing the country in all its fury. As usual the wheels of the country’s health administration has started moving with a flurry of activity aimed at combatting the epidemic. Dengue campaigns are in full swing with even members of the Armed Forces co-opted to the task. The fourth National Dengue Prevention Week is now being conducted islandwide. Parallel to this another nation wide campaign is on covering among other places schools and Government institutions for signs of dengue breeding spots.

According to a news item we carried in our inside pages yesterday 390,675 places including schools and government institutions have come under the microscope. It was found that a staggering 116,496 spots were possible dengue mosquito breeding grounds. It was also revealed that 22,914 government institutions comprising 90 percent of all State bodies that were subject to inspection were guilty of harbouring the dengue mosquito where the larvae were detected in their premises. What an indictment? Here we have the government Health Ministry issuing warnings to the public to keep their surroundings clean on pain of prosecution while the State itself is found to be the worst offender.

The story further states that Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena has called on the National Dengue Prevention Campaign officers to file cases in courts against the Heads of these Government institutions for their negligence in this respect. It also states that a list of government institutions which were responsible for dengue mosquito breeding places is to be handed over to the President who is the Head of the Presidential Task Force on Dengue Prevention. Hopefully this will result in all government institutions in the country adhering to accepted environmental standards pertaining to their surroundings minimising the risk of the spread of dengue.

True, the government institutions may be guilty for such a lapse. To begin with a majority of government institutions in the provinces lack basic facilities and are not properly maintained. Their buildings are more often than not in a run down dilapidated state and their immediate surroundings squalid creating the ideal setting for the dengue mosquito. Travelling into the interior one often comes across a large number of abandoned government buildings with their vast compounds overgrown and lying in neglect. Needless to say these provide a ready haven for dengue mosquitoes.

The Health Minister should first get his colleagues in the Cabinet who are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these buildings to carry out a thorough clean up of these premises and maintain them continuously in order to ward off the dengue threat. The Government should lead by example if it wants the public to follow suit.

Today even the government institutions in the metropolis are largely in an unkempt state compared to the plush facades of the private sector establishments. Many buildings are in a derelict state crying out for repairs and proper maintenance. It is the same with the large number of schools especially in the Colombo Central and Colombo North areas whose premises are an eyesore.

Most of them, are in a run down state with broken gutters and crumbling walls. The Health Minister should ideally tackle the problem at the root to begin with before venturing into prosecuting the offenders. He should have taken to task those responsible for this sorry state of affairs within the State administration at the very outset itself. It is only then that the Health Minister will be in a position to deal with the public. Here too stiff penalties are called for. From the way people continue to ignore orders in respect of dengue risk the deterrent appears to be ineffective. Whatever happened to the laws that were to be introduced to prosecute all those households who had damaged overhead gutters, another prolific source for dengue breeding.

As in all other instances the Health Ministry machinery gets activated only during an emergency such as at present when the rains have come. Instead it should have a concrete plan to tackle this and all other epidemics before they get out of hand. Government institutions and schools are only the tip of the iceberg. Dengue breeding spots are rampant all over the city landscape. Garbage piles still go uncollected, polluted canals and waterways still remain uncleaned. Abandoned property overgrown with weeds and reclaimed by the elements are there for all to see cumulatively contributing to the dengue epidemic.

What is therefore needed is a concrete comprehensive plan to tackle this and all other epidemics before they start spreading. In this context it is gratifying to note that the President no less is personally leading the fight against dengue as Head of the Presidential Task Force on dengue prevention. Hopefully this would lead to a long-term plan to fight the epidemic.

Ven Agga Maha Panditha Rajakeeya Weligama Gnanaratana Mahanayake Thera completes 97 years:

Erudite monk in country’s history

The appointment of the Most Venerable Rajakeeya Panditha Weligama Gnanaratana Mahanayake Thera as the new Mahanayake of the Amarapura Dharmarakshita Mahanikaya was unanimously announced by the Executive Sanga Committee of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya on September 12, 2003, a position vacated with the demise of the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayake Thera. The prelate was until then the Anu Nayake Mahanayake Thera for 47 long years.

Full Story

Torture, summary execution and war crimes in ‘nasty places’

There are two indisputable facts associated with the US-UK led invasion of Iraq. First, there was absolutely no evidence of Iraq having ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMD). Secondly, Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister has confessed that the invasion was illegal.

Full Story

Prof Leslie Gunawardana:

A true scholar

Prof Leslie Gunawardana, who died on November 16 after a prolonged illness, will rank among Sri Lanka’s greatest historians. His achievement-rich life will no doubt be an inspiration to any young child in a country plagued with inequalities. What he achieved as a researcher and intellectual, rising above all kinds of parochialisms, will be a good example for those who aspire after true scholarship. He will be sadly missed by his numerous friends, students and admirers and the larger world of scholarship.

Full Story

 

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