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Editorial


A New Year of lasting peace and disease free health

With the onset of the monsoon rains, it is inevitable that the Sri Lankan citizenry will be compelled to face another catastrophe if timely action is not forthcoming to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.
The dreaded diseases, Chikungunya and Dengue, are poised to raise their heads once again, if there is no concerted effort by the government, local government bodies and the citizenry to combat them.
While Chikungunya plagued almost the whole of Sri Lanka during the latter part of 2006, procrastination by the Health Ministry caused numerous problems for medical practitioners and patients. As a result necessary precautions couldn’t be taken to stem the spread of Chikungunya.
When the symptoms of Chikungunya were clearly visible in patients at the initial stages, the Health Ministry, in response to a question by the media whether the Chikungunya that plagued the southern most states of India, had made its way to Sri Lanka, said “there is no need to panic, since Sri Lanka is not affected”.
The paradoxical truth then, about the Health Ministry’s denial of the island being affected with Chikungunya was that, a sizeable populace of the country was in fact, infected with it.
Their excuse was that the disease was not prevalent in Sri Lanka. However, this year the ministry would not be able to come up with lame excuses as a face saving measure, since the entire country is aware of the impending danger.
Once the rains cease, it would be time for all kinds of diseases to make their presence, since environmental conditions are very much conductive for an outbreak of a major disease such as Chikungunya or Dengue.
Uncleared garbage dumps, clogged drainage systems in the city and elsewhere in the country would provide ample breeding sites for mosquitoes carrying both Chikungunya and Dengue viruses.
The Colombo Municipal Council launched an anti Dengue and Chikungunya campaign with much fanfare a few weeks ago. However, it has taken a respite when it is most needed, due to the April New Year holidays.
It is up to the government and local authorities to engage in a relentless campaign to create awareness among the people and to launch joint programmes to eliminate breeding sites of mosquitoes.
We have seen in the past, government departments and various institutions being responsible for the city being infested with mosquitoes. This is mainly because they have not taken adequate and meaningful steps to clean their backyards.
Most residents occupying posh abodes in Colombo, are guilty of not cleaning their gardens and are unable to make a contribution towards making the city mosquito free.
It is the city council and other local authorities who should take the rap for not keeping the city clean and not encouraging their ratepayers to do so.
The time is right for such a concerted campaign to initiate a mosquito free capital city which could set an example to other urban areas not conforming to any standards, by any means.
The main problem that plagues the city and its immediate suburbs is the disposal of garbage. None of the governments that came into power since 1977, have addressed this problem in a meaningful manner, while procrastination will only make the problem worse.
Keeping the environment clean is the challenge before all of us at present. The time is right to join hands and eradicate the mosquito menace and the garbage problem, the latter being the direct result of unplanned urbanization.
The government, local authorities, all other institutions and the media should join in the campaign to meet the present challenge. Let us make an effort towards creating a better country for human habitation.

***

Encouraging sentiments

The New Year is the most auspicious period according to the belief of Sri Lankans to make resolutions of peace.
With the dawn of the New Year, it is customary for Sri Lankans to bury the past, make new resolutions and look forward for a promising year ahead.
We, at The Nation, wish all our readers, a very happy and a prosperous New Year, while urging the government to lend the olive branch of peace to our Tamil brothers in the North.
It is time to spare a thought for the thousands of displaced people in the north and east, who are suffering for no fault of theirs.
The three-decade-long ethnic strife has rendered thousands homeless. They have become refugees in their own land. The magnitude of the suffering is enormous and they are going through untold hardship, due to the senseless war taking place in the north and east.
In this backdrop, it is encouraging to hear sentiments expressed by Foreign Minister Janaka Bogollagama, that the government is willing to talk to the LTTE, if there is a will on their part. Bogollagama, however, qualified his statement, saying that the talks should be ‘unconditional’.
Simultaneously, the LTTE displayed its unwillingness to engage in peaceful negotiations with the government, if it fully implements the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement. This means that the government would be compelled to withdraw troops from areas they secured during their recent offensives. It appears now that there is an unbridgeable gap between the positions taken by both sides, which will make things difficult for any go-between.
It is not quite certain whether the Norwegians would take the initiative, to narrow the gap, and create an environment conducive for peaceful negotiations.
Sentiments expressed by both sides would have to be translated into action forthwith, if, both the government and the LTTE are interested in putting an end to the sufferings of thousands of human beings, who yearn for a square meal and a life with dignity.
We hope, that the hope will not remain a ‘hope’ for a long time but, translate those good intensions into deeds and narrow the gap for meaningful and fruitful negotiations towards a just and fair solution to the ethnic crisis.