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Sunday, 6 April 2003  
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How sincere are anti-war protests?

Protest demonstrations have been held in many parts of the world against American and British military action before and after the outbreak of war in Iraq. We ordinary citizens of this country do not want a war situation in any part of the world and we hope and pray that peace returns to Iraq as soon as possible.

In Sri Lanka too, anti-war protests had been held in Colombo in the past few days. A good section of some of these protesters, protested against the peace efforts made for a negotiated settlement of the ethnic issue in our own country before and after the commencement of the peace talks. When you do not want peace to return to your own country how sincere are your protests against the war in Iraq ? This calls for an examination of your conscience.

Joe Muttucumaru, 

Hadji sacrifice - a response

The "devout Muslim" Fathima Thair's letter in the Sunday Observer of March 16, reflects only her ignorance of her own religion. It is a pity many Muslims do not read or understand the Quran, only recite it like a parrot. If they do not understand the Arabic at least they can read the translation of the Quran.

The Quran clearly says in Sura 'Haj' verse 37: "It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah; it is their piety that reaches Him". Doesn't Fathima Thahir know that Allah is not in need of any sacrifice or blood? That in Islam sacrifice is for the sake of feeding the poor. She, drawing a drop of blood from her finger does not satisfy anyone - neither the poor nor the Almighty Allah. If she wants to help any one let her donate a pint of blood for someone who needs it.

I wish she will ponder when she plucks a flower, (even cauliflower!), kills a cockroach or when she takes antibiotics to kill the bacteria, - whether she wonders that she is robbing another's life ? All these have lives - and they do not submit willingly either.

I also wonder whether she eats chicken or fish, or even uses maldive fish or eggs, or vegetables; or rice - absolutely everything we ever consume has or had life at sometime. If one thinks of not taking life at all, one just has to stay hungry and die.

It is Allah's decree - called nature in other religions, - that there is a life cycle - each creation becomes prey to another, and right on top are human beings who are allowed to consume everything, albeit other than the prohibitions laid down by Allah, but then ultimately the human body is consumed by the lowest of the creatures - the putrefying bacteria. There lies the wisdom of creation.

Dr. Mareena Reffai, 

Meat consumption - a response

Dr. D. P. Atukorale in his letter (Sunday Observer, February 02, 2003) has come out with some interesting reasons as to why man was not anatomically and physiologically created to eat meat. I disagree with his flawed comparison.

Dr. Atukorale started off by claiming that vegetarians have healthier and longer lives compared to non-vegetarians. To support his claim, he goes on to say that there are roughly 9 million vegetarians in the United States. It deceptively looks like a very large number but when you consider the population, vegetarians represent less than 0.5% of US, an insignificant percentage. The remaining 99.5% of non-vegetarians has made US to be one of the healthier nations in the world.

Dr. Atukorale also claims that India has the highest concentration of vegetarians. If so, why is India rated as one of the most malnourished nations in the universe? According to United Nation Population Fund statistics, more than 30% of India's population is under-nourished, compared to less than 10% in US. It stands to reason that poor dietary habits coupled with poverty are the main causes. Therefore, vegetarianism does not automatically equate to good health. It can cause mal-nourishment. Carnivorous and Herbivorous are two extremes in a wide spectrum of eating habits in the animal kingdom.

Between these extremes lie the habits of Omnivorous animals. Humans fall into this category and more. They have the capacity not only to select their foods but also to prepare and understand its dietary values.

The power to reason and make choices is inherently a human trait. On the other hand, animal species do not posses those human traits - animals do not cook food like we do. They don't need to. Their physiological makeup does help them digest their food raw.

Therefore, to compare human dietary requirements, eating habits and physiological makeup with animals is ludicrous.

All the 15 reasons Dr. Atukorale had listed out to prove that humans are similar to herbivorous animals is an exercise in futility. One comparison I take offense (pardon my pun) is when he claims that meat eating animal pass putrid excreta unlike vegetarian animals whose excreta is not offensive.

Therefore, Dr. Atukorale extends his comparative logic to humans: vegetarian's excreta is sweeter smelling than we meat-eaters! I am willing to accept his position if there is a research finding in human feces smelling test. In the absence of any evidence, I am willing to volunteer myself to whoever has the courage to conduct such an experiment. The good doctor should know that God created all waste matters to smell distinctly different from one another.

The animal kingdom and humans are not in competition to find who can produce the sweeter smelling excreta. If nature has made excreta smell sweeter, bees, like flies, will be swarming behind every animal and a simple satisfying everyday pleasure will indeed be a painful experience. The purpose why waste matter smell differently are many: it serves as markers for territorial animals, food for nature's clean up crew like dung beetle and swine, help bacteria identify waste products and start the biological breakdown process working, as a identification marker for animals like dogs, etc.

I have the good fortune to work for one of the top Zoos in US. My experience teaches me that the vegetarian silverback Gorilla's excreta is more putrid than the meat-eating Tiger. Even if we take an animal test and apply to human, Dr. Atukorale's assertion that carnivore's waste smells offensive does not hold true.

Meat and fish are part of a healthy diet and so is vegetable. This is a basic dietary guideline issued by every nation in the world. To compare apples with oranges, and because of their dissimilarities conclude that apples are like pineapples, defies common sense. They are three different fruits each with their own unique qualities. Human, herbivorous animal, and carnivorous animal each got its own dietary habits. It's futile to compare them.

Tuan Riza Rassool, 

Animal sacrifice - a response

This is in reference to a reply by Fatima Thair in the (Sunday Observer of March 16), to my article titled 'Philosophy underlying the Hajj'. in the Sunday Observer of February 2.

It is my responsibility to clear the confusions over the subject under discussion to my sister Fatima Thair who calls herself a devout Muslim while she has to learn more and more about the philosophy underlying the teachings of Islam.

Muslims are the spiritual descendants of Ismail. The universal sacrifice by the Muslims on the 10th day of Dhul Hajj is only a practical demonstration of Abraham's (Ismail's father) intention and readiness to sacrifice his son in pursuance with God's command. The Divine command to Abraham was first to sacrifice his son and then to abstain from actually carrying it out, showed it was intended to abolish human sacrifice which was prevalent at that time among most nations.

Sacrifice of animals was originally enjoined on followers of all religions and the cruel practice of offering human beings as sacrifice was a later innovation. The Holy Quran says: "And to every people we appointed rites of sacrifice, that they might mention the name of Allah over the quadrupeds of the class of cattle that He has provided for them. So, your God is One God; therefore submit ye all to Him.

And give thou glad things to the humble". (22:35) In Islam, sacrifice does not consist in appearing an offended duty or in atoning for one's sins but rather in sacrificing one's all for the sake of God and in the way of God. The object underlying sacrifice is to realize and proclaim the Oneness of God by sacrificing our ambitions and aspirations, all our ideas and ideals and even life and honour for His sake. In reality, God wants and demands no offering from us in the form of flesh and blood of animals but the offering of our hearts.

We should not, however, be understood to mean that because it is not the outward act of sacrifice but the motive behind it that really matters, the outward act is of no importance. True, the outward act of sacrifice is the shell and spirit underlying it is the kernel and essence yet the shell or the body of a thing, like its soul, spirit or kernel, is also of very great importance because no soul could exist without a body and no kernel without a shell.

A. Abdul Aziz, 

Indiscretions of some doctors

There are some medical specialists in Sri Lanka who wish to obtain laboratory investigations of their patients in laboratories of their choice. Invariably, the hapless patients have no choice of their own but to accede to the request of specialists.

Nonetheless, this practice has led to some health problems to the patients themselves who have been at the receiving end of untrained and unqualified technicians. But the specialists themselves have no worry since their returns are manifold. They automatically qualify for commissions and/or expensive hampers with the compliments of these laboratories. In some instances the tests requested have been redundant in considering the patients' condition.

I have served as a medical laboratory technologist for more than 50 years - 24 of them in government service and, therefore, it is not strange that I am aware of these malpractices that deserve to be detested for all time because such conduct on the part of specialist doctors soils their oath of Hippocrates - revered as sacrosanct and inviolable. About three years ago I took my wife, who had a severe chest pain, to a specialist who had a number of letters behind his name denoting his qualifications.

After the preliminary examination he directed my wife to a particular laboratory with special reference to a particular technician. When I told him that I was a qualified technician holding a certificate issued by the Ceylon Medical College Council and registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council, he just pooh-poohed my submission and insisted that I take my wife to that particular laboratory or else he would lose confidence in his own treatment.

An outstanding feature of the report obtained was that the ESR - Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate - was absolutely normal. The specialist prescribed some medicines but even after two weeks my wife's condition remained the same.

I decided to go to the same specialist - subsequent to my doing the ESR test which was frightfully high - but only to be told "you have made a mistake somewhere". My wife's condition was diagnosed later as a 'left bundle branch block' which in fact was a heart ailment.

Another case in point is that of a medical specialist, financing a medical laboratory for a 'blue-eyed' male technician working in the same hospital. This laboratory is equipped with the most modern ECG machine, X'ray unit and automated instruments required for blood investigations.

The specialist directs all the patients to this laboratory - while shunning reports from other laboratories in the area - in an overt attempt to make a colossal profit while promoting the 'blue-eyed' technician to glory. In her wild enthusiasm she miserably failed to diagnose a case of dengue fever of a girl who was saved by the skin of her teeth due to the untiring efforts of the doctors at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.

How long this unethical practice will last and how many patients will die only the Almighty God will know. If these specialists call what they are doing is a 'service' the very word 'service' should stink.


FM emphatic on UN role - a response

I write with reference to your news item entitled "FM emphatic on UN role" that appeared in the Sunday Observer of 23.3.03.

Before the US war on Iraq, President George W. Bush warned the United Nations to support the United States stance on Iraq or "face rethink of its role in the 21st century". President Bush knows the importance of the United Nations in world affairs. He also suggested that the UN could "get its legs of responsibility back" in post war reconstruction. Therefore, it is premature to think that the United Nations is about to collapse.

During today's (26/3) UN Security Council meeting, Kofi Annan said, "all of us must regret that our intense efforts to achieve a peaceful solution, through the Council, did not succeed". He appealed to all to uphold the principles of the Charter that was essential if the Council was to recover its rightful role as the body with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Echoing the sentiments of our Foreign Minister, many speakers at the UN Security Council hinted at imminent dangers to the future well being of the United Nations. The Representative of Iraq said that he was still hopeful that the international community would be able to impose its will on those who had broken the international law. A failure to do so, he said, would mean the end of the United Nations system.

The representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Non-aligned Movement, said the Movement strongly believed that Member States of the United Nations should observe and abide by the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law in dealing with problems among nations. The Movement opposed all unilateral military actions or use of force, including those made without proper authorization from the Council. It deplored any unilateral action against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Member States.

However, we should not forget the fact the United Nations Security Council is handling many peacekeeping operations in very crucial areas, and it's leading the international coalition against terrorism. The Council is paying attention in practical terms to such issues as illegal drug trafficking, organized crime, and other issues that are of direct interest to many countries in the world.

In looking ahead to a UN role in a post-Saddam Iraq, Russia's Foreign Minister Ivanov made clear that there cannot be a political settlement in Iraq without the Security Council. Likewise, many world leaders including France's President Chirac, British Prime Minister Blair and the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are in the process of agreeing that providing humanitarian aid and rebuilding Iraq should be under the aegis of the United Nations.

The United Nations will still be needed for humanitarian relief efforts, peacekeeping missions, and nation building all over the world.

Somar Wijayadasa, 
Former Representative of UNAIDS to the United Nations

Be wise BACSL!

It's a shame for Sri Lanka cricket team to lose all three matches and the World Cup. First with Kenya and secondly with India and thirdly with Australia.

Captain Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss and took it easy with the Kenya team. He underestimated Kenya team and lost the match. Secondly the Captain should have been cautious the second time not to make the same mistake when the Sri Lankans met the Indian team. We won the toss and let India bat. We should also blame Mr. Watmore for losing these matches. He should have advised the Captain.

The selection to play the World Cup team was also not satisfactory as the selectors were colour blind or they were supporting their favourites on political reasons.

Why was Roshan, Kaluwitharana wicket keeper, batsman dropped? Why was Kumar Dharmasena and Upul Chandana dropped?

If we had these players in the team we would have won the World Cup.

Why are we taking Ranjit Fernando as our announcer for every match?. He has been there for donkeys years. We could have instead taken Mr. Eric Gauder.

What I feel is that the selectors should resign immediately. It's a shame for our cricketers.


People who care

The adverse publicity concerning many Sri Lankan hospitals made us afraid to enter any hospital.

But, due to a sudden illness I was forced to enter the Apollo Hospital from the emergency admission, operation and till the day I was discharged I was taken care of by a very kind and dedicated staff.

A mother from a remote area whose daughter had received kind attention by the staff made me translate her praise and gratitude.

We too thank all the staff at Apollo Hospital and very specially Dr. Rakesh Kapoor and his team for their positive words, kindly explanations, their smiles and their dedicated work to ease our pain and worries.

Helpage eye hospital is another place where we found a 'caring' staff quietly doing their great work. Recently we sent a poor person for a eye operation. Everything was done free of charge and today she is able to see. A donation is all that Helpage needs to continue their caring work.

We wish Sri Lankans will have such caring hospitals.


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