|Tuesday, 18 November 2003|
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Do we as consumers have the right to know what contains in the products we consume? Consumers in this country are both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The many vegetarians we find are for reasons personal to them and this is not an article on behalf of vegetarians only, but to also raise the issue of consumer rights as a whole in this country.
I am sure that conscious vegetarians are aware that most cheeses are manufactured by using either Rennet or Pepsin. Rennet is usually sourced from the abomasums (fourth stomach) of newly born calves while Pepsin is usually derived from the abomasums of grown calves or heifers.
These animals have to be killed for this process. Rennet and Pepsin are used for curdling as part of the manufacturing process of cheese. Most imported brands of cheeses which are found on the shelves of our supermarkets have specified the usage of Rennet or Pepsin in their ingredients section of the wrapper or container.
Also, in some countries like Australia and New Zealand, vegetarian cheese is amply found which does not use Rennet or Pepsin, but a vegetarian based enzyme which are from either fungal or bacterial; a few of them are also now found in Sri Lanka. What has surprised some vegetarians here in Sri Lanka is that yoghurt manufactured by local brand names which is amply found on the shelves of shops and supermarkets are not vegetarian since they use gelatin.
Gelatin is a protein substance obtained by boiling animal bones and connective tissue in water or in a dilute acid. Gelatin is also available in vegetarian form although the yoghurt manufacturers in Sri Lanka use gelatin of animal origin apparently based on the recommendation of the Bureau of Standards; I have received verbal confirmation from all major producers of yoghurt in Sri Lanka that this is the case where gelatin of animal origin is used in the manufacturing of yoghurt.
Moreover, what really did surprise me is that certain brands of curd have also gelatin of animal origin which I'm sure may surprise some; I have received written confirmation from one major local manufacturer of curd confirming that they use animal based gelatin although to my surprise they haven't stated so on their containers; in fact, I have written to this particular manufacturer for the past few years requesting them to indicate in their ingredients section of their containers that gelatin is used so that consumers are aware of the contents.
However, they don't seem to respond but their curd has flooded the supermarkets. These are only a few products that I have come across and there could be many more.
Would the Bureau of Standards or any other relevant organisation comment on this matter and also as to why they cannot recommend a vegetarian based gelatin as well to such yoghurt or curd manufacturers?
Apart from all what is written above, why can't the relevant authorities insist that the manufacturers inform consumers the details of the contents/ingredients by printing them on the wrappers or containers of the product, so that the consumer is aware of what they are eating regardless of whether it's of vegetarian origin or not.
If that's too much to ask, I request all such manufacturers of dairy products to print a big V in the front of their containers or wrappers, if the product is of vegetarian origin free of eggs, gelatin or meat based products, so that such products could be easily identified.
A. R. WICKREMASINGHE, Thalangama
It is very sad the private security guards are not paid a living wage and work under very difficult conditions.
Many of these young men come from distance villages and have no proper place to live, they have to work for more than 12 hours, no overtime is paid, no off days, no EPF and ETF contributions are remitted to the Labour Department.
Most of these Private Security Companies are run by retired Gazetted Police/Army officers, who have exploited these young youths, mostly school dropouts, who due to unemployment in the villages come to the cities in search of employment.
In some establishments these guards who work on night duty without a guard-room are exposed to the elements the whole night outside the premises.
Many of them work for short periods as they find it very difficult to maintain themselves, nor to help their dependents in the village with their wages, later many of these guards get involved in thefts and crime and other nefarious activities, after having come to the cities in search of employment.
It is sad these security guards are not organised, nor do they have Trade Unions to represent their problems and improve their working conditions. Even the natahmies labourers in the Pettah Manning Market are well organised.
Large establishments should not give contracts to those Security Agencies who do not pay a living wage to the security guards, who also do not contribute to the EPF and ETF to the Labour Department.
The Labour Department flying squads should raid these Security Agencies frequently and bring them to book and also the Civil Defence Department who issues licences for their operations, should monitor their terms and conditions of employment, time and again.
F. A. RODRIGO-SATHIANATHEN, Kelaniya
I read with interest your excellent editorial of November 8. I think that Sri Lanka can say "thank you" to many people and nations who have supported her over the past few years.
For example, it would be a very good gesture for the Tourist Board and Sri Lanka Cricket, to say thank you to the "Barmy Army" that will shortly follow the English cricket team in Sri Lanka. If the figures are right, about 10,000 people will do so.
Most, if not all of them, could have stayed away in the light of recent events.
Announcements at the various cricket matches saying "thank you" to them would be an appreciative gesture. They are our friends, even though they support the wrong cricket team!
During the past five years or so, so much has been written for and against death sentence being reintroduced, but at present there seems to be a lull in shouting slogans etc.
According to a recent newspaper report, a noted criminal is wanted by the Police in connection with some 50 murders committed or engineered by him. This could be a local record for an individual. Inwardly, he must be regretting his criminal acts, but he is sure of coming out of prison alive, if he does not die in the prison.
I wonder what prevents the Capital punishment being reintroduced? True, we are a Buddhist nation and one has no right to take away another's life. But does this not apply to all including the murderers? An individual can kill another person but the State cannot punish a man with death in punishment for killing another man. What logic is this?
In the Middle East, it is known that for rape the sentence is death, but in our economy, like rape, killing is also not a serious offence to warrant Capital punishment.
Serious consideration should be given to reintroducing death sentence, if the crime rate is to be reduced. To ensure the safety of women and children physically and morally, as in the Middle East, we should also punish the rapists and other sex related criminals with death.
DAVID WILLIAMS, Lindula
RJ writing to this paper on 23/10/2003 regarding a quoted company where 57 per cent of the shares are held by five shareholders, questions whether this is a make-believe public company. He concludes that this is actually a private company. His conclusion is wrong, but of course, the readers understand the message he tries to get across to the regulatory bodies. His letter would have attracted the attention of SEC and CSE officials.
But, it seems it is not their responsibility to comment for the benefit of the public. They are only interested in the continuous climb of the share indices.
Let me share my limited knowledge on the issue raised by RJ and hope that someone knowledgeable on the subject will correct me, if I am wrong. According to the company law, a public company should have a minimum of seven shareholders. According to Colombo stock exchange rules, a quoted company is required to maintain a public float of 25 per cent. A single shareholder (not acting in concert) can hold unto 30 per cent of shares in a quoted company. It appears that a quoted company can continue to remain as a listed company with only seven shareholders.
It is also noted that out of the total market capitalization of Rs. 322,500 Million, only shares valued Rs. 161,000 Million are deposited with the CDS. Therefore, shares valued more than 50 per cent are not intended for active trading. How do these statistics compare with other markets? The information should be readily available with those involved in research on equity markets.
RJ is also justifiably very critical of the Auditors of the company. The allowance paid to trainees who do bulk of the audit work is a clear indicator of the quality of Audits that can be expected. But then the grievance of the Auditor is that the client is not willing to pay a decent audit fee to carry out a quality audit. At the end of the day, the shareholders get a raw deal. Isn't it possible for the Auditors to obtain an ISO quality assurance certification?
B. L. PERERA, Seeduwa
MNHA (Letter - Nov.5) who has had a successful heart operation at a private hospital in Kandy says the unit would close down for lack of funds.
He also points out that the Kandy General Hospital, although it has a newly built spacious three storeyed cardiology unit with provision for heart surgery, is not yet being fully equipped.
Further, although pacemaker implants are carried out; there is no ancillary a much less costly unit to check the functioning of the pacemaker.
Patients have to go to the Colombo Cardiology unit on Tuesdays for this purpose. Besides, people from the Kandy district, those from distant places like Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Badulla, etc. are compelled to go there. The procedure there is tedious and time consuming, more so, for the elderly and feeble.
One has first to go to the record room by 11.00 am to get his record fished out and sent to the pacemaker unit in the first floor of another building.
This unit opens three hours later about 2.00 pm. The waiting room gets crowded and spill over to the staircase; many in the mean time faint.
After the pacemaker is checked, it is sent up to the medical clinic which is in the first storey of another building.
Again joining another queue, after a doctor goes through the report, he will usually prescribe drugs that will have to be collected by joining another queue.
Under these circumstances, this service should be provided in the Kandy Cardiology not only for the convenience of those who have implants there; but also for those in the outstations.
TISSA AMARASEKERA, Kandy
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