|Tuesday, 13 July 2004|
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The need for statesmanship
With the people speaking out loud and clear once again and handing the UPFA yet another handsome mandate - this time at provincial level - to take the country forward to progress, the time's ripe for the main political parties of the country to act in unison, filled with a deep sense of responsibility.
The body politic would do well to heed the call by President Kumaratunga to heal its divisions and give development and progress a chance, under the UPFA Government. Now that it is abundantly clear that the people are overwhelmingly behind the UPFA, it is only fair and just that the Government is afforded the opportunity of ruling the country and serving its allocated term.
It is time that the UNF in particular, recognized the need to act in a democratic and responsible manner and help in providing the necessary atmosphere for effective governance. All those elected to Parliament and the Provincial Councils should now end any bitter, wasting squabbles and refrain from going at each others jugulars, for the sake of development and peace.
We wish to remind the UNF in particular that it is now duty-bound in terms of democratic principles and practice to refrain from obstructing the work program of the Government. Rather than engaging in destructive politicking, which would take this country nowhere, it should now help in taking the country forward by offering constructive criticism.
We do not expect the Opposition to be a passive onlooker but it needs to realise that the country is waiting for dynamic progress. It shouldn't hinder this process. Instead, it should await the next hustings in a democratic spirit, when it would get a chance to compete for power.
Right now, on account of the obstructionist role of the Opposition, no swift progress seems to be possible. It may even come to the point where public sector salaries may have to be paid on the basis of Supplimentary Estimates. So grave could be the consequences of destructive politicking by the opposition.
Politics of this kind will take the country backwards. The peace process, for one, would suffer very badly. Peace is a cooperative endeavour which would benefit everyone. Bearing this in mind, the Opposition needs to cooperate with the Government.
It is also evident that Opposition cooperation is needed for constitutional and electoral change if the current distortions in electoral outcomes are to be avoided. We call on the Opposition to act in a spirit of statesmanship and responsibility by the country.
The 15th International AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Conference started in Bangkok on Sunday with calls for more money to fight the pandemic that now threatens a catastrophe in Asia.
The conference theme is "Access for All" with the spotlight on the plight of HIV-infected women and children, the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that 12 billion dollars will be needed to fight the disease in poor countries in 2005 and 20 billion in 2007. The Global Fund for Fighting AIDS is allocating a bigger quantum of funds, but rich nations must do more in collaboration with the WHO and UNAIDS.
More funds are urgently needed in the light of revelations that an ambitious plan to provide AIDS treatment for three million people in developing countries by end 2005 is way behind schedule. The scheme aimed to provide cheaper anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to people in these countries. Urgent action is needed to get it back on track, says the WHO. At the moment, only around 400,000 people are being treated.
Although the cost of treatment has come down to about US$ 150 per year per patient, scientists are yet to perfect a vaccine or a complete cure. There are calls for a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise that will increase coordination and exchange of information among vaccine scientists.
The search for a vaccine must be expedited before the disease claims millions more - 20 million have died from AIDS since 1981, and 38 million have HIV, which wrecks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer and pneumonia. A total of 4.8 million people were infected with HIV in 2003 alone and more than 2.9 million AIDS patients died.
AIDS now has Eastern Europe and Asia in its sights, especially the "Big Three" China, India and Indonesia, which together represent some 40 per cent of humanity. South and South East Asia have 6.5 million people with HIV/AIDS. The disease is prevalent in this country, though not at alarming levels. However, we must not let our guard down. All possible steps must be taken to prevent its further spread.
Cheaper drugs are necessary to fight the disease in the developing world. Several Indian drugs companies have vowed to make cheap generics of AIDS medications, putting pressure on multinationals to cut prices. Several countries including South Africa provide free ARVs in hospitals.
The maxim that 'prevention is better than cure' holds true for AIDS as well. More awareness campaigns should be conducted on how individuals can avoid AIDS. Those who already have AIDS must not lose faith in the international community's collective will to fight it.
Produced by Lake House