|Thursday, 23 September 2004|
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Realistic look at peace
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's address to the 59th United Nations General Assembly sessions on September 21, was characterised by a realistic understanding of peace prospects both locally and internationally.
Of particular significance was her pronouncement that peace did not mean the mere absence of war and bloodshed. It also calls for an effort on the part of those desirous of peace to seek out the root causes of war and conflict and to aid in the process of consensus-building, which is an essential condition for conflict-resolution.
"We are fully aware that peace is not achieved easily. It is a constant struggle for mutual understanding and reconciliation and the establishment of the Rule of Law, justice and equality," the President specified. This amounts to a broad conceptualisation of the challenges facing Sri Lanka and those other countries which are up against ethnic and identity-based conflicts.
This message needs to be constantly projected to the local public in particular. It cannot be emphasised enough that the work of a life-time awaits us in regard to peace-making. There is no magic formula in conflict resolution. We have done well to keep in place a ceasefire which has saved thousands of lives over the past three years, but there are really 'miles to go' before we could speak confidently in terms of a durable, just peace.
The President's strong sense of realism comes to the fore in her recognition of these not too easily perceivable, home truths.
For instance, durable peace among communities cannot be conceived in isolation from the democratisation process, which in turn is deeply rooted in the establishment of the Rule of Law and equality. How could a society which is lawless and in the stranglehold of despotic powers, for example, be considered peaceful and harmonious?
How could a society where some communities rule hegemonically be considered an example of peace and contentment? It is only a society where equality reigns in every sense of the word which could be considered a glowing example of harmonious living.
The establishment of these essential conditions for peace, therefore, require constant striving on the part of governments and communities. The UPFA Government, as the President points out, has received a mandate from the people to continue our search for peace.
The peace process was interrupted on a number of occasions, but the fact that President Kumaratunga is today trying to put the peace effort on track speaks volumes for her peaceful intentions. The people are obliged to help her constantly in this endeavour because peace is a collective effort.
President Kumaratunga also brought out some home truths on UN reform. Clearly, the poor of the world are voiceless because the UN Security Council - the highest decision-making body of the UN - is dominated by the big powers. This ensures continued discrimination against the powerless and their hopeless subjugation.
Accordingly, the UN is presiding over an unjust world. An unjust world is the breeding ground of conflict and war. This order must be changed.
'Man bites dog' still remains a very unusual headline, but 'dog bites man' is not. In fact, up to 2,000 dog bites are reported daily. No one is safe - your pet mutt can bite you or it could be a stray dog encountered on the streets.
What if the dog is rabid ? In most cases concerning stray dogs, this fear is very real. Pet dogs that have not been vaccinated also pose a similar threat. The economic and social cost of the rabies menace is immense.
The government has to spend Rs. 1,500 on each victim, which would mean a cost of Rs. 300 million in the end for the Health Ministry on both human and animal anti-rabies vaccines.
It is in this context that Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has vowed to step up action to address the stray dog menace. Minister de Silva says it is important to bring down the number of stray dogs (estimated at 2.5 million countrywide) as dog bite victims are on the rise. The Minister will be assisted in this endeavour by Colombo's Deputy Azath Sally in the Colombo City which has a large stray dog population.
The eradication of stray dogs has always been a controversial issue. Many individuals and animal rights organisations have maintained that some of the methods used to put down the strays are cruel. Municipal authorities, on the other hand, say they have an obligation to ensure the greatest good of the greatest number.
But all citizens can take basic steps to ensure that rabies does not raise its ugly head. Vaccinating domestic dogs and even cats against rabies is essential. The authorities should explore the possibility of introducing microchip-based ID tags for pets, as done in many countries. Sterilisation is another step that reduces the number of unwanted pups and kittens.
Many people abandon pups and kittens at various places, which is really inhumane. It is far better not to have them in the first place. This is why the planned amendments to the Rabies Ordinance are so welcome. This will make people feel their social responsibility to others and their pets. Moves are also afoot to increase the license fees of dogs and other pets.
Rabies is a deadly disease which does not respect age or stature of its victims. The public should cooperate fully with health authorities in the battle against rabies.
Produced by Lake House