Trilling times for 'Nightingales'
TIMELY intervention by
Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has helped resolve a series of
grievances which was being nursed over the years by the Public Sector
United Nurses Union and nipped in the bud efforts by the latter to wield
the strike weapon, so much dreaded by the Lankan public.
Considering the importance of their labours, the
services rendered by the nurses of the public sector should be
considered essential and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, over the past two
decades our "Nightingales" too have deemed it fit to use the strike
weapon rather than comfort their patients with their ministering trills,
with considerable costs to the hapless public, but judicious
negotiations on the part of the health authorities with sufficient
political backing would have saved the day for the public.
This was not to be because some past governments
thought it fit to rely on coercive and pressure tactics to bring the
striking nurses to heel.
Needless to say, this is the wrong approach to crises
of this kind because the nurses, as in the case of other sections of the
public sector, have legitimate grievances. We are glad that Minister
Siripala de Silva has had the perspicacity to grant what is due to the
nurses of the public sector. Hopefully, the upcoming Nurses Council Bill
would ensure the resolution of the outstanding grievances of the nurses.
We also hope, however, that a point embedded in our
lead story yesterday would have caught the attention of all concerned,
including the people, a vast majority of whom depend heavily on the
public health system for their essential, health-related needs. This has
to do with a plan to launch a community health service with the active
participation of public sector nurses.
No proposal could be timelier. This would be an
opportunity for the nurses to give back to the public and the country
what they are getting from it. After all, it is the tax payers' money
which is keeping the public sector ticking. We call on all public sector
nurses to give of their best to this scheme which will help many to
satisfy their everyday health needs.
It couldn't be emphasized enough that it is community
service that constitutes the heart of the public sector. It is a tragedy
of our times that this essential core of the public sector has been
forgotten in the bitter battles for higher salaries and perks by
important segments of the State sector. The public sector nurses could
perform a vital function by bringing community service right back into
the public health care system.
Our hope is that we would see our "Nightingales"
increasingly going around in the service of the public, now that they
have been allowed to spread their wings.
BIO and gene piracy is a
worldwide phenomenon. Laws governing this subject are often ignored by
the pirates and even by law enforcement agencies. Sri Lanka, with its
rich biodiversity, should take urgent measures to protect its
The existing law protecting bio-diversity should be
updated and implemented properly if Sri Lanka is to combat bio and gene
piracy. These views have been expressed recently by the Head of the Sri
Lanka Customs Bio-diversity Protection Unit.
This has become a critical issue as the increasing
large-scale illegal export of genetic resources has posed a threat to
Sri Lanka's unique eco-system and left a large number of endemic species
on the verge of extinction. Besides, the illegal trade results in a
massive loss of foreign exchange. The destruction of local flora and
fauna will also dent our fame as a favourite eco-tourism destination
among discerning travellers.
Sri Lanka is considered a bio-diversity 'hot spot'.
This very reputation has attracted global bio-pirates to the country.
They have been taking advantage of loopholes and shortcomings in the law
to ply their abhorrent trade. We have already lost many species of
fauna, flora and organisms endemic to our country through such rackets.
We have mostly failed to protect our biological and
genetic resources. There are many instances where products made from our
endemic species have been patented and sold abroad. Among them are
products manufactured using 'Kothalahimbutu', 'karawila' (bitter gourd),
'binara', 'kekuna' (canarium), clove oil, and several varieties of fish.
Studies show that many endemic species are facing the
very real threat of extinction. Many species may disappear forever
within the next few decades if immediate action is not taken now to stop
the destruction of natural habitats of flora and fauna and bio-piracy.
The exploitation of medicinal plants also has far-reaching implications.
The destruction of flora and fauna also disturbs the balance of the
eco-system, affecting the whole environment and the food chain. We have
to use certain biological resources for sustaining our lives, but this
should be done in a controlled manner. For example, the callous
destruction of forests without provision for replanting could spell
Until tough new laws are brought in to control
bio-piracy, extra vigilance must be maintained by the Customs and
law-enforcement authorities. Sri Lanka is a unique island in terms of
biodiversity - we must ensure that it remains so.