Last week there was a spate of food poisoning. Over
130 schoolchildren and some forty odd trainees at a youth
training project were admitted to hospital following food
poisoning. One school girl in Matale died.
This is not the first time such stories were heard. Nor are
such stories rare. That means food poisoning is becoming a
regular feature. Still the authorities do not seem to have
realized the gravity of the situation.
The regulatory mechanisms to inspect food produced for mass
consumption are either inadequate or not functioning. There is
also the possibility of collusion between the clients and
suppliers in providing sub-standard food. The education and
health authorities should take this matter more seriously and
not allow errant contractors to play with the lives of people,
Had such food poisoning occurred in a premier school in
Colombo there would have been swift action taken from the
highest level downwards. Beyond the first reporting of the news
even the media has thought it is not important enough to pursue
and comment. Old pupils and parents would have made a hue and
For example, there was much commotion when there was a case
of food poisoning at a function of doctors at the BMICH. The
service provider, however, hushed it up with an offer of free
food to the doctors at a subsequent function.
Unfortunately the parents and old pupils of the distant
schools in the periphery are still not empowered. They have no
clout. They suffer in silence.
It is no secret that food served in most restaurants and
eateries in the country are sub-standard. There are Public
Health Officers and other officials responsible for monitoring
such places and taking action against errant businessmen. Though
random checks take place at large intervals or in case of an
epidemic there are no regular checks. The local government
authorities also share part of the blame for such food poisoning
and other health-related afflictions.
There should be a three-tier - national, provincial and local
regulatory system to prevent such unfortunate incidents
recurring. Stringent punishment should be met to those
responsible irrespective of their social or political standing.
If the current laws and regulations are not enough more teeth
should be given to them through appropriate legislation. Strong
deterrent punishments are required to tame the ways of those who
aspire to grow rich quick by providing substandard food to the
people with no regard to health consequences.
Winds of change
The General Election 2010 portends positive changes in
the Sri Lankan polity. The President yesterday said the next
Cabinet would be small. That means the jumbo cabinets would be
relegated to the position of a museum piece in history.
He also announced that youth would be given responsibilities.
Thus one could expect a new and fresh Parliament. This would of
course contain the veterans in whom the people still have trust.
Young blood would, in any case, give more dynamism to the
Cabinet and the Government.
In this sense there are winds of change that portend a better
and more dynamic Parliament that would be meeting on April 22.
However, one cannot be so sure of having more women MPs as
relatively a few women are contesting. It is a sad reflection on
the male-dominated political system that even 60 years after
independence Sri Lanka is far behind even some African countries
in gender representation in its representative bodies. Though
there are quotas for a minimum number of women in nomination
lists there is no provision to ensure that a minimum number of
women are elected as MPs.
It is left to the voters to see that the place trust in
sufficient number of women candidates so that the next
Parliament would have more women MPs. Politicians also should
introduce a decent culture if politics is to attract more women.
There are many capable and educated women that could adorn our
legislature. What prohibits them taking the plunge is the
unhealthy example given by numerous MPs that have close
connections with the fraudsters and the underworld mafia.
It is necessary to work from now onwards to ensure higher
representation of women in Parliament. Perhaps, a beginning
could be made by electing more women to the Local Government
bodies that go to polls in 2011.