Monday, June 11, 2012

World No Tobacco Day a World Deception

Swarna Hansa Foundation
262, Densil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha, Battaramulla,Sri Lanka Tel/Fax: 2869901 E. mail
                                                                                                                                                                                31 – 05 - 2012
World No Tobacco Day a World Deception

Today May 31 is the World no Tobacco Day (WNTD). It was established by the United Nations World Health Organization in 1988 under World Health Assembly - WHA resolution calling for the celebration on WNTD every year on May 31st. It has to be noted that in fact WHO was to establish a World No Smoking Day earlier under WHA resolution in 1987, but had to give it up due to mounted public opinion that no smoking advocacy does not help controlling smoking, it has been proven a failure and seen as an indirect way of promoting smoking and what needs to be done is to control tobacco and its products. It should also be noted that even though the title of program was changed from World No Smoking Day to World No Tobacco Day the purpose of which is to draw attention to the health effects of the smoking was not changed. The WHO remained to be seen in time to come that its work has indirectly helped the industry

Today after celebrating the WNTD for quarter of a century it is pretty well seen when the WHO itself is stating that number of smoking related deaths worldwide has increased from 2.5 million in 1988 to 5 million in 2005 and to 8.5 million  this year. And the global cigarette market has expanded by 23% in 2012 reaching $ 464.4 billion.

The deceitfulness of the WNTD becomes more than clear when one looks at its performance in Sri Lanka.Starting in later Nineteen Eighties temperance movement in Sri Lanka was seen moving from conventional anti-smoking activities towards anti-tobacco activities and emerging of an anti-Tobacco movement. In addition there was a public opinion demanding the government to forget about appeals for self-control and make legislation in order to have an effective tobacco control.

After years of clamoring for legislation the government being unable to postpone enacting legislation for tobacco control any more in fact began to draft legislation. The government was then compelled by public opinion to present it to the Parliament.

It was in fact presented to the parliament but nothing happened after that. It was later revealed that the President has thrown it to the waste paper basket after a meeting with the CEO of the Tobacco Company. The President has assured him, that there will not be legislation for tobacco control.

After some time most surprisingly it was in the press that the President who derailed the anti-tobacco movement was honored with the prestigious WNTD award as an appreciation of her service to the anti- smoking- movement, and her indirect support to the Industry.

However the next government having made an election pledge to enact laws for tobacco control, enacted legislation and an implementing agency instituted accordingly called National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol. In fact immediately after the enactment of laws, and widespread belief that smoking will entail punishments and penalties, there was a drastic decrease of smoking as well as tobacco sales.  However after some time, when it was realized that there are no punishments or huge penalties as expected and the Authority is not capable of taking any punitive action added by continuous pronouncements that Authority is not interested in those adults who are smoking to die but only interested in protecting younger generation, the tobacco industry came back to its pre legislation position.  According to variety of surveys conducted by interested parties as well as by the industry recently, it was revealed that tobacco industry has well recovered. More over the Authority itself has admitted that there is an explosive increase of tobacco sales.

It is in this background that WNTD is celebrated this year in Sri Lanka. The happiest of this achievement in Sri Lanka is not certainly the industry, but those who were able to take the public for a ride. It is in this jubilation that the WHO decided to present the prestigious WNTD award to Sri Lanka, thus demonstrating to the world that World No Tobacco Day is yet another world deception.

Gallege Punyawardana
Head / SHF

The Swarna Hansa Foundation issued the relevant Press Release on WNTD in order to expose the hidden motive of the WHO in celebrating WNTD by taking first-hand information from Sri Lanka . Swarna Hansa has authority on making  this exposure, since it is Swarna Hansa  that turned the passive and ineffective anti- smoking movement in Sri Lanka in to an active and effective anti - tobacco movement. In fact at the start in the decade of 1980, the Swarna Hansa struggle was with the existing anti- smoking projects local as well as well funded foreign agencies. Swarna Hansa’s struggle was about  the need of legislation  to control the tobacco menace  by law, instead of self -regulation.

In order to evade the situation the government was saying  that there are no laws, and when a series of existing laws  are pointed out it was their view  that they cannot be enforced. Then they came out with the argument that there is no government policy on tobacco and alcohol. It took several years to make a policy. Then they were forced to draft legislation on the accepted policy. In  this struggle Swarna Hansa used WNTD to the  maximum  to have aggressive campaigns.

Having drafted the bill, the government was postponing its presentation to the Parliament when Swarna Hansa met the WHO , Director General at Kobe in Japan  and requested her to look in to the matter.
However after some time it was revealed that the CEO of the Ceylon Tobacco Company has met the highest in the government ( meaning the President ) and that she has promised him she would not proceed in making legislation.

Surprisingly in the following year on WNTD the WHO awarded that so called prestigious award  to the President, who derailed the well set Anti – tobacco movement and enormously harmed it
However the anti – tobacco control movement continued and at the next general election it was a peoples movement, and controlling tobacco was taken as  an election pledge.

The new government was also trying  to dodge it, but due to the embarrassing situation where a private member would present a bill to the Parliament, the Minister of Health had to present a bill to the Parliament. In the meantime he was elected the President of the WHA. After a couple of months  the bill  was passed and the public were under the impression that the law will be really strong and effective. No sooner the law was enforced there was a wide spread wave of arrests of law breakers by the police. Several law breakers were punished by the Magistrates and there was wide spread fear among the public about the law. Accordingly smoking was not seen in public But within  a few weeks it was in Press that  certain magistrates have warned the police for indiscriminate arrest of smokers and  tobacco dealers. Meanwhile the Industry was also seen retaining lawyers for those arrests by the police. Then there was hardly any  news about arrests or punishments for tobacco law breakers.Soo it was the public understanding that the law was not so strong as the public earlier believed. That means the law was and not having teeth. The law was found meaningless. Who  is responsible for it. Whoever it may be, at the following WNTD, this particular minister was the winner of that so called prestigious WHO award !
Meanwhile the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol ( NATA) was also  established under the law, and  was seen making pronouncements and sermons that it is not interested or least worried about those adults who are smoking. Let them smoke and die, but the NATA’s interest and worry is  about the  young ones, and the NATA’s effort is to save them, and protect them. NATA was seen  continuously  emphasizing that tobacco smoking Thirty years effort by Anti - Tobacco movement began to collapse. Accordingly Swarna Hansa believed that NATA reversed or turned the anti - tobacco movement back to its meaningless, ineffective Anti - Smoking Movement of thirty years ago. Swarna Hansa is convinced that NATA has thus greatly harmed the  tobacco control movement  in Sri Lanka.

As a result the tobacco industry has come back to its normal position well established and with ever increasing sales. The NATA itself was reported to have admitted that there is an explosive increase in tobacco sales. Therefore Swarna Hansa is convinced    that the so called prestigious award was awarded to NATA on this WNTD as a  gesture of appreciation of derailing tobacco control work in Sri Lanka. 

That is why the Swarna Hansa issued Press Release to tell it loudly to the World  that  WHO World No Tobacco Day is a World Deception.
Gallege  P.Alvis

The following news in National Daily “ Daily Mirror” of Saturday June 9, 2012is a strong evidence in support of Swarna Hansa Foundation’s  contention that WHO /WNTD Award to  government of Sri Lanka  GOSL/  National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol NATA is an appreciation of GOSL / NATA work to undermine tobacco control by legislation and revive and promote smoking control by self- regulation as required by the Industry.

Today’s June 11, a National Daily in National language “Dinamina” has published another  interesting story. From July 1st the government will be conducting an island wide survey to identify persons addicted to tobacco and alcohol through centers established in all parts of the country in view  of helping them to get out of the addiction. This again  means that tobacco control by legislation and litigation will be a closed chapter in Sri Lanka.

Some More news that shows the government’s disinterest in effective tobacco control by law.

1.  Monday 28th May –The Island front page lead story. National drug Policy still a broken Promise- Although the Health Minister Maithriipla Sirisena made a statement on May 15th that the draft bill on National Policy would be ready within one week to submit it to the Cabinet and then to the Parliament for final approval ,nearly two weeks have passed and the Health Minister has yet to receive the draft bill from the legal draftsman’s department. When contacted  chief legal draftsman Mr K.Samarasingha said that her department had not received the draft bill of the National Drug Policy. Submitted to the Department by a special committee appointed by the Health Minister.”

2.  Friday 8th June  -Front page title of the lead story- “Supreme Court  ordered Health Minister, Secretary:
Formulate Drug Policy without delay – The Supreme Court on June 6, 2012 directed Minister of Health and the Secretary to the Ministry to formulate without delay, the National Policy on drug/devices and to take necessary steps to enact the relevant laws. The People’s Movement for Patients’ Rights had complained to the Court that The Health Minister had delayed the tabling of the relevant  Bill in Parliament. The Petition had said that Sri Lanka could save billions of rupees currently spent on the Health sector by using generic drugs. The petitioner had said that the delay on the part of the Minister was arbitrary and wanted  the Court to direct the State to formulate the policy and table the bill in Parliament, without delay. 
The Petition had been filed on June, 29th 2009.  Several dates were given since July 30, 2009, to finalize the draft pertaining to the regulations in respect of medical drugs, cosmetic nutritional foods etc. The Petition was supported by Krishmel Wanasuriya  . The Bench comprised Justice K. Sripavan, Justice S. I. Imam and justice Priyasad Dep. The Deputy Solicitor General, Sanjaya Rajaratnam, appeared for the State. The case will be mentioned again on July 26th 2012.   

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pinthaliya water for living

An unnoticed but a very important component in the water culture of Sri Lanka is the pinthaliya, the traditional drinking water pot placed and maintained by the communities by the way side in those good olden days. The intention of placing a pinthaliya in a village was to treat water as sacred and valuable. The water was purified by the traditional water pot and people who passed by on the road sides had free access to this pure drinking water to quench their thirst. Naturally that was a way of ensuring preservation of water resources and preventing it from being polluted. Reinstating the usage of the pinthaliya will not only be a way of having safe drinking water, but also a way of reviving the age old pottery industry, which was undermine to import unsafe aluminum utensils. Pinthaliya therefore is identified by Swarna Hansa Foundation as a sustainable indigenous solution to safe drinking water problem.

Thus Project Pinthaliya was added to the "Water for Living" programme which is now being implemented as a trilateral approach to the drinking water problem in Sri Lanka. Swarna Hansa Foundation has encouraged traditional pottery artists to construct pinthali with the intention of reviving this ancient art. Swarna Hansa Foundation distributed 500 pinthali in Colombo South, Galewela, Galgamuwa and Wewniya, in addition to earlier 500 distributed mainly in the Southern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. These were distributed among temples, medical centres, preschools and community centres, taking the message "safe drinking water ensures health".


Dahasak Wew and Dasa Dahasak Ling - 1000 Reservoirs and 10,000 Wells

The Drought and the Famine
Due to destruction and non rehabilitation of the village reservoirs for many years the drought, poverty and hunger began to engulf the country gradually. Since no proper corrective measure was taken today it has become a major obstacle for the holistic development of the country.

Reservoir is the life blood of the village. Reconstruction of reservoirs will;
Restore the foundation for sustainable development
Make available water for thirst and food for hunger
Make available water for cultivation
Foster agricultural and environmental development
Revive indigenous industries

Helping to restore a village reservoir is to help an entire community to overcome their hunger and poverty. Confucius as well as Mao Tse Tung have said "Do not give fish to the people, give them a fishing rod". Likewise in Sri Lanka Swarna Hansa would like to say "Do not give lunch packets or dry rations to the people, instead help them to reconstruct their village reservoirs".

Development is an outcome of the people's way of living, which the people usually speak of as culture. Roots of any form of social development lie in the culture which people practice. The culture of this country is time tested and is believed to last till the sun and moon last. In that sense the endogenous culture of this country can be considered as most modern, for the simple reason of its sustainability.
For the last several decades the culture of this country has been budded and weakened and paving way for an outcome which is alien to the country. Hence the programme of the Swarna Hansa Foundation is to strengthen the endogenous culture while weakening the budded culture. Developing roots therefore is the main intention of the Swarna Hansa Foundation.

Water for living has been identified by the Swarna Hansa Foundation as the single most significant component that needs to be strengthened.
Assisting the villages to reconstruct and rehabilitate ancient wew or reservoirs and construct wells, soon became highly need oriented and very effective, that by the beginning of 2004 both these projects had acquired their identities as Swarna Hansa Dahasak Wew (Swarna Hansa 1000 Reservoirs) and Swarna Hansa Dasa Dahasak Ling (Swarna Hansa 10,000 Wells).

According to the Sri Lankan culture the construction of wewa (reservoir) or a linda (well) is a highly effective way of accumulating merits for oneself as well as conveying merits to others. It is in this understanding that wew (reservoirs) and ling (wells) were constructed in the past. Propagating this message is one purpose of assisting the villagers to reconstruct wew and ling.
During the reconstruction work of the Kimbulkema twin reservoirs in Passaraya, Kataragama, one of the major achievements of the Swarna Hansa Foundation in this exercise was the demonstration of superiority of inherent traditional knowledge and skills of the people with regard to construction of wew. The villagers were able to demonstrate that they possess inherent skills and abilities to construct wew by themselves, without the western engineering knowledge. It was well demonstrated when the villagers found the ancient sluices which are more than 1500 years old when they were trying to install a new sluice for the wewa.


Swarna Hansa - the symbol of discernment

Culture itself is the whole way of life of a people. The national culture of this country was developed over a very long period of more than two millennia, based on the judicious utilization of the country's environment with a compulsory accent on preservation rather than exploitation of natural resources. Its factors of production were utilized in harmony with nature so that one generation of people always left the nation's resources for the next generation, the one after that and to infinitum.

The culture - the way of life of the people was almost a sacred one which they believed would ensure the natural resources and whatever benefited the life would last till the sun and moon last.
Preservation of all forms of natural life was practiced with due respect to the environment, so that preservation of national culture itself was the preservation and protection of their life as well the life of future generations. That was the noble but difficult task of the Swarna Hansa Foundation.
In this task the Swarna Hansa Foundation had a small group of committed people who dedicated themselves for the cause.
Adopting a practical method, our strategy was to use every possible contact with people at the local, grassroots, national and international level to convince them of imminent dangers of globalism and paramount importance of preserving their sacred way of living, which was a time tested culture.
Following Swarna Hansa Foundation's two track programme to stop 'undevelopment' and continue with development that will safeguard the national culture and the environment of the country we have been committed to initiate and implement activities that enhances the life of local communities. We have worked to stop the use of pesticides and chemicals that harm the environment and health of people, to stop consumption of tobacco and cigarettes that deteriorate the health and well-being of people, to restore the ancient irrigation system through conserving tanks to enable systematic agriculture and to safeguard the culture and national lifestyle of the people in Sri Lanka.

Who we are…

The Role of Swarna Hansa Foundation
Swarna Hansa Foundation is a Social Development, Non-governmental Organisation established in 1979 to help people in Sri Lanka to engage themselves in a discerned development process.
Swarna Hansa's initiatives majorly focuses on two socioeconomic processes; development and undevelopment.

Tobacco - Undevelopment

Tobacco is an example of the undevelopment process. Prevalence of tobacco is an obstacle for development. Rejecting tobacco saves money and capital, labour and land, health and environment.
Rejecting tobacco is therefore a prerequisite for development.

Water First - Development
Swarna Hansa's major activity in the field of development is redevelopment of water resources in Sri Lanka.
The latest initiative of Swarna Hansa in this field is Dahasak Wew - 1000 reservoirs.

Once Sri Lanka had more than 100,000 village reservoirs scattered all over the country. At that time the country was self sufficient in food, industries and had an exemplary development process. Therefore any sustainable development process in Sri Lanka should again start from rehabilitating the reservoir culture. Because it is indigenous. And will take roots in the land. The objective of the programme Dahasak Wew is to reconstruct 1000 village reservoirs particularly in drought stricken areas of the country.

If you would like to find out more about our projects contact us;

Swarna Hansa Foundation
Densil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha,
Sri Lanka. 

Tel: +94 112861981

The Swarna Hansa Foundation is registered as a non-governmental organization at the Division for Non Governmental Organizations in the Ministry of Social Welfare in Sri Lanka and has obtained the Certificate of Registration of Voluntary Social Services / Non Governmental Organizations under Voluntary Social Services Organizations (Registration and Supervision) Act, No: 31 of 1980 as amended by Act, No:8 of 1998.