Both smoking and non-smoking members of Parliament crossed partisan borders this week and united to vote for the Government’s decision to plaster the face of cigarette packets with gruesome pictures of the tragic consequences of smoking. The anti-smoking lobby having successfully campaigned to achieve this notable goal as followed in western countries is already inhaling [...]


Packaged horror may go up in smoke


Both smoking and non-smoking members of Parliament crossed partisan borders this week and united to vote for the Government’s decision to plaster the face of cigarette packets with gruesome pictures of the tragic consequences of smoking.

The anti-smoking lobby having successfully campaigned to achieve this notable goal as followed in western countries is already inhaling the purified air of euphoria and predicting with confidence that this would be a major contribution to make the majority of Lanka’s smokers stub the habit.

Such is the extraordinary degree to which the campaigners have gone to ensure the success of their message that the regulations demand the pictorial warnings should be printed on “the top surface area of both front and back of every cigarette packet and shall cover an area of not less than eighty per cent of the top surface area of both front and rear sides.’

Along with the pictorial warnings, the Ceylon Tobacco Company is also required to carry one of four health warnings displayed prominently in all three languages on every packet of cigarettes.

Take the four warning statements. They are ‘Smoking makes children ill,’ ‘Smoking causes heart diseases,’ ‘Smoking causes cancer’ and ‘Smoking causes sexual impotence.’ But these legal warnings have not been drafted clearly, containing as it does room for ambiguity. As an example of this, the first warning can be stretched to mean that if children smoke it is liable to make the children ill. Apart from this there is no definite medical evidence establishing one hundred per cent that smoking causes cancer or heart disease.

As such, devoid of concrete proof acceptable to medical science, the statements confirming that smoking does cause the two life threatening illnesses are prima facie false and may well flout the legal requirement in the regulations that prohibits a false, misleading or deceptive message on a packet of cigarettes.

If the warning statements were in fact true, the Government would be and must be held liable for criminal negligence for permitting the production, distribution and sale of a product medically established to cause certain death.

One of the warnings is that smoking causes sexual impotency. This may lead thousands of smokers to take up the challenge and offer to personally prove to any passing female’s satisfaction that it is simply not true. If, however, it was true, smoking may even be encouraged in certain countries as a means of curbing population increases. Bold and definite statements not scientifically backed or personally experienced lose credibility and thus have no effect on the habitual smoker who will dismiss it as mere scaremongering.

Yet getting the regulation unanimously approved by Parliament is a major victory. But before the diehard anti-smoking band light their pipe of victory and puff celebratory smoke rings they should first ponder over the pyrrhic nature of their much hailed triumph.
With a packet of cigarettes now costing more than Rs. 600, the vast majority of Lanka’s squad of suicidal smokers buy their cigarettes individually, popularly called buying it ‘loose’.

Thus only the seller will know the dire health cost of smoking presented to him in graphic, Technicolor photographs on packets. For the smoker buying ‘loose’ the well-meaning illustrated message on packets designed to make him break the habit by scaring the living daylights out of him will not reach him, the main target of the campaign. And for the anti-smoking lobbyists, all they will receive for their valiant labour is the frustrating prospect of seeing their grand hopes simply going up in smoke.

And, at the end of the day, the condemned band of smokers will be blithely puffing all the way to their destined graves with an army of non-smokers following them not far behind.


‘Tap to pray’ CB Guv’ eyes kids’

piggy bank dimes

When the man responsible for the country’s entire banking system and her economic wellbeing, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal appoints himself as the regulator of the temple’s till box, it is a thought for concern; but when he asks the children to raid their piggy banks and free their nickels and dimes into the country’s money circulation, it is one that is enough to drive the very fear of God into the hearts of all over the perilous state of the nation’s finances.

This week Mr. Cabraal told a press conference that temple, kovils and church heads should install a ‘tap-and-pray’ system similar to the ‘tap-and-go’ system used for public transport in many countries. He also called upon children to raid their piggy banks and free the trapped coins into the money market.

Furthermore, assuming God to be an online hacker, he said that a tap-and-pray system installed at all temples, kovils and churches will ensure that God knows who has donated and the amount given by each. This will of course ensure that those who claim to be great philanthropists and boasts of making big donations when they have hardly made any, exaggerating the figures to present themselves in a different, more prosperous and sunshiny light can be tracked and the truth revealed. And on that point Mr. Cabraal is correct.

But for God to know exactly who has done his good deed for the day no online computerised system is necessary,

Whatever the faith, the God that lives in each one’s heart keeps an inerasable dossier not only of the good that one has done, which is often flaunted, but also of the evil that one has committed, which is invariably hidden; and no matter how much one may try to conceal it from public view, He knows. There is no escape from the self-made infernal hell of a guilt ridden conscious but torture without end will still scald with brimstone fires the damned possessor of a stained soul.


The folly of blind hero worship

The D.S Senanayake Memorial Society has met to discuss the Sunday Punch article on ‘Freedoms India won and Lanka squandered’ published in the Sunday Times on 26th January and, after due discussion, has decided to take umbrage over the suggestion made that Mohandas Gandhi, whose nonviolent struggle for India’s independence compelled the British to give up the colonial ghost and surrender the whole region lock, stock, barrel and Lanka to the natives, should be given pride of place at Independence Square.

In a letter to the Sunday Times Editor under the headline “Do not belittle our national heroes’ published on February 2, it says: “It is true that even in the past we have had power hungry elements who sold the sovereignty of the country. We wonder whether Don Manu wants to repeat history of promoting traitors….. It is shocking when he says that the pride of place at Independence Square in Colombo should be for Mohandas Gandhi and of a Modern Independent Lanka. Don Manu has failed to understand that we too had a long struggle for our freedom. ….D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, a Buddhist, followed the path of nonviolence and compassionate thinking. That is what the Buddha taught.”

None can deny that all these men played their part and kept the nationalistic flame alive. But if not for Mohandas Gandhi taking the flame onto to the street and lighting the world’s conscience with it, if not for his many Satyagraha campaigns which brought the Indian administration to a halt, if not for his nationalistic non obedience supported with the moral force of universal ahimsa, the British Raj would not have scuttled the Ship of Empire for the mere flicker of a Lankan nationalistic torch.

The part the Indian leadership played is best illustrated by quoting part of the speech President J.R. Jayewardene delivered at the second SAARC summit held in Bangalore in 1986 with Rajiv Gandhi as the chairman. He said:

“I was privileged, Mr. Chairman, as a young man just entering politics in the 1930s to witness a great movement which began to stir India. I was Mr. Nehru’s guest in Bombay when the “Quit India” Resolution was passed. That was the first occasion on which Mahatma Gandhi tried the non- violent way to attain freedom for his country. He was training his people in non-violence. He walked to the Dandi beach to break the “salt laws.” He broke the laws of the British Government after the Amritsar massacre. He broke the habit regarding the wearing of foreign cloth and encouraged the Swadeshi Movement. He said you are in a movement not only to attain freedom.

“At the Bombay session when he spoke on the “Quit India” Resolution, I was sitting behind him when he ended his speech with KARANGE YA MARANGE “DO OR DIE”.

“Mr. Chairman, I was returning back to Sri Lanka when I was told that your grandfather was arrested. I remember when there was an agitation in Bihar and the police station was set on fire in Chauri Choura. Some policemen were killed during the non-cooperation campaign. Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders were in jail. Mahatma Gandhi called off the agitation because violence had broken out. Jawaharlal Nehru from jail asked why did he do so, when they were about to attain their objective. Mahatma Gandhi said, “No! I do not want to attain freedom through violence. That was the man that inspired me. Those are the men who brought freedom to all our countries.”

Let’s praise our leaders if we must; but, as they would be the first to admit and urge, let us accept the verdict of history; and, though wallowing in the worship of our heroes, not become the gullible traitors to the truth.

When fates summon, Mervin’s ready to obeySUNDAY PUNCH 4

When Fates summon, Monarchs must obey and Minister of Public Affairs, the Doctorate decked Mr. Mervin Silva, is already finalising his private affairs for the day, the final trumpet is sounded. Taking no chances by leaving the chore to others to dig his grave lest they tie his corpus to a tree instead, he has wisely deemed it fit to dig his own.

Addressing a meeting at Kelaniya on Monday, he is reported to have said : “I got myself a plot near Jothipala’s grave at the Borella Cemetery. In another two weeks, I myself will lay the foundation stone. As I am short, the gravestone will also be the same. However, I will not mention the date of birth or the date of death. I will invite known people to this ceremony.”

How thoughtful of him to spare the rest the preview. But why is the plot next to the grave of the great singer Jothipala and what will be the epitaph?

Ah, silly me, almost forgot. Mr. Silva considers himself as a gifted singer and is well known for breaking out in song whenever the occasion so demands it even as he did when the President summoned him to his side at the opening of the Katunayake expressway, answering the call singing ‘varadak unath sithakin noway,’ which may well be his choice of his RIP last words.

But his inevitable hour has not come yet to start engraving the short gravestone and he says he will not etch his date of birth or date of death on it.

How clever. Nice touch. Gives one a sense of timeless immortality, does it not?

Future archaeologists and historians stumbling upon the stony tomb centuries hence will wonder baffled whether the ‘unput-downable’ Mervin, is still alive and kicking anyone who dares to cross his path and whether his birth predates the Buddha’s legendary arrival in Lanka and whether the man is awaiting the advent of the next Buddha to become one himself.

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