Letters to the Editor

15th June, 1997

Preventive methods best remedy

I wish to draw the focus of attention of the readers to the letter by Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai in The Sunday Times of June 1. There were some TV programmes on STD/AIDS recently on diffrent channels. I do not know exactly which programme she had referred to.

I wish to clarify certain issues she had raised on preventive measures of STD/AIDS . There are four acceptable methods which we can adopt to prevent the sexual transmission of STD/AIDS. First and foremost is the abstinence in sexual behaviour.

Whenever trained health personnel conduct lectures for the general public especially to school going children, they stress this factor to a greater extent. But the abstinence is not to be for ever. The second option is, to confine the sexual activities to your faithful partner. In the context of our society we always stress the fact that this faithful partner should be either husband or wife. Any other sexual activity should be considered as a casual sexual relationship.

The third option which is available for a sexually active person is to engage in non-penetrative sexual acts in casual sexual relationships. Finally, if a person engages in sexual behaviour with multiple partners at different times she or he should take care to protect one’s self. Therefore, the only method available is by using a condom. The female partner has the right to insist that her partner is wearing a condom at the time of the sexual act.

Dr Reffai had shown that the condom is not 100 percent effective. But according to scientific research, using a condom is the only method, by which a person can prevent acquiring certain STDs and HIV infection in risky behaviour. MMWR morbidity and mortality weekly report published by CDC centre for disease control in Atlanta, having done extensive research on condoms usage, had reported that exchange of vaginal fluid and seminal fluid can be prevented 99.6 percent using a condom.

As far as the cure for AIDS is concerned , at the XI International Conference held in Vancouver in July 1996, they, for the first time introduced the protease inhibitors which are virtually able to kill the virus. In other words the tripple therapy can reduce the viral load to almost zero level in the blood. By the year 2000, the scientific community believes, there will be a cure for AIDS. But the million dollar question is can a country like Sri Lanka afford to this expensive therapy. Therefore the only way to get rid of the infection is the use of preventive methods.

Dr. Kulasiri Buddhakorala


No such thing as a tame lion

The tragedy of a young boy’s death after being mauled by a lion at Ahungalla Zoo was waiting to happen.

One thing I learned from sharing ten months with some of these amazing creatures whilst making the film “Born Free” in 1964 was that there is no such thing as a tame lion. With patience and love and understanding you can become their friendly companion - as was illustrated for so many years by the late George Adamson - but this kind of relationship can never be achieved by chains and by beating (And even then there is a risk).

The responsibility for what happened at Ahungalla cannot be laid at the door of the “keepers” - however much one deplores their apparent beatings and intimidation of caged, helpless animals. The policy for this kind of treatment must have been set by the person at the top - in this case the owner of the zoo. If he was unaware of what was going on, then he should have been.

It is quite naive to expect a lion to take on the dimensions of a domestic cat and pose happily for photos with hundreds of visitors. I would suggest that even the “tameness” of the domestic cat is only skin deep - we observe frequently its undiminished skill at catching birds, squirrels and mice.

I first corresponded with the Sri Lankan authorities when letters from very worried visitors to the zoo began arriving on my desk. Although closure of the zoo took longer than many of us would have wished, I am pleased that the Government took decisive action.

We must ensure that these memories do not fade - the unhappy family of the young boy will certainly remember that terrible day. But it is obvious that much stronger regulations must be created and enforced for all zoos, both public and private. No zoo should be allowed to chain, drug or beat animals, nor exploit them in any way whatsoever.

You and I would, I suggest, find life in a bare room intolerable for more than a day. Spare a moment for the still wild animal (of whatever species) that must spend its whole existence in such circumstances. If, in desperation, an animal reveals its true nature you may find the culprit is not the imprisoned but the jailer.

Virginia McKenna

Surrey, England.

There’s lot to learn

According to a news item an American English teaching expert who has come here has expressed the view that “use of English authentic materials such as disseminating and exchanging knowledge skills and attitudes is the best way to learn perfect English.”

This brought to my mind, that in the days gone by when teachers advised their pupils to read the editorials of the newspapers.

In point of fact, there was in my time a teacher who went further and discussed the content and structure of an editorial of the previous day, if it was of topical interest and was well expressed. Today’s newspapers in addition to discussing matters of topical interest, exhibit debating skill of a high order on controversial issues, besides letters to the editor and not forgetting the “Junior Page”. Much of this meets the views expressed by this expert.

But the important question is, how many could afford to buy a newspaper daily! It is beyond the means of a vast majority of the people who now find it difficult to keep the wolf from the door. Before the wholesale transformation into a market economy, newspapers could be sold to the ‘bottle man’ for a reasonable price and a fair part of the expenses re-imbursed. Now, with the unrestricted import of discarded newspapers from cheaper sources, papers have to be disposed of for a song. Those interested in English news have to listen in to the radio or watch the news on the idiot box.

The presentation in regard to diction, enunciation and expression is often of a good standards with room for improvement in the case of some. In any case this is no substitute for a newspaper to gather a wider knowledge of English.

We hope that this aspect of supplementing the teaching of English is considered in the reforms to the educational system.

Tissa Amarasekera


Stop this unfair taboo

Something is gravely wrong in the lending section of the Colombo Public Library. This has been the second time that I have been chased out of the premises by irate staff members who keep insisting that one should not read inside the library!

Having come across an interesting paragraph in a book no sooner should I settle down in one of the arm-chairs flanking both walls of the library, than a lady should come running to me, her face blotched red in anger, and shout in the vernacular “this is not a place for reading, if you have selected a book, get out”.

The public library allows its readers only two library tickets. To undergraduates like myself it is extremely difficult to choose just two books from the masses that have to be read. Besides, when doing reference for tutorials, we come across books that carry just one or two lines, a paragaraph, or a chapter at the most, that is of particular importance. At such times, it seems anything but a crime to waste one library ticket to borrow the book, when in less than ten minutes it could be read and remembered or noted down on a piece of paper. But no, it is taboo to read inside the lending section of the Public Library.

Mr Librarian, please look into this matter and amend the rule. The books in the library may be old and yellowing, the lighting too is so poor, that a torch would be handy to read some of the titles, yet to someone who really loves reading, the collection is a treasure trove.

University of Kelaniya.

A notch for every kill

Several years ago, it was said that not only elephant hunters but also the wild west bandits used to carve a notch on the butts of their guns - one for each of their victims.

A few months ago, at the end of a token strike performed by some unions in the medical field, a union leader reportedly expressed his satisfaction over the success of the strike, during which time , thousands of patients were deprived of medical attention, when almost all state hospitals were closed to the sick and suffering.

Perhaps,if there had been recorded deaths due to the strike, notches would have been registered in the union records - for complete joy to those who convened the strike.

It has been revealed that some 240 strikes were launched last year, and approximately 300,000 man hours lost.

A recent news report in the daily press indicated that plans are afoot to fill all vacancies in Government Departments and corporations. It was this that drew my interest to gather the information above.

The news item would certainly gladden the hearts of the unemployed as well as their benefactors.

We could visualize new appointees getting on stride, as they are introduced to the various duties they are expected to perform - for the benefit of the public, instead of being told that due to shortage of staff, the work could not be attended to.

Well, alongside with this training, the juniors would also be exposed to other practices too.

Seniors - if they are of the fair sex, would be likely to entice juniors to other occupations - such as knitting booties, jerseys and scarves, not only for themselves, but also for friends and relations, and perhaps to the open market - mostly done during office hours - or something else to keep off from their legitimate functions.

Likewise, the senior men would likely to introduce the newcomers to horse racing or perhaps getting them interested in listening to cricket commentaries or spending their time around carrom boards and card games - while members of the public try to catch the eyes of some official or other.

While the nation should be happy that the unemployed are found employment, let us also reject the thoughts of dismal fears, whether more employment would mean more strikes, protests and other demands that would cripple the day-to-day activities of the common man, whether in schools, hospitals, government offices and other places of work, designed to ease the burden of the public.

T.G. Edirimanna,

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