22nd November 1998
47, W. A. D. Ramanayake Mawatha Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2.
Food has loomed large over the last fortnight with our Special Assignment reports highlighting the issue of outdated food packs to soldiers at the frontlines of the war fighting to preserve the country's unity and on another note recently drawing attention to the rising prices of potatoes and onions with the prospect of making our countrymen leaner while bringing tears to their eyes (see our Plus cover story).
On the first - the issue of food packs to soldiers - it was the great soldier of soldiers, the Emperor of France Napoleon Bonaparte, who said an Army marches on its stomach.
What he really meant was that there was no greater morale booster for the soldier out at the front than a hot meal! What our Special Assignment story reveals is that far from a hot meal, the food packs issued to soldiers were outdated and may have been unfit and unsafe for consumption.
The manufacturers have said it was not their fault, the Army top brass blame the Field Commanders and at the end of it all it appears that nobody is at fault.
But the poor soldier has to swallow it outdated and all! Shouldn't the Generals who sip their distilled champagne to chase down their hot short-eats taken as bites spare a thought for the soldier?
In the North Central Province there is a massive food shortage but sadly the Ministry of Defence and the Government Agents of the NCP are clashing over statistics relating to the families affected by the shortages.
The Ministry of Defence believes the GA's figures are inflated and that the food supplies from Colombo are being siphoned off to feed LTTE mouths.
One thing nevertheless is certain - they are not feeding the displaced refugees now in dire straits in that part of the country.
Yet another battle is now being fought, this time not against terrorists, not on the food front but to counter an enemy as deadly - the cholera germ.
But as our stories show this week there is much that was avoidable if proper hygienic standards had been maintained.
Not only small eating houses serving the proletariat but also the more up-market restaurants, snack bars and fast food outlets catering to the tastes of the more affluent are at fault.
But there is more to the story. All Municipal health controls seem to have broken down in the major towns where cholera has stricken people down.
There are two factors for this - first a shortage of health inspectors and next the bribery rampant among this cadre.
All this of course boils down to a lack of governance, a lack of leadership at the centre filtering down to the local authorities in most instances.
It is almost as if there is no central or local government capable of ensuring the health of the nation.
All that matters are only taxes and rates to keep elected public officials in office. Otherwise it is simply natural government with each man for himself and God for all!
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