Friday, December 31, 2010

No more Ceylon

The Government information department has announced that the names of all public enterprises that begin as ‘Ceylon’ will be replaced with the word ‘Sri Lanka'.

Not something particularly startling, considering that the name of the country was officially changed thirty eight years ago. Indeed we may well ask why it took them so long.

Looking through old letters from overseas that my parents received in the 1970's the address ended with "Sri Lanka (Ceylon)" but this is no longer necessary. Sri Lanka is well known enough, perhaps too well known. The most ready associations with the name being terrorism, war and Prabakaran while Ceylon was associated with Tea, spices and tourism. The last observation was made by a gentleman from Denmark who has been living here since the 1970's. He also felt that Ceylon was a much nicer name, the shape of the letters that make up the name being round and curvy rather than the angular strokes that make up Sri Lanka.

Lee Kuan Yew observed that the change of Ceylon's name did little to improve the lot of its people and that Ceylon Tea continued to be sold as Ceylon Tea. The latest decision will not apply to the marketing of tea, which will remain Ceylon Tea. Then why bother with this?

I generally view the changing of names with suspicion for the motive behind this is little more than garnering some cheap publicity for the politician or official responsible for the act, while sowing confusion in the mind of the public. I have no problem with local names being given to public works or buildings but I think it is a prerequisite that the official concerned earns the right confer his chosen name (and thus bask in the reflected glory) by actually constructing whatever is being named.

Renaming existing roads or works is little more than a distraction, a trick to divert the attention of the public from more pressing matters. To add insult to injury, the new names are long and unwieldy and include honours and qualifications which are quite unnecessary. Why must it be "Dr Lester James Peiris Mawatha" (Dickman's Rd to the uninitiated) and not simply Peiris Mawatha? Why Sir Chittapalam A Gardiner Mawatha (Parsons Rd) and not Gardiner Mawatha?

This disease is not confined to local politicians, Bombay and Calcutta are cities built by the British whatever the local politicians may say. It would have been far better to have spent some effort in clearing slums, improving drainage, sanitation or any number of the problems in Bombay rather than confining their efforts to removing the last traces of the British, sixty years after their departure.

After all, what's in a name?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Smoke, drink, pay

This was the headline on a story in today's Daily Mirror.

Like many of the policies that are enunciated from time to time, it seems designed to garner as much attention as possible for its creator. Rather less thought seems to have gone into the impact on the intended beneficiaries of the policy.

For a start, how is it to be implemented? How does a doctor know that someone is a user of alcohol or a tobacco?

Heavy smokers will carry some evidence of their habit, in the form of discoloured teeth, fingernails and blackened lips. Moderate users of alcohol are much harder to detect, unless they actually enter hospital drunk and only the real dipsomaniacs can be identified as such on sight.

The doctors could pose the question to the patient, in which case the patient is likely to lie. The doctor will then have to judge whether the patient is telling the truth, which may mean that moderate users will probably get away with the lie, which means the policy will be rendered less effective, although the doctors diagnosis may be impaired by the fact that information is withheld.

According to the Ministry official "non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, cancer and high blood pressure are often due to the excessive consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.He said the ministry has decided to take these measures to encourage a drop in people’s consumption of alcohol and cigarettes."

Is it only for treatment of the diseases commonly associated with alcohol and tobacco use that are to be charged for, or will they be required to pay for all public health services? For example for injuries caused by a fall or an accident? What if hypertension or diabetes is due to hereditary factors, or possibly due to excessive consumption of sugar, something that Sri Lankan's are well know for?

It is true that valuable hospital resources are tied up by people suffering from lifestyle diseases but I believe the focus should be on prevention, which means education.

Paying something for health services may also not be a bad thing, especially if the funds are used to improve facilities, especially since the health budget is minuscule compared to the rest of Government spending but this needs to be based on sound principles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Groomsmen's duties

A Groomsman's duties are many and varied and although I have now served in that capacity for four weddings I have never quite worked out what they should be.

For a start I always thought the groomsman had to look after horses. How he came to look after prospective husbands-to-be beats me, I suppose the poor fellow marching down the aisle needs what support he can get.

Anyway to cut the long story short, I was asked last week whether I possessed a black suit. I said I did. I was then asked, "you know you are one of the groomsmen, right?" A week is rather short notice but my week was relatively clear, so ok.

My first major duty was to ferry an old aunt around but due to various other things cropping up I was relieved of that and instead sent off to the estate to pick up some coconuts. Groomsmen are useful that way.

Driving 30km in the afternoon was not exactly my idea of a good time, but though the traffic was heavy, it was not impossible and I was rather pleased that my airconditioning (fixed at great expense) was working well, and by and by I reached my destination.

I alighted and spoke to the caretaker and got him to start loading the jeep and took in the scenery. Looking down at the old garage/barn in the first picture my mood improved dramatically, there is something about a lot of greenery that can release stress. Drinking a sweet king coconut, taking in the ducks, chickens and guinea fowl gathering around hoping that the owner had returned to feed them, all was at peace and I hardly felt the drive back.

Since then I've bought cocktail mixture (for the reception), shirts (for the groom, best man and groomsmen) and agreed to coordinate some cars.

Ho hum, not exactly earth shattering stuff, but given my reluctance to get involved in overly complicated affairs I think I've come off quite well.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Looking for something traditional this Christmas?

If you like the traditional carols, sung in classic arrangements by David Willcocks, Harold Darke and the like, drop in to St Andrew's at Galle Face (opposite Inn on the Green) at 7pm on the 12th of December.

A good way, as any, to start the Season.

Entrance free, all are welcome.