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Dengue and boru talk

The government seems to have taken the people for a bunch of suckers. There may be suckers among them all right but it cannot fool all the people all the time. It promised to bring BTI bacteria to battle dengue years ago but it has, true to form, not yet honoured its promise. Dengue is on the rise and people continue to die of it. Only mosquitoes and mosquito repellent manufacturers seem to have benefited from the government's much advertised dengue eradication programme, which has become a grand flop.

It is against this backdrop that Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena's statement that theSLFPwill prefer those who successfully fight dengue when nominating candidates for the next Local Government elections should be viewed. As the SLFP General Secretary, how would Minister Sirisena explain his party's decision to nominate former Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who pathetically failed to control dengue, let alone eliminate it, for the last parliamentary election?

Minister Sirisena has stopped short of telling us what the government intends to do with the SLFP's local government politicians who have either failed to control dengue or contributed to its spread. Refusal of nominations is too lenient a punishment for them. Local government institutions are responsible for the spread of dengue more than the public. Checks are conducted on houses and gardens and fines imposed on ratepayers if mosquito breeding places happen to be there. But, PS and UC chairmen and mayors go scot free in spite of having hundreds, if not thousands, of such places in areas under their jurisdiction. They, being the biggest culprits, must be hauled up before courts and fined like the irresponsible ratepayers. The government must sack the failed Mayors et al before denying them nominations for the LG polls.

Minister Sirisena has also said the government will award an annual prize for the cleanest local government area and the dirtiest one, too, will be named. We do not know whether there is any council that deserves a prize for keeping its environs clean but the Colombo Municipal Council is certainly unrivalled where the city squalor is concerned. Does any other council have a mountain of garbage as high as the one near the Kelani Bridge to compete with the CMC to be adjudged the worst LG body?

The environment must be kept clean and those who pollute it punished. But, the dengue menace could have been eliminated a long time ago if the government had imported BTI bacteria from Cuba, which has successfully used them to eradicate the disease. There have been many rounds of talks and even Cuban scientists were brought here. But, the bacteria have not been imported!

The government is on a spending spree. It has money to grant soft loans to MPs for duty free vehicles at the rate of $50,000 each; it had no qualms about spending Rs. 850 million on IIFA and willingly absorbed a loss of Rs. 450 million due to inferior quality medical supplies purchased in 2008 alone. But, it is without funds to purchase the much needed BTI bacteria to eliminate dengue!

Cuba is reported to have offered BTI bacteria on easy payment terms and at least now the government should import them fast before dengue carries off many more people. Is it that some businesses are preventing the health authorities from eliminating dengue, which helps them sell tons and tons of mosquito coils daily?

What is needed is swift action and not empty rhetoric. The responsibility for battling dengue lies with the Health Ministry, which should not try to find scapegoats. The SLFP may deny nominations to its failed local government politicians by way of some service to the nation but that will not help solve the problem of dengue, which needs a speedy remedy.

The Health Minister cannot hoodwink the public with his boru talk.

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