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Device to influence policies of other nations – The Island.lk

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By Daya Gamage
Sri Lanka enacting the Twenty First Amendment to its Constitution, among other provisions, barring her citizens from holding elective office if a person is simultaneously a citizen of another country, meaning no dual citizen could get elected to the highest position of the land, Executive President, or the national legislature, the parliament.
However, no law prohibits a Sri Lankan citizen – with dual citizenship – from holding office, other than elected, in a political party or organisation, public office with government compensation, or prevents such a dual nationality holder to engage in politics or civic duties.
In Sri Lanka, this issue is broadly concentrated to elective office but has ignored the reality that a dual citizen, without being in an elective position, is capable of influencing national agenda through his or her position within the governing body or the political party which is responsible for that governance. This influence could be from the nation this person is holding the foreign citizenship to advance that foreign country’s interests in the policy structure of the other nation.
The issue of dual citizenship emerged during the past seven-eight years in Sri Lanka revolved round a single person: Basil Rajapaksa – a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the United States – of the governing Rajapaksa entity or his influence in the political structure and national policies associated with it. Any skepticism of American influence in Sri Lankan national issues is largely ignored in the process.
Prior to 1967, dual citizenship was not permitted in the United States. However, the U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. A U.S. citizen may naturalise in a foreign state without any risk of his or her U.S. citizenship.
The issue came in the United States after 9/11 attack on the American soil – especially among lawmakers and policymakers in Washington, D.C., whether the federal government should legislatively declare – for the first time – dual citizenry illegal. The culmination of this debate was the open session of the sub committee on Immigration and Border Security of the Committee of the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives on September 29, 2005 summoning academics and experts for testimony.
What came out of the Special Session was most interesting: and at this time when dual citizenry has been focused toward one single individual, the message emerged from the Congressional Session can be attributed to the entire Sri Lankan nation, her political formation, and the decision-making process.’
What is the message?
Accepting dual citizenship advances U.S. national interests on a global basis. Many dual citizens will remain politically active in their homelands even after they become Americans.
What was deliberated at the U.S. House Session was that through dual citizenship the United States at that moment enjoyed a direct voice in the politics of other countries. The Congress did not mean that such individuals will crudely do the bidding of the United States in those countries, but such individuals as Americans will surely work to sustain and entrench constitutional democratic systems in their countries of origin and that many U.S. interests could be served. It was further noted that having absorbed America’s political traditions in the process of becoming Americans, dual citizens will be able to put them to work back home. That serves America’s national interests in advancing the global cause of democracy, among many other things, it was noted.
Peter J. Spiro, Professor of International Law at the University of Georgia Law School who served as Director for Democracy of the staff of the National Security Council told this Congressional Session (Quote) Participating in the affairs of another country does not categorically preclude responsible participation in the affairs of this one. Dual citizens can be responsible participants in both countries of nationality. Dual citizens can also, perhaps even more clearly, remain informed participants in multiple polities.
From a national interest perspective, dual citizenship presents a tool in solidifying the global reach of our constitutional values. A naturalising alien who gives up his or her original citizenship is limited in the extent to which it is possible thereafter to influence the political processes of the homeland. But that seems counterproductive to the American national interest insofar as we may want him to exercise such influence. Naturalising aliens are likely to absorb American democratic mentalities. If they maintain dual citizenship, they will be able to put those democratic tendencies to work back home. (End Quote)
The vital pronouncement in Prof. Spiro’s testimony was “A naturalising alien who gives up his or her original citizenship is limited in the extent to which it is possible thereafter to influence the political processes of the homeland. But that seems counterproductive to the American national interest insofar as we may want him to exercise such influence”.
The dual citizenship process is well connected to America’s foreign policy, its defence approaches in foreign countries and other interests such as trade, commerce and investments.
The American policy goes beyond to further strengthen all the above through its elective bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
To be clear in U.S. law, there is no prohibition against dual nationals serving as elected Members of the U.S. Congress – both the Senate and the House. The only qualifications for serving in Congress are age, being a U.S. citizen for at least nine years for the Senate, and living in the state you represent at the time of election. However, the president is constitutionally required to be natural born.
Through dual citizenship the United States benefits in many ways. Currently a (Republican Party) candidate for the US Senate in the State of Ohio Dr. Mehmut Oz is a dual citizen of the U.S. as well as Turkey. The mid-term elections are schedule for November 8 and if he is elected – it could be – in the interest of the strategic ties between the two nations.
Turkey is a key NATO Ally and critical regional partner, and the United States is committed to improving the relationship between the two countries.  It is in the U.S. interest to keep Turkey anchored to the Euro-Atlantic community.
Turkey is an important U.S. security partner.  Turkey has been a valued North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Ally since 1952.
If elected, Senator Oz could be useful to Washington to move forward spelled out by the new U.S.-Turkey Strategic Mechanism, announced in early April 2022, as a step forward.
Keeping the ‘dual citizenry’ open, the United States looks forward to enhance its economic-strategic interests abroad. After all, Sri Lanka is strategically located in the Indo-Pacific region to which the United States focused since 2006 – when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State declaring the US policy of ‘Pivot to Asia’ – to strengthen its hold.

(The writer is a retired Foreign Service National Political Specialist of the US Department of State attached to its diplomatic mission in Colombo)





The weaker side of democracy
Sri Lanka’s economic turmoil and value of Senanka Bibile drug policy

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By: B Nimal Veerasingham
During my middle school days once a month on the last period of the last Friday we had a session called ‘Students club’. I was not sure whether it was part of the general curriculum or simply school specific, but it was a forum or meeting we all looked forward to. I somehow felt it has some connotations in conducting business collectively for a group of people, somewhat a practical extension of the subject ‘Civics’, which as we know is the study of rights and obligations of citizens in society.
Student’s Club
Now, to start with, the session was not exclusively for our class, but another class usually one grade higher or lower was added to the same session perhaps to encourage a variety of groups and not necessarily the people you usually interacted to get together and agree upon common goals. That was very evident right from the very beginning as an executive committee had to be elected. In other words, if you wanted to become a board member you needed the votes from across your familiar line as well. The process provided familiarity and opportunity to all in the art of convincing, negotiation, grandstanding, assertiveness, fairness, equality, likability etc.
Once the board was elected it had the responsibility for preparing the agenda for the upcoming sessions till the end of school year. The agenda primarily involved performances by individuals selected. The performances as far as I could remember though could be seen monotonous was hilarious and chaotic at times, pumping adrenaline. The segments or expected performances were mostly divided into general news section, sports news, cinema songs, songs in other languages, jokes, instant speech on a subject, scientific achievements, historical notes, etc… The assembly by popular vote assign or select the performers or presenters, the only guideline being not to assign the same for the same task repeatedly. Nobody has the right to refuse once assigned. The presentation would take place on the platform where usually the teacher’s desk and chair are but removed now.
Though this exercise seems fair and equitable we were ignorant to understand that all are not equipped with the same talents. There were classmates who hardly hum any music but were asked to sing a cinema song. For them songs mean the kind of classical couplets found in the school textbooks. There were others who struggle in their own language but were expected to sing in a language other than their own. Of course, some created their own gibberish versions and called it Hindi. There were others who thought they were telling jokes but hardly anyone laughed. In sports news once one did refer to Garfield Sobers but for many Sobers is no different from Sundaralingam. As per procedural order when a presenter is not up to the assembly’s least expectation, he was brought down from the platform in humiliation by high clapping ambush by the audience, most on feet.
We just wanted to have a good time at the expense of others. Welcome to our first taste of democracy in action.
Plato and manipulators
About 2,300 years ago the Greek philosopher Plato understood the gravity of democratic process. His ‘Republic’ is considered the cornerstone of Western thinking and ethics behind its political progress. But Plato looked at the democratic process’s darker side, considered by him as mere manipulators who lacked expertise performing circus to the ignorant by swinging popular opinion. His memory was fresh as to how his mentor and friend Socrates was put on trial by the so-called democratic citizen-prosecutors on charges he was corrupting younger minds, before being jailed and executed.
When democratic process allows popular spinsters to manipulate masses to acquire illicit benefits or abuse of power for their personal gain, the word corruption starts singing in high pitch from the rafters. As we know corruption erodes trust and weakens democratic institutions, hampers economic development, and further exacerbates inequality, poverty and social division. World bank lists how corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. It also categorises how countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly. It promotes transparency, open contracts and asset disclosure standards to counter corruption getting embedded.
IMF & UN
IMF goes one notch above as it explores a new approach framing corruption as an economic problem that staff must systematically assess, discuss, and address if it is distorting the economy. It is a grand experiment in the ability to pursue anti-corruption reform even in the absence of a government’s political will.
Corruption is often systematic and organised, a crime that crosses borders and betrays people and democracies, the UN Chief Antonio Guterres said recently at a special UN session addressing corruption. It steals trillions of dollars from people all over the world, usually from those most in need, as it siphons off resources for sustainable development, he added. When powerful people get away with corruption, citizens lose trust in their governing institutions and democracies become weakened by cynicism and hopelessness.
While all unanimously agree that corruption at any level steals the hope and future of ordinary citizens, democracy need to be strengthened by way of identifying weaker links, to prevent or identify culprits who mask themselves at times in nationalistic fervor. Arthur C Clarke once said that ‘you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a free will and a benevolent higher power who protects you from yourself ‘. An educated or awakened public’s involvement is paramount in making the kind of society they want to live in.
Brexit and experts
In the name of open reflection of a democracy, we know how a popular vote in one of the strongest democracies UK, failed its people. It was one of the most famous quotes from one of the hardest fought political campaigns Britain has ever seen. “I think the people in this country have had enough of experts,” UK Cabinet minister Michael Cove said on prime-time TV before the Brexit referendum when questioned on advice of experts. His convoluted response did not do any justice but an injustice to the transparency badge, democracies should have been proud of. Now, six years later UK is trailing behind all the G7 countries in real wages, GDP, inflation, and projected growth, summarized in a popular headline ‘Yes, Mr. Cove, the experts were right about Brexit’.

Unchecked political authority
Nineteenth century author Robert Ingersoll once said ‘Most people can bear adversity. But if you want to know what a man really is, give him power’. During our school days in the 70s and 80s tutories were springing up and taking root as part of delivering education chain. For many of us at that time power means simply earning power and education and to some extent tutories provided a gateway. Nobody knew the margins but there was competition among the tuition centres. Word went out to an all-powerful politician that a particular tutory was influencing students more on maths and physics, notably on excesses by politicians. That is enough for the politician to raid the tutory along with his goons and demanded all to show allegiance to his leadership failing which he will get the centre shut for promoting subversion. He suggested that the management and students organise a generously advertised public meeting in front of the tutory at their expense to honour him, with a lavish dinner followed. He provided the menu and the music group that will entertain the evening.
As when the music group took the stage the politician made a request for the first song and the group readily agreed. It was a song from an old Tamil movie, lyrics analogising a scene where the snake that huddles the all-powerful Lord Shiva’s neck greets or queries the wellbeing of the Garuda or hawk/eagle. The eagle responded calmly saying that everything would be fine when everyone is in their respected place. Being at the opposite sides of the food chain, the Eagle’s response highlights the snake’s current unusual superior abode with the Lord of creation and destruction.
After the devilled prawns, mud-crab curry dinner and the clear liquid flowed, the politician and his inner circle went home singing praise to themselves, while the students went home empty stomach losing their parent’s hard-earned money, they pitched in.
To this day the politician’s choice of the first song that evening, continues to be a mystery. In reality, he could be juxtaposed to the snake, as protected and unaccountable political authority invigorate abuse of power and perpetuates corruption.
Plato and manipulators, UN and IMF, Brexit and experts, snake and eagle, politician and corruption?
These are all part of the relevance theory, processing relevant stimuli with little effort.
Abraham Lincoln once proudly proclaimed, ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth’. It has not perished and will not perish but requires greater scrutiny with accountability and transparency at the forefront through active involvement by the people.

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By Dr. Ajith Kumara
Consultant Physician
President, All Ceylon Medical Officers Association
Prof. Senaka Bibile is the greatest medical benefactor of humanity that Sri Lanka has hitherto produced. As a student, he was an all-rounder; he excelled in in academic and extracurricular activities including sports and art. He completed his First, Second and Final M.B. Examinations, all with First Class Honours and won the coveted Djunjishaw Dadabhoy Gold Medal in Medicine and the Rockwood Gold Medal in Surgery at the finals.
Both his talent and Marxist ideology motivated him to dedicate the rest of his life to a mission to develop the medical education and also introduce a national drug policy which was overwhelmingly grabbed by many nations and organisations across the world.
Background for National Drug Policy
The capitalist system is full of flaws due to the nature of commodity production. After the world war II, there was a transient progression which was soon followed by economic recessions across the world interpreted as great depression, OPEC oil crisis, Secondary banking crisis of 1973–1975 in the UK, Latin American debt crisis and so on.
Sri Lanka also witnessed a steady deterioration of balance payment from 1960s and economic growth rate progressively declined from 4.6%which was during 1950 and 1960 to 2.6% by 1974. From 1965 to 1970, the foreign exchange allocation for drugs was cut from a total of Rs. 33 million (Rs. 20 million for private and Rs. 13 million for Civil Medical Stores’ imports) to Rs. 24 million (Rp. 14 million and Rs. 10 million, respectively). Those drastic cut downs of health expenses irrespective of growth of population and steadily rise of drug prices resulted in significant drop in per capita pharmaceutical supply compromising health care across the country. Therefore, the prime minister requested Prof Senaka Bibile to cut down expenses without compromising patient care.
By 1970, Sri Lanka had no national health or drug policy like most other countries and drugs were imported for the government sector and for the private sector separately by the civil medical stores and 134 local agents of foreign suppliers respectively. Both the government and the private sector were heavily influenced by propaganda of the transnational companies (TNC).
Major recommendations in National Drug Policy
List of essential drugs
Device to influence policies of other nations - The Island.lkProf. Senaka Bibile pioneered the publication of the Ceylon Hospitals Formulary from 1957 to identify essential drugs for the hospitals and introduced the concept of List of Essential Medicines in 1958 in Sri Lanka; it was new to the world and later taken up by WHO and other countries to ensure continuous supply of essential drugs at the lower possible cost.
When preparing the drug list, many imitative drugs, which made no contribution to the therapeutic effect of a particular drug that were chosen on the basis of economy, large number of fixed combination drugs and drugs without clear therapeutic value or with high toxicity were left out. Drugs that have got a very slight structural difference to already known drugs, but with the same therapeutic effect (me-too drugs) were also deleted. So, he managed to minimise the drug list from about 4000 preparations to a reasonable number (about 600) without detrimental effect on patient care.
Centralisation of the purchase
The next major recommendation was the centralisation of purchase of both finished drugs according to the rationalised list and pharmaceutical chemicals for local manufacturers. State Pharmaceutical Cooperation (SPC) initiated this task of wholesale import of all drugs and pharmaceutical raw materials and, the purchase of locally processed pharmaceuticals. By the end of 1973, it could take over all imports.
Shopping around the world and accepting low price-bid as bulks rather than finished products helped save a lot of money. To maintain the quality of drugs, the pharmaceutical company should produce certificate of quality plus an independent certificate of quality from a reliable laboratory, an agent or an official body before accepting their bid.
He suggested the following formula to understand the price of a drug to scientifically reduce its price. (See table)
CIF value ( Cost of goods, Insurance and freight) 100Handling charges 05Import duty 25Wholesalers profit 35Retailers profit 35Price to the consumer 200
Prof. Bibile pointed out that the wholesale import of raw materials and bulk pharmaceuticals at the most favourable price (at a lowest possible CIF value) will enable drug to be obtained and sold at the lowest price rather than fighting to limit wholesalers and retailers profit.
Ignore the patent law
The other recommendation was to abolish the patent law. Until that time, Sri Lanka had not been able to purchase patent products from any other manufacturer even though the drug was manufactured in a different process. Therefore, Sri Lanka could not buy cheaper products manufactured by a process different to those used by the original patent holders. Hence, it was suggested to amend the patent law so that only process patents would apply but not the product patents similar to the manner of operating the patent law in many countries such as Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and most of the socialist countries.
Drug distribution and advertising
Repacking of bulk imported drugs and distribution of the drugs to the government sector and also to the private sector should be done by the state trading cooperation.
Drug advertising and education of doctors about drugs via brochures from pharmaceutical firms and their representatives should cease and local manufactures too should let the cooperation to advertise on their drugs.
Nomenclature
Device to influence policies of other nations - The Island.lkThe report strongly recommended using generic names of medications instead of their trade names in prescriptions.
State Pharmaceutical Industry
Manufacturing pharmaceuticals in the country should also be started under the guidelines set by the government according to the essential drug list using the materials imported by the state, leaving the promotion and distribution to the state. If any manufacturer proved recalcitrant, the government has the authority to nationalise them. With this recommendation, by 1973, Sri Lanka m,anufacuired 47 essential drugs and, by 1974, and it increased to 71 drugs while saving more than 450,000 USD for the country.
Quality control of drugs
It was suggested to establish a quality control laboratory with a trained staff. Initially, he suggested getting consultants for the laboratory and to train staff through the WHO until local counterparts can take over the function.
Pharmacies, Pharmacists and their training
This was one of the most neglected aspect in health system by then. He rec eived assistance from Dr. J. Chilton of the University of Glasgow and a WHO consultant in Pharmacoloy, in training of pharmacists and to recommend the setting up of model pharmacies in the Colombo hospitals. The pharmacology course was later upgraded to a two year university diploma course according to his proposals.
In addition to these, the report has addressed about the research, monitoring and continuous development of human resources and infrastructure too.
Therefore, when analysing the Bibile Policy, it is clear that it is not merely an attempt to control the prices of drugs but, a very comprehensive national strategy for pharmaceutical sector in the health system.
National Drug policy to the world
Prof. Bibile was given the opportunity to present his novel model of pharmaceutical policy at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1976 and it was soon supported by World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies as it would give enormous benefit to the third world countries.
By the year 2,000, over 100 countries had national pharmaceutical policies and 88 countries had introduced the essential drug concept to medical and pharmacy curricula. In 1971, both Chile and Sri Lanka started centralised bulk procurement but, Chile failed due to the power of pharmaceutical companies and the lack of strong political will at their end.
In the early 1980s, Bangladesh ranked as the world’s second poorest country with the average per capita income of US$130. However, they succeeded in national pharmacological policy due to strong political commitment giving a good example to the world that if the vital ingredient of political will and commitment are there, the real progress is possible irrespective of the power of the pharmaceutical giants.
Sri Lankans failure
Signs of failure appeared from the outset of the policy implementation in Sri Lanka. In the report in 1976 written by Prof. Bibile and Dr. Sanjaya Lal, it is clearly mentioned that the government was neither monolithic nor fully consistent with its strategy and, after 1975; government changed its economic strategy and hindered the policy implementation.
By now, Sri Lanka has faced a severe economic crisis with a shortage of foreign currency and an inability to provide basic requirements such as food, education and health of the citizens. Hospitals have run out of drugs including life-saving medications and surgical items.
Nevertheless, there are numerous combinations of various types of vitamins; plenty of medications which have no proven benefits, me-too drug and many counterfeit medications in the market wasting our foreign currency! About 30% of health expenditure is spent for pharmaceuticals.
If Sri Lanka had implemented Bibile drug policy and imported drugs according to an essential medicine list, heath budget could have efficiently be utilised to buy them while avoiding wasting of foreign currency for unnecessary medications. That would be an expeditious solution to the current crisis in essential medicines. As planned earlier, if the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is commenced, it will be an excellent way of earning the much needed foreign currency in the long term. Therefore, the implementation of Bibile drug policy is much more important today than ever as a comprehensive approach to the crisis in health system to ensure the availability of essential medications.
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According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security “Food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) estimate 6.3 million Sri Lankans are facing moderate to severe acute food insecurity. This could be attributed to shortage of food and high food prices. The latest WFP assessment reveals that 86 percent of families are buying cheaper, less nutritious food; eating less, and in some cases skipping meals altogether. This unfortunate situation is the result of many factors among which are poverty, non-availability of agrochemicals at correct times, scarcity of foreign exchange reserves, depreciation of the local currency, etc.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has launched a programme to ensure food security in the country. The vision of this Food Security Programme is to ensure every citizen has access to enough food at a reasonable price, to lead an active and healthy life, and to ensure that no citizen of the country should starve due to lack of food, and no child should be a victim of malnutrition.
National Food Security:
National Food insecurity is attributed to inadequate food production at national level and high prices consumers have to pay. The recent banning of agrochemicals has drastically reduced food production in the country resulting in high food prices. We have been importing food costing around Rs. 300 billion a year. Most of the food such as rice, milk, sugar, lentils, etc., which are vital in raising Food Security are imported, indicating that there is no national food security. If we are unable to import the essential food items, people will not have enough food for their sustenance. Hence it is important that relevant action is taken to produce essential food locally, at affordable prices. National food insecurity is due to many factors. Among these are wild elephants roaming in some of the dry zone villages, causing death to many and destroying crops, Chronic Kidney Disease affecting thousands of farmers, inadequate water supply, lack of reasonable transport facilities, non-availability of fertilisers such as urea, and other agrochemicals at correct times, inability to sell the produce at reasonable prices etc. Authorities need to take cognizance of these issues in their endeavours to = increase national food security.
The National Food Security and Nutrition Council has been established to take appropriate action to achieve Food Security. This council will function under the chairmanship of the President of Sri Lanka, advised (?) by a former Secretary to the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy. Plans are underway to produce several food items such as rice, onion, chili’s lentils etc. to increase food security in the country. Simply planning to produce rice, onion, etc. indicated above will not have any desired effect, unless an integrated plan is implemented. If national food security is to be enhanced it is essential that food is available at an affordable price. As indicated above, several factors play important roles in food production. Efforts to strengthen the national food security require an integrated approach that combines crop improvement alongside sustainable land and water management, efficient irrigation, application of appropriate fertilizers and other inputs, effective marketing etc.
House- hold Food Security:
House -hold Food Security is closely related to the economy, which has deteriorated during the last few years, mainly due to the drop-in crop production and several other factors. Prices of most food items have been on a steady rise since the last quarter of 2021, and reached a record high in August 2022, with the year-on-year food inflation rate at nearly 94 percent, further limiting the purchasing power of households.
According to the Dept. of Census and Statistics around 14.3 % (nearly 3 million) are below poverty level. Unemployment, lack of resource production factors such as land and/or capital are the main factors causing poverty. Ill-health and sickness among family members, addiction to drugs and alcohol, frequently occurring natural disasters such as floods and droughts in some parts of the country, inborn defects such as deformities, blindness, inadequate knowledge on nutrition also tend to affect food security among households.
Estate communities:
The Plantation sector plays an important role in achieving food security. There are nearly 430 estates in the country and around 200,000 families live in these estates. Poverty in the estate sector is around 34%. They are saddled with low incomes, and have to face severe food shortages. They do not have enough land to grow many crops so as to supply necessary food for sustenance.
The fishing community:
The fisheries sector plays a key role in Sri Lanka’s social and economic life. Fish products are an important source of animal protein for the population which increases food security. Around 350,000 are directly involved in the fisheries sector. During the last few months their incomes have decreased drastically, as it has become extremely difficult for them to go fishing. This is mainly due to non-availability/high prices of kerosene oil, which is necessary for them to go fishing. They are saddled with low incomes, and have to face severe food shortages. They do not have enough land to grow many crops so as to supply necessary food for the household. As a result of lowered incomes, the fishing community is unable to purchase food necessary for their sustenance.
An integrated approach is necessary to achieve food security. The factors which cause food insecurity among different communities in the country need to be examined and action taken accordingly. Simply cultivating every inch of land as some insist will not yield desired results.
Dr. C.S. WEERARATNA
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