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Monday, 1 August 2011

Devivaru, Arsenic and Science -IV

The Arsenic issue does not allow me to analyse current politics and give my two cents worth “predictions” in detail. However, before I continue with my reply to Professors Upali Samarajeewa and Oliver Ileperuma let me state that the UPFA with its resounding victory at local government elections has pushed the UNP and the JVP into one corner, and it is inevitable that they will jointly fight against the nationalistic forces with the support of the TULF or ITAK or TNA, whatever the name the latter would use depending on the political situation. All three names refer to the same political force, albeit with negligible differences and the President having consolidated his position outside the Northern Province is now gradually eating into the vote base of the above mentioned parties in the North. Tamil nationalism as we have pointed over and over again is working top down and with the present development programme in the Northern Province, the TULF with its racist policies will have to follow the UNP and the JVP.

Let me come back to Devivaru, Arsenic and Science. Dr. Samarajeewa and many others are concerned about publishing in so called peer review journals, and think that the Kelaniya group sometimes erroneously called the Kelaniya Rajarata group, (it is true that in our group we have a young academic from Rajarata University, but he is there in his capacity as a research student at Kelaniya) should have published in these magic journals without going to press. We did not originally publish our results or methods in so called peer reviewed journals for number of reasons. One of the reasons was that as the leader of the group I believe that the necessity to publish results and methods in some format arises not only as a result of conveying to the others the “new” results but also as a way of giving as many as possible to respond to the article concerned. In our case we are studying a problem that is of concern to the public and the government, and as such opportunities had to be given to as many as possible to take part in the discussion. Besides publishing in a peer reviewed journal does not give anybody a guarantee that the method and the results are correct. As I have already mentioned the contents of some thirty percent of the papers published in Nature and Science, supposed to be the most prestige of the lot, are proved to be wrong by the others within a few years.

We are concerned with the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease and we are ninety nine percent sure that it is caused mainly by Arsenic that forms Calcium Arsenate after reacting with Calcium salts found in hard water in Rajarata and other relevant areas. Of course, there is another factor involved, namely the soil in these areas which has the ability to retain Arsenic. The absence of this particular soil is the reason that there is no incidence of the disease in Hambantota and other places though there is Arsenic and hard water in those areas as well. As I have said on many occasions if we had enough bodies of dead Rajarata Kidney patients we probably would have confirmed our results with hundred percent certainty. Then the question was popped up as to how these areas gained Arsenic in the first place. After a number of observations it was not difficult to conclude that Arsenic was absorbed into the soil in Rajarata and other areas from Agro Chemicals including pesticides. It has to be pointed out that Arsenic is not present naturally in Sri Lanka, which could be verified by Geologists and Chemists by going deep and taking samples of earth. The quantities of Arsenic found on the surface and up to about ten feet below the surface are what have been added by humans through various means, such as agriculture based on agrochemicals.

We are interested in finding a cure to the disease and we are happy that a public opinion has been created already as a result of releasing the results of our investigation to the newspapers. If we had submitted our results to so called peer reviewed journals it is very likely that the manuscript would still be on the desk of the reviewer. What we have realized is that Arsenic in agrochemicals, have found its way into the hard water in the affected area after been absorbed by the particular soil found in the area and formed Calcium Arsenate that causes the disease. Though Prof. Samarajeewa tries to make a hue and cry over rice we have never said that eating rice is the cause of the disease. In any event it was not us who said first that Arsenic is found in rice, and in this connection the credit should go to Prof. Ranjith Jayasekera, senior professor of Botany, please note the “of” rather than “in” implying that he is the so called chair professor, who won a Presidential award for this particular paper that disclosed the presence of Arsenic in rice. After that two other groups had found Arsenic in rice and I cannot understand why Prof. Samarajeewa is obsessed with our finding which is inconsequential to us as far as the Chronic Kidney Disease is concerned.

Though we have not published our results so far, we have divulged our results and methods at five seminars/presentations to the so called scientists in Sri Lanka who are concerned with the problem. They were at seminars/presentations organized by the WHO, the Ministry of Research and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Medical Faculty of the University of Rajarata and the secretariat of the Prime Minister. It is because of our revelations that the Registrar of Pesticides (RoP) had to test for Arsenic in 28 brands of pesticides at the ITI, which has so far tested positively in 9 of the brands. We note that the RoP has taken steps to ban the 9 brands in Sri Lanka and also that the Sri Lanka Customs have retained more than a dozen of containers with pesticides based on our findings as well as of others. If we went through the peer reviewed journals these 9 brands of pesticides would have been available in the market and the containers would have been released.

I must reiterate that I am not inclined to publish in so called peer reviewed research journals except under very special circumstances, and I believe in communicating my ideas to the others for discussion, criticism, testing etc., through newspapers, websites blogs and other such media. Also I believe in the Buddhist method of “Ehi Passiko” or see for yourself, rather than in the Biblical tradition of quoting chapter and verse. Prof. Samarajeewa may be unfamiliar with our methods as he and all of us have been trained and forced at schools and universities to follow the western Christian tradition. Ehi Passiko was only for the period where we “studied” Buddhism while practicing Christianity in culture that includes traditions. I know that Prof. Samarajeewa and most of the other so called scientists do not know that there are methods of communication other than those demanded by the western Christian colonialist culture that he has imbibed at the fountains at Peradeniya through western science as an undergraduate, and I would like to find out whether it is the western scientific tradition that demands us to follow their methods of communication to the exclusion of others.

I must inform Prof. Samarajeewa that we are not quick publicity seekers nor people waiting to jump a bandwagon in his words. I have been criticizing western science for more than twenty five years losing my job at the University of Colombo as a consequence, and we have now come to a point where the technicians who masquerade as western scientists in Sri Lanka cannot ignore that there are other sciences based on different cultures and different chinthanayas. Our “finding” that Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease is caused by Arsenic, first revealed by Natha Deviyo and Vipasaka Deviyo, though has been verified to a certainty of ninety nine percent using western scientific techniques (in fact what is meant by scientific method by most of the masqueraders is techniques and nothing else), confirms that there are ways of acquiring knowledge other than those prescribed in the western Christian science. Our western medical doctors would tell anybody who is interested how the study was guided by the Devivaru and I only hope that the Sri Lanka Medical Council would not decide to cancel their registration as western medical practitioners for divulging those facts. In any event we are of the opinion that the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease is a form of cancer, though it may not be of the same type as any other Kidney disease known hitherto.

Finally a comment on the last paragraph of Prof. Samarjeewa’s article. He asks the following questions attributing them to ordinary people. “Leaving science out for a minute, the questions raised by the ordinary public are: "We all eat rice in Sri Lanka, which is supposed to be contaminated with arsenic and how come only the people in the North Central Province have been affected by arsenic? What will be the fate of our cattle eating the paddy straw?" Should we stop drinking local milk too?” The answers are as follows. Rice has never been stated as the cause of the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease by our group. Thus those who eat rice anywhere in Sri Lanka would not be affected by Arsenic as far as the Kidney Disease is concerned. At present we do not have any evidence to show that milk is affected by Arsenic, and our investigation is not geared towards any organ of cattle eating straw. However the cattle who live on straw should take extra precautions if they decide to ask silly questions and to write articles to the press.(11/07/27)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva