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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

RoP brags while more and more RCKD patients RIP

The Registrar of Pesticides (RoP) Dr. Anura Wijesekera has written to ‘The island” on 1st March 2012, on “Pathological Science Arsenic CKDU and Pesticides” soon after the College of Forensic Pathologists awarded the Silver Medal to a paper presented by the “Arsenic Group” on “Chronic arsenic toxicity among patients of Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology in Padavi Sripura in Sri Lanka” at their 10th Academic Sessions held on 25th February 2012. The authours of the paper are Profs. P. A. Paranagama and M. D. Amarasinghe, and Drs. V. K. Senanayake, K. S. Dahanayake, M. A. C. S. Jayasumana, L. Rajakaruna, C. Wijewardena, A. M. P. Mahamithawa, U. D. S. Samarasinghe, and Mr. S. I. Fonseka. The first three are on the academic staff in the Faculty of Science at the University of Kelaniya, while the last named is a graduate student in the same faculty. The rest are western medical doctors serving in either Universities or government hospitals. When I read the title of the article I first thought that Dr. Wijesekera has been annoyed with the Pathologists for awarding the Silver Medal to the above paper. However, I soon realized that he was supporting me on certain aspects of western science while of course opposing the “Arsenic Group” which I led while being the Dean of the Faculty of Science at Kelaniya. I must mention that as far as I am concerned, the Silver Medal awarded by one of so many Colleges to the paper by the Arsenic Group does not add any value nor recognition to it though the Scientific Community in Sri Lanka, which go by such accolades would now begin to think that some scientific work worthwhile has been carried out at Kelaniya on Arsenic in Pesticides.

Let me digress from “Arsenic Research”, to thank Dr. Wijesekera for writing on Pathological Science. Dr. Wijesekera like many other Sri Lankan scientists has to quote a westerner on important concepts, theories etc. He says “the term Pathological Science was coined by the Nobel laureate Chemist Irving Langmuir in 1953. He defined pathological science as an area of research that do not go away long after it was given up as false by the majority of scientists in the field. In other words it is the science of things that are not so”. My problem with this definition is on the usage of the word majority. I am not sure whether the majority of scientists, let alone the majority of Physicists are aware that the Newtonian Theory of Gravitation is false. It was only the other day that a senior lecturer in Chemistry with a Ph. D. from Cambridge told me that he could feel gravitation. However, when I wanted to examine his particular sense organ which was instrumental in giving this extraordinary feeling he was somewhat embarrassed as he could not exhibit such sense organ. Now Newtonian Theory of Gravitation does not go away nearly a century after it has been replaced by Einsteinian General Relativity and has been “shown to be false” almost from the very beginning in Newton’s time, in spite of Popper and his “golayas” who can only quote him. Though the majority of scientists including that senior lecturer who can feel gravitation may not have given up Newtonian Gravitation, we may consider it too as Pathological Science. There are other Pathological Sciences such as Quantum Physics with its Copenhagen Interpretation and I would appreciate it if Dr. Wijesekera could enlighten the readers on Pathological Sciences in the areas of Pesticides and Agriculture.

Since Prof. Mala Amarasinghe and Dr. K. S. Dahanayake, who are two members of the “Arsenic Group” have replied in their article of 5th March 2012, on the “scientific” aspects of Dr. Wijesekera’s article, I would like to concentrate on some of its political aspects. No science or knowledge for that matter constructed by the “prthagjanas”, is devoid of politics, though not necessarily of party politics. After all, the struggle between the Pope and Galileo was political as it was between the Catholic Chinthanaya, which is concrete and collectivistic, and Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya, which is abstract and individualistic. I know the difficulties we had with our work on Arsenic at Kelaniya and I stayed after my retirement for about an year as the Dean of the Faculty of Science on an extension given by the cabinet of ministers in my substantive post as a Professor in the Department of Mathematics, in order to complete the work we had initiated. The “Arsenic group” would not have survived without me, as I could stand up to pressure applied by people with vested interests who finally used the SLAAS as well. I do not hide the fact that we received information on the presence of Arsenic in the soil, water and flora in the areas affected with RCKD from “Devas” but we carried out tests in the laboratories at Kelaniya according to the standard practices in western Chemistry and Botany under the supervision and involvement of Profs. Priyani Pranagama and Mala Amerasinghe who are Professors in Chemistry and Botany respectively at Kelaniya. There were some Professors in Chemistry who went round saying that we had not carried any laboratory tests and we were relying only on the word of “Devas”. They were not open to any dialogue but were interested only in demeaning our work. It was a struggle between the Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya and Sinhala Buddhist Chinthanaya and from the very beginning the political aspects were clear. I had challenged the hegemonic western science and the Chinthanaya on which it is based and I had no problem in seeing the politics behind Arsenic.

Contrary to what Dr. Wijesekera says we never gave up our position that Arsenic is found in rice under political pressure but we concentrated on Arsenic in pesticides for the simple reason that if we could convince the authorities to ban pesticides with toxic matter then our battle was won. We are agitators o doubt, and I would ask Dr. Wijesekera to mention any non agitator on his side. The fact that he is writing articles on pesticides bragging that it was he who banned certain pesticides, when he and others have a case against then in the courts of law for releasing containers that had pesticides with Arsenic, Mercury and other materials, without going through “the proper channels” gives ample testimony to the agitation carried out by him. He ends up his article with the following words. “I will let you decide to which type the parties involved in the Arsenic fiasco belongs to”. In essence he wants the readers of “The Island” to decide. I agree with him, these are political matters and finally will be decided by social forces and even those who are called experts are merely agents of social forces, which need not be based on economics only. The western scientific enterprise is tied up with producers of pesticides with toxic matter and I would have been surprised if the “scientists” who are financed by various worldwide organizations remained silent when we said that the cause of the RCKD was Arsenic in pesticides. The producers nor the importers of pesticides are not “Vessantharas” and we would not have anticipated anything but hostile response to our work from them.

Dr. Wijesekera mentions that he and the members of The Pesticide Technical and Advisory Committee had discussions with the stakeholders before coming to a decision. I would like to know whether he summoned the “Arsenic Group” to find out their views. These Committees and even the SLAAS have been given power under Acts passed by the legislature within western Christian hegemony and during transition periods from one paradigm to another, not to mention from one Chinthanaya to another, differences of opinion among members of such committees are bound to arise as the PoR has experienced during the past few weeks. I do not attach much value to reports by the World Health Organization, but I wonder why the latest report by this august body is not released to the public. I am sure that Dr. Wijesekera himself would like it to be released as it would help the readers to decide on the types of the “parties involved in the Arsenic fiasco”.

The problem is that one death occurs every two days in the areas affected with RCKD, whose etiology according to western medicine is unknown. We do not know the etiology of the CKDU in other countries but we are certain in the affected areas in Sri Lanka it is Arsenic in pesticides, of course tied up with the soil and water in such areas. Tests have been carried out at the University of Kelaniya that established the presence of Arsenic (Arsenates) in pesticides, soil and water and in spite of our invitation to the other stakeholders to see for themselves how the tests were being carried out nobody had accepted the invitation while I was the Dean of the Faculty of Science. Whether Arsenic or Arsenates are found naturally in our soil, the question is why in certain areas people are dying with RCKD only during the last few decades. After all it is not reported of such disease during the days of the Sinhala kings when the Sinhala people did not use agrochemicals. We have given our answer and it is up to the people to decide on remedial action without letting more and more people to succumb to this disease which cannot be claimed to be due to their fault.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva