Ranjan demands transfer of Welikada jail Chief Medical Officer


by Norman Palihawadane

UNP Ratnapura District MP, Social Empowerment, Welfare and Kandyan Heritage Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake and civil society activists demanded answers from the Secretary to the Ministry of Health as to how and why the ministry had failed to implement a transfer given to the Acting Chief Medical Officer of the Welikada Prisons Dr Nirmali Thenuwara, who had recommended that the former President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Director General Anusha Palpita convicted in the sil redi case, be given accommodation at the Prisons Hospital.

The Deputy Minister and civil society activists say Dr Thenuwara had been in the position of Chief Medical Officer of the Prisons Hospital for four years and eight months. Her name was in the transfer list for this year. She should have been transferred out with effect from Jan 1, this year. However that transfer order had not been implemented. Health officials say that the transfer had been opposed by the unions.

The civil society activists demand that the Health Ministry Secretary should reveal the name of the union that opposed the implementation of the transfer order given to Dr Thenuwara.

In the letter addressed to the Ministry Secretary, the Deputy Minister and civil society activists remind the latter that he is the chief accounting officer and chief administrative officer of the ministry and he could not relegate his duties to a trade union. Had he shirked his duties due to pressure from a union, he should explain to the public under what provision he did so, the letter says.

The letter has been signed by Minister Ramanayake, Former Secretary of the Nursing Officers’ Association of the Colombo Remand Prison, Mahinda Kodagoda, Secretary of the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners, Attorney-at-Law, Senaka Perera, Attorneys-at-Law Udul Premaratne and Namal Rajapakshe, Director General of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Ranjith Keerti Thennakoon and journalist Kasun Pussawela.

The letter has been copied to the President, the Prime Minister and Secretary to the Ministry of Prisons Reforms.

CaFFE Director General Tennakoon told The Island that the prisons hospital is graded as a District Hospital and Dr Thenuwara does not have the qualifications required to head such an institution. "That is why she has been given an Acting Chief Medical Officer post. There are more than 40 doctors with the required qualifications in a list to be given the post. We simply say that the position should be given to a suitable person," Tennakoon said.

Dr Thenuwara contacted for comment said that she always upheld the ethics of her profession. "There are various reports in main stream and social media against me these days. I have not been transferred out. The Director General of Health Services would confirm that. I am a doctor and it is my duty to treat patients irrespective of their position," she said.

Deputy Minister Ramanayake in an earlier letter requested the Director General of Health, Dr Jayasundera Bandara, to immediately transfer Dr Thenuwara for giving special treatment to Lalith Weeratunge and Anusha Palpita.

Ramanayake alleged that Dr Thenuwara had intervened on behalf of the convicts, and tried to move them to the prison hospital even before they were photographed and issued prison numbers, as required.

Ramanayake said that Weeratunga and Palpita had been admitted to the prison hospital, contrary to laid down procedure.

Ramanayake told The Island that in spite of the change of government, certain officials were continuing to violate laws with impunity. The MP claimed that though Dr Thenuwara couldn’t move the convicts to the prison hospital on the night of Sept. 7, she returned, on the following day, and moved Weeratunga (V18069) and Palpita (V18068) to the hospital.

The Deputy Minister said: "After the Minister of Prison Reforms issued a directive stating that at least three doctors need to certify the health of a person before they are transferred to the prison hospital, Dr Thenuwara has teamed up with three other doctors Tirani, Sujeewa and Waruna Jayathilake to subvert this directive.

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