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Alcohol and tobacco: NATA ready to tighten screws



NATA Chairman Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa says that amendments will be be introduced to the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act (No. 27 of 2006) soon to ban the sale of single cigarettes and 180 ml (quarter) bottles of liquor.

Addressing a workshop on preparing an action plan to curtail the use of tobacco and alcohol for countrywide health education officials at Waters Edge Hotel in Battaramulla last week, Dr Rajapaksa said that NATA hoped to introduce revolutionary measures within the next five years to ensure that the country was safe from the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco.

He said that existing laws would be changed to empower the legal framework to curtail alcohol and tobacco use and to introduce new policies. The powers vested in Medical Officers of Health, Assistant Medical Officers of Health and Customs officers would be enhanced to make their services against alcohol and tobacco effective.

Dr Rajapaksa said that certain persons smoke in public places even though they knew they were violating the law. He added that stringent legal action should be taken against them. As per the law, enclosed public places were smoking free zones. Laws would be changed to ban smoking in all public places, he said.

Dr. Rajapaksa said that sale of products made from betel and areca nut would be regulated. As per the existing law, the sale of betel with tobacco was banned but that law was not properly enforced.

The sale of 180 ml bottles of liquor had increased in the recent times and consequently anti-social activities had increased. Empty bottles were discarded haphazardly. 

He recommended that tax on tobacco and alcohol should be increased. Even though the government received more revenue via the consumption of those items it would decline if taxes were increased. However, health hazards caused to people could be minimised.  

“Increasing the taxes on alcohol and tobacco is a strategy approved by the World Health Organisation to reduce their consumption. However, the businessmen here found a method to ensure the access of low income by selling cigarettes single (loose) and by promoting quarter bottles of 180 ml liquor.”

Director of Health Promotion Bureau Dr Palitha Karunaprema also addressed the workshop. 



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Foreign qualified medical students protest



A group of foreign medical degree holders protested opposite the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) requesting that tangible measures be taken to conduct the Examination for Registration to Practice Medicine (ERPM) without further delay.

They alleged that over 1,500 students had been deprived of the opportunity to sit the examination due to the fault of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, which is now under investigation by a committee, appointed by Health Minister Pavitra Wanniarachchi.

Photo: A section of the protesting students (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

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SJB insists referendum necessary besides 2/3 majority in Parliament



Supreme Court moved against 20A

By Chitra Weerarathne

General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, yesterday (23) filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that the proposed 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution was inconsistent with the Constitution. It requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for passage, the SJV has argued.

The SJB says 20A violates people’s sovereignty and franchise enshrined in Article (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner has argued that the provisions in clause 55 of the Bill are inconsistent with the public trust doctrine and the principle of checks and balances and would prejudicially affect public finance.

 The clause 54 of the Bill seeks to repeal Article 156 A of the Constitution, which provides constitutional recognition to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or corruption, the petition says.

 The petition says 20A seeks to repeal the prohibition on dual citizens being elected to Parliament and to the post of President.

The power of the Auditor General to audit the state institutions has been curtailed, the petition says, arguing that it could be detrimental to the economy.

It will be detrimental to the country if the Constitutional Council is replaced by a Parliamentary Council, the SJB General Secretary’s has contended in his petition.

Clause 20 (2) of the proposed 20A has restricted the powers of the Election Commission as regards the conduct of elections, the petitioner has argued.

The 20A states that an omission by the President could no longer be challenged through a fundamental rights violation petitions in the Supreme Court, the petitioner has said, adding that the Bill seeks to further enhance the powers of the President by allowing him to unilaterally remove the Prime Minister. The President would not be accountable to Parliament, the petition says.

The 20A would repeal Article 70/ (1) of the Constitution and enable the President to dissolve Parliament even immediately after a general election, the SJB General Secretary argues.

The respondent to the petition is the Attorney General.

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Lawyer Hijaz’s foundation received funds from banned foreign outfit – CID tells court



By A.J.A.A beynayake and Kasuni Rebecca

The CID yesterday informed the Colombo Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage that Save the Pearls Trust run by lawyer Hijaz Hisbullah, now in custody for allegedly aiding and abetting one of the Easter Sunday bombers, had received Rs.13 million from a banned organisation named the Caliphate of Qatar.

The CID told court that according to the bank accounts of the trust the money had been received by it during the last few years and the police had launched an investigation to ascertain whether the funds had been used for terrorist activities.

The CID told court the investigation had been launched under the Money Laundering Act and a psychologist’s opinion had been sought on the book titled “Navarasam” found in a madrasa (school teaching Islam) run by Save the Pearls Trust in Puttalam.

The Magistrate order the CID to submit to court a Sinhala translation of the book and examine whether the contents of the book promoted terrorism.

The case will be taken up again on October 7.

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