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All major decisions on emergency purchase of 182 types of drugs taken in 2022 while second suspect was in the UK

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Controversial purchase of ‘human immunoglobulin’ from private sector

The emergency procurement of 182 items of pharmaceutical drugs, including ‘human immunoglobulin’ (HI) and ‘rituximab,’ had been decided by the Health Ministry based on a Cabinet decision taken on 26th September 2022, as per documents issued by the then Secretary, Ministry of Health, and that soon thereafter offers had been invited by an Emergency Procurement Committee (EPC), headed by the then Health Ministry Secretary. Offers had been opened on 3rd October 2022 and that the successful bidders had been selected by the EPC and informed shortly thereafter of their selection, having obtained the recommendations of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).

These submissions were made before Maligakanda Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrema Weerasinghe by President’s Counsel M.M. Zuhair who appeared with Anjana Rathnasiri and Rizwan Uvais for Dr. Wickramanayake, the 2nd suspect in the controversial government decision to purchase 182 pharmaceuticals, including HI, from private sector suppliers, under the Indian line of credit of US $ 200 million offered by the Delhi government in March 2022.

During virtually the entire year in 2022, when all the major decisions were taken to purchase from local suppliers, as decided by the Cabinet including HI and other pharmaceuticals, Dr Kapila Wickramanayake was in the United Kingdom on an officially released assignment and was not the Director in the medical supplies division of the Health Ministry.

The 28/10/2022 letter of the Health Secretary, also states that letters of acceptance of the selected offers had already been issued to the successful suppliers.

The second suspect had nothing to do with any of the major relevant decisions relating to this purchase and on his resuming duties as the Director, MSD, in 2023, he had no personal involvement, even at the delivery point in the Health Ministry Stores.

These submissions, Zuhair PC said, were being made based on the CID reports of investigations, dated 1st and 20th November 2022, made to the Maligakanda Magistrate, following certain incidents of adverse reactions on some patients, allegedly from the human immunoglobulin supplied by the first suspect’s company.

He said that according to the CID investigations, filed in Court dated 1/11/2023, the first suspect’s company had apparently disclosed in their offer to the EPC that the raw material for the production of ‘HI’ will be imported from the named Indian manufacturer and produced in Sri Lanka and supplied by and on behalf of the Indian Company.

Zuhair PC urged the CID to produce to Court, the Health Secretary’s letter, dated 28/10/2022, addressed to the Deputy Director General of the medical supplies division requiring payments for supplies to be done within 45 days, failing which delayed payments will cost the Ministry an additional 3% monthly charge payable to the supplier by the Ministry, whereas the penalty for late deliveries and quantity failures payable by the supplier can be waived by the Ministry.

When all these happened here in 2022, the second suspect Dr Wickramanayake was working in the UK. He is entitled to bail as the Public Property Act has no application considering the facts of this case, he submitted.

According to paragraph 18 of the police investigations, Counsel said, the successful tenderer of the human immunoglobulin is alleged to have submitted a forged WOR to the Medical Supplies Division, which is subject to investigation. The said supplier is the first suspect.

If so, it is the officials in the Medical Supplies Division who had been cheated by the Supplier, and these officials could be important witnesses. The Magistrate reserved order for 13/12/2023.

Deputy Solicitor General Lakmini Girihagama appeared on behalf of the Attorney General for the CID. Kalinga Indatissa PC appeared for the first suspect Sudath Janaka Fernando, the supplier. Kasun Chanaka AAL appeared for the third suspect Shanthini Soloman. Roland Perera PC appeared for the fourth suspect Niran Danajaya. Asoka Serasinghe AAL appeared for the fifth suspect Sujith Wasantha Kumara.



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United Republic Front presents ‘A united step for the country’ to the President

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Leader of the United Republic Front Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, presented the proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe , at ‘Srikota’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo this morning (24).

Speaking at the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda for the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding queries about the scheduling of elections, affirmed that the Presidential Election will proceed as scheduled, with the General Election anticipated to take place early next year.

 

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Opp. fears govt. discarding SC recommendations on ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill

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Prof. G. L. Peiris

Prof. Peiris highlights need for ex post facto judicial review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s refusal to accept that Supreme Court recommendations hadn’t been accommodated in ‘Online Safety Act No 09 of 2024’, would undermine their faith in the committee stage of a particular Bill.

The dissident SLPP MP said so when The Island sought his opinion on the SC determination on the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Against the backdrop of the continuing controversy over the circumstances under which the Parliament enacted the ‘Online Safety Bill’, the Opposition was seriously concerned about the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government adopting the same strategy in passing the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that the Speaker even ignored the Human Rights Commission advice that SC’s recommendations hadn’t been accommodated. The academic, who recently aligned himself with the SJB, said that the genuine Opposition shared his concerns.

Several parties challenged the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill in the SC in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The determination of the SC as to the Constitutionality of the Bill concluded as—

(a) Clause 3, Clause 42, Clause 53, and Clause 70 of the Bill are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required a special majority to be passed by Parliament.

(b) However, the SC stated that the said inconsistencies can be ceased if the said Clauses are amended as per the Determination of the Court.

(b) Clause 4 has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination. Clause 72 (1) is unconstitutional and needs to be passed by a Special Majority and a Referendum. The unconstitutionality will cease if this Clause is amended as per the Determination of the Supreme Court.

(c) Correspondingly, Clause 72(2) must be amended in accordance with the Determination.

(d) Clause 75 (3) infringed the Article 4 (c) read with Article 3 of the Constitution and required 2/3 majority and a Referendum. The invalidity will cease 7 upon the amendments suggested in the Determination.

(f) Clause 83 (7) requires a special majority to be passed into law. It has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination.

Further, the Supreme Court has determined that subject to the amendments that have adumbrated to the provisions of the Bill by the Supreme Court, the Bill could be enacted into law with a Simple Majority only if the amendments determined by the Supreme Court are introduced to the provisions.

Prof Peiris said that the crisis highlighted the need for ex post facto judicial review, for which there is at present no provision in Sri Lanka. The position is otherwise in countries like the USA and India where an Act of Parliament can be impugned, even after completion of the legislative process, on the ground of conflict with imperative provisions of the Constitution. Such provision existed in Sri Lanka prior to the First Republican Constitution of 1972.

The former minister said that in the draft Constitution Bill which he presented to Parliament on 3 August 2000 on behalf of the Government of President CBK, appropriate provision in this regard was included. “Unfortunately, the Constitution was burnt in the Chamber of Parliament. This gap in our law should be filled, in my view, when a comprehensive exercise in constitutional reform is undertaken by a new Administration after the conduct of national elections this year.”

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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma visits Sri Lanka

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Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America Richard Verma visited Sri Lanka from last Thursday to yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and delegation had extensive discussions with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State also paid a courtesy call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe following the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, while appreciating the humanitarian and emergency assistance granted by the U.S. to overcome the economic challenges encountered by Sri Lanka, welcomed the recent US$ 553 million development assistance extended by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to the Colombo West International Terminal Private Limited. He also appreciated the U.S. assistance in securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the IMF.

Foreign Minister Sabry briefed Deputy Secretary of State Verma on Sri Lanka’s priorities as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the opportunities to foster collaboration in blue economy and maritime security in the region to promote freedom of navigation for all and for the facilitation of trade and commerce. He also apprised the Deputy Secretary of State of the Government’s efforts to further strengthen governance, democracy, and rule of law, as well as to combat corruption.

Deputy Secretary of State Verma while noting the encouraging progress in Sri Lanka following the economic downturn in the last two years, assured continuous U.S. assistance to the country towards economic prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary of State was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, senior officials from the White House National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defence. Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jauhar and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the Foreign Minister at the meeting.

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