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Foreign medical graduates stage protest against undue delay over conducting ERPM

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The inordinate delay on the part of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) to conduct the Examination to Register to Practice Medicine (ERPM) has violated the fundamental rights of around 1,000 foreign medical graduates, the students’ association charged.

“We decided to return to Sri Lanka to pursue a career in medicine and serve our motherland, but the prolonged delay in conducting this mandatory examination has resulted in a gross waste of our time, money and efforts”, the Foreign Medical Graduates’ Association said in a statement following a silent protest at the ‘agitation site’ opposite the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday.

The SLMC is the statutory council responsible for conducting the ERPM, and all foreign medical graduates with medical degrees from universities recognized by the SLMC are eligible to sit for the exam, as long as they submit their degree and other supporting documents to the SLMC and obtain a Degree Approval, the statement noted.

As outlined in the Degree Approval document, the ERPM consists of four parts (A, B, C, D) and the SLMC is responsible for conducting each part at least twice each year. The last ERPM (part A and D) exam was held in July 2019. Since then, for over one year, the exams have not been held. The SLMC failed to officially advise the foreign medical graduates awaiting the examination regarding the reasons for the delay, the students complained.

“There is now a cumulative total of about 1,000 foreign medical graduates awaiting the examination. It was said that the reason for the delay were petitions filed against the SLMC in the Supreme Court. However, this was never officially made known by the SLMC until 08.06.2020, when some foreign medical graduates submitted a RTI (Right to Information) to the SLMC to find out officially the reason for the delay in conducting the ERPM, the statement further said.

“The response to the RTI, dated 12.06.2020, signed by SLMC Registrar, Dr. Ananda Hapugoda, mentioned six cases filed against the SLMC in the Supreme Court as the reason for the delay. The Registrar also assured us that after the cases were over, there will be no hindrance in conducting the ERPM examination”, the statement noted.

The six petitions that named the SLMC as the respondent were filed by foreign medical graduates, whose application for Degree Approval was rejected by the SLMC on the basis that they did not have the necessary A/L results to practice medicine. On July 23, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of petitioners outlining that, according to the Medical Ordinance of Sri Lanka, there is no such minimum A/L requirement for practicing medicine in Sri Lanka, and that the SLMC was operating outside its rights in imposing arbitrary requirements upon foreign medical graduates, the statement asserted.

Following this, on August 12, 2020, the SLMC released a notice that called all eligible candidates to apply for the ERPM Part A and D. The period for applications was from August 24 to September 7, 2020. Candidates who had been waiting eagerly for over a year, immediately made the necessary payments (Rs. 20,000 per person), and handed over their applications. However, on September 3, 2020, the SLMC released another notice that the closing date for applications had been extended indefinitely. No reason was outlined for this, it further said.

“A few concerned candidates visited the SLMC seeking answers. Though no answer was given in writing, speaking to some officials of the SLMC led us to believe that there are some internal issues within the SLMC over the Supreme Court ruling, and this has resulted in the exam being delayed indefinitely”, the statement added.

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Special COVID-19 probe crippled by infections among CCD sleuths: AG calls for new police team

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Brandix Apparel Limited yesterday (29) said that the company would fully cooperate with relevant authorities in the investigation ordered by the Attorney General (AG). A spokesperson for the company said so when The Island sought a clarification with regard to AG Dappula de Livera, PC, directing the police to launch a criminal investigation into the alleged lapses on the part of the company as well as those officials leading to the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The Minuwangoda eruption, which happened in the first week of October is widely believed to be the cause of the fast expanding Peliyagoda cluster.

Asked whether the police had contacted the Brandix management as regards the investigation and sought access to Brandix management and workers at its Minuwangoda apparel manufacturing facility as well as records at the Minuwangoda facility, the spokesperson said: “We will work with the relevant authorities in this regard”.

The Colombo Crime Division (CCD) tasked with the probe has suffered a serious setback due to a section of its officers being tested positive for COVID-19. Authoritative sources said that the CCD lacked sufficient strength to carry out the investigation.

AG de Livera early this week told DIG Ajith Rohana that a progress report should be submitted to him by or before Nov. 13.

Sources said that the badly depleted CCD was not in a position to conduct the high-profile investigation, in addition to other ongoing inquiries. The AG has directed the Acting IGP to constitute a special team of law enforcement officers to conduct the investigation. Sources acknowledged the urgent need for a thorough inquiry into the far worse second corona wave. Sources said that the AG issued fresh instructions in that regard after the crisis in the CCD was brought to his notice.

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Most garment workers under self-quarantine left to fend for themselves

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of garment workers who were undergoing self-quarantine in Minuwangoda did not receive any assistance, Chamila Thushari of the Dabindu Collective, a labour organisation that works with garment workers, told The Island yesterday.

She said that those who were under self-quarantine did not have money to purchase food and even those who were willing to help could not reach them.

“Some of them have received food parcels from their work places but that is not adequate. Most others have not received any assistance. Matters will only get worse after curfew is imposed throughout the Western Province,” Thushari said.

Most of these workers are undergoing self-quarantine at their boarding places, which also house individuals who still work in garment factories. “Although there is a curfew, they can go to work. These are perfect incubators for the virus,” she said.

Thushari said that every day between 20-30 workers under self-quarantine, tested positive for COVID-19.

There were no public health inspectors to monitor the boarding houses of garment workers to ensure that COVID-19 prevention measures were being followed, she said.

“Not even Grama Niladaris visit them,” Chamila said.

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SJB requests separate seats for its dissidents

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Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has written to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena requesting him to make arrangements to provide separate seats to the nine MPs who had voted with the government for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution recently.

The letter dated yesterday said that the SJB parliamentary group had decided to expel MPs Diana Gamage, A. Aravind Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faisal Cassim, H. M. M. Haris, M.S. Thowfeeq, Nazeer Ahmed, A.A.S.M. Raheem and S.M.M. Musharaf and it requests the Speaker to make separate seating arrangements for these MPs in the Chamber.

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