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SLMC crisis: AMS writes to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) warned that the questionable action by the Minister of Health to remove the president and four members of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) can adversely affect the stability, independence and reputation of the regulatory body.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is no provision in the present medical ordinance to remove the President or any member of SLMC by the Minister of Health before the end of their terms. Parliamentarian Tissa Vitarana had also expressed similar sentiments recently in Parliament”, AMS president, Dr. L. A. Ranasinghe says in a letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In his letter dated December 3, 2020, he said the AMS, which wholly comprises government medical and dental specialists, would like to draw attention to the unfortunate crisis situation in the SLMC.

The letter further said: “As you are aware, SLMC is an independent statutory institution which is responsible to look after the patient’s rights and safety and the standards of medical education and ethical medical practice in our country. In order to perform these important functions, SLMC has to be independent, stable and free from undue influences from political and trade union activities”.

The AMS noted that the Minister of Health recently appointed a five-member committee to investigate the conduct of the SLMC in order to address the complaints received against the SLMC. Upon receiving this committee’s recommendations, the Minister removed only the President and four members of SLMC before the end of their term of office. We find this action unfair and is detrimental to the stability of the medical council due to following reasons:

* Although the five-member committee found certain deficiencies and shortcomings of the SLMC, it never found specific wrongdoings of any particular member or group of members. It is in this background we feel it is unfair to remove only the president and four members before the end of their term. To our utter dismay, one such member removed by the Minister was Prof. Narada Warnasuriya, a highly-respected medical professional and a former Dean, Vice Chancellor and past president of the Sri Lanka Medical Association.

* We were reliably informed that when the SLMC delegation met and submitted the comprehensive 300 page document related to the terms of references to the five-member committee, the SLMC delegation clearly stated that all the relevant decisions taken by the SLMC members are binding in nature. The signatories to this written submission included Prof. Vajira Dissanayake, who is the Minister’s present nominee for the post of SLMC president. Hence, it is unfair to single out any member of the SLMC for whatever deficiencies or shortcomings found by the five-member committee, unless there is another specific inquiry for that purpose.

* AMS strongly objects to the recommendation of the five-member committee regarding the long overdue election of four specialists from the specialists registry to SLMC. The five- member committee has proposed for a “separate election later when the specialist registry is completed and sanctioned”. This recommendation is baseless and unacceptable as the specialists registry is now established and more than adequate time was given for specialists to apply for the specialist registration and no further sanction is needed as this election and the other components of the specialist registry was passed as an act of parliament in 2018 (Act no 28 of 2018). We firmly believe that this is a subtle and sinister attempt to postpone the election of medical specialists to SLMC to satisfy a certain trade union who wants to take over the control of SLMC.

The letter added: “We were reliably informed that the change of Presidency at the SLMC can lead to recommencement of all disciplinary inquiries from the beginning affecting both the complainants and the defendants of such proceedings.

“The AMS believes that the above mentioned irregularities happened primarily due to the wrong composition of the five-member committee appointed by the Minister of Health. As we have pointed out to the Minister earlier, this committee included two very active members and a past active member of certain trade union which was the main complainant against the SLMC.

“This improper composition removed the impartiality of this committee, which came up with biased and unfair recommendations. It’s of paramount importance to maintain the independence, stability and the good reputation of SLMC in order to perform its statutory function of regulations of medical practice to ensure patient’s rights and safety. Anything to the contrary can also adversely affect the recognition of Sri Lankan medical degrees by the foreign medical councils causing a major obstacle for overseas training of medical post graduates. In the past the SLMC itself, AMS and other patient rights groups have proposed to change the medical ordinance so that other relevant non medical professionals like retired judges, eminent lawyers and accountants can be appointed as a certain proportion to SLMC as council members.

“This will ensure a more holistic and transparent approach to decision making of SLMC in line with internationally accepted standards”.

Taking these facts into consideration, the AMS has asked the President to reconsider and reverse the decision to remove the President and four members of the SLMC in order to maintain the independence and the stability of the independent body.



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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