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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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Domestic debt restructuring will cripple EPF, ETF – JVP

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By Sirimatha Rathnasekera

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) will lose about 600 billion rupees during the proposed domestic debt structuring, Co-Convener of the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed.

Samarasinghe is of the opinion that the government is planning not to pay 20 to 25 percent of the loans it has taken from domestic sources. Successive governments have borrowed significantly from the EPF and ETF, he said.

Samarasinghe said that due to the depreciation of the rupee, the real value of EPF and ETF funds had decreased by half. “In such a context, can these institutions take a 20 percent haircut? This might be a big problem to the workers,” he said.

The NTUC Co-Convener said that a number of domestic banks, too, had lent to the government and domestic debt restructuring might lead to a collapse in the banking system.

However, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe says that they are confident of reaching debt sustainability without re-structuring domestic debt, which would lead to problems in the banking sector.

“There have been concerns among domestic bond investors about rupee debt/internal debt to be restructured following comments made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the effect that financial advisors were looking at domestic debt. However, there has been no request to restructure domestic debt. We are confident that we can make debt sustainable without restructuring domestic debt,” Dr. Weerasinghe told the media at the CBSL’s 6th Review of the Monetary Policy stance for this year, at the CBSL head office auditorium, in Colombo, on Thursday.

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Powerful CEBEU says yes to restructuring but on its terms

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Sri Lanka will experience periodic power cuts until 2027 if the government did not take steps to increase electricity production, the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) said yesterday.Due to electricity shortages, the Norochcholai Power Plant had been operational non-stop, sometimes even without scheduled maintenance, CEBEU President, Saumya Kumarawadu said.

“A generator is down. We will get it back online within 14 days. We had started maintenance on another plant in June and it was to be back online in September. But it has been delayed till November,” he said.

Kumarawadu said there would be 10-hour power cuts without Norochcholai. However, the power cuts could be reduced in two weeks when the generator was restored, he said.

He added that while they support restructuring of the CEB, they oppose de-bundling and selling the CEB to various private actors.

“Power cuts might have to go on till 2026 or 2027 unless new plants come up. A proposal to build an LNG power plant is still languishing in the Cabinet,” he said.

The CEBEU President also said that the electricity tariff was last increased in 2012. In 2014, the tariff was reduced. Without increasing electricity tariffs, the CEB will have to get increasing amounts of money from the treasury.

“The government should have increased the tariff at regular intervals. We haven’t increased in a decade and suddenly we have increased by a large amount.That’s why it has come as a shock to people,” he said.

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SJB opposes blanket privatisations

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… questions logic of selling cash cows like Telecom and Insurance

The SJB was opposed to the privatisation of profit-making government entities, Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, said yesterday, in Colombo.Kiriella said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had told The Economist magazine that they are thinking of privatising Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lanka Insurance.

“These are two institutions that make a profit. What is the point in privatising these?” he asked.

MP Kiriella said that they are not opposed to privatizing SriLankan Airlines, which has been making losses for years.

“We can talk about these things in Parliament. Even when we privatize loss making entities we have to take a number of things into consideration. What will happen to the workers? How will we compensate them? How will we re-skill them? We have to talk about these things openly before doing anything,” he said.

The Chief Opposition Whip said that one of the main reasons why people oppose privatization is because everything is done in secrecy.

“People wonder why things are hidden from them. We need to be open and transparent when we restructure,” he said.

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