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SLMC imbroglio: Why sack only five for collective decisions taken by apex body-Dr. Swarnakumar

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The Sri Lanka Orthopaedic Association has questioned the controversial sacking of five members of the Sri Lanka Medical Council by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi as decisions taken therein were taken with collective responsibility.

Dr V. Swarnakumar in his capacity as the President of the Association, while challenging the ministerial decision, has requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s immediate intervention to settle the dispute. In a letter dated Dec 23 addressed to the President, Dr. Swarnakumar has said: “All the decisions made by the SLMC are taken with collective responsibility, either by the entire SLMC or by a majority vote and they are binding on all the members of the SLMC council. Hence, sudden removal of ONLY five members of the council based on the recommendations of this questionable committee is arbitrary and unethical.”

The following is the full text of the letter: “As the main professional body representing all the orthopaedic surgeons in both the state and private sector in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Orthopaedic Association (SLOA) is gravely concerned about the current situation in the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC).

The Sri Lanka Medical Council is the continuation of what was the Ceylon Medical Council established under the medical ordinance 24 of 1924. Its primary purpose is to protect the public/patients’ rights by ensuring a disciplined and ethical practice of its members while maintaining the academic and professional standards of its members.

The truth is that the ordinance that was legislated at a time when there was but a single medical School in existence is woefully inadequate to resolve the issues that are present today; arising from a multitude of local as well as foreign medical graduates and an increasing number of specialties and sub specialties. Compounding this truth is the unfortunate reality of the pervasive influence of politicians and trade unions on almost every single independent institution, in which the SLMC is not alone.

SLOA firmly believes that as the regulatory body for the academic, professional and ethical standards of the medical practitioners, SLMC should be free from all extraneous influences, political or otherwise to carry out their functions independently.

SLOA council notes that the recent termination of the tenure of office of FIVE members of the SLMC, including its President was based on recommendations of a committee appointed by the Minister of Health.

With reference to the above committee report, we observe following key points which we believe are the observations of all the right thinking medical community.

1. The terms of reference of the said committee were of a fact finding nature. We understand that its mandate does not include making recommendations of a punitive nature.

2. All the decisions made by the SLMC are taken with collective responsibility, either by the entire SLMC or by a majority vote and they are binding on all the members of the SLMC council. Hence, sudden removal of ONLY five members of the council based on the recommendations of this questionable committee is arbitrary and unethical.

In the light of above, we, the SLOA urge your Excellency to please intervene early to resolve this matter, so that the SLMC will once again enjoy the trust that the public had invested in it and function as a true independent body with the necessary integrity of a statutory body of its caliber. “



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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