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Sumanthiran raises serious concerns over amendment to Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance

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By Saman Indrajith

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran expressed serious concerns, on Thursday (10), about an amendment to the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.

He told Parliament: “There is a concern that the bail application has to now be made through the Court of Appeal instead of High Court. Now this is a very serious issue, this is not a question of making bail stringent. This is a question of access to Justice. I am saying that because the Court of Appeal sits only in Colombo, whereas now with the provincial High Courts you can go to your provincial capital. In lots of instances, the High Court sits in more than one city or town in a province, and you can make an application. Now this is very important, this is not a question of being lenient towards a possession of dangerous drugs, this is about anybody who is accused of this offence being able to go to court,” he said.

The TNA MP said that the access to justice must not be denied and that there are incidents where people are framed or various dissections take place. Therefore, suspects must be able to approach court and that must never be made difficult, he said.

“It is only after the 13th Amendment to the constitution, that the first appeal even from a District Court matter can be made to the Court in the province. Before that even if the District Judge made a small mistake in the course of proceedings, you have to come to Colombo and make an application. So devolution – we talk about executive powers and legislative powers but with regard to the Judiciary a salutary feature came in, when people can access to a justice at least in the first appeal. So I appeal to the Minister not to remove the jurisdictions to grant bail in this way to one central place in the whole country. Because that is denial of Justice to people and also it is against devolution,” Sumanthiran said.

The MP said there were concerns with proposed Prison ordinance rules as well. The amendment proposes to strip several rights prisoners have enjoyed over 100 years, he said. Sumanthiran said the new Bill is creating categories of prisoners, based on their financial status.

“There are categories, categories of prisoners, and what are the categories? Categories are those who can pay; you are creating paying wards, I heard MP Dilan Perera say this also, we can’t escape wondering whether some in the Government ranks are preparing places for them in the prison. They know that they are going to stay a lot of time in the prison, so they are creating luxurious apartments in prisons already so that when they go there they can live in comfort. It looks like that,” he said.

Sumanthiran said this goes against the fundamental principle that all citizens and particularly citizens who are under the control of the state, must be treated equally.

“The conditions in the prisons are bad, so the answer is not to alleviate those hardships for the few who can part with some money. That is wrong s- that is fundamentally wrong, and no country should ever do that, and therefore I bring it to the Minister’s notice that those ordinances that create differences in class of prisoners must be abolished,” he said.



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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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CEB says suspension of power cuts not possible

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By Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) says it is not in a position to discontinue power cuts despite an assurance from some quarters that there will be no power cuts till the end of the G C E Advanced Level examination on 17 February.

CEB Chairman Nalinda Illangakoon, contacted for comment, told The Island that they had not taken any decision to halt power cuts, especially at night. He however stressed that during the examination hours there would be no power cuts.

“We have not agreed with anyone to do away with power cuts,” he said, adding that they had clearly pointed out that Rs. 4.1 billion was required to continue power supply without power cuts until 17 February.

He also said that the CEB could not do business on credit. “I am responsible for my institution. Anybody can say anything but I have to run it,” he added.The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) yesterday said that the power sector stakeholders had agreed not to impose power cuts from yesterday until the end of the GCE A/L examination.

The HRCSL said in a statement that there will be no power cuts until February 17.They also said that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had come to an agreement with the PUCSL to provide continuous fuel supply for electricity generation during the A/L examination.

Covering the cost required for power generation must be identified as a priority in the proposed tariff revision, PUCSL instructed the CEB. Accordingly, the two parties agreed to pay the relevant expenses incurred within 60 days, the statement said.

The HRCSL also said the Power and Energy Ministry should intervene to provide coordination facilities for the agreement.Accordingly, an agreement was made not to continue with power cuts during the exam period starting today.This agreement will be included as a recommendation of the HRCSL, and the PUCSL agreed to implement the recommendations.

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PM’s Office: IMF impressed with progress made by govt.

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director Dr. Krishnamurthy Subramanian has said the political will displayed by the Sri Lankan leadership to speed up reforms and implement difficult tax increases in order to revive the economy is highly appreciable, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s Office yesterday (26)

Dr Subramanian, who called on Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the PM’s Office in Colombo yesterday (26) was quoted as having said almost all the requirements for the IMF relief package for Sri Lanka have been completed and the moment the final assurances from major lending countries is completed, the process would be finalised.

“We will bat for you,” IMF Executive Director said using cricket jargon. “We play forward with a straight drive for you and whenever necessary, we play cover drives too,” said Dr Subramanian who was the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India from 2018 to 2021.

The Prime Minister briefed the IMF delegation about steps taken by the government to face the unprecedented economic challenges faced by the country and to enhance agricultural produce to meet local demand and also for export.

While elaborating the measures taken to reduce non-essential imports and increase export production, he stressed the need for welfare for the poorest segments of the society. Dr Subramanian said that as the Prime Minister pointed out a safety net for economically vulnerable groups is an essential requirement when plans are formulated to restructure debt and revive the economy.

However, he emphasised that the public sector should be ready to make sacrifices as they are at least assured of salaries, while many others have lost their avenues of income.

Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anura Dissanayake, Deputy Governor of Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara, who is IMF Alternate Executive Director, Dr. P.K.G. Harischandra, Director and Dr. V D Wickramarachchi, Deputy Director of Economic Research Department of Central Bank also took part in the discussion.

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