News/Comment

27th January 2002

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Complete confusion over consultative committees

The government has run into problems regarding the appointment of Consultative Committees of Parliament as the Standing Orders do not allow the appointment of such committees for non-cabinet ministries.

According to standing order number 104, consultative committees could be appointed corresponding to the number of ministries in the Cabinet. Similarly, the chairman of each consultative committee is the minister in charge of the subject.

The problem arises out of the UNF government's two-tier structure cabinet ministers and non-cabinet ministers. 

Parliamentary Affairs Minister A.H.M. Azwer said he hoped the problem could be sorted out within two weeks. PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne said the government should realise the significance of consultative committees, as it was through them that some of the most important decisions were processed. 


New government recruitments on hold

The Government has decided to stop all recruitment of clerical and minor staff to ministries, departments and other institutions until further notice due to financial constraints.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Administration told The Sunday Times they had received a circular from the Treasury that state institutions should not go ahead with any recruitment.

The Sunday Times learns that the main reason for the halting of recruitment was due to the non-availability of funds as the Budget has not been presented for this year. The Budget is to be presented on March 18.

The Local Government Ministry also has issued a circular halting new recruitment until the local government elections are held.


Accused in child rape case decamps from the country

By Laila Nasry
The Colombo High Court on Thursday issued an open warrant for the arrest of a planter accused of sexually abusing his two daughters.

The accused who is the Assistant Superintendent of an estate is alleged to have sexually abused his four-year-old and ten-month-old daughters.

The trial having concluded, Colombo High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya, reserved order for February 7. Court also ordered the Controller of Immigration and Emigration to impound the accused's passport. However, the accused is reported to have already left the country.

The accused had been granted Rs. 5 million bail by court which was furnished by five sureties each paying Rs.1 million.

The accused was indicted on January 10, 2000 under Section 365B of the Penal Code for grave sexual abuse.

With regard to the younger daughter, who was aged ten months at the time of the alleged abuse, fresh indictment is to be served.

At the trial the evidence of the elder sister was recorded in camera. The mother of the victims, a doctor, a psychologist and Woman Sub-Inspector of police, Indrani of the Women and Child Bureau testified in open court.The alleged act is said to have been committed during a week-end visitation rights session provided by the District Court to the accused. The custody of the children had been granted in favour of the mother in a divorce suit in 2000. The wife of the accused is the daughter of a famous speech and drama trainer.

During evidence lead by State Counsel S. Thurairaja, it was alleged that subsequent to the sexual acts the accused had threatened the elder of the victims. He is alleged to have warned his elder daughter that she would be prevented from meeting her mother if she should reveal that she was sexually abused by him.

Defence counsel alleged that the girl was instigated by her mother to claim that her father committed a sexual offence on her and her younger sister in an attempt to tarnish his good reputation.


Ethical questions over medical jaunt

Serious questions relating to medical ethics were raised after a group of 30 including about 20 child specialists were sponsored by a big drug company to attend a Bangkok seminar largely for the promotion of a new drug under a brand name.

One medical specialist involved in a campaign to bring about justice for patients said even a member of the Sri Lanka Medical Council - the body which deals with ethics - was also on the Bangkok jaunt with air fares hotel bills and other expences being met by the drug company. 

The specialist said the general explanation given for such tours was that it was largely educational, but he challenged the principle of allowing a company with obvious vested interests to sponsor such events. 

The Director General of Health Services Dr. A. M. L. Beligaswatte told The Sunday Times yesterday he was not aware of such a trip and it was apparently a private one.

It is learnt that the main organiser is the head of a prestigious post-graduate medical institution and is also a consultant to a drug company.

Meanwhile, the Action Committee on Justice for Patients has appealed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Health Minister P. Dayartne to work out a new national drug policy and health service model where the welfare and the empowerment of patients would be the centrepiece. 

This committee and other groups like the medical faculty students involved in rational health action are carrying out an intensive campaign to provide safe, effective and good quality medicinal drugs to the people at the lowest possible price. They are calling for the import prescription and sale of medical drugs under low cost generic or chemical names instead of expensive brand names. 

With health services in nothern areas like the Wanni district now limping back, the health action groups are calling for steps to ensure that the poverty stricken war ravaged people are not further exploited by drug companies which promote expensive brand names. 

For instanc, they point out that a Panadol tablet has been sold in these areas at more than Rs. 5 while the same drug under the generic name Paracetamol could be made available at 50 cents. A spokesman for the medical faculty student action group said one of the latest drug used for the treatment for chicken pox would cost upto Rs. 10,000 for the course if bought under the brand name, but the very same drug under the generic name could be obtained at about one tenth the price.

Meanwhile, the Independent Medical Practitioners Association will hold its annual general meeting at a five-star hotel today sponsored by a drug company. The prestigious Sri Lanka Medical Association and the Sri Lanka Medical Library are also sponsored heavily by drug companies. 


Desmond to draft code for lawyers

The United Nations has appointed Desmond Fernando PC as a member of an advisory panel to draft the Code of Professional Conduct of Counsel appearing before the International Court of Justice. 

Mr. Fernando is a vice president of the International Commission of Jurists and former president of the Bar Association. 


Strike ends after doc-nurse ceasefire

Health Ministry assures fresh probe on National Hospital dispute 
By Shelani Perera
Doctors at the National Hospital in Colombo yesterday called off their two-day trade union action launched to protest against findings of a report on a dispute between a surgeon and a nurse.

Dr. Rukshan Bellana, Assistant Secretary of the Government Medical Officers Association said the GMOA decided to call off the strike after Health Minister P. Dayaratne assured them that a retired Judge would be appointed to probe the dispute.

The GMOA rejected the earlier report, claiming the findings were biased in favour of the nurse and demanded a fresh probe by an impartial person or body. The surgeon was charge sheeted, based on the report's findings.

The dispute arose when the surgeon reprimanded the nurse allegedly using harsh language. 

The incident which initially provoked the nurses to boycott the surgeon, later led to a clash between trade unions representing doctors and nurses.

The Public Service United Nurses Union also has welcomed the move to hold a fresh probe but said any inquiry should be concluded within ten days.

Health Ministry sources said the two trade unions had also agreed to drop a demand calling for the suspension of the doctor and the nurse till the inquiries were completed. 



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