Medical ethics: who's biting whom?
Last weekend's trip to Bangkok by more than twenty medical specialists
for a seminar sponsored by a drug company to promote a new drug for children,
has provoked controversy in medical circles.
Professor Krishantha Weerasuriya, professor of pharmacology at the Colombo
University's medical faculty said this was standard industry practice and
had been condemned everywhere. He said one needed to ask the question whether
it would be more useful for 20 specialists to travel abroad to attend a
conference addressed by four or five speakers than for the company concerned
to bring down the speakers to Sri Lanka.
A visit to Bangkok to learn about drugs would certainly be in breach
of section 23 of WHO's Ethical Criteria for Medical Drugs Promotion, Professor
The Royal College of Physicians says that any entertainment would be
measured by the fact "Would the doctor pay for it, if it was not offered
by the pharmaceutical companies? So, would the doctors have paid for the
trip to Bangkok if the company did not pay for it, the professor asked.
"Sadly the effect of all this would be on the children of Sri Lanka
and their parents. They will pay for a drug which may not be necessary
because the doctors will be influenced." he said. When the Independent
Medical Practitioners Association held its annual meeting, sponsored by
a drug company, at a five star hotel last week The Sunday Times report
on the ethics of the exercise was taken up.
An eminent physician who addressed the gathering said he saw the disclosure
largely as a case of 'dog biting dog.' But other doctors present on the
occasion said that instead of looking at who gave the information to the
media, the medical profession should re-examine the ethical question of
allowing drug companies to sponsor trips or seminars intended to promote
Meanwhile a student action group of the Colombo medical faculty is intensifying
its campaign for rational drug use and empowerment of patients.
As part of this campaign, a special lecture will be given on February
6, in the main hall of the medical faculty on the topic ' Dilemma of drug
users - empowerment or dependence' will be given by Dr. Joel Fernando,
a former member of the Presidential Task Force on Health.
Bitter clash over PoWs
By Shelani Perera
The two groups representing armed personnel missing in action will begin
individual campaigns to seek the freedom of ten LTTE PoWs from government
custody as a reciprocal gesture for the release of the ten PoWs by the
The Association for Servicemen Missing in Action (ASMA) and the Association
of War Affected Women (AWAW), both working for the same cause, reportedly
clashed last week when the LTTE handed over ten PoWs to the government.
The ASMA backed by Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawela and the AWAW backed
by the Norwegian government levelled allegations at each other to take
credit for the release of the PoWs.
It was alleged that when the two groups visited the uncleared area they
had demanded that the ten PoWs be handed over to them.
While the ASMA claimed that the LTTE handed over the PoWs to them, the
AWAW claimed that they were handed over to the government.
However both organisations last week began intense campaigns for the
release of LTTE PoWs in government custody.
President of the ASMA E. P. Nanayakara told The Sunday Times an appointment
would be sought with the Prime Minister.
"We have already met government officials to discuss this matter. We
are positive that an appointment with the PM will also be granted. I made
a promise to Thamil Selvam that I will take this matter up with the government
and release at least ten PoWs. It is only if the government releases the
PoWs that we will have a chance of seeing the other seven PoWs in LTTE
custody," he said.
Meanwhile, chairperson of the AWAW Visaka Dharmadasa told The Sunday
Times the government had to take this opportunity and act positively.
"We have already met the Premier's secretary and we are also meeting
the Army Commander next week. The AWAW will also meet the Norwegian Ambassador.
Our campaign will continue until the government gives a positive response,"
Ms. Dharmadasa said.
Sugar mills to provide much-needed energy
By M. Ismeth
The untapped resources of the sugar mills capable of supplying power to
the national grid has yet to be explored, though successive governments
had failed to realise its enormous value even after four decades since
its inception in the early '60s.
In a feasibility report titled "Proposals for electrical power generation
through sugar mills", handed over recently to Power and Energy Minister
Karu Jayasuriya, director and chief executive of the Sugarcane Research
Institute N. Dharmawardene said the ability of a sugar factory to produce
its own surplus electricity from bagasse made sugar industry an ideal candidate
in catalyzing development of rural areas far away from cities.
About 450 Kwh of electricity could be produced by one ton of mill run
bagasse. Drying the bagasse using flue gas from the factory itself could
increase its calorific value, the report said. Sugar factories produced
nearly four to five tons of surplus of bagasse for every 100 tons of canes
milled. Thus a sugar factory of 4000 (tons of cane crushed a day) would
have nearly 1600 tons surplus bagasse, which was equivalent to 720,000
Kwh electricity a day, it said. The amount of power produced by a sugar
mill was well in excess of the factory requirement.The report said a modern
day sugar factory would produce about 50 Kwh surplus electricity per ton
of canes milled.
However, this was influenced by the condition of the factory, cane variety,
processing method, and thermal efficiency. The first requirement for generation
of power at a sugar factory was a fairly efficient factory or moderate
to large capacity and having medium to high pressure boilers.
Iqbal Athas intimidation case
Judgment put off for February 7
Thugs at work
Thugs tried to prevent photographers from taking pictures outside the High
Court No. 4 in Hulftsdorp on Friday.
One of the thugs walked up to a Wijeya Group photographer and warned
him not to take pictures. Others tried to form human walls to obstruct
photographs being taken.
The photographers have brought this to the attention of the Court Registrar.
By Laila Nasry
The judgment in the case against two Air Force officers who allegedly threatened,
harassed and intimidated The Sunday Times Consultant Editor Iqbal Athas
and his family to be delivered on Friday was put off for a later date.
Colombo High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya said the judgment was not
ready and re-fixed the date for February 7.
On the previous occasion the order was reserved by the Judge subsequent
to the trial coming to a close.
On that occasion, the Judge raised a query as to whether the accused
had furnished bail.
The counsel for the defence replied in the affirmative adding that the
accused were still officers of the Air Force but currently on suspension.
Two Air Force officers Squadron Leader H. M. Rukman the bodyguard of
a former Air Force Commander and Squadron Leader D. S. P. Kannangara the
officer in charge of the Special Air Borne Force had been indicted in the
Colombo High Court for committing criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful
entry with weapons into Mr. Athas's home on February 12, 1998.
In the course of the evidence led by state counsel P. P. Surasena it
was submitted that three armed intruders had forcibly entered Mr. Athas's
home on the pretext of trying to get an article published in the newspaper.
Having gained entrance the intruders had proceeded upstairs, broken
open the door and stormed into the room of Mr. Athas whilst he was watching
television with his wife.
The first accused had then held a pistol to Mr. Athas' head and had
asked him 'ko badu?' 'Umbala badu vikunanawaneda?' Therafter he had gestured
to Mr. Athas to walk out of the room. Mr. Athas saw two other intruders
proceeding towards his daughter's room also with pistols in their hands
and yelled out in fear of his daughter's safety.
At this point the first accused had threatened to shoot him and had
ordered the rest to lock up the servant girl and his daughter. However
his daughter had come running towards him crying and hung on to him.
Later Mr. Athas was led downstairs by the intruders where they were
joined by a fifth intruder who asked for his name, where he worked.
Then he stated there had been a mistake, they had come to the wrong
place and proposed to leave.
At the identification parade held at the Gangodawila Magistrate's Court
Mr. Athas identified the first accused. Ms. Anoma Athas identified the
second accused at the second identification parade also held at the Gangodawila
The sole defence witness was Squadron Leader Eric Amaranath Weerasinghe
of the Sri Lanka Air Force.
The defence took up the position that the identity of the accused had
not been established beyond reasonable doubt.
They further submitted that taking into consideration the events of
February 12, the identification parade and the evidence given by the witnesses,
there remained serious doubts pertaining to the entire inquiry, from the
initial investigation to the identification parade, as it was not conducted
Daya Perera PC with T. G. Gunesekera watched the interests of Iqbal
and Anoma Athas. Senior State Counsel P. P. Surasena and Amendra Seneviratne
appeared for the prosecution. Srinath Perera PC with Christopher de Alwis
appeared for the first accused while Anil Silva represented the second