Chief tries to activate commission
By Ayesha R. Rafiq
Bribery Commission Chairman Ananda Coomaraswamy has requested the
President to extend the 17th Amendment to the Constitution to the
Bribery Commission Act so that the commission could function in
spite of a vacancy that has remained unfilled for the past three
told The Sunday Times he had written to President Kumaratunga, asking
her to consider applying the 17th Amendment to the Bribery Commission
Act as the Commission completed its third month of having its hands
tied due to a constitutional glitch.
The 17th Amendment
under which come the National Police Commission, the Election Commission,
the Public Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission and
the Bribery Commission, states that "the Commission shall have
the power to act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership,
and no act, proceeding or decision of the Commission shall be or
be deemed to be invalid by reason only of such vacancy or any defect
in the appointment of a member".
As a result
of the Bribery Commission having its own Act, it has been excluded
from the provisions of the 17th Amendment except in the appointment
of future Commissioners. There are now more than 400 new complaints
received by the commission on which the commission is unable to
act following the Attorney General's ruling last month that as the
commission is not duly constituted due to the vacancy, it cannot
initiate investigations, make arrests or search premises.
There are at
least 100 indictments to be served on public servants, several of
them top government officials. The cases will have to wait until
the commission is duly constituted. Following the death of commissioner
T.N. Abeyawira in February this year, the Constitutional Council,
with whom the responsibility lies to make appointments to top government
posts, has yet failed to fill the vacancy created by Mr. Abeyawira's
the Bribery Commission Act, the vacancy can only be filled by a
retired Supreme Court or Appeal Court judge. The Council, however,
claims that there is a dearth of retired justices, as several of
them are already serving on other commissions or too infirm to accept
such a post.
officials to get tough on battle against dengue
With the onset of the rainy season, health officials are busy carrying
out campaigns to battle the dreaded dengue disease. Clean-up campaigns
and public awareness programmes are the two main areas that are
being focused on by provincial health departments and the Municipal
Councils. Officials say the reported cases so far have been minimal,
but they have begun the control campaigns to prevent it from reaching
epidemic proportions. "We are taking precautions for a pending
outbreak," Dr. Kulatillake of the Epidemiological Unit said.
A few cases
have been reported from the districts of Galle and Matale. In Hambantota,
the Municipal Council and the provincial health office are carrying
out a coordinated dengue control programme while a Public Health
Inspector said clean up campaigns and fogging is being conducted
in dengue prone areas.
too some dengue cases have been reported although it hasn't reached
high numbers. Since the Sinhala, and Tamil New Year 16 cases had
been reported in the city. Most of the cases had been from Colombo
East and West.
Council officer said the Colombo Mayor will soon be launching a
house- to- house inspection in 35 wards. The Public Health Department
of the Colombo Municipality has identified the areas based on statistics
of dengue cases reported last year. The inspection is to be carried
out with the assistance of the Boy Scouts Association and the Rotary
Club and environmentally friendly houses will be given a sticker.
Officers are to visit schools over the next two weeks to inspect
the environment. An official said this time round schools that do
not meet the standards would be prosecuted without prior notice.
He said in previous years the practice was to issue warning notices
prior to any legal action.
to form national body
The Action Committee on Justice for Patients (ACJP), which comprises
several groups working for the rights and welfare of patients, will
meet today to take steps to form a National Association of Patients.
said that while doctors, nurses and others in the health sector
have powerful unions working for them, patients had no such support
and such a national association was an urgent need. The meeting
will be held at 4 p.m. today at the Community Centre, No 15 Quarry
of the association would include, empowerment of patients -- giving
them awareness and insight on how to live a healthy life under the
guidance of a family physician; working out a patients' charter
and a health service model where top priority is given to the welfare
of the patients; providing quality drugs at affordable prices, so
that any patient who needs a particular drug could obtain it irrespective
of whether he or she could afford it; legal aid with medical advice
to be given to patients in cases where there is substantial evidence
of medical negligence.
SARS panic brings death and heartache
By Faraza Farook
The recent SARS outbreak in South East Asia and Toronto sent panic
waves not just in those countries, but also in Sri Lanka where cases
of pneumonia and cardiac problems have reportedly been misdiagnosed
as the dreaded virus.
In a tragic
case, 54-year-old Kumari Somabandu died of myocardial infarction
while she was being transferred from the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital
to the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) in Colombo after being
diagnosed or misdiagnosed as having SARS.
no clue as to how she was diagnosed to be suffering from SARS as
she was admitted after suffering a heart attack," Kumari's
husband M.D. Somabandu said. Mr. Somabandu who is contemplating
legal action charged that the hospital was at fault for the misdiagnosis
and was responsible for his wife's death. "There's one hundred
per cent negligence on the part of the hospital staff," he
Kumari, a chief
librarian at a library in Kurunegala returned from Saudi Arabia
on April 22 after a four-month holiday with her husband. Expecting
the arrival of her 24-year-old daughter from the U.S. after two
years, Kumari returned from Saudi Arabia a week earlier than scheduled
to make preparations for her daughter's return.
On April 24,
Kumari suffered a mild heart attack for the first time and was rushed
to the Cooperative hospital in Kurunegala. Doctors there, after
studying her E.C.G. had advised that she be transferred to the Kurunegala
Teaching Hospital as her condition seemed serious.
to the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital she was wheeled into the Intensive
Care Unit (ICU) and later transferred to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).
The following day, when Kumari's brother-in-law went to the hospital
around 1 p.m., the patient was missing. On inquiry, he had been
told that she was suspected to be suffering from SARS and was being
transferred to the IDH.
said his wife had been transferred despite her pleas to wait till
her brother-in-law came. Kumari reportedly suffered a myocardial
infarction and died in the ambulance while being transferred. Since
the Cardiologist had put down the words 'SARS' on her Bed Head Ticket
(BHT), Kumari's family had trouble in getting her body released
too. "I returned from Saudi Arabia on April 27, and we got
the body released only on the 28th. The Medical Faculty refused
to release the body, because of this reference to SARS," Mr.
that if not for the erroneous diagnosis, Kumari would still be alive.
He also said that the incident had prompted some people to keep
away from coming home.
While the Health
Ministry is investigating the incident, the Hospital defended the
Cardiologist stating that there was 'no clear cut criteria' to identify
a SARS patient and the doctor, although making a faulty diagnosis,
did it in the best interest of the patient.
In a similar
case of misdiagnosis at the Peradeniya Hospital, hospital staff
were protesting over the admission of a patient who was later diagnosed
as suffering from pneumonia.
Health Ministry last week stepped up measures to prevent any possible
outbreak in Sri Lanka. So far, no cases have been reported although
patients with respiratory symptoms are monitored as a precautionary
measure. The Health Ministry also gazetted new regulations to enable
health authorities to quarantine suspected SARS cases.
at airports and seaports has been stepped up with all passengers
expected to fill a declaration form and submit it to the immigration
desk. In-flight announcements are also made in this regard. A Medical
Officer of Health is supposed to follow up on the information given
in the form by visiting the patient's residence to check on any
development of disease symptoms.
are also making arrangements to install a thermal scanning equipment
to detect passengers with fever. Adequate protective gear is also
being made available for all hospital staff while the State Pharmaceutical
Corporation (SPC) has been requested to make available gauze masks
at Osu-Sala franchise outlets for the general public. All major
hospitals in the country have been advised to have isolation rooms
with intensive care facilities.
SARS first broke
out in China in March and has now spread to other countries in the
region. Nearly 6000 people have been infected and more than 390
The Health Ministers of the SAARC countries met in Male last Sunday
to discuss ways to combat the deadly disease.
of the disease include fever, chills, headache, body aches and pains,
nasal congestion, nausea/vomiting and shortness of breath. Sore
throat, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness and cough can also be present.