How statesmanship and wisdom saved S. Africa
By Nilika de Silva
South Africa through wisdom and statesmanship displayed there as well as through institutions that were devolved avoided a blood bath and its example is therefore a worthy study for any country, an eminent jurist said yesterday.

The Jurist, Chris Weeramantry, former judge of the International Court of Justice, made this observation at a seminar on "Truth and Reconciliation and the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes" conducted by the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research.

"Disputes are easy to begin, but they become increasingly difficult to resolve the longer they continue, and it is even more difficult to remove their lasting effects of bitterness, anger and hatred," Mr. Weeramantry said.

He said he had been able to see South Africa as few people had seen it, "from the highest centres of privilege to the lowest depths of despair".

Describing apartheid as he saw it in 1979, Mr. Weeramantry said, "The air was thick with tension, fear and anger. And so heavy was the atmosphere that you felt you could almost cut through it and the result of this was that we all thought that South Africa was destined for a blood bath some day. But wise statesmanship saved it."

Another speaker was Professor Winston Nagan, an anti-apartheid activist who had been expelled from South Africa. He outlined the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the lessons it generated for other cultures.

Ethical concerns raised over new state drug company
The move by the Consumer Affairs & Commerce ministry to set up a new state company for the parallel import of drugs at lower prices is causing concern in medical circles largely on matters of ethics.

A spokesperson for the ethics committee of the Sri Lanka Medical Association said they would fully support any move to provide safe and good quality medicinal drugs to patients at cost effective prices.

But they were deeply concerned that some practising medical specialists or professors teaching medical students had been called upon by minister Ravi Karunanayake to set up the new State Trading Company (Medical) Ltd. The Sunday Times learns that among the prominent medical figures who have been called upon by the minister to help set up the company are Prof. Saman Goonatilleke, (Associate Professor of Medicine, University, Kelaniya), Prof. Rizwie Sheriff, (Professor of Medicine, University of Colombo) Prof. Lal Chandrasena, Medical Director, Nawaloka, Dr. Sanath Amarasekera, Consultant , Obst. & Gyno, Private sector, & Dr. Asitha de Silva, (Head of dept. of Pharmacology, Kelaniya University) . The spokesperson said they had information that a well known cardiologist had also been asked to help form the company but he had declined saying drug imports should be made through proper channels. The spokesperson also said their concern was whether practising specialists who had a stake in the new company might be exposed to any temptation to prescribe the drugs that their company was importing.

Minister Ravi Karunanayake in recent months has been playing a frontline role in efforts to bring down prices of drugs and the cost of living. One such step is the setting up of 24 hour pharmacies at major CWE outlets to sell good quality drugs at affordable prices. The SLMA in a statement issued last week said it believed the State Pharmaceuticals corporation which has some 30 years experience and expertise in drug imports should be called upon to make the parallel imports in line with WHO guidelines. The WHO definition of parallel imports is as follows. " If a manufacturer has patented a product in several countries, he may for a number of reasons decide to sell it at a different price in different countries. If the price in country A is substantially lower than in country B, an importer in country B may buy the product at a cheaper price in country A and sell it in country B at a price which is lower than the price set by the patent holder. This is called "parallel importation."

The Sunday Times learns that one of the major areas of concern for the SLMA is that a doctor linked to a leading private hospital is playing a big role in the formation of the new company and the hospital is known to be interested in promoting its own drug importing business. This hospital was also involved recently in the offer of an alleged inducement to cardiologists who refer patients for open heart surgery. The Sri Lanka Medical Council, the official body responsible for maintaining medical ethics wrote to medical professional associations warning against the acceptance of any such inducements though they were described as "special allowances."

VD: More than a dry joke
By Faraza Farook
The unit handling socially transmitted diseases including AIDS moved recently to a big four storey building financed by the World Bank. But an essential facility has been neglected and VD tests have not yet been conducted in the new building.

All tests have been held up for three weeks while authorities are yet to take steps to get water facilities, for the new building at De Saram Place, an official said. Though the building has a water tank, the lab reportedly does not have a tap connection.

The unit was earlier housed in a different premises on the same road.

The Sunday Times learns that tests have not been carried out since July 8. The building also lacks plug points.

The official said the lab might not be ready for tests even by next week.

Leadership of the Bar: the devil quoteth scripture
By Wodehouse
This seems to be a time in society in which almost everything is valued except integrity, uprightness and moral rectitude. If that's verbose, then how about saying plainly that "all kinds of people are in demand these days except good people.''

The community of lawyers needs people who are efficient, and there is no doubt about that. There need to be brave lawyers who uphold the tenets of the independence of the judiciary etc about which Sri Lankans seem to be barely aware these days.

But if we see at the barricades, a horde that seeks to subvert all that is proper and honest and respectable in the legal profession in the name of efficiency and in the name of "standing up for the rights of the members of the Bar" - please, let such hordes stand aside for people who can keep the good name of the Bar Association alive and intact.

In fact, what's at issue with regard to the furore over the independence of the judiciary is the issue of integrity and nothing else. It is the issue of integrity that is paramount in many of the concerns that weigh on the minds of lawyers, and all right thinking men and women who want to preserve the independence of the judiciary and legal institutions.

It goes without saying then, that the integrity of the profession can only be maintained by those who have proven records of integrity whether they are characterized "as gentle dead wood''(sic) or whatever.

What the legal profession does not need at this juncture - and with emphasis on the words "this juncture'' - is the devil quoting scriptures. People may want to provide leadership for the Bar, but that leadership must not be motivated by ulterior personal ambition. Incidentally, those who say "the now much respected'' Shirani Bandarnayake's appointment was opposed, seem to spike their own case.

What good was it to oppose the appointment of Justice Shirani Bandarnayake, if it was only to say at this juncture that she is "now much respected.'' All it shows is that those who did not oppose her appointment certainly weren't wrong. Can there be shallower reasoning therefore in advocating an aggressive "leadership of the bar,'' at the expense of those vaguely defined elements referred to as the "gentle dead wood" (sic)?

There is tremendous moral hypocrisy in those who see that issues of independence of the judiciary can be brought up at certain times, and ignored at other times. Expediency and nothing else motivate those who think in this way. How about the larger assaults on the independence of the judiciary that have taken place in recent times? These pass muster in the minds of a certain new hustler class of lawyers on the make.

The Bar Association may not have been what it set out to be in the past few years. If it was not as effective a lobby group as it should have been, well, it is time it became a good lobby group. But a good lobby group first needs to be a credible one. Some good old boys of the bar have credibility because their record is impeccable in terms of integrity.

Lawyers should clamour for such "gentle dead wood'' and if and when it comes to so doing, vote with their feet for them - because the credibility and the respectability of the Bar is its first and most important asset. Any lawyer with a modicum of integrity would acknowledge that.

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