As election nears the country’s interest goes with the wind  People wanted a change. And this time they did not just hope for the change and sit back and let it happen. They worked untiringly day and night to achieve it. It must be stated that although there were many who supported the change for [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka


As election nears the country’s interest goes with the wind 

People wanted a change. And this time they did not just hope for the change and sit back and let it happen. They worked untiringly day and night to achieve it. It must be stated that although there were many who supported the change for various reasons, ranging from those expecting ministerial posts, positions of heads of institutions, business deals etc. there was a large segment of civil society who cared for this country and its people, who put the country before self.

In this election we witnessed one striking feature which stood out above all. That is, that those belonging to various races, castes, creeds and political ideologies were able to bury their differences and unite to work together to achieve a common goal they all believed in. This was indeed a welcome sign as it demonstrated a touch of statesmanship in all parties concerned.

When the current government took office all citizens who valued peace, ethnic harmony and good governance heaved a sigh of relief as they felt that the Maithripala regime struck the death knell to the undemocratic,insensitive, corrupt forms of governance of the past. They believed that President Maithripala Sirisena would stand by his promises. The composition of President Sirisena’s voter base reflects that he is a leader whom all communities in Sri Lanka namely, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim Burgher and Malay had placed their trust in. Now the people have given their verdict and the regime change that civic minded citizens worked so hard to bring about, is a reality.

So now what next? Undoubtedly, the immediate priority of the government is to grant the promises made by them pertaining to the 100 day programme. High on the list is the abolition of the excessive powers of the current executive presidency, which have clearly proven to be a grave threat to democracy and a breeding ground for injustice, corruption, and tyrannical family rule. It is clear that the government needs a 2/3 majority in parliament to make the necessary constitutional changes as promised.

However, the various factions that backed the Maithree regime as well as those who promised to support this constitutional change now seem to be having their own political agendas. Now that a general election is looming on the horizon what is blatantly clear, is that their priority is no longer supporting the 100-day programme which is in the country’s interest, but nurturing their own narrow political interests.

Anyone can see that 67 years of party politics have not helped us to progress effectively along the path of peace, harmony and economic development. If one analyses the reasons for this it becomes evident, that one of the biggest obstructions to the forward march towards peace and harmony is the contention that particular sections of the community think of themselves as separate from others and need to be considered as such.

Party politics is necessary to ensure that all views of the people are represented in the government. However, the success and effectiveness of the government will depend on how successfully they can deliver what the country needs as a whole and not what those belonging to one particular political party want.

In this context a national government where all shades of opinion are present can certainly deliver the goods to a wide cross section of the people if only all parties in it can change their mindsets to unite and reach a consensus on issues. It is this experiment that has been tried with success in overthrowing the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.  We have heard some politicians of the SLFP say that they and the electorate they represent cannot sit together with another political party. If that is so there is nothing to stop them from sitting outside. But what they fail to realize is that their party chairman President Maithripala Sirisena is the head of a state where a national government comprising all parties is in power.
The first priority which this government can implement if only there is unity of purpose among those in the parliament is the constitutional amendments with regard to the executive presidency and the electoral system.

People do not want operas and media circuses. They have had enough of them already. The parties within the government and without must get their priorities right. They must put the people’s mandate before their own political agendas and ensure that the last chance they have to safeguard democracy and bring about good governance which the people voted for, has to take precedence over their own personal preferences.  It is now time for all parties to realize that they would not have the people’s support at the next election if they do not get down to business and ensure that what the people have voted for is delivered before the 100 days end.

- Shiranee Dissanayake
Via email


Why can’t we be more disciplined like our dogs?

I witnessed something incredible on Saturday, March 14. I was driving along a dark deserted road around 11.30 p.m. To my absolute amazement I witnessed a dog using a pedestrian crossing to get to the other side of the road!

It had taken a few steps into the crossing and halted as it saw my car. My instinctive reaction made me stop the car for it to cross. The dog crossed in peace in absolute discipline (most certainly self-taught).  It is only the (street smart) stray dogs that have learnt this. In fact many people have observed stray dogs using the pedestrian crossing.

This special dog had biscuit coloured fur, pointed ears and was quite agile. The location was just past Pepiliyana Junction towards Dehiwela where there is a crossing.

I remember my niece from India once commented in surprise “Uncle see that dog is crossing on a pedestrian crossing,” and how I proudly said “in Sri Lanka even dogs are disciplined.”  Well I wish I had told her the truth.

Lawrence Fernando
Via email


Oh what a show!

A big crowd
White flags everywhere
Banners displayed
Our deepest sympathies
Wreaths near the coffin
Tasty meals for all
This show runs for
Three consecutive nights
At the end, family members weep
Relatives mourn
Friends share sympathy
Funeral orations for hours
Dignified final journey to crematorium
Sssh…keep mum
Do not ask the dead
How he was treated
-Lal Kannangara


Selecting suitable candidates for polls

The ‘March 12 Declaration’ initiated by PAFFEREL and accepted by almost all leaders of political parties is a giant step in the direction of cleaner politics in the country.

However the eight ‘Essential Common Criteria’ could be made more comprehensive by the stipulation of a minimum academic qualification and also some additional clauses preventing candidates seeking nomination if immediate family members are involved in illegal or nefarious activities eg. Illicit liquor business, drug peddling, gambling including the bookie business, casinos, illicit gemming, sand mining, illicit lumber business etc.

Declaration of assets should be made compulsory; failure to do so or the making of a false declaration should result in mandatory disqualification.

The’ financial agreements’ criterion (6) should extend to immediate family members too, eg. if the wife or a brother is involved in government contracts, it should be reason enough for disqualification.

With the conviction rate in criminal offences being so low in this country the criterion of proof of guilt and conviction needs some re-thinking in the case of assessing the integrity level of legislators. Judges and legislators must, like Caesar’s wife, be above suspicion. This I firmly believe should be the guiding criterion.

Edward Gunawardena
Via email


Opening up a dialogue on the National Medicines Regulatory Authority

According to a recent news item in the Sunday Times, the eminent Dr. Palitha Abeykoon of WHO fame will conduct a much-needed awareness programme on the National Medicines Regulatory Authority ( NMRA) – a topic which is currently the subject of much discussion. Such a programme would be of immense benefit especially to the general public whose knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry has been heavily distorted by certain media campaigns and those with political agendas.

I wish to open a dialogue among interested parties by putting down a few points of interest observed over the years.

The pharmaceutical industry has contributed in no uncertain terms to the healthcare of the nation right from Independence. Today Sri Lanka’s healthcare index compares well with any developed country, thanks to the advent of modern therapeutics and technology introduced through the pharmaceutical industry.

Let’s look at some of the issues in the Act:

Prescription under Generic name to be dispensed by pharmacists

The average patient’s knowledge of a medication is absolutely nil. It is not practical to create sufficient awareness for such a patient to be able to identify a pharmaceutical by its therapeutic benefit or quality. It is therefore incumbent on the regulatory authority to permit pharmaceuticals of established quality in the market.

In order to do this, the regulatory authority needs facilities such as the availability of Quality Assurance Laboratories (there is only one today which is choked with testing of drugs mostly on quality failures reported from the hospitals). This is virtually impractical. The other alternative is using overseas labs before a drug is registered. This means an additional cost to pharmaceuticals.

Therefore the most practical way is precisely what is going on in our local pharmaceutical market today. Our market is serviced by about 60 pharmaceutical importing companies who supply a variety of pharmaceuticals consisting of innovator products, branded generics and generics competing with each other and with those imports and /or pharmaceuticals manufactured by the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC). Over a period of time, Doctors have acquired sufficient knowledge to identify the different qualities and the respective prices of such a range of drugs which gives them the choice of prescriptions based on what individual patients could afford and accessibility.

Furthermore, a doctor has his own way of writing prescriptions. They are generally in shortened forms and in script writing usually readable by experienced pharmacists. If such prescriptions are nor read properly, the consequences could even be life threatening.

Accordingly two serious situations can arise from this:

The patient can be the victim of a crooked salesman at the pharmacy dispensing a lower priced and generic product of unknown quality (which would have no effect on his health condition) at a higher price than a known product.

Inability to read the Doctor’s handwriting of a generic name leading to unwarranted complications to the patient – eg: Chlophenaramine and chlorpromazine.

With over sixty companies importing pharmaceuticals, there is healthy competition in prices and quality with each other as well as the drugs manufactured by the SPC. Over time, Doctors have acquired sufficient knowledge to identify the qualities of each drug and the respective prices which gives them the chance to prescribe based on what the patient can afford.

This in fact, satisfies the very essence of the famous Bibile/ Wickramasinghe policy which focuses on the needs of safety,/quality, efficacy and also affordability and availability of pharmaceuticals.

It is my earnest hope that Dr. Abeykoon will consider the above in the light of the ethics of his profession and the vast knowledge he possesses.
Ananda Samarasinghe

Chairman, Indoscan ( Pvt) Ltd
Past President, Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry


Don’t we have a say in the BOC Pensioners’ Association?

I am a member of the BoC (Bank of Ceylon) Pensioners’ Association. I obtained its membership in 2002. I haven’t been invited to any of the Annual General Meetings the association conducted during the period of 2002 to 2014. Although, they had held the number of meetings at district and regional levels I was not invited to any of these meetings too.

When asked why, the reply of the President was that it is a difficult task to send letters to all its members informing the date and venue of the AGM. Now they are planning to suspend the membership of any member who speaks against the decisions of the association. This completely violates the freedom of expression which has been guaranteed by not only the constitution of the association but also in the country’s constitution (Article 12A of the constitution).

In addition the AGM is held without the general membership. Appointing members to the association in this manner completely violates the rights of the members from whom many of them are lower grade pensioners.

-W.G. Chandrapala
Via email

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