The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

17th November 1996




Poison pills at pharmacies

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Thousands of Sri Lankans consume substandard drugs, harmful to their health everyday as a monitoring body is understaffed and largely ineffective, a Sunday Times investigation has revealed.

Few proper tests are conducted when large shipments of drugs, worth colossal amounts of money come into the island. It is only during the tender procedure that a sample of the drug to be delivered by a particular company is tested by the local laboratories.

Companies usually submit the finest quality sample of their products during a tender, and convince the local scientists. Assuming that the entire stock of medicines to be shipped later on, are of the same quality, no further tests are conducted, and the medicines are released into the market, medical and pharmaceutical experts said.

Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie concerned about this issue said the National Drug Quality Assurance Lab (NDQAL) had failed to conduct regular tests on medicines when the bulk of the consignment was imported. He said he was ordering immediate measures to check the situation.

The understaffed NDQAL which is responsible for all tests, has often acted late on complaints made to it regarding various drugs.

Ms. Manohari Pathiraja, Director of the NDQAL said since 1992 they were able to detect many substandard medicines, and those were destroyed.

However by the time drugs are found to be of poor quality, several years would have lapsed and thousands of patients would have suffered the side-effects of them.

The latest available figures of drugs condemned during between 1992 and 1995 reveal that more than 20 per cent of drugs brought into the country were either destroyed or kept out of the market to avoid problems.

Added to the enormous consignment of legitimately imported drugs, large stocks are also being smuggled into the country by Pettah businessmen, in passenger baggages or by other means from countries such as India, Pakistan and Thailand, State Pharmaceutical Corporation Chairman, Colvin Gooneratne said. These drugs are not subject to any quality control and are sometimes dangerous, as smuggled drugs could be counterfeit products, he said.

Customs officials also admitted that drugs are apparently brought into the country illegally by a large number of people.

Prof. Gooneratne also said Total Quality Management (TQM) should be considered when importing medicines.

TQM requires a post marketing surveillance where random samples are frequently picked from the market and quality tested. But there is no facility for a TQM here, he said.

Prof. Gooneratne said on an average there are nearly seven different brands of any particular drug in Sri Lanka. Besides every day numerous drugs are registered and the NDQAL is preoccupied.

Vanik will not act on Asia offer

The directors of Vanik Incorporation have told shareholders that the Asia Capital bid for the company would not be acted upon, and the directors would do their utmost to resist any take-over bid.

The bid received from Asia Capital is not being acted upon by us as there appear to be inherent defects therein and as such does not require further compliance on our part a Vanik circular said.

Shareholders are however advised that in the event a fresh offer conforming with the relevant legislation is received by us we would circulate the same to you the circular said.

The directors said the offer of Rs. 10 and a new share of Asia Capital for each Vanik share grossly undervalued the company. According to the provisions of the take-overs and Mergers Code directors views, comments and advice on the offer document would be sent to shareholders within 14 days of receiving the bid, the circular said.

The directors strongly recommend that shareholders should await the directors advice before either accepting or rejecting Asia's offer the statement added.

Wheeler dealing towards another blackout

By Kshalini Nonis

Engineers have warned that Sri Lanka would face another disastrous power crisis next year due to bad planning and wheeler-dealing by outside parties in energy projects.

An official of the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union said local collaborators who have links with foreign countries and access to politicians were trying to push through projects which did not minimize cost.

In a letter to the Chairman of the CEB, the Union states that a recent newspaper advertisement, describing the criteria for the purchase of power from private suppliers has been done in an unprofessional manner.

The advertisement has failed to give even basic information such as how much capacity the CEB intends to acquire and does not even indicate where these plants will be located, the Union says.

According to the CEBEU, this is not the first instance that the CEB has advertised in this manner and due to a similarly vague advertisement the Sri Lankan government and CEB is now engaged in a costly international legal battle with a bidder. The Union has requested the CEB to investigate how this foreign dealer's proposal was selected, ignoring some fundamental issues.

The engineers have also questioned the validity of certain appointments to the board, and alleged that unacceptable procedures were followed in bringing some retired officials and ex-military personnel into the CEB. The Union said that these appointments were being made with political influence with new posts being created at very high levels. One person, recently appointed in such a manner, was largely responsible for the strike which led to the recent three-day nationwide black-out, it said.

Stone Age Dept.

In this age of advanced technology it is hard to believe that one of the most important state institutions, the Department for the Registration of Persons does not have computers leave alone electronic typewriters.

A spokesman told The Sunday Times, the Department handles about 3,000 applications a day and issues an equal number of National Identity Cards. All this work is done manually with a depleted staff.

Blood donor assaulted

Maharagama Cancer Hospital authorities are investigating a charge of assault on the relative of a patient who had come to donate blood.

A five-year-old girl from up-country had been brought to the hospital with renal cancer by her mother. A close relative of the girl had also come to donate blood.

There had been a heated exchange of words between the relative and a security officer. During this exchange the security man is alleged to have assaulted the relative.

Fishermen rock the slow boat

A fishermen's action committee has launched a campaign protesting against the prolonged detention of some 110 Sri Lankan fishermen in India after their boats had strayed across the Palk Strait.

Committee spokesman W.A. Silva said the fishermen with some 30 boats were being held in India since last July and little had been done to them although the Sri Lankan government had promised much.

Mr. Silva said the fishermen's committee through a world labour league had hired a lawyer to see to the well-being and release of fishermen, because the government appeared to be inactive or ineffective.

Responding to this a Fisheries Ministry official said a four-member team had been sent to India for talks on the release of the fishermen and they expected positive results soon.

Memorial for innocents

The government, in a dramatic political move, has decided to build a park and put up a monument in memory of youth who disappeared' during two insurrections.

The monument which will be called the Shrine of Innocents' will be built on the ceremonial approach to the parliament overlooking Diyawanna Oya and the new official residence of the Speaker.

It has been designed by architect Jagath Weerasinghe.

The park will also have a museum in which will be displayed various items used by the youth since 1971, like in German concentration camps.

The museum will display prominently journalist Richard de Zoyza episode and the 31 school children of Emblipitiya who disappeared' during the insurrection in 1989 and the Weerasooriya shooting incidents in the early seventies.

Facilities will also be made available for people to picnic while learning for themselves the realities of the insurrections.

Moral bankruptcy for Rs. 450 million

By Roshan Peiris

Buddhist and other religious leaders have come out strongly against the budget proposal to legalise casinons, accusing the government of trying of devalue Sri Lanka's culture and traditions for a mess of pottage.

Leading the opposition is the Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayake thera of the Amarapura Nikaya. Sri Lanka is in tatters and liquor is overflowing with advertising bill boards all over. Into this mess the evil of gambling is also being brought in, he said in a hard hitting statement.

Speaking for the Catholic church, Ratnapura Bishop Rt. Rev. Malcom Ranjith said gambling was a form of stealing and a violation of the 10 Commandments. A Muslim leader also said the proposal was totally unacceptable to all religions.

In the budget on November 6 ,Deputy Finance Minister G. L. Peiris proposed that government should allow casinos to operate in big hotels on the payment of an annual fee of Rs. 5 million each. By this the government hoped to get a revenue of Rs. 450 million a year.

Casinos had been allowed during the Premadasa regime but were later banned because of strong protests from all religions. The then Deputy Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne, just before his death in a bomb blast had also vowed that as long as he was in the Cabinet he would never agree to this Buddhist country being turned into a gambling city.

The Sunday Times spoke to several religious leaders who expressed strong disapproval of the move to legalise casinos.

The Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha said, both the President and the Prime Minister being Buddhists, had a responsibility to protect the Buddhist way of life. He believed the legalisation of casinos was an assault on Buddhist values and also a blatant violation of Bandaranaike policies, because the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had stood firmly against drinking and gambling. Be they be posh places or dens, gambling is gambling and unacceptable to a land of the panchaseela, the Mahanayake said appealing to the government not to sell the country's values for Rs. 450 million.

Bishop Malcom Ranjith said that for both moral and religious reasons the church felt gambling was bad for all whether it was done in a big hotel or a wayside den. One cannot say that foreigners can come and gamble and not the local people. What is wrong is wrong for all. It cannot be right for the rich man, and not for the poor. It is a question of morality and ethics not money, the Bishop said.

Meanwhile, Minister M.H.M. Ashraff, leader of the SLMC said yesterday that though his party voted for the budget on Friday they would vote against any legislation to legalise casinos. There are forty seven proposals in the Budget and therefore it is not meaningful to oppose the budget because of just one proposal. After all, a proposal does not mean implementation.

When legislation. is introduced specificaly for legalising gambling the SLMC will not support it he pledged.

Tigers prefer not to take prisoners

The number of Prisoners of War (PoW) being kept by the LTTE is declining as it no longer controls any significant urban areas and has no facilities to easily secure the prisoners it takes, an article in the 'Asiaweek' said.

Combatants on both sides of the 13-year-old civil war in Sri Lanka are taking fewer - if any - prisoners, the magazine says in its November 15 issue.

While the Sri Lankan government continues to hold several thousand prisoners captured in battle or nabbed in the areas where it has regained control, the LTTE is growing increasingly desperate, it added.

When the rebels overran the Army base in Mullaitivu in August, the government admitted to losing some 1,200 soldiers. About 70 of the men escaped, making their way back to other military camps.

Some of the soldiers who survived told a board of inquiry that they watched LTTE fighters walk through the camps when the fighting was over and summarily execute wounded soldiers.

When professor took over

For the first time the post Cabinet briefing which was held in the Parliamentary Complex this week was sans any cabinet decisions excepting Deputy Finance Minister G.L. Peiris outlining the proposals Sri Lanka would be presenting at the Aid Group meeting which is to be held tomorrow in Paris.

At the beginning of the press conference Media Minister said that the Prof. will take over.'' Half way through the briefing Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake excused himself and left as he had to meet a delegation.

Excepting for the questions raised by journalists on the deportation of the Danish reporters recently the briefing had nothing to write home about, was the opinion of many who attended the briefing.

Writ on former Justice Minister

A writ of execution for the recovery of over Rs. 1.4 million is to be served on former Justice Minister Nissanka Wijeyeratne for monies obtained in a civil defamation suit against Independent Newspapers Ltd., publishers of the now defunct 'Sun'' and 'Weekend'' newspapers.

The law firm Perera & Abeyanaike obtained a writ from the Colombo District Court to recover Rs. 1,483,380 from Nissanka Wijeyeratne of 12/21, Hantanne Pedesa, Maha Nuwara, which they calculate as the monies obtained plus interest pending an appeal the newspaper filed against a District Court order awarding damages to Mr. Wijeyeratne in 1985.

Mr. Wijeyeratne who was Education Minister and Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, filed action against the 'Weekend'' newspaper for an article on the Kandy perahera.

During the trial Mr. Wijeyeratne became Justice Minister.

He was awarded some Rs.600,000 damages by the District Judge M. B. H. Moraes.

The minister obtained the damages pending appeal. Mr. Sepala Gunasena, the publisher of the 'Weekend'' wrote out a cheque when fiscal officers came with orders to seize properties immediately after the damages were awarded.

The Court of Appeal however allowed the appeal of Mr. Gunasena and said the District Judge has misdirected himself.

Mr. Wijeyeratne later became Sri Lanka's ambassador to the Soviet Union and now lives in retirement in Kandy.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2-*AirLanka steps into fly twins to London *Child sex publicity: Call for severe punishment *And she was the thirteenth *We have nothing to hide, say journalists

Go to the News/Comment Archive


Home Page Front Page OP/ED Plus Sports

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to or to