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EDITORIAL - Last minute bid to sabotage medicinal bill

1 March 2015 07:13 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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his week may be a historic one for Sri Lanka, with the new National Unity Government expected to table vital legislation such as the Constitutional Amendment, the Right to Information bill and the bill to implement the National Medicinal Drugs and Devices Policy to provide quality drugs to the people at affordable prices. These and other bills along with the setting up of the police anti Corruption Unit and the Financial Crimes Investigation Department to probe corruption in mega deals by VIPs of the former regime, are expected to change the political culture with politicians coming forward to give servant leadership and make sacrifices for the country instead of plundering public resources.
Yet the forces of corruption and the neo-colonial transnational corporations which made billions especially during the past five years will not give up easily. The battle against corrupt and neo-colonial forces may be as tough as the battle against the LTTE.



For instance the much delayed bill to implement the National Medicinal Drugs and Devices Policy based on Prof. Senaka Bibile’s Essential Medicines Concept is due to be presented in Parliament this week, some 40 years after it was scrapped under pressure from American- backed transnational pharmaceutical giants. During the past decade several versions of this bill were prepared but they were derailed or sabotaged with one draft bill even disappearing. The then Health Minister and the then Chief Legal Draftsperson accused each other of making the bill disappear in this modern era of high technology where soft copies and hard copies could be made at the press of a button.



The then Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena is now the Executive President and he has pledged he would not allow any transnational pharmaceutical giants or the pharma mafia to dilute or further delay the bill. The current Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has also vowed several times he would present the bill this week in parliament and expressed the hope it would be passed unanimously as a first step towards restoring a health service where the well-being of the patients is given top priority.


But a spokesperson for the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP) has expressed concern over the proposed meeting that Dr. Harsha de Silva, the Minister of State for Plan Implementation and Economic Affairs, is to have today with the big bosses of the Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries. The PMRP spokesperson said health action groups feared that the local bosses of the transnational pharmaceutical giants might try to dilute the bill by getting key clauses deleted. The PMRP said it had brought this matter to the notice of the National Movement for Social Justice headed by the government’s spiritual guru the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera. Other parties such as the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna had also been informed of the possible last minute threat to the Medicinal Drugs bill.



The new National Unity Government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has repeatedly pledged it would not only curb but eliminate corruption which was rampant during the Rajapaksa regime and was one of the main reasons for its shattering downfall in the people’s peaceful rainbow revolution of January 8. Millions of people who suffered without proper food and nutrition, healthcare and education are hoping that the Yahapalanaya or good governance administration would not let them down by allowing selfish, corrupt and evil forces to control or manipulate vital services. Health is the most vital of these services because often it is a matter of life or death. If we put health in the market that means we will be creating a situation where the poor will die. An honest, honourable and transparent government accountable to the people cannot and must not let this happen. We hope Dr. Harsha de Silva or the ministry of Plan Implementation and Economic Affairs will not act against the wishes and the vision of the people and of President Sirisena.
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