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President calls for transparent drug distribution 



President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of ensuring timely access to drugs and promoting transparency in the pharmaceutical sector during a meeting with the Health Minister, health officials, and finance officials today (14). 

The President proposed the establishment of websites managed by the Health Ministry to provide up-to-date information on the availability of drugs in Sri Lanka, including specific quantities in each hospital, which will be updated daily. To streamline drug distribution, a networking system will be implemented to facilitate the transfer of drugs between hospitals, bypassing bureaucratic hurdles.

The President said, “Let’s be transparent in what every hospital has.  It will be very important, as you say, the transparency of it.  Then the people can’t come and complain if things are available. Not only we do that, every hospital must inventorize and have it on computer what they have.  If I go to a hospital tomorrow, I must know what is available, what is not available. Do all that. Then if there is a shortage, we know where the shortage is.”

In response to the challenges caused by current procedures leading to drug shortages, President Wickremesinghe instructed the Health Ministry to expedite the approval process for drugs endorsed by the FDA and other countries. Additionally, he called for amendments to the NMRA Act to enable swift action and overcome obstacles in drug procurement.

“Why can’t you ask the FDA and approved drugs, UK approved drugs, has it  got to go through the NMRA or can you just order it? So that is a question. In fact, that is a matter in courts at the moment. So I have asked the NMRA to go ahead now and immediately approve FDA drugs and the other countries which have agreed with the Health Ministry, and the Health Ministry will then bring amendments to the NMRA Act which will enable them to act quickly and overcome all the difficulties.”

During the meeting, the President addressed various other issues, including the extension of the retirement age for doctors to 63 years until the end of 2014, and for other special cases as per the requirement of the Health Ministry. 

In addition, the consideration of those from the Arts Stream in the recruitment of nurses, budget allocations, and the need for fully equipped medical facilities was also discussed. The President emphasized the importance of utilizing existing resources effectively and promoting accountability.

“I don’t think we have to change the regulations for nurses that even people with arts subjects can be taken up for training. And doctors’ retirement, we’ve taken the position to allow them to go up to 63 and also for other special cases which the ministry will mention.”

Furthermore, discussions were held on outstanding payments and service agreements for medical equipment, with a plan devised to ensure timely payments and prevent diversion of funds for other purposes. The President stressed the need for proper documentation and the signatures of relevant authorities to maintain financial transparency.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the government’s commitment to addressing the challenges in the healthcare sector and improving access to quality healthcare services in Sri Lanka.

The President also discussed the proceedings of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) during the meeting with the Health Minister and officials. It was revealed that the NMRA had not submitted reports on its activities since its inception, except for the first year in 2015. 

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said, “From the inception, except the first year, 2015 Act No. 5 and the first year, other than that, up to 2021-22, they have not submitted the accounts. So that collective responsibility was there and they all resigned and then we had a new team altogether.”

As a result, he said a new team was appointed, including Prof. Jayaratne as the chairperson and Dr. Vijith Gunasekara as the CEO. The NMRA had faced delays and deliberate obstructions, leading to the reassignment of some staff members to the Health Ministry.

The effectiveness and necessity of the NMRA were questioned, with suggestions made to either justify or repeal it. A team of experts, including a Treasury Member, was appointed to assess the NMRA’s activities and provide recommendations within two weeks. The possibility of directly ordering FDA and UK-approved drugs without going through the NMRA’s process was raised, and an amendment to expedite the approval of such drugs was proposed.

With regard to the medical personnel who have not yet being registered with the SLMC, the President said that the Health Ministry, SLMC and the  Prime Minister’s Secretary will have the necessary amendments to the regulations in the next two weeks. 

The discussions also touched on the need to review procurement processes within the health sector to reduce government expenditure. Consultants were considered to provide a report on procurement processes, but the President suggested making decisions promptly during the meeting itself. The Health Minister was encouraged to consult with the Attorney General to initiate necessary actions and proceed with amending relevant regulations.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the Treasury Operations Mr. H.C.D.L. Silva said that according to the outstanding bills over the past two months, sent by the Ministry of Health, Out of that 14 billion, around 10.5 billion are for the medical supplies. “So definitely we will be able to address that. More than two-month bills under the category of medical supplies within this month, it is around 10.5 billion. So we will provide money to the MOH,” he added.

Overall, the meeting highlighted the intention to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and address the challenges faced by the NMRA and the healthcare sector as a whole.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, Presidential Senior Adviser on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Presidential Secretary Saman Ekanayake, Prime Minister’s Secretary Anura Dissanayake, Health Ministry Secretary S.J.S. Chandragupta, Deputy Treasury Secretary R.M.P. Rathnayake and the heads of line government institutions, the Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena and senior officials in the health sector attended the discussion.

(President’s Media Division)


Excise officers who kidnapped Beedi businessman remanded




Five suspects including the Tangalle Excise OIC who were arrested over kidnapping and assaulting a Beedi businessman in Walasmulla, have been remanded till October 5 after being produced in the Walasmulla Magistrate’s Court.

The Excise OIC, two other excise officers and a driver from the Tangalle Excise Station and an army sergeant are among the remanded suspects.

The business license of the businessman residing in Maraketiya, Rajapuragoda in Walasmulla expired on June 26.

A team of excise officials including the OIC of the Tangalle Excise Station had arrived at his house on September 18 and seized the Beedi leaves.

Excise officials had demanded Rs.1.4 million from the businessman not to take legal action in this regard.

They had taken the businessman away in a three-wheeler, beaten him up, and then had taken an amount of Rs.1 million by force.

A nearby CCTV camera has captured the excise officers kidnapping the businessman.

Meanwhile, the four Excise officers were interdicted by the Commissioner General of Excise.

The decision has been taken following the instruction of State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

The four Excise officers were interdicted over the allegations of assault and soliciting a bribe from the Beedi manufacturer for not implementing the law against him for possession of Beedi leaves without a license.

Related News: 

Excise officials kidnap beedi businessman & forcefully take Rs.1mn

4 Excise officers interdicted for assaulting Beedi businessman

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Nandiyas, Sri Lanka’s oldest turns 109




The 109-year-old Magala Kottachchi Nandiyas, a resident of Kappettiagoda in Galle, is the oldest citizen in Sri Lanka, the National Secretariat for Elders confirmed.

According to his identity card, Nandiyas was born on June 3, 1914. Nandiyas, who lives a very healthy life even now, is a farmer by profession.

Although he had only gone up to grade five, he can read and write.

It is said that the reason for this senior citizen’s healthy lifestyle is the toxic-free nutritious diet.

Until recently, he has cultivated potatoes, sweet potatoes, and even cassava in his home garden.

He is a father of four and a grandfather of four grandchildren. The youngest grandson is now five years old.

Nandiyas is fondly called ‘Loku Aiya’ or Big Brother by the whole village.

The beloved wife of Mr. Nandiyas had passed away some time ago.

Although he has recently developed a hearing impairment, his memory is still intact.

Source – Dinamina

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Port City to be ‘Colombo Financial Zone’: President




President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that a new legislation has been drafted to transform the Port City as the Colombo Financial Zone.

President Wickremesinghe said this in his address at the 2023 Commercial Mediation Symposium at Colombo’s Hilton Hotel, the President’s Media Division said.

The event was organized by International Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre (IADRC).

The President underscored the significance of international trade agreements and the need for Sri Lanka to become a center for alternate dispute resolution.

He urged legal professionals to look beyond Sri Lanka’s borders and specialize in emerging fields like AI, Blockchain and green energy to secure the nation’s competitive future.

“Now we want Sri Lanka to be a center. One is the new legislation which will replace the port city to make it a Colombo financial zone with jurisdiction for offshore activity. The new law has been drafted. And we will see the light of day before the end of the year.”

“Secondly, the BOI will be replaced with the Economic Commission. Which is also looking at the resolution of disputes. We will be entering a number of free trade agreements. We have got one with Singapore. We are about to finalize one with Thailand. We are discussing with India to upgrade the agreement. Talking with Bangladesh. And more than that, we are moving to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). That’s the largest trading community in the world. So this means that alternate dispute resolutions are going to be important.”

In a final call to action, he offered government funding to support learning and expertise development in these new areas, inviting all stakeholders to join in the journey towards a more efficient and forward-looking legal landscape in Sri Lanka.

President Wickremesinghe emphasized that Sri Lanka must position itself as the central player in the region. When examining Singapore as a benchmark, Sri Lanka should strive to match or surpass Singapore in various aspects, except for cost, where it should maintain a competitive advantage.

This approach is crucial because there exists a noticeable void in this region, which Sri Lanka can effectively fill if it acts swiftly.

“This is the key lesson to be derived. Furthermore, it is essential for all lawyers and individuals involved in legal services to broaden their perspectives and explore opportunities beyond their current scope,” the President added.

Meanwhile, he acknowledged the long-standing reliance on trial courts and stressed the importance of embracing alternate dispute resolution methods.

Highlighting the government’s commitment, he mentioned the establishment of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Center in 2018 and expressed support for its continued growth.

President Wickremesinghe urged the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Investments to collaborate on supporting these initiatives.

“Alternate dispute resolution, arbitration, both have a long way to travel in Sri Lanka and that’s our problem. We have to first find ways of how we can adjust to this process. You need a change of culture. Change of culture where disputes can be resolved in the shortest possible time. Which means we are in a way wedded to the old concept of the trial court? Whether we have a domestic inquiry, we all want to follow the same procedure. I don’t know why. But nevertheless, this is one of the challenges that we have to face.”

He emphasized that success in dispute resolution was crucial for Sri Lanka’s aspirations to be an outward-looking economy.

The event was attended by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, State Minister Anuradha Jayarathne, Judges of the Supreme Court, Attorney General, Former Attorney Generals, Retired Judges of the Supreme Court, Resident Representative of UNDP Azusa Kubota, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, IADRC Chairman Dr. K. Kanag-Isvaran, Director & Secretary General of IADRC Dhara Wijayatilake, legal professionals and the representatives of reputed companies in Sri Lanka.

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