Saturday 15th July, 2023
The Opposition is reportedly planning to move a motion of no confidence against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella for the procurement of, inter alia, substandard drugs, which have already caused several deaths and visual impairment in a number of patients, in some state-run hospitals. Most of the drugs imported from foreign companies that are not registered with the National Medicines Regulatory Authority have been found to be of low quality, according to media reports.
General Secretary of the Physicians’ Union Alliance for Medicine and Civil Rights, Dr. Chamal Sanjeewa, has told journalists that surgical instruments used on cancer patients are also substandard. It is therefore fervently hoped that the Opposition will go ahead with its no-faith motion so that there will be a parliamentary debate on the sorry state of affairs in the Health Ministry.
The Opposition, however, should not make the mistake of singling out the Health Minister when it calls for punitive action. He is to be blamed for corrupt deals in his ministry, and will have a hard time, trying to convince the public that they are cut unbeknownst to him or he has had no hand therein; nothing can be done in any ministry without the knowledge, or the direct involvement, of the minister concerned. But the fact remains that there are many crooks among the Health Ministry officials, and they must also be exposed and made to pay for their crimes against the people, such as enriching themselves by purchasing substandard drugs, equipment, etc., at the expense of patients’ lives. Only a wide-scope probe will help expose all crooks and their corrupt deals and bring sufficient pressure to bear on the government to take action against them.
The Opposition should not turn its campaign against the Health Ministry corruption into a political circus to gain some traction lest it should alienate a section of the public. Not all prominent campaigners for cleansing the health sector are paragons of virtue, as is public knowledge; there have been very serious allegations of bribery and financial irregularities against some of them, and among them are Opposition politicians. But what is needed to rid the health sector of corruption and ensure the safety of patients is a multi-pronged strategy, which requires steadfast political backing; hence the need for the Opposition’s active involvement in the ongoing anti-corruption drive. There arise occasions when the support of even notorious lawbreakers such as forgers, and safe crackers, has to be enlisted to catch other elusive criminals; we find ourselves in such a situation that we have to set thieves to catch thieves. So, the Opposition has a pivotal role to play in the country’s fight against bribery and corruption.
The identities of the crooks responsible for importing unregistered low-quality drugs, etc., are already known; they have systematically rigged the drug testing system and rendered it dysfunctional to enable themselves to make emergency purchases of substandard pharmaceuticals from the companies of their choice and laugh all the way to the bank.
The least the Opposition can do to show the public that it cares for them is to amp up pressure on the government to probe the corrupt, whose greed is killing poor patients. It has to match its rhetoric with pro-people action and go ahead with the promised no-faith motion.