PHM Sri Lanka - Symposium on Human Rights, Independence of Judiciary and Health Rights.

17 Jan 2014

People’s Health Movement, Sri Lanka (PHMSL) held the above Symposium on 11 January 2014 with their member organizations which was held at the Nagarodaya Centre, Borella, Colombo 8. The hall was fully packed and all the participants listened to the proceedings enthusiastically. Dr Vinya Ariyaratne took the chair.

Mr Saliya Peiris, prominent Human Rights Lawyer in Sri Lanka spoke on the prevailing human rights status and the situation on the independence of the judiciary of the country. He explained that the Sri Lanka Constitution does not have the right to life and he mentioned that by way of certain judgments, the right to life has been accepted. Mr Peiris stated that many human rights are included in the Sri Lanka Constitution but at present those rights are in danger because of the deterioration of independence of judiciary. As an example, the abolishing of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution and the Impeachment of the former Chief Justice. It was his fervent view that if human rights are to be safeguarded it is vital to have independence of judiciary.
Dr Manuj Weerasinghe, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo spoke about the health rights. He emphasized that the Sri Lankan Constitution does not mention about the right to health. He further explained that it is our bounden duty to make sure that health rights are included in the Sri Lanka Constitution. Dr Manuj further stated that there are many judgments which can be used to protect health rights.

After that, as regards the Drug Policy, Dr Manuj mentioned that the National Medicines Drug Policy was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in 2006 which includes 10 areas that need to be implemented. The citizens of this country need to know if those areas are addressed adequately and in a comprehensive manner in the draft National Medicinal Drugs Authority Bill. Hence, we should demand that this bill in full should be given to the public to observe and comment. The citizens of this country have the right to know that the contents of this Bill, before it is presented to the Parliament. The citizens of the country are to suffer if harmful provisions are included or deliberate safeguards are omitted in this Bill. This Bill is kept under close doors up to now even from the professionals and key stakeholders and health activists. He further emphasized that this very action could arise suspicion on the actual contents of the proposed bill.

Dr Dayanath Ranatunga, Sri Lanka Representative of UNAIDS explained why we use health rights approach for health programmes. The victim blame approach discriminates the victims. The rights based approach protects the rights of the victims. Especially, when we work to control HIV and AIDS, we have to protect the rights of the PLHIV. He stated that otherwise we are creating more problems to victims and he explained about the present doctor-patient relationship as a power struggle. The patients do not have the courage to find out details from the doctor. Hence, our duty is to empower common people to have a dialogue with the medical people.

After this, many participants presented their individual views. All agreed to have a campaign to know the status of the Drugs Policy. It was also decided to be vigilant about the independence of judiciary.

Sirimal Peiris

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