Policing the Police
Last week in these very columns we urged the Interior Ministry to
‘do something’ to turn the clock of crime back - instead,
we find the Minister only asking people not to believe the newspapers
(see our Business Section) and a classic case of sheer incompetence
displayed this week in Matara. A UNP MP is reported to have intimidated
a postal worker (see our news story) and for three days the local
police have still not dared to question the MP, though as often
happens the victim has been quizzed.
It was only
the other day that the Matara police looked helplessly the other
way when a Cabinet Minister from the constituency cut a historic
tree of archaeological value. This is Sri Lanka lost, not re-gained.
If the Matara
police is so docile and spineless, Police HQ ought to send a special
team to investigate these crimes by politicians running amok as
if the areas they represent in Parliament are their fiefdoms. In
this plague of police politics, a consoling or positive note came
from the chairman of the Independent Police Commission. If vicitms
of police inaction or injustice make a complaint to the Commission,
it has the power to probe and remedy the situation. Brave words,
but can they truly deliver? Has the Commission the muscle to do
the policing the police find difficult to do themselves?
After several days of intense and see-saw bargaining with the United
States of America continuing with its bullying tactics, the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) yesterday reached a deal to ensure that
economically poor Third World countries like Sri Lanka would have
regular access to quality medicine at affordable prices.
is designed to allow poor countries which do not have their own
pharmaceutical industries to import low cost 'generic' copies of
patented medicines to fight diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
Sri Lanka reportedly
did not play any more than an observer or casual role at the Geneva
meeting but the country now needs to make full use of the concessions
and flexible mitigatory provisions obtained for the Third World.
ago the Supreme Court in an exemplary case of judicial activism
struck down several clauses relating to patent rights in an Intellectual
Property Bill which the government attempted to rush through Parliament
in what appeared to be yet another attempt (like the fingerprinting
saga viz-a-viz UK visas) to please the Big Powers at the expense
of our own people.
The State Pharmaceutical
Manufacturing Corporation has not been developed to make a substantial
contribution by way of local production. Till that is done the government
could use the compulsory licensing provision to authorise an Asian
company to produce drugs for Sri Lanka at affordable prices.
the pharmaceutical multi-nationals must spend huge sums on Research
and Development, and to them must go the gratitude of the multitude
for pushing the frontiers of medicine and health care. But if a
hard headed trader like the WTO has been persuaded to give a humanitarian
face to the market economy then no drug barons or drug industry-oriented
officials must be allowed to deny the fundamental right of humanity
to get quality medicine at affordable prices.