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Environment, health sectors go hand in hand - Minister Maithripala Sirisena

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided yesterday when Parliament met at 9.30 am. After the presentation of papers and oral questions Parliament took up the debate on the third reading of the Appropriation Bill 2011.

The financial heads of the Health Ministry, Indigenous Medicine Ministry, Child Development and Women’s Affairs Ministry, Social Services Ministry, Environment Ministry were taken up for debate.

*Sajith Premadasa (UNP): One of the most significant sectors for the public is the Health sector. When we consider the health service the service is not commendable in many hospitals. There is a deterioration in the services provided by Primary Healthcare institutions. Those institutions can play a major role in controlling chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, health diseases, high blood pressure etc. Fifteen percent of the population in the country is suffering from diabetes while 30 percent is suffering from High blood pressure. The allocations made for the primary healthcare institution is not adequate.

It is commendable that the maternal mortality rate is reduced from 58 to 35 for 1000 births from 2005 to 2007.

The Government has to focus on the fact that 25.2 percent of the children in Sri Lanka are suffering from anaemia. Measures should be taken to provide them with iron-rich foods.

*Wimal Weerawansa (Construction and Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister): The Deputy UNP Leader had stated to an English language newspaper that an investigations should be made into war crimes against Sri Lanka but Sajith Premadasa stated his opposite view to another newspaper.

*Sajith Premadasa (UNP): My stance is that war crimes have been committed only by the LTTE.

*Anura Priyadarshana Yapa (Environment Minister): The constitution has provisions to protect and preserve the environment. Now Sri Lanka as a tropical country experiences heavy rains and European countries heavy snow falls. It is accepted that we have to save the biodiversity.

We have initiated a program to double the national income and maintain the development growth rate at 8 percents. The Government has reached a policy decision to reach sustainable development while preserving the environment.

The Deputy UNP Leader had stated to an English language newspaper that an investigation must be made to incidents involving war crimes in Sri Lanka and Sajith Premadasa stated through the Sinhala media an opposite view.

The UNP is attempting to create two different images one to Sri Lanka and another to the international community. Then they speak of developing the country while trying to make the country politically unstable.

As long as the UNP maintain this double standard policies they can’t bring about the development they are talking of and also they don’t have a future.

This Government under Mahinda Chintanaya has initiated many projects at rural level to preserve the environment while achieving development goals.

The industrially developed nations all over the world have added pollutants to the environment for 200 years affecting the entire environment. Even today many nations gathered in Mexico are attempting to formulate a solution to these issues. But the capitalist countries, that are held in esteem by the UNP, always hinder the search for a solution to those issues.

The government is attempting to formulate a mechanism to recycle garbage.

Money is allocated for reforestation schemes to be initiated in the central highlands.

The government’s “Deyata Sevana” project that was planned to plant 1,100,000 saplings across the country was remarkably successful. There are statistics that show 3,500,000 saplings were planted during 11 minutes. We hope to continue that project. The support extended by the media for that project was commendable.

We have formulated a mechanism to recycle all electronic waste from mini batteries to computers.

P Harison (UNP): The condition of the Anuradhapura Hospital is very poor. Most of the hospitals have no required medicines. People come to general hospitals with high hopes. But when they are asked to buy panadol from the pharmacy they become helpless. If this is the condition in general hospital, what is the use of free medical service in the country?

As a person who hails from a village we see that the Health Minister is taking a huge effort to solve the problems in this sector. We appreciate it.

About one third of the children in this country suffer from Malnutrition. This is stated in the UNICEF report. One out of four women in the country also suffers from Malnutrition. This is a serious situation.

The vehicle emission test is operating in an very inefficient manner. I request the Environment Minister to look into it.

*Indigenous Medicine Deputy Minister Pandu Bandaranayaka: The President in the Mahinda Chinthana policy mentions that preservation and bestowing the knowledge of indigenous medicine is a duty granted to him by history. I strongly believe that this duty can be fulfilled successfully.

Sometimes illnesses that cannot be cured through western medical treatment are cured by indigenous medical treatment.

We initiated an Indigenous Medical Week and many activities are planned for this week.

The cultivation of herbal plants is given prominence and a large sum of money is utilized in this work. A program called ‘Tikiri Herbal Plant Gardens’ is carried out in this regard.

Many do not consider this Ministry as important. But it has many more duties and capacities. It is a Ministry that has been prevailing even during the time of our kings.

We have declared an aryurvedic zone and hope to attract more tourists into this zone.

Even foreign investors have come forward to support this sector. We hope to promote local food items as food consumption practices can prevent many illnesses without depending on medicine all the time. We have now taken measures to use rice flour instead of wheat flour in making various food items including bread.

A program is also continuing to the purchase of herbal plants. A program to import necessary indigenous medicine is also given consideration.

*Maithripala Sirisena (Health Minister): When compared with other countries in the region, Sri Lanka has succeeded in achieving the determinants and indices set by the World Health Organization (WHO)for health. A large number of health indices including the life expectancy of our people have been highly appraised by the International Community.

Arrangements are being made to launch the National Drug Policy next year. It is a very complex and challenging task.

Measures have been taken to establish the National Drug Regulatory Council next year to streamline the drug business, which is currently reported with many malpractices and corruptions.

*Shivashakthi Anandan (TNA):

*Wanni people badly affected by floods

The people in Wanni have been badly affected by floods due to heavy rains in the country. They have suffered much from lack of food, shelter and cloths. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them the required facilities.

Hospitals in the North should be uplifted with required facilities including drugs, CT scan machines, ambulances and other medical equipment.

The drainage systems are in a dilapidated condition in each hospital. The shortage of doctors and nurses are another problem prevailing in Northern hospitals.

Most of the hospitals are functioned with inadequate staff. There are a number of widows, disabled and elders in the region. There should be a meaningful program by the Government to enhance their living standards.

*Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle UPFA:

Sri Lanka gets top place for excellent health service

Sri Lanka while presently supplying a free health service to its citizens, have arrived at a prime position among countries in the South Asian Region that sustain the excellent health service.

The Ministry has taken steps to eliminate malnutrition. But there should be a proper coordination among every stakeholder to avert this problem. In order to reduce malnutrition, the livestock industry and the agriculture sector should be improved.

It is praiseworthy that collective efforts made by the UNDP, UNICEF and Sarvodaya to provide nutritional supplements to children in welfare centres in the North.

It is also necessary to provide iron supplements to small children to prevent animia.

Threeposha supplements too should be provided to lactating and pregnant mothers and small children without interruption.

*Ajith P Perera (UNP):

More women should be law makers

Women’s rights should be upheld in the country. Our mother, wife and sister play a significant role in society. In Sri Lanka, the women’s contribution is very less in decision-making when compared to other countries. Women’s representation in politics is also at a very low level. We know that it is mentioned in the Constitution that all are equal, irrespective of gender. Therefore, when the laws are amended, special attention should be paid for women. It is necessary to provide more opportunities to women so that they could get elected to provincial councils and Parliament by each political party.

About 57 Hela Veda Gedara (Indigenous Medicine Centres) are to be established all over the country. About 30 of them have been already completed.

We have implemented a program in collaboration with embassies to promote indigenous medicine.

*Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair:

*Asok Abeysinghe (UNP): The financial allocations made in this budget for the Health sector is not sufficient. Only about Rs 13,000 million is allocated for the importation of medicine. Sometimes even the allocated money is not properly distributed.

From this budget, the Port and Airport tariff is removed from imported medicine.

This benefit should reach the ordinary people. About 2,000 Thalassemia patients are recorded in the country. About Rs. 300,000 – 400,000 is necessary to take care of one Thalassemia patient.

About 60-65 new Thalassemia patients add annually. But no money is allocated for their welfare in this budget.

People are deceived by food supplements imported to the country which are sold at very high prices. It is claimed that these food supplements contain various vitamins.

The attention of the relevant authorities should be drawn regarding this matter.

*Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena: Prominent attention is given to the Health Sector by this government. Both environment and health sectors go hand in hand.

Even though there are some weaknesses our health sector is ranked high in the world. We have maintained high standards. Due to our better position several foreign countries have requested for establishing a regional cooperative institute in our country to train doctors.

Our research sector is also very advanced. Many researches are being done in our labs and positive results achieved.

We are highly concerned about the nutrition level of our children and women. We hope to reach better conditions in the Health sector. Malnutrition problem have a history of about 30-40 years. The importation of unhealthy foods and the collapse of local food production have also helped towards the increase in malnutrition.

*Social Services Senior Minister Milroy Fernando continues: Floral gardening should be uplifted. Women should be encouraged in this work. More facilities should be given to those who engage in it.

*Thalatha Athukorala (UNP): All the Ministers appointed to Ministries that we take up for debate today are efficient and capable. They try to do something and when mistakes are pointed out they pay attention to them.

I would like to pay attention to the Gem Industry. This is a world renouned industry. About 50,000 people are directly involved in this industry in Ratnapura. Many more people are involved in this industry indirectly.

There are many problems in issuing gem mining licences. Those who engage in gem mining have to go to the head office to obtain the licence. The previous method of giving licences is changed now. I request that the obstacles faced by these people be looked into.

*Indigenous Medicine Minister Salinda Dissanayaka: I express my gratitude to all those who spoke about the indigenous medicinal sector today. ‘Ayurveda’ means the science of living a long life.

*Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the chair

*Salinda Dissanayaka continues: Ayurvedic medicine has a long history in the world as well as in the country. Some say that we inherited it from the ancient period and some say we received it from a foreign country.

Indigenous medicine was brought to attention by SWRD Bandaranaike after independence. It is President Mahinda Rajapaksa who paid attention to this sector after the Bandaranaike period.

Over 200 institutions are involved in indigenous medicine. About 3 million people obtain the services of indigenous medicine annually. About 25,000 people are admitted to hospitals to obtain Ayurveda treatment. There are over 20,000 registered indigenous medical doctors in the country. Indigenous medicine is a good solution to those who are tired of following Western medical treatment.

Cultivation of herbal plants is important. I suggest that a separate institution be established in this regard. Sometimes medical herbs are imported to the country spending a large sum of money.

The renovation work of Navinna Research Institute will be completed as soon as possible. Some foreign agencies have acquired patents for our valuable herbal plants. This process should be prevented.

A program to preserve traditional medical systems should also be planned.

I think a national food consumption policy should be introduced. Our people fall ill and their health conditions deteriorate as a result of consuming unhealthy and non-nutritious food sold in various food outlets.

The research sector is also encouraged and more facilities will be given to those who are involved in it.

*Wasantha Aluvihare (UNP): I would like to pay attention to few points relevant to the Health sector. We see that the Health Minister strive hard to improve this sector. Therefore we see that most problems in this sector will be solved within the year 2011. We also see that the Health Minister did not raise any criticism against the Opposition for pointing out mistakes. We see that he has divided his powers among Provincial officers too aiming for an efficient service. We appreciate his attempt.

Financial allocations for the Health sector in the Central Province is not adequate. Matale General Hospital has a shortage of medicines. There should be a proper management of financial allocations given to the Health Sector. I strongly believe that under Minister Maithripala Sirisena this management will be handled in a correct manner.

*A H M Azwar takes the Chair Thilanga Sumathipala (UPFA)

I would like to pay more attention to the environment as a person who lives in the city. About 1000 metric tonnes of garbage are collected by Colombo Municipal Council daily. Since there is no proper waste management system, the Council had been filling lands by dumping waste. But is small and our lands have high value. Therefore land filling is not a solution to this problem.

Today, we see that the Environment Minister understands the seriousness of this issue. He has made a solid plan to solve this problem. He has initiated a collective method to solve this problem and we wish that he can find a better solution through this program. The quality of the air should also be checked.

*National Assets Senior Minister Piyasena Gamage :

I would like to pay attention to indigenous medicine in the country. Necessary publicity should be given to promote indigenous medicine and people should be made aware of its values.

We initiated a project to broadcast a one minute program on TV and radio about the medicinal value, importance and use of herbal plants. This helped to build the image of the Indigenous Medicine Ministry.

We also initiated ‘Herbal Plant Garden’ projects in schools. Through this we could improve the knowledge of schoolchildren about our indigenous medicinal plants.

We also encouraged our indigenous community to grow herbal plants. Through them we could meet the demand for herbal plants. I express my gratitude to those who assisted me in my work when I was holding the responsibility of this ministry. I also express my best wishes to the new Minister and Deputy Minister.

*Ajith Kumara (DNA)

As a concept the government upholds that the Provincial Councils should be strengthened and the powers be divided. However it is the provincial health institutions that face many difficulties in the country. The allocations made for the upliftment of provincial health institutions are not sufficient.

So how can the Provincial Councils maintain the hospitals under them? Many important hospitals come under Provincial Councils. The needs of these hospitals should be satisfied.

The dengue menace still prevails in the country. There are 33,000 dengue patients reported upto November this year. Therefore, it is necessary to streamline and expand the dengue combat program allocating sufficient financial provisions on behalf of the people of this country. The Government is still engaged in importing drugs from foreign companies which are black listed. This is very dangerous.

It harms the lives of the people. It is reported that 38 percent of drugs imported to the country are not upto standard.

*Dr Rohana Pushpakumara (UPFA): The health sector in Sri Lanka has achieved a significant place in providing free health service to the people.

It has given a prominent place in the financial heads of the Government and allocated necessary funds to meet the health requirements of the ordinary people. The infant mortality rate has gone down while low-weight at birth has shown a decline. The Malaria menace has already been eliminated. Dengue menace is being controlled successfully with the assistance of all segments of society. As a whole, the health sector is maintained at a satisfactory level.

*No concessions for war widows - Chandrani Bandara (UNP)

Child Development and Women’s Affairs Ministry has been given step-motherly treatment. It has not been allocated sufficient funds through this Budget to carry out new programs in developing children and women in Sri Lanka. The cost of living has tremendously increased in the recent past especially women undergo great hardships due to an increase of the CoL.

The Government has not provided any concession to widows of Security Forces personnel.

It is necessary to launch a meaningful program to uplift the living conditions of these widows.

*Child Development and Women’s Affairs Deputy Minister M L A M Hizbullah

We are responsible in setting the stage for children and women of this country to live safely, contentedly and free of bondage. We intend to provide care, welfare and upliftment of children and women socially, economically, culturally through the development activities set and implemented for the year 2010.

We have planned to implement new development programs for the benefit of women and children with the intention of realizing those valued expectations.

*Vijayakala Maheshwaran (UNP): Affairs of women and children should be given more consideration. There are many widows due to the war that prevailed in the North and East.

There are no proposals to upgrade their living conditions through this budget. Self-employment should be promoted through women’s societies in these areas. Even I am a widow. Therefore, I know the difficulties encountered by them.

There are a large number of children who have lost their parents. Their needs should be understood and urgent measures taken to look after them.

There are so many deficiencies in the hospitals in these areas. A health camp should be conducted for them weekly. About 35,000 people in Killonochchi and Mullaitivu are affected due to floods these days.

*S Alantin (UPFA): Some say that the money allocated for defence is too much. But today, we have been capable of creating a peaceful environment in the North and East.

They are now living without fear. There is much development work to be done in these areas. Health facilities in the area should be improved.

Since it is a resettled community, there is a lack of human resources and other necessary facilities in hospitals. I request the Minister to pay more attention to these hospitals.

During the war, even Sinhala doctors provided services in these areas. The continuation of their services should be ensured for the welfare of the people.

Consultation and counselling programs should be conducted for children and women in these areas. The President has paid special attention to children in these areas and which is highly appreciable.

There is a considerable number of disabled people and necessary facilities should be given to them.


Population growth rate in Sri Lanka is about 1 percent- Minister Felix Perera

Chief Govt Whip requests for inquiry

Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena requested the Speaker to investigate if a person paid by Parliament could make a statement to the media in connection with behaviour of Members.

Minister made this request in connection with a point of order raised by UPFA Parliamentarian during the committee stage debate of Appropriation Bill 2011. A H M Azwer stated that a person paid by Parliament has made a statement to media in connection with behaviour of Parliament Members and it was against the standing orders. Early childhood care development programs a must

*Social Services Minister Felix Perera: I am glad to speak about the Social Services Ministry and I also take this opportunity to thank my predecessor in this Ministry Douglas Devananda who continues to hold the duties of this Ministry even enduring 16 attempts on his life.

It is seen that our life expectancy is increasing and as a result the older community is increasing in numbers.

Some countries have cancelled pensions due to this growth of the elderly population.

We have to reconsider about the decision to amend the retirement age. The population growth has been gradually decreasing due to various reasons such as birth control methods. The population growth rate in Sri Lanka is about one percent.

It is expected that by 2050, the elderly population will be 50 percent of the total population.

We have to look into the needs of disabled people rather than just sympathising with them. A proper program for beggars should also be implemented.

We meet blind people. There are about 170,000 blind people in the country. A program to socialise them is being implemented and public should be made aware of the reality about them.

Even though they are blind, they have many other talents and skills.

The President has allocated a large sum of money to the social service sector understanding the importance of this subject.

It is not our aim to develop Elderly Homes, but we have to arrange suitable conditions to look after them.

*Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.

*Abdul Haleem (UNP): There is no doubt that the conclusion of war is everybody’s fortune. What is remaining is a development battle.

There are many challenges in the Health sector and we believe that Minister Maithripala Sirisena is the most suitable person to hold the responsibilities of this Ministry to cope with these challenges.

There is a flood threat in the Akurana region. Some unauthorized constructions were removed in this area, but the problem was not solved.

The area goes under water even after a six hours rain. I would like to bring this to the notice of Environment Deputy Minister Abdul Cader.

*Vidura Wickramanayake (UPFA): The Health Minister is making a huge effort to defeat the existing mafias in this sector while providing a better service to the public.

I request the Health Minister to provide more facilities to provincial hospitals.

Many tourists are in the country seeking indigenous medical treatment. But there is no proper plan to promote it. The benefits of indigenous treatment which are highly valued by tourists should be granted to local people too.

In a Buddhist country with a Buddhist civilization, there should not be a greater number of elderly homes. The damage of environmental disasters is very serious. In a way, I am happy that even Parliament went under water, because attention of the relevant authorities will be directed towards these problems.

*Hospitals lack proper facilities – Yoheswaran

*S Yoheswaran (TNA): There are many deficiencies in hospitals in our area. The teaching hospital has no proper facilities and the human resources are also not adequate. Even the transport facilities are insufficient.

The Batticaloa Hospital has no sufficient space. The accident ward should be upgraded. Due to the increasing number of vehicles in the Eastern Province, the number of accidents have also increased.

Therefore, medical facilities should also be improved. We appreciate the work initiated under Dengue Prevention Campaigns. But the programs to make people aware about dengue are not adequate.

*Environment Deputy Minister Abdul Cader: First I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President for placing his faith on me to vest the responsibilities of this Ministry as the Deputy Minister.

We have implemented Haritha Lanka Program around the country. This program has targeted 10 broader aspects.

This program ensures sustainable development in the country while removing barriers for development.

We have also looked into the solid waste management and the inauguration of 2nd stage of pilisaru waste management program.

It is a huge initiative taken by the Ministry. As a pilot project to develop environment friendly products we have published an environment diary and have distributed among grade 3 students in 26 schools.

We have also taken measures to develop a national climate change policy.

This is nearing its completion and has reached the final stage.

*Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair.*

*Chandrasiri Suriyarachchi (Social Services Deputy Minister): Initiatives have been taken to operate a mobile service by the Social Services Ministry in the Kurunegala district. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has allocated Rs 8,000 million for construction of houses for war heroes and their welfare.

*Lalith Dissanayake (Deputy Minister of Health): Sri Lanka is one of the best countries that provide free health services. When such a free service is provided few mistakes could be occurred. The Government’s stance is to extend the free health service further. The Mahinda Chinthanaya noted it clearly. The financial heads were passed with amendments.

*Y G Pathmasiri (UPFA): Early childhood care development programs should be conducted bringing together experts of childhood development including related institutions and parties for a expeditious and fruitful functioning of all sorts of early childhood development services in Sri Lanka.

Introducing standards of early childhood care and development, formulating standards to reach targets of early childhood programs and working out standards of pre-school teachers, should be included in this process.

*How are detained children to attend school?

*P. Ariyanethran (TNA):

Over 50 women and children are detained in camps in the North. Please take measures to release them and provide them with better living conditions. How are these children going to school when they are detained.

A number of deformed children who are affected by the war are living in the North and East. They are presently looked after by their parents and relatives. Still, the Government has not formulated any programs to improve their livelihoods.

*We have attained much under Chinthana banner

Tissa Karalliyadda (Child Development and Women’s Affairs Minister):

We were able to do a lot in the previous months, under the banner of the Mahinda Chinthanaya new vision in developing children and women through new programs.

Accordingly, we have embarked upon a series of new programs in all areas, including North and East.

*Gamini Jayawickrama Perera (UNP):

There is a big demand from foreigners for our indigenous medicinal treatment. It is an accepted fact that medicinal preparations made using natural plants are more beneficial to health than other alternative treatment methods. The country has a conducive climate and geological conditions to grow herbal plants. The Nawinna Research Centre must be upgraded with the latest facilities to conduct research.

*The House was adjourned until 9.30 am today.

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