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Groups defend doctor facing inquiry over YouTube video

By Pamodi Waravita

 

The Power of Working People organisation has condemned the Ministry of Health’s disciplinary inquiry against Dr. Chamal Sanjeewa for allegedly giving an interview to a YouTube channel, a few days after a circular was released by the Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. Dr. S.H. Munasinghe instructing Ministry officials to refrain from speaking to the media.

Speaking to The Morning, signatory to the Power of Working People organisation and Government Medical Laboratory Technologists Association President Ravi Kumudesh said that the recent disciplinary inquiry into Dr. Sanjeewa is a direct violation of freedom of speech.

Copies of the circular, dated 19 May, which was circulated on various social media sites, noted that the Establishments Code prevents Ministry officials from criticising the policies or procedures of the Government health sector.

“Currently, the policy making power, the power to obtain benefits, and also the power to condemn decisions to gain popularity in the media is within the stranglehold of a small gang. They do not obtain our input at the Ministerial level, and hence we are forced to criticise them in the media,” opined Kumudesh.

Kumudesh further said that he himself had been the subject of a disciplinary inquiry approximately three months ago for allegedly expressing his views to the media. However, at the time, he had pointed out to the committee conducting his inquiry that criticisms were first sent in writing to the Ministry Secretary and then to the President, and that if they do not receive satisfactory responses from them, they then turn to the media.

“During my inquiry, I presented a list of 40 decisions that we believe must be reviewed. However, there has been no response to that either,” said Kumudesh.

All attempts to contact Dr. Munasinghe regarding the matter proved futile.

The Free Media Movement (FMM) on 21 May condemned the circular by Dr. Munasinghe which instructed Ministry officials to refrain from speaking to the media.

The FMM has noted that both the right to the freedom of speech and the right to information are guaranteed under the Constitution, which stands above the Establishments Code.