News

NMRA Chairman quits after ‘firing’ fiasco

  • Follows State Minister’s failed attempt to remove Board Members

  • IDH’s Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama nominated as replacement

  • Health Minister yet to approve

 

Senior consultant physician Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama

National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Chairman Prof. Asita de Silva has submitted his resignation a week after State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana’s unsuccessful attempt at removing four of NMRA’s Board Members.

Following the resignation of Prof. de Silva, the NMRA Board on Monday (15) has nominated current Board Member and National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH) senior consultant physician Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama as his replacement to Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

However, when inquired by The Morning yesterday (16), Dr. Wijewickrama said that while the Board has recommended him to be appointed as the new Chairman, an appointment for the position of the Chairperson has not been made yet.

“I have been recommended by the Board as the Board can make such recommendations, but Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi has not made any appointments yet. I heard that someone else is going to be appointed for this post.”

In a letter sent to Wanniarachchi on 15 March by NMRA Board Members, which was seen by The Morning, the Board had made reference to a letter sent on the same day, recommending the appointment of Dr. Wijewickrama as the Chairman following the resignation of Prof. de Silva.

In the second letter, the Board had recommended the retaining of Prof. de Silva as a Board Member of the NMRA.

“Members of the Board strongly believe that Prof. de Silva should continue to serve as a Member of the Authority,” the letter says.

Prof. Asitha de Silva

The letter was signed by Dr. Wijewickrama, Dr. LakKumar Fernando, Dr. Nissanka Jayawardena, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, NMRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Kamal Jayasinghe, Sanjeewani Dayaratne, Harshan Karunaratne, Dr. Nithushi Samaranayake, Dr. Kapila Ranasinghe, and Dr. Sanath Lanerolle.

As was exclusively reported by The Morning on 10 March, Prof. de Silva had received directives from Prof. Jayasumana to remove four NMRA Board Members including Dr. Abeykoon. The letter that carried the directives had stated that its contents would be effective from 9 March.

However, when contacted by The Sunday Morning on 13 March, NMRA CEO Dr. Jayasinghe denied the removal of four NMRA Board Members, and Prof. de Silva told The Sunday Morning that he had not received any such letter.

However, in a letter addressed to Prof. de Silva yesterday (16) from the Attorney General’s (AG) Department, responding to letters sent by him on 12 and 15 March seeking legal advice on powers relating to the appointment of members to the NMRA, Deputy Solicitor General Mahen Gopallawa has stated that the Minister, who is empowered to remove any appointed member from office, is “the minister to whom the subject of health is assigned”.

This has been stated with reference to Section 9(2) of the NMRA Act No. 5 of 2015.

Prof. Jayasumana was appointed the Acting Minister of Health on 16 February, after Minister of Health Wanniarachchi tested positive for Covid-19. However, she was reinstated following her recovery towards the end of February.