The Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court ordered the remand of former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella until February 15. Sri Lanka Latest News Accordingly, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella, who was remanded in custody, was later admitted to the prison hospital. He has been charged in connection with the case regarding the questionable antibody injection incident. Ms. Lakmini Girihagama, Deputy Solicitor General of the Government, who started presenting the facts before Maligakanda Magistrate Ms. Lochani Abeywickrama, informed the court that former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella is named as the 8th suspect in the case of the “Human Immunoglobulin” antibody injection doses in question.
“My Lord, today this suspect is brought before your court for aiding and abetting the criminal misappropriation of the funds of the Republic of Sri Lanka in terms of section 5/1 of the Public Property Act.”
“This suspect is the one who is primarily responsible for making a substandard solution like Alvatura to be given to the tax-paying citizens of this country. This suspect has changed the existing procurement process in such a way that the registered suppliers of the Drug Regulatory Authority have been removed and the private suppliers who supplied substandard vaccines can enter the procurement process. If the existing procurement process is not changed, the relevant supplier will never be able to supply such substandard vaccine doses.”
“In the face of the economic situation in the country, the standard procurement process is changed to an emergency procurement process as a result of a conspiracy to award the tender to the first supplier who supplied these inferior vaccine doses. That is why Swamini arrests the first suspect for aiding and abetting the criminal misappropriation of more than 144 million rupees of government money.”
Here, the Deputy Solicitor General of the Government subjected a cabinet paper presented by the former Minister of Health, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella, to severe questioning in front of the court.
“The president appoints the health minister intending to create a healthy people. But Lord, the suspect in this case has submitted a cabinet paper on September 26, 2022. It is said that 182 medicines are in short supply and 17 medicines are non-existent in the country. It has been mentioned in the said cabinet paper that the antibody vaccine called “Human Immunoglobulin” which is in question in this case, is in short supply. But at that time there was no shortage.”
“From September 2022 to July 2023, 9500 doses of those vaccines per month have already been received against the background of the national requirement of 7500. Also, it has been mentioned in the related cabinet paper that if these medicines are not supplied, the health system of this country will collapse in 03 weeks. But by January 2023, only 09 out of 182 medicines have been provided by the said emergency procurement process. Therefore, by pretending that there is a shortage of drugs, he has presented this cabinet paper to the supplier who wants to play this game to enter the procurement process. “
Also, the Deputy Solicitor General stated that no document was found during the investigation which was the basis for the preparation of the cabinet paper in question, much to the surprise of the magistrate and the aggrieved party’s lawyers.
“Sir, this cabinet paper in question has been prepared in the department under the Ministry of Health’s Pharmaceutical Production and Supply Regulation Additional Secretary Mr. Saman Ratnayake. But, sir, we did not find a file containing the documents on which the relevant cabinet paper was prepared during the investigations. At least during the investigations, we did not find a document containing the names of 182 medicines. “
Here, the magistrate asked whose signature a cabinet memo is addressed to the cabinet.
In reply the Deputy Solicitor General said that under the signature of the Minister
The Magistrate asked again how can it be said that the relevant document file is not available.
Then the Deputy Solicitor General replied as follows.
“This is not only the file related to the cabinet memorandum, sir. No files were found. When I asked him about this yesterday, he said that he did not know that the relevant list was given by the Medical Supply Division and that the cabinet paper was not prepared by him. But it is clear in the powers of the minister that the minister is responsible for every cabinet paper.”
The then Finance and Economic Stabilization Minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe has clearly instructed not to make payments from the Ministry of Health’s money to the private suppliers supplying medicines under the India Loan Scheme. Ignoring even those instructions, more than 144 million rupees have been paid.”
“In 03 days after the money was credited to the account of the first suspect, all the money has been withdrawn from the account. Therefore, Lord, considering all these facts, since this suspect has been presented under the Public Property Act, he is requested to reject the bail application and request that he be remanded in custody.”
Then, on behalf of an aggrieved party, Mr. Nalinda Indatissa, the President’s lawyer, presented the facts before the court.
“This is the first time in the history of Sri Lanka that Swamini is being brought to court for a criminal offence while still a minister. It is a serious situation that the file related to the first cabinet paper cannot be found. It cannot be said that a minister is not responsible for the cabinet paper he presents. A minister can’t just sign this cabinet paper saying it was prepared.”
Mr. Upul Kumarapperuma, the President’s lawyer who appeared on behalf of an aggrieved party, also presented the facts before the court.
” As a citizen, I feel very sorry for the way a minister has acted, hearing that there was water in the vaccine bottles. Therefore, Lord, if any person has lost his life due to these questionable doses of vaccines, I request the honourable court not to register this incident as an offence under public property.”
Then, the President’s Advocate Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne, who represented the Sri Lanka Bar Association, gave evidence before the court.
“Sir, the one in question is not the stuffed animals that were imported to feed an animal. Medication is given to critically ill patients. Therefore, Lord, bring all those responsible before the law and confirm the people’s trust in the law of the country.”
Then President’s Counsel Mr. Anuja Premaratne presented the facts on behalf of the suspect Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella.
“My Lord, the complaint says that the entire cabinet has been misled by the cabinet paper presented by my client. Does the cabinet sign any cabinet papers that come to them? Please call the entire cabinet and get proof of where they went astray. If the file is lost, Lord tell me to find the person who lost the file. Do not sue the minister for that. Because the judge is not wrong to say that the case goods were lost in a court. Lord, please release my client as there is no case against him. My client is taking 07 types of medicine for many diseases.”
After considering all the facts presented, the magistrate announced her order.
“It cannot be said that the minister has only a mere participation in the presentation of the cabinet paper in question. Because the minister is the supervisor of all payments and affairs of a ministry. He has all the responsibilities of the ministry beyond just signing a document.”
“Therefore, there is evidence before the court that the 8th suspect as well as the currently remanded suspects conspired to misappropriate millions of rupees to the first suspect in this case. Therefore, this suspect is also ordered to be remanded until the 15th.”
Apart from this, the court ordered the Criminal Investigation Department to conduct an investigation into all the supply of medicines by the supplier in question during his tenure as the Minister of Health.