Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena blasts tobacco industry for attempting to bribe

 Manjari Peiris, Sri Lanka 
(First published in The Asian Tribune, Sri Lanka on 26 September 2013)  
The Minister of Health Sri Lanka, recently made a shocking revelation proving the worldwide well established notorious demeanour of the tobacco industry-- their attempts to bribe politicians, policy makers and journalists etc. -- to hinder bringing in people friendly health policies in the country. Generally laws are meant to protect the people of a country, but very strangely the tobacco industry demands and seeks legal remedy for itself to further engage in ‘man slaughtering’.

Whoever supports such mean attempts in whatever manner to gain ‘wealth and benefits’ holding whatever position, is a traitor to society, his/her country and the world. The results of this crafty engagement with such a vicious industry in its evil doings have to be borne by the evil doer someday.

The tobacco industry in Sri Lanka states that it contributed rupees 26 billion to the government last year as tax on cigarettes. Of course it failed to mention that this money was not paid by the industry, but by the poor smokers who had been enticed and deceived by the industry without revealing the harmful effects of smoking. The tobacco industry has been unfaithful to its customers by refusing to portray pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets. The government spends money to treat tobacco victims who are in hospitals which is more than ten times of the tobacco tax paid by the industry. Tobacco smoking makes a person die in their productive years which is a loss to the society and the families where smokers are the breadwinners.

While speaking at a felicitation ceremony held in Polonnaruwa Royal College, Rajarata Vidyalaya and Palugasdamana Vidyalaya, Maithripala Sirisena, Health Minister of Sri Lanka, made the startling revelation that the tobacco industry had attempted to bribe him to block the issuance of the special gazette notification which made it mandatory for tobacco companies to print pictorial health warnings covering 80% of the principal area of each packet of cigarettes. The Minister said the money offered to him was adequate to purchase properties for 15 generations of his family in one of world’s happiest countries, but he rejected the offer outright since he values his country and the well-being of the people. “A study places Sri Lanka at the 137th position among 194 in a list of the “world’s happiest countries.” he said.

According to the Minister, the tobacco industry had repeatedly tried to approach him for a discussion. But he refused to meet them since he did not have anything to talk with them. Many in the tobacco industry had wanted him to stop his antismoking campaign. But the Minister did not want the money offered by the multinational tobacco companies. He said, “I would never betray my country and my people to any multinational company, I would never give up my struggle, although in terms of past history, all who fought against multinational companies were killed.”

“There is a possibility of assassinating me or my character. May be this decision will decide my political destiny. But I will never ever give into the tobacco industry. There are many organizations and the public who are supporting my crusade. I will somehow implement the 80% pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets with the assistance of all of them.” the Minister affirmed.

The Minister further stated that arrangements would be made to educate school children in Sri Lanka on the harmful effects of smoking. “Children, wives and shop owners would be asked to prevent their loved ones and the public from smoking.”

 Manjari Peiris, Sri Lanka 
(First published in The Asian Tribune, Sri Lanka on 26 September 2013)

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