Centre for Policy Alternatives on 13 September, 2012

Language Equality in Information on Pharmaceuticals

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13th September 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In light of the recent article carried by the Island newspaper dated 7/9/2012 and titled “All three languages compulsory to market drugs from next year” the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) welcomes the stance taken by the Ministry of Health and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).

CPA notes that this development comes in the wake of two complaints lodged by Lionel Guruge of CPA with the Official Languages Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

In spite of Sinhala and Tamil being the Official Languages of Sri Lanka the packaging of pharmaceutical drugs contain descriptions and instructions mostly in English. CPA believes that it is in the public interest that the information on such products should be available without any language barrier, to all citizens of the county. Therefore we have requested that dosages, compositions, side effects and other relevant information on all pharmaceuticals be included in Sinhala and Tamil.

Two hearings were held regarding the complaint HRC 2249-12 made to the HRC (SL.) Respondents in this case included the Chairman, State Pharmaceutical Corporation, Managing Director, State Pharmaceutical Corporation, Director, Cosmetics, Devices & Drugs Regulatory Authority, Sri Lanka, Dr. Ajith Mendis, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Kamal Jayasena, Director, Health Services Section, Dr. Salaka Athauda, Chairman, Indigenous Pharmaceutical Producers Association and the Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Authority.

Accordingly the HRCSL informed in a hearing on August 7th 2012 that the respondents and complainants mentioned above should submit their recommendations by 30th September 2012.

As a National Health Policy is currently being formulated, CPA also suggests that a National Policy on Pharmaceuticals be included containing provisions outlined above.

Language equality implemented, in the printing of currency notes
That the sentence “This currency note that has been issued on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka is valid for any transaction within Sri Lanka” is not included in Tamil, and that the information is not presented in an equal way, in the printing of currency notes of Sri Lanka, was the basis of another complaint filed by Lionel Guruge of the Centre for Policy Alternatives with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC 2184-12). According to a decision given on 16th July 2012, the Superintendent of Currency who represented the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka at the inquiry, promised that equal opportunity will be given to both Sinhala and Tamil, the Official Languages of Sri Lanka, in the printing of currency notes in future.

These two actions are part of a programme promoting Language Rights in Sri Lanka, carried out by the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Download this press release as a PDF in Tamil here.
Download this press release as a PDF in Sinhala here.