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Sri Lanka: Free Health Care to Be Limited for Addicts

(Aug. 31, 2010) On August 26, 2010, Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka's Minister of Health, announced a plan to amend that country's laws so that the free medical facilities that are provided to all citizens will no longer be available to those suffering illnesses caused by addiction to drugs or alcohol. Sirisena, speaking at a ceremony for new nurses at a training school, stated that the cost to the public of curing diseases caused by drug and alcohol abuse is massive. As of 2011, anyone sick due to their addiction will have to pay for their own health care. He went on to say that the purpose of the proposed change is not to cut public expenditures, but to create a “pious society,” part of a special government initiative known as “Mathata Thitha.” (No More Free Medication for Sri Lanka's Drug Addicts and Alcoholics from 2011, COLOMBO PAGE (Aug. 26, 2010),

“Mathata Thitha” stands for “a full stop to drugs and liquor.” (Nadira Gunatilleke, President's Mathata Thitha Brings Results: 90 Per Cent Dip in Smoking in Public Places, Alcohol Use, DAILY NEWS (Colombo) (June 27, 2008), Although two years ago the government claimed great success for the program, crediting it with a 40% decrease in alcohol use (id.), more recently doubts on the effectiveness of the initiative have been raised. Tissa Attanayake, a Member of Parliament, pointed out on August 25, 2010, that liquor revenues increased by four percent in the last year. (Liquor Revenue Up by 4% Despite Govt's “Mathata Thitha”: Tissa, NEWSFIRST.LK (Aug. 26, 2010),