Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne says that he could lead the country someday as he does not bow down to the might of tobacco companies.
The Health Minister said at a ceremony held in Gampaha to declare open an Osu Sala of the State Pharmaceutical Company there recently:
"We came under severe pressure when we decided to increase tobacco prices by 90 percent. Pressure also came from within the yahapalana government itself. But, I did not back off. Then a scholar pointed out to me that I was qualified to accept the responsibility of leading the country since I was fighting for the benefit of the common man."
The Health Ministry said, in a media statement, quoting the minister that tobacco companies were now complaining of losses and could not run their businesses after the recent tax and price increases of tobacco products. "They can shut down their businesses. No one will oppose it."
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, was on the side of tobacco companies, Senaratne said. "When we wanted to make it mandatory to print pictorial warnings on 80 percent of the display area of the cigarette packets, the former President sided with the tobacco industry. With the help of the judiciary the area was reduced 60 percent."
Among those who attended the ceremony were former Deputy Minister P. Bandaranayke, Gampaha District UNP MP Chatura Senaratne, Chairman of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation Attorney at Law Sarath Liyanage and Managing Director Dr H. M. M. Rumy.