Ex-Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella Hospitalized After Arrest in Procurement Scandal

Keheliya Rambukwella, the former Health Minister, was transferred to the Prisons Hospital following a medical recommendation after being remanded earlier on Saturday. Arrested on Friday, February 2 by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Rambukwella is in custody until February 15th, as decreed by Maligakanda Magistrate Lochani Abeywickrama.

Identified as the 8th suspect in a case involving the acquisition of subpar human immunoglobulin, Rambukwella’s arrest follows seven prior arrests linked to the scam, with the fifth accused subsequently released on bail. Currently, including the former Health Secretary and the owner of the company accused of supplying the defective immunoglobulin vials, five individuals remain remanded.

Deputy Solicitor General Lakmini Girihagama charged Rambukwella with altering the medicine procurement procedure, enabling unlicensed suppliers to partake in the process. Despite no evidence of a human immunoglobulin vaccine shortage, Rambukwella had sought Cabinet approval for emergency medicine purchases.

Girihagama highlighted the absence of documents justifying the emergency Cabinet paper, raising courtroom concerns. She disclosed that Rambukwella admitted the medicine list originated from the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) and denied preparing the Cabinet memo himself.

Over Rs. 144 million was paid for these procurements, with the funds withdrawn from the account of the primary suspect within three days. The prosecution contends that Rambukwella’s bail should be denied due to charges under the Public Property Act.

Defense counsel Anuja Premaratna argued for the questioning of all Cabinet ministers involved and questioned the singling out of Rambukwella based on one document. Urging the pursuit of the individual who misplaced the documents rather than blaming Rambukwella, Premaratna requested bail considering his client’s health issues.

Magistrate Abeywickrama concluded that Rambukwella, as the health minister at the time, bears responsibility for the ministry’s actions, extending beyond mere document signing.