By Sunalie Ratnayake –
On the 13th of February falls the birth anniversary of one of the greatest humanitarians ever produced by mother Lanka. He is a man who was earnestly concerned, and therefore had justly sacrificed many an ordeal along with obstacles to make certain that the mundane individual (in this case, the deprived “patient”) obtained their medicinal goods at a price within their means. He is a man not only dearly remembered and cherished locally by those hitherto familiar of his existence, but also a man who had been exceedingly commended globally. He is non other than the late Prof. Senaka Bibile of Kathaluwa Walauwa.
Birth and Edification
Bible who was a Sri Lankan Pharmacologist was the founder of the island’s drug policy. His pronouncement of the national drug policy was used by global organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), as well as by many other countries, in terms of developing drug policies based on coherent pharmaceutical utilization.
Being the son of Wellassa Chief Native Feudal Official (Rate Mahathmaya) Charles William Bibile and Sylvia Jayawardhana, Prof. Bibile obtained his primary and secondary education at the prestigious Trinity College in Sri Lanka’s Hill Capital. Following same, the youngster who revealed brilliant learning skills from an early stage in life, subsequently entered the Colombo Medical Faculty, further attesting his brilliance by winning gold medals for “medicine” in combination with “surgery” and obtaining a First Class Honours Degree at the Colombo Medical College in 1945. In 1952 he returned to his isle of birth with a PhD, which was a result of postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1958 a new department was materialized at the University of Ceylon, where Prof. Bibile was appointed as the head of the department, as the first ever professor of Pharmacology.
A world renowned drug policy
Bibile’s drug policy happened to be a gargantuan step against imperialism, where the ill-fated would have otherwise suffered by and large, and paid the ultimate price of bereavement, being unable to purchase medicinal drugs for their ailments. Bibile remains the key figure who played a momentous role in terms of developing a ‘rational’ pharmaceutical policy, which set sights by and large, on guaranteeing that the impoverished civilians were within the reach of reasonable medicinal drugs at an fair price. Thanks to Prof. Bibile, today the common man can purchase medicine at a reasonable price from the State Pharmaceutical Cooperation (SPC) a.k.a. Rajya Osusala, also he being the founder chairman of same. The year was 1971 and the said appointment was granted by the then Cabinet Minister of Industries T.B. Subasinghe.
Moreover, Bibile’s agendas ensured that the physicians prescribed only the minimum required quantities of drugs to their patients under all possible circumstances. Therefore, Bibile’s approach in the arena was not only an eye opener to numerous so-called scholars including professors in our day, who have done nothing other than gratifying their personal lives by satisfying their own unflattering desires via the benefits of public establishments and funds, but also Bibile’s schema was a lesson taught to certain physicians who are not at all concerned about the patient’s wellbeing, but on the contrary, are only combating to fill their own pockets via the funds gained from unreasonable prescriptions presented to the poor patients.
Moreover, as Bibile’s conducts included the establishment of the aforesaid national policy and state body (SPC), it staggeringly regularized the pharmaceutical trade, where if not, the pharmaceutical companies had been manipulating the trade by selling drugs under their trade names, publicizing preconceptions on the branded drugs, as opposed to the generic medicines.
Prof. Bibile’s Political Interests and Demise
As a member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Bibile the Trotskyist conducted duties as treasurer of the party’s youth leagues in his day, and also conducted Marxism study classes at his Castle Street residence. With a number of other academics, Bibile was also the founder of the Gothatuwa Building Society, Sri Lanka’s first ever cooperative housing scheme.
Last but not least, Sri Lankans widely reckon that Bibile’s untimely and mystifying demise on September 29, 1977 at the age of 57, while on a UN mission in Guyana to introduce his policies in that podium may be having a possible connection with the threat he post on the drug multi-nationals. Prof. Bibile’s service to humanitarianism in his chosen field remains unparalleled to date. Consequently, it’s a nation’s duty to remember and appreciate this noble man of Lankan soil, on his anniversary of birth that has fallen by. Had he lived up to today, he would be celebrating his 92nd birthday, probably on a tranquil mode, reminiscing his remarkable life and times as a true human being.
Having initially heard of him at a Medical Exhibition booth at the Peradeniya University as a pre-college student, moreover having researched and fervently read about Prof. Bibile, I wish to commit him into my memory as “The Man Of The Eon,” reflecting on Denagama Siriwardena’s anecdote on Bibile titled “Yugaye Minisa”.