Never a dull mo­ment in our par­adise isle

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT -

with tak­ing to the streets and in­con­ve­nienc­ing the pub­lic as it read­ily con­cedes will hap­pen when it blocks the city.

It is fast be­com­ing a habit in this coun­try that politi­cians or in­flu­en­tial in­di­vid­u­als when re­manded or con­victed go from the courts to hos­pi­tal as though the courts of law and hos­pi­tals are linked by some pe­cu­liar kind of um­bil­i­cal cord.

How is it that doc­tors are per­mit­ted to act with such in­cred­i­ble speed on such oc­ca­sions but work at snail’s pace when gen­uine pa­tients seek treat­ment at State med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions? Why is noth­ing be­ing done by the govern­ment to stop such un­seemly prac­tices? Is it be­cause politi­cians fear that some day they too may need to re­sort to such short cuts to com­fort when their turn comes along?

If this govern­ment which speaks in such high moral tones can­not act to curb such crass prac­tices, it is time that a pub­lic and es­pe­cially pa­tients who are de­prived of needy treat­ment and are ill-treated when­ever these so called doc­tors take to the streets, de­cide that enough is enough and deal with the GMOA with ap­pro­pri­ate and pro­por­tion­ate re­tal­i­a­tion.

It was not too long ago that some fuel fill­ing sta­tions re­fused to pro­vide ser­vices to strik­ing doc­tors. If all sec­tors pro­vid­ing sim­i­lar ser­vices deny serv­ing re­cal­ci­trant doc­tors un­til they start be­hav­ing like civilised pro­fes­sion­als and not public­ity seek­ing and money grab­bing hood­lums the sooner they will learn that they can­not dic­tate terms of­ten on mat­ters that do not di­rectly con­cern them.

What ac­tu­ally hap­pened on this Black Friday I can­not, of course, say. But if these de­spi­ca­ble doc­tors be­haved with lit­tle or no con­cern for the pub­lic as they have done be­fore then they de­serve more than mere con­dem­na­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately this govern­ment is so brit­tle and some of its lead­ing lights pos­si­bly have con­nec­tions with some medicine men and women, that lit­tle is done to clamp down on them.

One is re­minded of the swift and mean­ing­ful ac­tion taken by Pres­i­dent J. R. Jayewar­dene when doc­tors of the day threat­ened his govern­ment with trade union ac­tion. The pre­vi­ous night ‘ JR’ in­voked the Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Act and de­clared the pro­vi­sion of med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties an es­sen­tial ser­vice. The Act pro­vided for the con­fis­ca­tion of the pri­vate prop­erty if nec­es­sary, of those who vi­o­lated the law. That stopped the doc­tors in their tracks. They did not want to lose their as­sets.

Un­for­tu­nately loud- mouthed politi­cians and equally loud-mouthed and rather empty headed doc­tors work in tan­dem in a dis­grace­ful dis­play of po­lit­i­cal thug­gery. None of them would have dared chal­lenge JR had he been hold­ing the reins of power.

Con­sider politi­cians such as Udaya Gam­man­pila who seem to have noth­ing to do but hold news con­fer­ences on every con­ceiv­able sub­ject. Last week he made the strange claim that “Field Mar­shal Sarath Fon­seka has put the lives of over 300,000 sol­diers in dan­ger by stat­ing that he will pro­vide ev­i­dence against mil­i­tary per­son­nel who com­mit­ted war crimes dur­ing the war,” one web­site re­ported.

“Speak­ing to the me­dia at a press brief­ing to­day, MP Gam­man­pila stated that the only way to save the lives of the sol­diers is to di­ag­nose the field mar­shal as a men­tal pa­tient”, the web­site added.

How the lives of “over 300,000” could be en­dan­gered is not only a math­e­mat­i­cal in­ex­ac­ti­tude but down­right silly un­less Gam­man­pila is con­ced­ing that the en­tire armed forces have in fact com­mit­ted war crimes, which I do not think is what Sarath Fon­seka ac­tu­ally said or any­body be­lieves.

It is this kind of hy­per­bolic non­sense that those like Gam­man­pila are ca­pa­ble of and, in this case, in­di­rectly con­demns all sol­diers who they re­peat­edly glo­rify.

In these cir­cum­stances some might well ask who should ac­tu­ally be cer­ti­fied for men­tal dis­e­qui­lib­rium not “di­ag­nosed” as Gam­man­pila re­port­edly said, un­less this lo­qua­cious politi­cian can call on a GMOA doc­tor to do so.

It is this sort of po­lit­i­cal joc­u­lar­ity that makes one’s day. Last Sun­day, for in­stance, this newspaper wrote that the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter who ap­par­ently prefers the multi-bar­relled name of Ak­ila Vi­raj Kariyawasam, car­ried hi­lar­i­ous in­stances of em­ploy­ment pro­vided by him to party or per­sonal sup­port­ers.

In one in­stance a driver has been ap­pointed to a school in a place called Naula in the Matale dis­trict. The problem is that the driver has noth­ing to drive ex­cept per­haps the head­mas­ter crazy. The school has no ve­hi­cle.

Then again he is said to have ap­pointed two cooks to a school in the Dam­bulla dis­trict. Now that school has two many cooks with noth­ing to cook. It has no kitchen. Per­haps the min­is­ter will soon de­ploy them to cook some­body else’s goose.

Since his UNP leader not so long ago promised a mil­lion jobs, this is prob­a­bly the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter’s con­tri­bu­tion to Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe’s wor­thy cause of solv­ing the un­em­ploy­ment problem.

Such eco­nomic whizz kids are surely nec­es­sary. Now the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter hav­ing ed­u­cated him­self on problem solv­ing can proudly turn to his leader and say “Hail Ranil, I come bear­ing thee wor­thy news”.

The Govern­ment Med­i­cal Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion (GMOA) stick­ing to their plans to block roads lead­ing to Colombo city on Friday. Pic by Amila Ga­m­age

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