The different face of GMOA strike

Daily News Editorial

The doctors are at it again. The GMOA yesterday downed its tools or rather stethoscopes in what was called a token strike, all on account of issues quite outside its remit. Hospitals countrywide were chock-a-block with unattended patients enduring hardships in various stages of agony, as shown on TV. The good doctors are protesting against certain budget proposals. They are opposing the abolition of the pension scheme for new recruits to the state sector, taxing public servants, violating fundamental health policies and exposing the domestic job market to foreigners.

Except for the so-called Health Policy issue, one is at a loss to fathom how, the issue of pensions, and the question of the so-called threat to the domestic job market, can concern the doctors who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to pursue a much more noble task- the healing of the sick. We did not see the doctors protesting when swarms of Chinese nationals were employed in the Hambantota harbour project during the Rajapaksa era. Is it because Indian nationals are much less in the scale of existence to the Chinese that the doctors looked the other way, never mind that India is the birthplace of the Noble One.

It cannot be a coincidence that the strike was staged on the eve of a private bus strike planned by certain private bus unions in the south. Coming on top of the doctors strike, it is clearly meant to cause the maximum impact on the general public and thus create the most damage to the government. Allay this to the demonstration launched on Tuesday by university students and that of Samurdhi officers at the entrance to the parliament drive, there can be no question that a sinister plot is afoot to bring about disruption in the administration with the hope of tripping the Yayapalanaya government.

This is more so, since there was hardly any strike by the doctors in the entire decade long rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa, except a feeble attempt against the recruitment of Indian doctors at the Lanka Hospitals, which eventually fizzled out without much ado. Was it because Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was at the helm of Lanka Hospitals that the doctors acted lukewarm, if not chickening out altogether? Ditto for the private bus operators. What in fact are these private bus owners demanding by urging the government to withdraw the Rs. 25,000 fine for serious road offences? That they be allowed to go their merry way breaking all highway rules with impunity and kill or maim more road users and commuters?

What will be the doctors demand next? They have already had their way with regard to admission of their children to selected government schools, with the President granting some leeway in this regard. The doctors had better realize that a national budget is a fiscal plan of any government that charters its future economic path. ECTA or any other trade agreement is part and parcel of this economic plan for the country. The GMOA cannot dictate to the government on how it should run the country or its economy. There are certain trade pacts entered into by governments in order to boost economic growth. There may be negative fallouts, which is left to the government to cope with. Even when the open economy was initially introduced there were negative fallouts, like the indiscriminate imports and the flooding of the local market with substandard goods. For all that, the open economy was pursued with by all successive governments after JRJ, including governments that had more than a sprinkle of socialist ministers who once railed against the open economy.

Besides, a budget is not a document to be amended or trifled with, once presented to parliament, on the whims and fancies of doctors, or anyone for that matter, lest the fiscal plans go haywire. The doctors union should not get involved in matters that are the sole prerogative of the rulers of this country, whether they are good or bad for the country.

None will know how many patients did have their conditions worsen due to the callousness of doctors. Equally, there will be no knowing if the delay caused by the strike in the treatment if a particular ailment would lead to the death of a patient.

Time was when our medical fraternity were deified by the public and treated with near reverence. The kindness shown and comfort given by doctors of yore, it was said, went a long way towards healing a patient than any medication. The remarks and comments made by some of the suffering patients, interviewed on TV, demonstrated the contempt in which our present day doctors are held, a far cry from the reverence shown to our medical practitioners in the good old days.

The government should wake up to the reality that what is being played out in the open today is a concerted effort by sinister political forces to cripple the essential services, that have a direct impact on the general public. By this means, it is intended to make the government unpopular, and what is more, show its ineffectiveness to govern.

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