Engaged in a political sport!
By Bandara (Ceylon Today)
“By virtue of the powers vested in me by Section 25A of the Universities Act, No. 16 of 1978, I, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sumanaweera Banda Dissanayake, Minister of Higher Education, having obtained a report under Section 70C of the aforesaid Act in respect of the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (Pvt.) Ltd. (SAITM), a company incorporated in Sri Lanka under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, do by this Order and subject to the conditions specified in the Schedule hereto, recognize the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (Pvt.) Ltd. as a Degree Awarding Institute for the purpose of developing higher education therein, leading to the award of the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).”
This is the Government Gazette Notification which granted the right to SAITM to award a Medical Degree, which has now caused much controversy and is being branded as the ‘fraudulent degree boutique’ (hora upadhi kade) at present, and was issued by the then Minister of Higher Education of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government.
Then when the SAITM was legally empowered to award a Medical Degree, during the Rajapaksa administration, the Government Medical Officers Association and the Sri Lanka Medical Council who are screaming their heads off today stayed as silent as mice. They did not raise their voices at all nor did they protest in the slightest manner. It was the Mahinda Government that provided loans for the establishment of SAITM. Scholarships were provided by the Mahinda Government. Official permission was granted by the Mahinda Government. It is said that son Namal is the one who engaged in an observation tour to find out more about SAITM. All privileges and sponsorship required by SAITM was provided then. Then the Medical Council and the GMOA seemed as if they had swallowed sleeping pills!
In addition, when then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa set up the Medical Faculty at the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University the GMOA and the SLMC stayed dumb similar to crocodiles that had swallowed clay. They appeared not to care.
The students at Sir John Kotelawala Medical Faculty do not have a proper hospital for clinical training. What happens is that these medical students are deployed at various hospitals in order to obtain clinical training. Why does the GMOA which believes even today that Medical Faculty students who do not have a proper hospital for training can be sent to other hospitals for clinical training, object to SAITM which does have a proper hospital for training their Medical Students?
This is opportunism and hypocrisy which cannot be understood. Mahinda Rajapaksa who encouraged and provided all sponsorship for SAITM then, has today come to a position where they are displaying the nakedness of greediness for political power and shameless opportunism. Haven’t the members of the GMOA who kept their mouths shut with both hands then, who are howling today become pawns of opportunistic power hungry politics?
Mahinda Rajapaksa who considered SAITM to be of national importance then is today opposed to SAITM by ignoring the national importance which existed then. The requirement today is only to create some kind of opposition and regain power in any way possible. The anti-governmental protesters led by Mahinda are making use of democracy which was granted to this country through the Rainbow Revolution on 8 January 2015. They make wrong use of this opportunity engaging in behaviour that is extremely disgusting.
The main argument of the SLMC is that because there are no proper standards at SAITM, the medical graduates who will pass out of it will not have quality. It would be dangerous for the people of our country to be treated by such doctors. Therefore, SAITM has to be abolished. The GMOA which has suddenly developed an amazing love and affection for the people of the country and are shedding crocodile tears, launch strikes to receive duty free permits for the GMOA, for salary increases, to obtain superior schools for their children, to restrict the duties of midwives, is against the ambulance service received from India for free and make appeals regarding their income tax problems, put thousands of patients who come to the hospitals in this country to their utmost inconvenience, not even thinking of the patients on life saving machines in heart disease units? Did they think of the infants curled up in the premature babies units who are seeking to breathe on their own after seeing the light of day? They never considered the overall patients and engaged in strikes in the medical profession in a most disgusting manner which does not comply with the Hippocratic Oath.
It is the people who were rendered destitute then, who are asking where the social affection being shown through the SAITM issue was hidden by the GMOA during those strikes. Was it an unqualified doctor who cut off the left hand of a young woman who came to obtain treatment for her right hand? Was it an unqualified doctor who raped a young woman at the Negombo General Hospital, when she came to seek treatment, and threw her from an upper storey on to the ground? Was it an unqualified doctor who kicked a child and assaulted him with a slipper recently when the toddler’s foot had accidently hit him? We can point out enough and more examples of where doctors committed wrongs. However, the people never rose against these doctors. Should they be considered as faults or negligence? Where did these doctors who spoke in a heartfelt manner about the people and engaged in a strike in the morning, spend the evenings?
The majority of doctors spend their time at private clinics and private hospitals. These doctors who rejected treating patients during the morning hours and those who took the Hippocratic Oath, went and treated patients at private hospitals surprisingly enough complying with the agreement they had with those hospitals.
The government should publicize a list of names of the doctors who on days they strike went to provide treatment at private hospitals. There is another objective to these nonsensical protests which are being carried out with the SAITM issue in the forefront.
Whatever anyone says, this government did adopt the Pharmaceuticals Bill. It was a death blow to the pharmaceutical giants. The prices of medicines were reduced to some extent. Providing stents free of charge to heart patients from whom certain doctors charged whatever amount they wanted, did not agree with some. Supplying lenses for eye patients free of charge was also a hole in the purse for some in the medical profession.
Such progressive steps of the government caused discomfort to certain income earners who had taken the Hippocratic Oath. Therefore SAITM became a good weapon against the government. That is why they kept quiet then and are now creating a huge fuss. The nakedness behind the political power greed is unpleasant.
How many students are there in this country that sit for the GCE Advanced Level Examination but are not able to enter the university, even though they lost out due to a mark or two? Do the students who sat for the London A/L Examination who wanted a medical degree, have a future? If SAITM is not up to the standard, what should the people friendly GMOA and the SLMC do?
The government, the administration of SAITM and the relevant professionals should gather round one discussion table and come to a common agreement to raise the standards. If that agreement is a fair solution which everyone can accept, how much of a relief will it be, to everyone!
However, that is not what is happening. They said the Kotelawala Medical Faculty is ‘very good’ and approved of it while they say SAITM is no good. What is within this is opportunistic hypocrisy and mindless political henchman-ship.
Students of SAITM say that they are prepared to sit for any examination that the Medical Council wants them to. They say they are flexible. However, the GMOA and the SLMC remain deaf and dumb.
In May 2016, SAITM students had faced a part of the practical examinations under the supervision of great authorities such as Paediatric Consultant Ramya De Silva, Professor Mandika Wijeratne, Consultant Jayan Mendis and Heart Specialist Ruwan Ekanayake.
Are the above mentioned doctors unqualified or undervalued? What is basically taking place here is political illegitimacy. They have no justified reasons to show that they should be accepted as tied to the responsibilities of the nation as much as Hippocrates or as Shylock who asked for the entire pound of flesh.
What is being shown here is the power of each person’s dominance! What they are engaged in, is a political sport!