So the battle lines are drawn, and, what’s more, the cat is out of the bag. The Joint Opposition has decided to support the doctors strike, called for today, over the SAITM issue plus ETCA and the Trincomalee oil tank matter. Anyway, the coming together of the GMOA and JO was always on the cards from the tone and tenor of the GMOA’s attacks on the government and it was only a matter of time before the marriage was official. The GMOA is making no bones of the fact that it is now a fully fledged political entity by co-opting the JO in today’s strike action. Nay, it has thrown away it’s fig leaf that gave it cover as an apolitical entity and has plunged headlong into the lap of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
As stated, the development was not unexpected. The doctors had all along showed what their game was and where their loyalties lay. The GMOA President too only three weeks ago went on a harangue, virulently attacking government ministers at a meeting, opposite the Fort Railway Station.
The JO stalwarts, for their part, may be keen on sustaining the momentum of what they call the largest May Day crowd in history, by joining in the doctors strike. But they will only be exposing themselves as a bunch of hypocrites (not that they are already not). The SAITM issue did not originate with the Yahapalanaya government. It was set up with the blessings of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ditto for the private medical facility at the Kotalawela Defence Academy. The mortal fear of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa muzzled the likes of Panadenia and Naveen De Zoysa at the time. By coming out only now, with all guns blazing at the present government, the GMOA has only exposed itself to ridicule.
Things are now laid in black and white. The doctors’ Trade Union has now come out into the open to shamelessly be part and parcel of the ‘Bring Back Mahinda’ project. No amount of protestations by the doctors are going to now convince the public that members of the GMOA are the do-gooder medicos and champions of the cause of the patients, they portrayed themselves to be, but the palanquin bearers of a political leader to whom they are beholden for past favours. The doctors may have very good reasons for seeing the back of the Yahapalanaya government. The drastic reduction of the prices of essential drugs by the present government has hit the doctors badly. The cash strapped drug companies will not be able to fund the foreign junkets of the doctors as in the past. They (doctors) believe that a return of Rajapaksa would restore the status quo.
Doctors are highly regarded professionals, held in high esteem by society and looked upon by ordinary folk as gods for their life saving abilities and the healing touch. As such they should not mar this reputation by conduct that is unseemly of practitioners of a noble profession. The doctors are within their rights to fight for wrongs and injustices visited upon their profession and they can be assured the public will be behind them in their struggles. But members of the medical profession should not be seen to be getting themselves involved in political projects, especially attempts to bring defeated politicians back to power. This is exactly what the GMOA is doing today at the cost of suffering patients.
The doctors could not be unaware of the contempt in which the public at large hold our present day politicians, known for their corruption and sleaze. By supporting these politicians in the open the doctors too are bound to be held in contempt and run the risk of being painted with the same brush.
In any event the GMOA should not concern itself with issues outside the remit of medical practitioners. The doctors have now extended the scope of their demands beyond the SAITM issue to include matters such as ETCA and the Trincomalee oil tanks which are areas related to trade and economics and foreign relations. They cannot dictate what the government should do or not do and venture to teach it how the economy should be run. As educated professionals the doctors are well aware that today we live in a globalized set up with borders of nations blurred and economies integrated. Sri Lanka too is naturally drawn into this world order and we can live in isolation only at great cost to the country. Trade and economic agreements between the countries, particularly neighbours, are a natural outcome of this set up. Concerns about sovereignty or the adverse fall out to the country as a result of these agreements no doubt has to be considered and doubts cleared. But Sri Lanka cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world as a result of parochial considerations.
The government, on its part, should not hesitate to face the strike called for today, squarely, and ensure essential services are not disrupted in anyway. If it has to take drastic measures towards this end, so be it.