Letters to the Editor

26th January 1997


People! Wake up!

Sometimes, the apathy of our Sri Lankans is appalling. Recently there was an article about the danger of unprotected railway crossings. At one place, it was said, that the overgrown grass and weeds hide the sight of oncoming trains, and therefore many accidents were happening. What struck me most was the fact that while being aware of such a situation, why don't the villagers themselves take the simple initiative to cut down the weeds? Is it such an impossible task? If the authorities won't do their part, let's save ourselves from death, and calamity at least when we could.

Now again recently the work to rule by the paramedics was taking its toll and the possibility of a strike action by GMOA either and over the salary issue or signing issue was looming large. Are we, the public going to sit around and watch it happen? How can we, the public, be held ransom for something, which we did not commit and we do not have control over? The obvious solution should be either negotiation or settlement in court. This is a fight between GMOA and the Minister. Why should the public be penalized and after having suffered through so many times, are we again going to sit back and accept it meekly?

It is frustrating to watch the government was sitting tight ignoring all the warning and threats of strikers and work to rule and coming forward to negotiate AFTER letting the patients suffer.

If the Minister and Unions have problems coming to the round table, let us, the victims - take the initiative to act as mediators. There was a "Patient's Watch" set up sometime back. I hope they will come forward to mediate if necessary. Prevention is definitely much better than treatment. Mediating negotiations will be much better than trying to file court cases over loss of lives and limbs. We would never be able to recover the losses in the true sense. It is upto us, the public to step in and do what the authorities - both unions and government cannot or would not do.

Incidentally I am also a doctor. I resigned from GMOA when they opted to pull out the skeleton services of the hospitals over a salary issue in 1983. I fully endorse the fact that the doctors do not need a union like GMOA to fight for their rights and seek remedy for injustices. But I would never hold the patients ransom for my/our problems. I know there are hundreds of doctors who feel this way, but have not thought about an alternative.

As far as the signing of the registers by the doctors is concerned - it would serve no purpose at all. The diligent doctors would always be diligent; the truants will find one way or another to cheat and I hasten to add, the number of truants among the doctors are minimum.

Normally the attendance and private practice times must be supervised by the Head of the Institute, though every doctor including consultants is answerable to the Head of the Institute who is either a District Medical Officer or a Medical Superintendent.

In practice, the Head of Institute might not have the courage to pull up another doctor for various reasons. In such cases, even signing on the registers would still be totally unreliable. What is there to prevent the doctors signing the register and disappearing from the hospital?

A better solution would be to revive the Hospital Committee Systems. A Hospital Committee should comprise the Head of Institute, some GMOA members of the Institute, as well some members from the Regional Head office and some responsible persons from the local population. It goes without saying that the nominations should be strictly non-political. This committee should meet at least monthly and discuss all the problems of the Institute including attendance of the doctors. There should be a box for complaints (even if anonymous) from the patients, kept at each hospital, which should be gone through by the committee however trivial it may look and the public should insist on being kept informed of the outcome of the meetings.

Provided the public is interested in obtaining the best services from the hospital without being a nuisance, This system could work out perfectly - for it did, when I was DMO/Akurana years back.

Remember Allah says, "Until the people strive to change their own situation, Allah does not change it."

Dr. Mareena Thah Reffai,


"Yes Sir" SLAS and the Black Sheep

Before Independence the Colonial Masters established Divisional Revenue Offices and Government Agent Offices to collect revenue from Sri Lankans and impose their authority on locals. They created an administrative framework consisting of Administrators for these purposes. The Administrators faithfully served the White Masters and suppressed locals up to Independence. Thereafter the Administrators supported the Lankans. Later this Administrative framework was named as Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) and the SLAS continued to play the same role.

In the meantime the Sri Lankan Government commenced many development projects and because of that they started favouring the professionals (Engineers etc.). For example initially Irrigation Engineers were paid one increment more than the SLAS. Later all public service engineers were paid three increments more than the SLAS. Also the Engineers were paid Exodus Allowance and Professional Allowance.

However the SLAS officers and Ex-SLAS Officers who dominate the Ministries were able to get the same increments and other allowances probably through lobbying as they were physically close to the Ministers. Also we understand that the SLAS was very active in widening the gap between the Government and the professionals, so that SLAS will be the favoured child of the Government. The SLAS has been very successful and their efforts have culminated in the proposal given under the item "Major shake-up in the public administration" which appeared in The Sunday Times of 05.01.97. This is one side of the coin.

Let us see the other side of the coin. The National Enterprises are being sold to the Multinationals. This is being opposed mainly by the professionals and professional workers.

Hence probably the Government feels that professionals are an impediment to the Government policy. Hence the Government may have decided to remove the professionals from vital places and replace them with the "yes sir" SLAS. The SLAS being the colonial remnant, the Government may have felt that the SLAS would actively support the transfer of National Enterprises to Multinationals.

It is our duty to give the real facts to the public and we are giving the above background to the readers for their information. Now let us look into the fallacy in the reasons given by the authorities.

According to the news item, it is proposed to replace professionals holding key Administrative posts by SLAS officers. It is common sense (which is rare indeed) that a key Administrator without a knowledge of the work of the Department he administers is not merely incompetent but is a national liability as he can be of little help either to the Department or to the Government. Therefore the SLAS officers who have little knowledge in the professional field will be a liability in Engineering and Scientific Departments.

The reason given for the proposal is that the professional in a key post is unable to carry out the works satisfactorily, because of his connections with his fellow professionals and trade unions. SLAS officers also belong to their trade unions and there are several SLAS officers present in many organisations.

Hence if the argument is true, then the key SLAS officers in non-Engineering and scientific organisations also could be made ineffective by their colleagues and their trade unions. If so, are they going to replace these key SLAS officers (who are in non-Engineering and Scientific Organisation) with professionals?

Irrigation Department Engineers Union

Irrigation Department,
Colombo 7.

"I'll go to hell with Fr. Balasuriya"

Your Holiness,

It is with horror I read your ex-communication order of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya due to his views as stated in his book "Mary and Human Liberation". His crime in fact, is no crime at all. He has simply depicted Virgin Mary the mother of Christ, as a role model for modern day mothers to follow in this harsh and crisis ridden world of ours.

Your Holiness insists that the good Fr. sign a "Profession of faith," thus rescinding his compassionate view, or be damned for eternity. My heart bleeds for the poor father's soul, which may be lost for ever. Where is this magnanimous love which you declare you have for the born and the unborn.

Fr. Balasuriya is in fact, in eminent company with this ex-communication order. Galileo Galilei was censured for declaring that the earth was going round the sun and not immobile as the Church's dogma maintained. His old friend Pope Urban VIII gave orders in 1633 for him to be tortured if he did not conform and declare that the earth is at the centre, of the universe. Indeed Galileo was lucky to escape a more ignoble fate at the hands of the Holy Inquisition because, he was acquainted with the Pope. Gidino Bruno was not that lucky. For his opinion that there may be other worlds and suns in the universe and that we are not at its centre, he paid the ultimate price. He was simply roasted alive.

I know Your Holiness that you are the Vicar of Christ, and that all Popes are infallible. But then on the other hand, you are a much travelled person, and if you were to take a plane and travel in one direction you return from the other. Hence the world must be round. I hate to agree with Galileo and get ex-communicated, but everyone is assuring me that the world is round, and it is going round the sun.

Holy Father, if the Holy inquisition is in operation, we could have tortured or even burned him if he does not come round to acknowledge the self evidenced truths of the church. Unfortunately such powers have been dismantled from you. Even a Holy Crusade is ruled out now by this faithless world.

And consider Your Holiness if you remember your history that in the year 1409 there was not one Pope but three. Pope Gregory XII of Rome, Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon and Pope Alexander V. The Wags at that time were going round declaring mockingly that "We believe in three Holy Catholic Churches". Worse, these Popes were going round ex-communicating each other. Did that help? Alas no! So do you believe that people will take seriously your present ex-communication order.

At this stage I must most respectfully inquire why the silence all those Nazi years, when Adolf Hitler was butchering the Jews by train loads. Hitler would have confessed I am sure, and was given absolution for all his crimes. Yet you must admit your Holiness, Fr. Balasuriya is a saint by comparison, and if there was this acute need for an ex-communication wouldn't Catholic Hitler have suited eminently? But we understand Holiness, Fr. Balasuriya is a simple third world priest and not a slaughterer of millions.

At this stage I must come right out and confess that I am a believer of the Buddha's Philosophy. This does not mean we belong to some sort of club, for Buddha only gave an explanation of a process.

Yet I must confess I have a problem of reconciling with your dogma however hard I try. Under the circumstances you have a good case to damn me and send my soul to burn in hell. After all poor Fr. Balasuriya would be quite lonely burning for eternity in hell that I am willing to keep the Fr. company.

But I do have a better proposition for the good Fr. to escape from his mental anguish. Let him tread the noble path of the Buddha where tolerance is extended to both man and beast.

Mahinda Weerasinghe


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