The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

04th August 1996



Another medical crisis brewing

By Shyamal Collure

The Colombo Medical Faculty Students' Union will stage a picket at 12 noon tomorrow near the Lipton Circle demanding the government among other things, to guarantee employment for all locally qualified medical graduates, to stop the employment of foreign qualified medical graduates as post interns in the ministry in case of serious cadre restriction and to reconsider the decision to restart the AMP training program.

The Medical (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 1996 passed recently overruling the decision of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) has further aggravated the controversial issue over the employment of foreign qualified medical practitioners in the state health sector.

The Act amending the Medical Ordinance now enables those who have obtained their Degree of Bachelor of Medicine or an equivalent qualification outside Sri Lanka to register as medical practitioners without sitting for the qualifying - Act 16 Examination. This Act, which was passed on June 19, applies to all graduates with foreign medical qualifications who joined the Ministry of Health before May 17, 1991. Once they complete 5 years of service, they will be fully registered making them entitled to the rights and privileges of full registration.

At two meetings of the SLMC held in June and September last year, the Council decided that graduates with foreign medical degrees should pass the Act 16 Exam before becoming eligible to apply for internship or employment. The Registrar of the SLMC, Prof. P.S.S. Panditharatne told The Sunday Times that though Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie had clearly overruled the Council's decision, the word of the latter would remain as it had now become the law. The Council simply couldn't do anything about it, he said.

It is learnt that the SLMC was not consulted regarding the Amendment.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in a recent Gazette notification has called applications for recruitment of new Assistant Medical Practitioners (AMPs). Mr. Anuruddha Padeniya, President of the Colombo Medical Faculty Students' Union, pointed out that this notification came at a time when Minister Fowzie himself had said that he was not in a position to give jobs to all locally qualified medical graduates in the ministry.

"It is extremely difficult for us to understand these contradictory positions of the ministry. Why should the ministry absorb AMPs when it cannot take in all the fully qualified MBBS graduates", he asked.

Undergraduates of the Medical Faculties of Colombo, Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Ruhuna and Sri Jayawardenepura campuses have come out strongly against the uncertainty of state employment for medical graduates in future. They have also protested against the employment of foreign qualified medical graduates in the state health sector, the registration of such practitioners without the Act16 Examination and the move to restart the AMP's training program.

Minister Fowzie stated that there was no official decision earlier to stop recruiting new AMPs. "This is only a training program. Jobs are not guaranteed to the trainees. However, it might help when promoting certain government health sector officers.

"The prospective trainees know that jobs in the government sector are not assured to them. We have told the same to medical undergraduates. Just because the ministry might not be able to employ all the medical graduates passing out, we are not going to close Medical Faculties", he reasoned.

Cell lunch for Satana editor

The Editor of Satana and four others, including a female journalist, who were arrested for putting up posters about the publication of a new paper known as 'Madam Hoo" were produced before the Mount Lavinia magistrate .

They were remanded until August 8. In the picture the editor of the paper, Rohana Kumara and three others are seen having lunch wrapped in an old newspaper in the court cell.

Devolution talks with UNP

Representatives from the EPDP, SLMC, CWC, TULF will meet the UNP on Wednesday to discuss the devolution package.

According to Douglas Devananda, the parties will try to explain to the UNP the PA's stand on the package. "We hope to bring the UNP and the PA to a common understanding since both parties do not agree on certain topics. This meeting follows our last meeting with the UNP about three weeks back," he said.

Chanaka Amaratunge

An inimitable innings

Rajpal Abeynayake

The death of Chanaka Amaratunge removes from the scene a colorful and talented man. When Amaratunge founded the Liberal Party, probably eight years ago, an English daily announced that 'one Chanaka Amaratunge', had founded a party with Liberal inclinations.

For Amaratunge, those were heady days. Quickly, he attracted a following of itinerant intellectuals, academics and youthful scholars. The life and the soul of the party, Amaratunge managed to convince many of his close associates, and then some, that there was a future for his brand of British-cloned Liberalism in this country.

Amaratunge's fresh and youthful dream was not to be, and now, with his death an ephemeral albeit unrealistic vision poignantly draws to a close. Latterly, even his closest associates had said good-bye to his politics, some in the style of a Judas-like betrayal. Amaratunge was obviously shaken by these vicissitudes, but his zest for life and the undiminished desire for the theatrical saw him through many misfortunes.

Beneath the very rotund and corpulent exterior was a driven character, a man who had considerable organizational skills which coupled with a not inconsiderable intellect, made him, in the eyes of some, a brand new national hope. In good measure, many of the ingredients that went into the making of many political legends in this country were attached to Amaratunge in those early days when he plunged headlong into politics after an eventful career in Oxford.

In the manner of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike before him, or even Lalith Athulathmudali, Amaratunge had been to one of the two premier educational institutions in the country, and then in Oxford, he had held the coveted post of the President of the Oxford Union.

Any parallels end there. Amaratunge was a fierce almost quaint right-winger, and any compromises he made through expediency were also destined to be flawed. But, nevertheless, Amaratunge will be remembered for some very brief and shining moments in which he illuminated a tardy political milieu with some rigorously researched and relatively zestful ideas.

His mark was left on many political manifestos that were not to be - the DPA manifesto of the doomed opposition coalition of 1988, and Gamini Dissanayake's document on which he based his 1995 bid for the Presidency being two of the most noteworthy. As luck (or his own miscalculation) would have it, Amaratunge who was never an MP, often backed the wrong side. But, he never lost his zest for ideas.

In life, perhaps Amaratunge's short span of 38 years was in many ways an inimitable innings. In politics and in living, Amaratunge was either removed from reality, or did not care a whit for it - it was difficult to tell which. Often he cut a figure in a buttoned down light blue Mao jacket, and in a manner of speaking breezed in and breezed out. Quite like the way he lived and died.

Fowzie furious over saline fiasco

The saline controversy has taken a dramatic turn with the Medical Supplies Division of the Health Department ordering the withdrawal of all remaining bottles from hospitals despite objections from Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie.

The controversy had erupted last year after some two million bottles of intravenous fluids were imported from India's Core Health Care Company amidst allegations by the GMOA and others that this variety was contaminated with a fungus.

Minister Fowzie had earlier rejected the charges by the GMOA and insisted that the bottles of saline were safe. But the National Drug Quality Assurance Laboratory recently confirmed there was fungal contamination in samples of this IV fluid and the Medical Supplies Division immediately ordered that tens of thousands of these bottles of saline be withdrawn from hospitals for quality testing officials said.

Minister Fowzie reacted angrily. He said he was baffled by what he saw as a "mischievous" decision by the MSD. Mr. Fowzie said that earlier when a stock of saline from Malaysia was suspected to be contaminated no such total withdrawal was ordered.

MSD sources said about 10,000 bottles were being withdrawn but some doctors told 'The Sunday Times' the number of such bottles in hospitals totaled about 100,000.

Mr. Fowzie said if any of the bottles was found to be contaminated, the Indian company would pay damages. He charged that the whole saline controversy was a plot by a rival company which wanted to get the contract.

Supreme Court rules for Cornel

Six Government nominee Directors of Hotels Developers Lanka Ltd. (HDC) the owning company of Hilton Hotel have been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay Rs. 20,000 as costs to Cornel Perera, Chairman and Managing Director of HDC/ Colombo Hilton.

The Government Directors against whom this order was given were K. Kanag Eswaran PC, Srinath Perera PC, former advisor to the Ministry of Finance, Nihal Sri Amarasekera, Chairman of UDT, P.B. Jayasundera and Padma Maharaja.

In this application, the Supreme Court was asked to review and set aside earlier orders made by it directing the District Court to hear and determine Cornel Perera's application for an interim injunction as expeditiously as possible.

The earlier Supreme Court order had also extended an enjoining order issued by the District Court up to 10.6. 96 or the conclusion of the inquiry, whichever is easier.

In its order on July 26, the Supreme Court held that "the charge in position after the first application and the attempt to bring in extraneous and irrelevant matters lead to the conclusion that it was also a misuse of process of the court and that there is cause for the complaint of the plaintiff that he has been unduly and unfairly vexed."

Justice Mark Fernando who delivered the judgment agreed with the principles laid down by a five member bench of the Supreme Court in the recently decided de Silva V. Fernandupulle case, with regard to whether an order made by one bench of the court can be reviewed by a differently constituted bench or by a fuller bench.

Manik heads Editors' Guild

Manik de Silva was unanimously elected as the President of the Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka at its annual general meeting last Wednesday at the Trans Asia Hotel, the guild announced.

Upali Tennekoon was re-elected as the Secretary and A. Sivanesachelvan as the Treasurer.

A council including Mervyn de Silva, Sarath Cooray, Bandula Padmakumara and Lasantha Wickramatunga was elected.

A special vote of thanks for the service of the first President of the Guild, Mervyn de Silva was proposed by Siri Ranasinghe and adopted unanimously by the Guild.

The current censorship was also discussed at length at the meeting, which resolved to announce a course of action to be implemented shortly by the Guild.

Stay on plea to Anura

Employees of the Bandaranaike Memorial Foundation have written to the Prime Minister requesting her to persuade Anura Bandaranaike to stay on as chairman of the foundation.

In a letter signed by 118 of the 130 employees, they state there were reports that Mr. Bandaranaike might step down after two terms as chairman during which he had displayed efficient, honest and capable administrative skills.

When The Sunday Times contacted Mr. Bandaranaike, he said he had not decided yet whether to stay on or quit the post.

Open University honours two educationists

Two eminent educationists, Emeritus Professors B.A. Abeywickrema and Swarna Jayaweera were conferred Honorary Doctorates at the 9th Convocation of the Open University held at the BMICH recently.

Professor Abeywickrema was the Professor of Botany and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo and the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sri Lanka while Professor (Ms) Jayaweera was the Professor and Head of the Department of Social Science Education, University of Colombo.

The themes of the two orations delivered by Prof. Abeywickrema and Prof. (Ms) Jayaweera were on "Human Values" and on "Extending Educational Vistas in Higher Education" respectively.

The Convocation was presided over by the Chancellor, Dr. Gamani Corea and with the participation of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor N.R. Arthenayake, the Deans, Registrar, Academic and non-Academic staff.

MIRJE condemns train blast

The movement for Inter Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE) has strongly condemned Wednesday's train bomb explosions.

The MIRJE also said;

"This was an act of deliberate terror designed to target non-combatants. The prime suspects in this attack are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"While MIRJE has always opposed war, it specially deplores attacks that deliberately target civilians. Despite the war, there are basic measures that both parties to the conflict can and ought to take to minimize its impact on non-combatants; such measures are already a part of humanitarian law.

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