Letters to the Editor

Sunday April 27, 1997


The Mirror Magazine

On line today!

'To hell with the rest - I got ahead'

As we look back on almost a half-century, since our much acclaimed Independence, there seems to be a marked deterioration in the values and behaviour patterns of both Sri Lankan society in general and individuals in particular. This has affected almost every sphere of activity. Hence it seems a golden opportunity to forge a new ethos among Sri Lankans.

Take politics first, which during this half-century has established an almost disproportionate stranglehold on our society. Except for a few exceptions, gone are the days, when the best and brightest took to politics and regarded it as a form of service to their fellow citizens. There were so many noteworthy examples of politicians who sacrificed their wealth and careers, when they became politicians. At the end of the day they were worse off financially and career-wise. Today such politicians are the exception and not the rule. Politics is now regarded as a quick route to power and riches. There was vivid evidence of this at the recent local elections when all and sundry contested. No holds were barred in their attempts to win. Is it any wonder that honest people with ability regard politics as a dirty game and shun all connections with it? Who can blame them, when a few like Nalanda Ellawala, who stuck their necks out, paid the supreme price?

The selfish motive pervades even family life. This is obvious if we compare the number of old people in Homes For Elders in the fifties and now. At that time only the really destitute needed accommodation in the few mostly State-run Homes For the Aged. Today there is a proliferation of such Homes being established everywhere.

The public service, which affects the lives of most people at some time has changed beyond recognition, since Independence. The red tape and regulations that probably slowed down administrative action in the 50s has now reached a stage of fossilised lethargy. The changes have taken place in an almost imperceptible manner and it is only when the current state is examined and compared with the previous state, that the difference can be appreciated. When staff do saunter in, their priority is to first chat, read the newspapers, listen to cricket commentaries (if they are on), knit, sew, even prepare vegetables, engage in interminable private phone conversations, take long tea and lunch breaks etc. They regard the public who may seek their assistance as interruptions to these activities. Their immediate supervisors, who could check them are seemingly too scared of possible repercussions i.e., strikes, go-slows, political interference, maybe their own shortcomings, to even mildly rebuke them.

On the roads, where increasing numbers of all kinds of vehicles vie with each other to get ahead, all norms of civilised behaviour go by the board. It’s almost the law of the jungle as the ‘fittest’ determine aggressively to survive, whatever the cost. Pajeros and double-cabs are the worst offenders, as they use all their mechanical sophisticated gadgetry to edge aside other less prestigious vehicles. In the competition to pick up passengers, buses especially private buses, do not hesitate to break every road rule. Three-wheelers, motor cycles and cycles by virtue of their size, if not their power are the other road menace as they weave in and out of traffic, even if it means risking their lives and those of their passengers, let alone any motorist or pedestrian that happens to get in their way.

This manifests itself in ordinary everyday life too. Observe a crowd at the Post Office, bus stop, doctor’s surgery etc. The queue system goes by the board, as might and not right holds sway. Self-centred behaviour is very evident, in all sorts of other situations too, especially in public places. Some of our youth are the worst offenders in this respect and their loud behaviour in the swimming pools, in particular of hotels is appalling. There is scant concern shown for others, who have paid for the same facilities and many find their raucous, roistering irritating to say the least.

This new abrasive, selfish culture is mostly apparent in urban areas and seems to have replaced the old one, where the hall-marks were decency and consideration and service to others. Whose fault is it and how can it be replaced? May be it should come from our leaders, both political and religious and from people who are held in high esteem (if there are any left!). However it is achieved, a halt should be called on this onslaught of our old values and traditions and what better time than this, the half-century mark of our Independence!

Rita Perera


Turn folly to unity and hatred to love

The whole nation in general and the people in particular will breathe a sigh of great relief with the news that Chandrika and Ranil have at long last realised that it is a futile effort to be constantly at crosspurposes and thought it fit and vitally important to unite in the interest of the country and once and for all eradicate the bloody relations that existed between the two major parties which had torn the country asunder and moved it away from solutions to the national crisis. Out of chaos comes tranquillity and both parties have realised the importance of restoring the prestige of Sri Lanka and bringing tranquillity so that the nation can prosper thus upholding democratic principles as enshrined in the constitution.

Though belated it be, realisation of a good cause is an asset to the nation and the statesmanlike attitude of both parties is in itself a boon to all in the cause of peace, stability and progress of our country.

With this encouraging unity (may it be for ever) of the two major political parties let us bury the past and work together for the benefit of Mother Lanka and bring it back to its former pristine glory of the 2,500 years of Buddhist culture.

As the saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way” - now that both parties have made up their minds, there is the possibility of way for peaceful co-existence that had existed prior to the obnoxious piece of legislation, “The Sinhala only Bill” of 1956, that folly for which we are paying dearly to date.

Let us now not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred and remember it is essential we must realise that the destiny of our country lies in our own hands. It is our destiny.

With this united purpose to solve the national issue we can be assured that our success lies in the path of our own creativity. We should once and for all banish party politics from our vocabulary and erase it from our dictionary.

Our congratulations go to the Government and the Leader of the Opposition and wish them all success in their awakening from the “Rip Van Winkle Sleep” in the cause of democracy.

“Success comes to those who dare and act; it seldom goes to the timid” Jawaharlal Nehru said.

R. Gurusingham,

Colombo 4.

Why do doctors behave this way?

This letter is written to endorse the sentiments expressed by the writer of the letter titled ‘Doctors harass patients’ in a local newspaper. My wife and I were the recipients of similar treatment at the hands of a consultant gynaecologist in a private hospital at Narahenpita. We, as patients went to this hospital expecting better treatment at least for the money we paid them than accorded to people at state hospitals.

My wife who was five months pregnant complained of a severe abdominal pain which was unbearable. The time being 8.00 p.m., the usual home herbal remedies were given without success. As the pain continued to be intolerable, we had no option but to seek immediate medical advice as I feared it might be appendicitis or some other serious ailment.

We contacted this hospital and explained the emergency, and were told that a gynaecologist was still seeing patients and that we could channel him. This was indeed a great relief to us. Immediately we went to the hospital, paid the money, got a receipt and were near the channelling room where this doctor was seeing the last of his patients The time was around 9.45 p.m. My wife was complaining of the consistent pain and wanted to go into the room soon. However, to our dismay, the good doctor suddenly walked out of the room ignoring us. Fearing the worst, I ran behind him and explained to him the urgent circumstances which compelled us to come and asked for his expert medical opinion. The response was only a bark.

All doctors do not belong to this category. There are definitely a few who go out of the way to help patients. In fact, on the way to the hospital, we went to the residence of a known doctor. Even though he was not present, his daughter was extremely kind and showed considerable concern to the suffering of the patient. That’s what is required from these professionals; consideration.

I believe, commercialisation has ruined the reputation of this once esteemed profession.

Mohamed Huzail,


In fairness to foreign qualified medical grads

The current opinion in the country is that in the future medical graduates may face an unemployment problem. Some object to foreign medical graduates being absorbed into the government service, which we believe is very unfair. The following facts will reveal the injustices caused:

(1) All these foreign graduates who return to Sri Lanka are citizens of Sri Lanka.

(2) The minimum qualification for higher education is 4 subjects averaging 180 marks or 3 passes and over 25 marks for the failed subject. Yet all those who are qualified for higher education are not selected to the local universities.

(3) The present criteria for selection to the medical faculties in Sri Lanka are:

a) 40% on merit basis.

b) District basis.

c) Extra-curricular activities.

d) Children of those who are in the forces.

e) Children of those who are in foreign service.

Therefore those who have obtained qualifications for higher studies and not chosen to local faculties for a particular speciality tend to apply to overseas universities on scholarship or otherwise. Students who obtained scholarships to Soviet universities till 1990, and other countries are due back in Sri Lanka.

4) The foreign medical graduates who returned to Sri Lanka are expected to undergo a 4 months familiarisation course in local hospitals prior to their internship appointments. Internship is compulsory for a medical graduate to complete his graduation. Although the internship could be done in other countries the SLMC recognises only the internship done in Sri Lanka. Therefore it is the duty of the government to assure internship appointments to the citizens of this country.

5) Approximately 25% of the doctors who now serve in the health sector are foreign qualified, serving in areas such as Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura where most of the war casualties are being treated. Amongst them are Administrators, Consultants, Medical Officers and GPs rendering yeoman service to the nation. In addition many foreign qualified medical graduates have qualified in post-graduate examinations. It is evident therefore that these doctors are equal to locally qualified doctors.

6) NCMC graduates who are below the foreign qualified doctors (U.G.C. scholarship holders) on the common merit list will be granted internship whilst foreign graduates will not be granted internship.

If however, the ministry is not in a position to absorb all doctors into the state health sector after internship, the following options can be adopted:

a) To hold a common exam for all doctors on completion of internship.

b) A common merit list to be prepared based on the above results.

c) To employ doctors to the state health sector according to their merit when vacancies are available (as practised in India).

Among the foreign graduates there are also students who have obtained more marks at the GCE (A/L) examination than the local medical graduates. Therefore, it is very unfair to penalize foreign graduates in this manner.

Alien Silva,


More letters to the editor * May Day:,a comrade remembers * Stop this golfing project * Down memory lane let us tread

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