By Janaka Goonatilake –
For the average reader the SLMC, SLMA and GMOA all sounds the same and distinct characteristics between them means nothing more than three institutes/organizations of medical professionals.
However, the medical fraternity recognize unique roles to each of the above three organizations and there is not much overlap between their specific roles.
The Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) is the apex body in regulating the standards of medical services and the standards of medical education. It is responsible in ensuring the services rendered by the registrants of SLMC to the public is safe and up to the accepted standards of the world. It is also responsible to uphold the standards of medical education of all the universities under its purview and ensure the training and skills development meets highest standards accepted by the world. The Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) is stablished by an act of parliament and its role and function is governed by this Medical Ordinance hence all its actions are sanctioned by law of the land.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) is the professional body of medical fraternity which is basically its academic wing. Its main concern is to enrich academic knowledge among medical professionals and maintain continued development in knowledge and skills among medical professionals.
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) is a trade union established under the trade union act and currently the largest trade union among medical professionals. It has been the only trade union among doctors for a long time but, new trade unions and breakaway groups have formed such as the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS), Government Medical Officers Forum (GMOF), All Ceylon Government Medical Officers Association (ACGMOA), and it is not the sole representative of doctors anymore.
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) was under Dr Anuruddha Padeniya’s Control since year 2000. The Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) however, was relatively uninfluenced by the trade union pressure of GMOA in the early part of the first decade of the millennium. There was an unwritten understanding among medical professionals that the SLMC should remain an independent body and how much influential the trade union may be, it should not interfere with the business of SLMC.
The structure of the SLMC is such that out of 26 members of its council, 8 are appointed by election. These elected members sit for a tenure of 5 years and at the end of each an election was held. The SLMC election was not a very keenly contested one until about 2010 and distinguish members of the medical fraternity were elected uncontested or with minimum challenge.
However, things started changing at the end of the tenure of Late Dr Ananda Samarasekara in 2009, who’s second term bid as a council member was thwarted by the withdrawal of support from then GMOA in the election. He was swiftly appointed as the President of the SLMC which was vacant after the conclusion of Dr H H R Samarasinghes tenure. This move was vehemently objected by the GMOA and Prof Lalitha Mendis was appointed as the President of SLMC.
If the growing involvement of GMOA was detrimental for the autonomy of SLMC was detrimental, the situation was even more aggravated by the crass attempts to manipulate SLMC in to recognize the private medical college South Asian Institute of Technology and Medcaine (SAITM) by the politicians. The height of the heat was when the then Higher Education Minister, S B Dissanayake threatened to dissolve SLMC.
Since the inception of SAITM in 2009, the environment surrounding SLMC change drastically. With the Minister of Higher Education openly threatening to dissolve SLMC if recognition for SAITM was not granted, the role of “protector” fell on to GMOA. The events that followed with SLMC and its officials coming under heavy political pressure and at times being abused and even physically attacked paved the way to the general acceptance that GMOA should be the guardian of SLMC. This developed finally in to a stage where an overwhelming number of GMOA members flocking to elect four GMOA executive committee members in to SLMC in the election held in 2018.
Being the apex body in maintaining ethical conduct of doctors and quality of medical services, it is of paramount importance the SLMC remained impartial and autonomous. However, inclusion of executive committee members of GMOA in to the disciplinary committees of the SLMC which will inquire in to complaints largely against GMOA members breaks all known principals of justice and fairness.
However, there was some hope in the general direction the SLMC would be moving as the decisions were collective decisions taken at the council meetings and the GMOA contingent was minor.
The bombshell of Minister of Health swiftly banishing five members of the SLMC including its President, Prof Harendra Silva came in Decembers 2020 on the above backdrop.
Following is a brief account how Padeniya and his followers hatched a vicious plot to deceive Hon Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister of Health and caused the biggest upset in the history of SLMC.
* GMOA request the Minister to appoint a committee to inquire SLMC.The Editor of GMOA on a Press conference held on 11/09/2020/ Gives notice on Strike from 21/09/2020 if the Health Minister does not intervene to remove the 5 appointees by the previous government by the deadline.
* Neth news Published news on 16/09/2020 states that according to Health Ministry sources a 5 member committee has been appointed with their names and the TOR of the committee
* The TOR of the committee appears identical to allegations made against the SLMC by GMOA office bearers during GMOA Press conferences.
* Out of the 5committee members appointed to inquire SLMC related complaints 2 members have conflict of interest :
1 . Dr Mathree Chandrarathne – GMOA Election Committee member from 2014 onwards and current Election committee, Member of the GMOA appointed Annual Transfer committee.
2. Dr Darshana Sirisens – GMOA transfer board representative and general committee member since 2010.
An exclusive revelation of a series of SMS messages sent out by Dr Anuruddha Padeniya exposes what actually happened behind the scene in planning and executing this vicious plot to oust five members of SLMC so that Padeniya himself can get the SLMC under his control. On this thread of communications share by Padeniya among his followers, he instructs on what steps to be done next and also forecast the next steps.
1. GMOA decided to insist Minister to remove Prof. Harandra and conduct SLMC election ASAP. 27th August .
2. Formal complaint Against the President and some members forwarded at a meeting with minister on 14th September.
3. Minister agrees to appoint a committee to inquire SLMC and agrees to request 3 other nominees to leave to inquire prof Harendra. 15th September.
4. Complaint against Atapattu to Minister on15/09 on removing FDC files.
It is clear that by 15th September 2020, GMOA has managed to convince the minister of Health to appoint a 5 member committee to inquire in to SLMC solely on the request of GMOA. It is further clear that GMOA has already decided to remove Prof Harendra and Dr Atapattu (Assistant registrar) of SLMC prior to holding SLMC elections.
5. Inquiry will start at ministry with GMOA complaints. Then SLMC will be summoned .3rdly will visit SLMC. Prof HP agreed. 16th September.
At the time of public announcement of appointing the committee to inquire in to SLMC, Padeniya informs his followers how the committee is going to proceed. He forecast that the inquiry will be at Ministry and SLMC members will be summoned to the ministry. “Prof HP” is Prof Hemantha Perera. And Padeniya mentions that Prof Hemantha Perera agreed to follow his directions on how to proceed with the inquiry.
It is hinted here that the GMOA complaints are still not given to the ministry.
06. GMOA need to prepare evidence attached 5 comprehensive complaints against SLMC by 21 /09. 19th September.
07. GMOA hands over the complaints as a submission to the Ministerial committee. 2nd October.
Although the committee was appointed on 16th September, GMOA was yet to submit a complaint according to these communications. GMOA hands over the complaints only on 2nd October 2020 according to these communications.
* Secretary of Health informs the Registrar of SLMC over the phone on 01/10/2020 to attend a meeting on 02/10/2020, 9.30 am to discuss matters related to derecognition of 3 foreign medical faculties.
* The council decides to send the President, Vice President and the Registrar to attend the said meeting with necessary documents
* During the meeting the Secretary of Health hands over a letter Signed by the Minister titled “Appointment of Committee to inquire on SLMC related Complains” dated 16/09/2020 addressed to the President of SLMC and request to meet the said committee after the ongoing meeting.
* SLMC was handed over the letter 16 days after it was issued and no previous communication was made.
So, while the GMOA and the appointed committee was busy with proceeding the inquiry the respondent wasn’t even informed of such an inquiry.
08. The draft report of ministerial committee is finalised, and hopes Dr Meithree and Dr Sirisena on action(2 Gmoa reps in committee)once Dr Chandike Epitakaduwa presents it to them. 4th October.
While the SLMC has not even formerly met the inquiring committee and responded to any allegation, Padeniya informs his followers that report of the committee has been drafted and the draft is finalized. He mentions its up to the two GMOA collaborators in the committee, namely Dr Maithree Chandrarathna and Dr Darshana Sirisena to make sure the drafted report is taken up. It is revealed that the report was drafted by Dr Chandika Epitakaduwa.
9. Minister upon receiving complaints will take action against Prof H & Dr Pu for corruption. DR AT will be charged for stealing SLMC documents. 2nd November.
In this message on 2nd November 2020 Dr Anuruddha Padeniya informs his followers that the report is ready and minister will take action on it. Also he forecast the action the minister will be taking – ie: Action will be taken against Prof Harendra (Prof H) and Dr Pushpitha Ubayasiri (DrPu) for corruption.
Dr Chandana Atapattu (DR AT) will be charged for stealing SLMC documents
10. Minister removed 5 members on gmoa request, so need to defend her on Social Media. 27th November.
In this message after the Minister of Health removed 5 members of the SLMC, Dr Anuruddha Padeniya instructs his followers that the minister removed the 5 members on their request and therefore its GMOAs responsibility to defend the (action of) Minister.
The thread of messages reveal even more shocking details of clandestine activity the GMOA under Dr Anuruddha Padeniya has undertaken in order to remove “obstacles” in his way to acquire the power of SLMC which ultimately results in his becoming the unmatched super power in the medical fraternity,
What is unclear is why the Minister of Health and the Government is helping him to achieve his goal knowing well that he is nothing but an egomaniac who seeks power at any cost.