By M.M. Janapriya –
There was a recent article that appeared in the Colombo Telegraph about the appointment of a lady Governor to the eastern province in which the writers have attacked the appointment of Dr. Seetha Arambepola as the Governor western province on the grounds that she was doing private medical practice as an ENT surgeon and hence the appointment contravened the constitution. Reading further I found that there had been a previous attempt at tarnishing Dr. Seetha’s good name through a Colombo Telegraph article dated 19th January 2020 titled “Gota’s Viyathmaga Governor, Seetha Arambepola Violates Constitution To Make Bucks”
The tenor of the language they have used is not the best I have seen either. It is rather condescending to say the least. The authors seem to take cover behind the curtain of law to do this as they are quoting a fellow medical professional who purportedly spoke to Colombo Telegraph on condition of anonymity which goes as follows. “I am flummoxed that a person of Dr. Seetha Arambepola’s stature continues to break the law. She is blunt. It appears that she does not give a toss as she turns a deaf ear, sore throat and a snuffy nose as an ENT surgeon. She definitely will be hauled to courts if she does not stop it. She must decide what she really wants to do. She can’t continue to have the cake and also eat the cake”
I seriously have my doubts as to whether this indeed was said by a fellow medic of hers or indeed ‘a drive off the back foot’ of the author him or herself. Also he/she seems very confident on something that is going to happen i.e. hauling or hurling Dr Seetha to Court, based on the so called `law’ he doesn’t seem to have a clue about. May I suggest that the authors double click the link given below and read the article in full. This will convert the `well’ they are in, in to an ocean of knowledge. As you know knowledge is power. Also if they can find the Sri Lanka equivalent of this article, please read that as well and publish it so that the definition of Office or place of profit and the controversy woven around it can be resolved once and for all and the fact that this allegation ever took place amongst learned public of Sri Lanka can be consigned to history.
Let me now present my article as a response to these unfair and unfounded attacks on my professional colleague. First of all I must reiterate that I am not a person who blindly sings songs of praise of anyone no matter how powerful that person is and as such will not hold a brief for any of their doings unconditionally. All the same the unfair criticism of this appointment deserves the strongest objection possible. I got to know Dr. Arambepola about 20 years ago as a very young honest, energetic conscientious and a very empathetic doctor when she served her internship at the NHSL Colombo in my busy surgical unit. Those of you out there who have had the good fortune of working with me know fully well that this kind of generous words of praise were not common place in my unit. Seetha is my colleague my friend and is almost a daughter to me.
Dr. Arambepola is a Consultant Otolaryngologist in the private sector. She is an independent practitioner and has no connection with the Department of Health Services of Sri Lanka whatsoever. Therefore she holds no `office’ in the field of her medical practice or indeed any office as defined in the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The relevant chapter of the Constitution of Sri Lanka is XVIIA, section 154B and subsection 7 which says “Upon such assumption of office a Governor shall cease to hold any other office created or recognized by the constitution, and if he is a Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament. The Governor shall not hold any other office or a place of profit” This clause and the definitions clearly show that Dr.Seetha is in no way bound down by any section of the constitution as per her consultation practice.
The exponents of wild cat strike like articles clearly exposes the juvenile nature of journalism perpetrated by the authors because they clearly were blissfully unaware of, or indeed consciously decided not to find out the meaning of ‘office or a place of profit’. A senior, proficient and a responsible journalist would have found out the meaning of this phrase before he or she ventured out to attack an innocent human being on this count. They must remember that it is easy to damage someone’s reputation in a jiffy but no amount of post destructive apologies would repair the damage done, leaving no trace of it whatsoever. The swords wielded wildly leave painful scars so please be circumspective in the future. Also it is prudent to remember that most wielders of weapons of destruction `fall on their own swords’.
I could not find the definition of `office or place of profit’ as per legal services of Sri Lanka. I guess this jargon dates as far back as the pre-independent era when British ruled Sri Lanka and her big brother India as a part of their empire. This link http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/gp_office.htm will take you to the definition and description of this phrase which goes as follows,
“In ordinary parlance, an office or place of profit means an office or profit or position, which brings to the person holding it some pecuniary gain or advantage or benefit. It will be an office or place of profit if it carries some remuneration, pecuniary advantage benefit etc……………………………………………………..The underlying object of this section is to ensure that those who occupy a fiduciary position in the company do not misuse directly or indirectly………………..”
From the above Indian legal definition it is clear that private hospitals where Dr. Arambepola practices are by no means offices or places of profit as these are not places to which she had been ‘APPOINTED” by anyone nor indeed does her practice bring her any gain in an underhand or a dishonest way. Therefore there is no rational reason to find her private practice as contravening the constitution. On the contrary there are a good few reasons why Dr. Seetha Arambepola should indeed continue with her practice.
1. The most important is, that she needs to continue to see patients and operate in order to keep her knowledge, experience and skills at the highest level needed for good patient care. If she does not continue with her practice, at the end of a 5 year lapse, she will have to be sent away to the PGIM or to an institute abroad for re-training as an ENT surgeon and this is what happens in the developed countries like UK and US where apolitical human lives also matter.
2. She cannot dump the patients whom she has been serving over the years suddenly which if done tantamount to gross medical negligence in most developed countries
3. An additional income will supplement her salary so that she will not need to worry about how to keep her home fires burning well. Look at all the virtually penniless MPP when they first entered parliament who have subsequently become super-rich. How? Dr.Seetha doesn’t want to do that. She is a very clean young lady.
Also the argument that she does too much medical practice to be free enough and comfortable enough to perform her official duties does not hold water either. I know for sure that she does not work after 6pm as she is a very devoted and a dedicated housewife and a mother. She restricts her practice to outside office hours viz. before 9am and after 5pm. This leaves her with enough time to govern the Western Province of Sri Lanka efficiently which job she is performing brilliantly at the moment.
After all she is not the typical fossilized political male with a big abdomen full of cirrhotic fluid sweating like a pig on the slightest exertion courtesy ‘the good life’ they lead by virtue of their position to which they have been propelled by the votes of unsuspecting or less kindly, franchise aloof, for want of a better term for foolish, people.
Dr.Arambepola is a very fit healthy young doctor capable of sheer hard work. I wish her all the very best in her job as the Governor and in her private life too.
*Dr. M.M.Janapriya FRCS FRCSEd., Retired Senior Consultant Surgeon, NHSL, Colombo