26 September, 2020

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The Media As A Tool For Social Action

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

One of the recent bonuses of writing a weekly column for both an English Sunday newspaper and to a web publication has been the development of an informal “think tank” in the matter of seeking social justice for the vast majority of rural Sri Lankans whose travails go unreported otherwise.

Amidst the barrage of downright racist filth, up to and including the “c-word,” have been thoughtful suggestions from readers as to how those of us who live in the great “outback” of rural Sri Lanka might seek some little relief from the problems that face us on a daily basis and to which politicians, supposedly representing us at local, regional, provincial, and national level pay not the slightest attention. After all, they are too busy lining their pockets to listen to their alleged constituents and have tools waiting in the wings to provide appropriate “persuasion” in the event that their constituents show signs of wanting to ensure that they do not return to their positions of absolute power. This “persuasion” is basically of two kinds – crumbs from the table at which the politicians sup and the threat of bodily harm. You want proof? Check the track records of those who rode back into Parliament on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s (MR1) coattails. I don’t think you could find one who had a non-violent, uncorrupt track record among their considerable number still on our political scene.

A significant number of readers of Colombo Telegraph, a web publication, have provided leads as to how government legal institutions might be contacted in order to seek the relief that we so desperately need and cannot afford to buy in the marketplace that is Sri Lanka today. For that, I and my neighbours will always be grateful.

However, another serious problem facing all Sri Lankans, urban middle class to countryside peasant, is of a “New Class” that only a Milovan Djilas may have been able to do justice to: those who’ve become the new beneficiaries of the new Ohey Palayang (OP) dispensation despite being part of the violence and corruption of the MR1 entourage. The suggestions made by a number of readers as to how to circumvent the bureaucratic roadblocks, unfortunately, do not appear to provide a solution to what I am about to relate.

A significant number of the political flotsam and jetsam on our national scene are not only being tolerated by the OP dispensation but have begun ascending the (new) ladder of wealth, power and privilege under the Maithripala/Ranil (MR2) government! In fact, I have solid evidence of one individual that I have had cause to have contact with who has not only been restored to “respectability” after exposure of his conduct vis-à-vis human rights during the not-so-recently-concluded war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but has been placed at the head of one of Sri Lanka’s premier medical institutions by the official mouthpiece and Minister of Health of the OP lot, Rajitha Senaratne.

I have had reason to seek communication with this particular individual in the matter of what probably constitutes gross negligence or medical malpractice at the institution he heads and to describe his conduct as duplicitous would be to understate the case. A little sidebar to that business is the fact that this individual had probably the most senior position in the hierarchy of the Nimal Siripala de Silva Health Ministry when that Ministry, even by Sri Lankan standards, was considered rotten to the core and was held responsible for thousands of dengue deaths because the only known and proven preventive to the spread of Dengue, developed by Cuba, was never used appropriately in Sri Lanka for the usual reasons: the right palms were not “greased.” Guess what? Almost immediately after Nimal Siripala de Silva relinquished this Ministry to (our current President) Maithripala Sirisena, the individual concerned departed for greener (international) pastures. However, that sojourn was not to last forever because his one-year contract was not renewed by the international agency for reasons on which I will not speculate.

Return to Sri Lanka was not to result in any reduction in the man’s earning power, however, when a multinational corporation chose to place him on their directorate at a truly phenomenal salary. The reason at the time was simple: he had ready access to the Royal Court of Rajapaksa. He didn’t have to wait till the cows came home for this (enormous) boost to his earnings despite the fact that he probably had less knowledge of that conglomerate’s (bovine) product than even I do!

When I had cause to write to him officially, I did not (and have not, up to date) received a formal acknowledgement of my complaint. Instead, I had a (very polite) telephone call, initiated by him, during which this gentleman agreed 100% with the seriousness of the complaint and said he would forthwith commence an investigation. I chose not to remind him that, several weeks before, when he, personally, visited the victim he had assured her that he would be investigating the incident “immediately” at that time!

The plot thickens.

I followed up the phone call I received with a request that I be sent a simple written acknowledgement of my complaint. Since that was not forthcoming either, I repeated my request, under registered cover this time, with a copy of original request.

Up to time of writing I have not received so much as a “form letter” acknowledging my request.

On April 28th, a person claiming to be a Director of the hospital in question called the victim on her mobile phone and wanted her to come down to Colombo for further discussion of the matter. On being told that the recuperating patient’s condition didn’t permit of such a journey she agreed to her sending her a response by email. She did, providing quite a detailed description of the hell she went through at the hospital concerned and the fact that she had to spend more than an additional month in Colombo, away from home to deal with a post-surgical infection caused by the use of (obviously) non-sterile catheters.

What was most interesting about this conversation perhaps was its opening when this Director said that they had had “several letters from one Emil van der Poorten” which had prompted his call. I will put that in the context it deserves: the Director had made the call at the behest of the most senior functionary in her (the Director’s) institution who had previously phoned me, addressing me by my first name and had, in fact, been a guest under the roof of the recipient of the shoddy medical practice and yours truly!

If this pattern of conduct doesn’t show an attempt at blatant deviousness, it obviously provides evidence of stupidity certainly not befitting the chief functionary of one of Sri Lanka’s premier hospitals.

Given all of this, what does Rajitha Senaratne/the OP government “owe” such a person that they should elevate him despite his track record, some of which at least, has appeared in Rajan Hoole’s writings about “the conflict” in Sri Lanka and the executions of Contre Le Faim personnel at Mutur. As a side bar, I presume that readers of these words are aware of Mr. Hoole’s credentials, particularly in the matter of his having been an LTTE target and the farthest thing from a Tiger mouthpiece that one can imagine.

On a previous occasion when I had occasion to take Minister Kiriella to task for his attempt to generate an audience on false pretences, he came back, in Colombo Telegraph, with a “rebuttal” that maintained some distance from the truth and which was subsequently proved, by the very actions of his subordinates, to have been untrue.

Perhaps, Rajitha Senaratne and his buddies can repeat that feat!

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Latest comments

  • 1
    3

    Again, MrEvdP chronicles another everyday saga outside the ‘megapolis’. Standard stuff. Our ‘elected’officials owe their allegiance to their party, NOT to WE the People. They look down their noses at any of unwashed masses who have the temerity to ‘register a complaint’. The whole rotten caboodle needs root-and-branch reorganisation, but this will not come any time soon given the rot in our political firmament.

    The object of disapprobation works on the simple principle that ‘I am here to serve my Lord and Master, and NOT the long smelly ranks beneath me. Worse, the arse doesn’t have a clue what the elbow is up to. They wouldn’t know shame if it crept up and tickled their privates.

    You cannot make these things up!

    • 11
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      What is wrong with this man, CT?

      Anyone who goes to a hospital in this country experience similar issues due to inefficiency more than corruption. But this man takes his tail up if he doesn’t receive right royal treatment, and writes to CT.

      Why does he always have to raise these minor lapses to matters of national interest? Aren’t there bigger issues the government should worry about? Like national security and increasing influence of Americans (like that witch Samantha Power)in our country? [Edited out]

      • 0
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        What world are you living in when you say, “Anyone who goes to a hospital in this country experiences similar issues due to inefficiency more than corruption.”
        Serious and life-threatening reactions to medications that a patient has told the staff she cannot take and infections required weeks of treatment which have been picked up because surgical instruments were not sterile are “minor lapses.” Give me a break! You don’t go into treatment facilities ANYWHERE in the world expecting to end up with life-threatening episodes contracted while in those premises.
        This comment is beyond even the stupidities and abuse that usually follows anything I write to CT.
        IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, CORRUPTION IS THE PROBLEM AND THE INEFFICIENCY THAT FLOWS FROM IT IS THE SYMPTOM.

  • 5
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    “The Media As A Tool For Social Action”

    The idea is not new. A group of us in Alberta Canada formed the Forum party (later renamed Equity Party)in 1995, specifically to try and ‘stir the pot’ a little using the then rising Internet. We developed our policy structure using an online forum to spred and develop policy aimed at opposing most things. We referred to ourselves as Equitists.

    Unfortunately we were a bit ahead of the times and we found the people a bit too intelligent for their own good.

    Our group died a natural death, with the website quietly disappearing and our dumb new party president becoming more interested in polishing his own ego in the community. The party was de-registered in 2004 ‘cos we failed to run one candidate in a provincial election.

    It looks like the wheel keeps turning up at new locations, but still getting stuck in the same mud!

    • 1
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      “It looks like the wheel keeps turning up at new locations, but still getting stuck in the same mud! “

      It all started in the UK where Charles Dickens lived (kings cross Pentonville (informally “The Ville”) Prison)- Great Expectations!!) Camden stretching to Hampstead Heath the forest (robin hood) (the place of London’s Socialites even John Snow)

      Even Today most Ministers from Tory/Labour/LibDem find their way by being local Councillors at Camden. Mayor Commie Ken. not Boris no.
      They are killing it by introducing Muslims to the area- Yet the Rebel- Robin Hood is alive and kicking.The best services are still available because of the white mans fight to keep these services irrespective of race/class etc..

      • 1
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        “”A group of us in Alberta Canada formed the Forum party””

        At Camden there is no party politics- But Refugee of WW2 at China
        Mandarin speaking Commie Jew pen name `Gulliver` runs the boroughs free journal.(its online too- Camden new journal)
        The council fears him. now his son runs it presently.
        He is tough nut and folk love him.

    • 1
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      Srilal:
      Minimal, twisted, internet “research” on which to base a bunch of b.s. does not constitute fact or truth.
      If you were a member of The Forum/Equity Party, why don’t you write under your name instead of hiding behind some pseudonym. I don’t recall a “Srilal” or any other person of Sri Lankan or south asian origin during the existence of TFP/TEP and I was there throughout its history.
      As for “polishing ego in the community,” the monumental stupidity of that statement says it all. Have you ever tried to “polish your ego” or any other part of your make-up working with people of colour, refugees, immigrants and urban natives? But then how could you EVER respond to such a question when the description of your participation is a TOTAL AND ABSOLUTE fabrication?
      Oh well, no one said that reading some of the “comments” in CT would be edifying!

      • 8
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        I’m appalled by your language. But that is not surprising because mulatto origins surface no matter how much you try to suppress them.

        I did not have to do any Internet research for your information, because I was there when all this happened. The idea of an internet based opinion forum went bust in a big way, and you know that.

        I was one of the few non-Jews who wer involved in this (computer) Gun Powder Plot of the ’90s, and I saw the deregistration process triggered by the then president’s ignorance of the laws, that you can’t be a party if you don’t field a candidate. He was engaged in self gratification.

        You are a pathetic failure and you know that. We are continuing our revolution here in Alberta, not hiding in stolen land in the colonies.

        Woe unto the Pharisees.

        • 2
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          Srilal:
          More blatant lies with the dead-giveaway of racist abuse!
          I don’t know about “hiding” anywhere, but you certainly ARE hiding behind a pseudonym.
          As for your juxtaposition of being “appalled” by my language and the accusation of “self-gratification,” take a look in the mirror sometime if it isn’t already cracked.

        • 0
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          [Edited out]

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 1
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    Emil,

    Rotten politics and corruption in SL will continue to make people suffer. It will probably require leaders of the caliber of Lee Kuan Yew to change this.

    Meanwhile, on the general issue of reducing infections during surgeries, the medical profession and administrators in SL may want to read Atul Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto.’ Gawande is a surgeon in the US. Even President Obama consulted him on policy issues. Hospitals can on their own adopt such practices. Such checklists are useful in many other fields as well.

    • 1
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      Gawande is left leaning opportunist politician.

      One does not need to even go to US to win any of those scholarships-

      another Desai type from corner shop where politicians roam during election time.

  • 1
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    I have seen these individuals, Nimal Siripala de Silva included, having yards and yards of “pirith noola” tied at their wrists.

    If they were responsible for thousands of Dengue deaths because they didn’t import the proven preventative from Cuba as their palms were not greased, then, I wonder, whether those pirith noolas will protect them from being born as pigs – those that wallow in human excrement – in their next birth!

    As the “life hereafter” is not too far away, given their age and fat around their torsos, it is perhaps worth their while to think deeply about what they will reap in their next life and the thousands after that.

    • 1
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      [Edited out]

  • 0
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    Emil,

    “Up to time of writing I have not received so much as a “form letter” acknowledging my request.”

    My experience from the “high and mighty” is similar.

    Instead of written replies and information I have received phone calls and invitations to meetings. Unfortunately the result of the calls and meetings is zero despite polite promises of action. A meeting can end up in threats or being offered a bribe.

    In case you don’t know there is a circular reiterating that public servants must reply to letters and phone calls. The circular gives clear dead lines but nobody in our Miracle of Asia” follows it. I believe that the dead line for acknowledgement is one week and a reply is given 30 days. Why a new circular was needed when this is taken up in the ancient Establishment Code?

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  • 0
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