1 October, 2022


Try Again, Mr. President!

By Somapala Gunadheera

Somapala Gunadheera

I am disappointed that the President did not re-convene the concerned parties to resolve the SAITM issue. Such an attempt on his part is an imperative in a democracy, particularly, under a threat by many TUs to bring public life to a halt. I earnestly hope that the President is not waiting to solve the problem by neglect in the JR style or use force to supress it. Both such methods have proved to be failures in the past.

It is presumptuous to presume that all aspects of the issue had been solved conclusively at the first attempt. There can be some overlooked loopholes that are waiting for resolution. One such problem that I can think of is the fear of disparity that might exist under a dual system. As I pointed out in one of my early submissions, Government doctors might be apprehensive of higher pay and perks in the private medical schools as they multiply, as a means of attracting talent in the public sector. A decision to equalize pay and perks in both sectors may help to bring the dissenting parties together.

Another problem that looms large in the debate on the qualified have-nots that fail to secure  places in a state medical college, while the haves buy places over them in private medical schools. Even though I was one of the first to win a scholarship under the Kannangara Free Education Scheme, later I had to earn my fees for my higher education that led me to the Ceylon Civil Service. If I started quarrelling that free education was insufficient to do my higher studies, I would not have achieved my target. It is silly to make free education a political demand and make it exclusive in an open economy. We have come a long way from the Kannangara days and the additions the FES has made to the upper middle class, can afford to pay for their education and it is silly to debar them from buying higher education for their children. When private education is freely available in other sectors like Accountancy, Management and Engineering, why restrict it only in the Medical?

President Maithripala Sirisena, GMOA President Consultant Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya and GMOA officials at the pirith chanting ceremony/ Picture via Daily News

There are other ways in which the State can help qualified poor students who have just missed Medical College. AS I suggested in an earlier piece, one such way would be to stipulate that for each paying student taken in by a private medical college, they should give a free place to a student in the waiting list. If that is not practicable, we might use the banks to finance needy students to underwrite their studies under a scheme similar to the HELP of Australia.

All these provisions can make the SAITM problem disappear faster than by neglect and despotic action which may lead to collapse of the regime in the long run. I pray that the President be pleased to talk to the warring parties one more time with a view to tying up the loose ends. In the meantime, it is hoped that the Unions would not use their power to dislodge the even flow of public life, casing misery to the man in the street.    

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  • 6

    The GMOA gripe is not about patient care or patient safety. It is all about having a monopoly and trying to limit the graduates for ulterior motives.

    These docs have more privileges than any other government worker.
    1. Privilege to do private practice.
    2. Privilege to get their children to their choice of public school.
    3. Duty free car permits.
    4. Be involved in running/owning/partnering in Pharmacies, Private Hospitals, Labs and Diagnostic Centers.

    The list goes on………..

    If they are so concerned about the poor and the quality of care they get, how about stopping private practice? Fat chance of that happening.

    These docs talk about standards. What standards are they trying to check when we have graduates coming from China, Russia, India and other foreign lands and practicing in Sri Lanka? The GMOA or the SLMC doesn’t invoke any standards for these foreign grads except have them pass the exams that are offered by the SLMC. So, why not have the SAITM grads do the same?

    The wealthy, including these GMOA docs will send their children abroad for Medical studies. So, this will only mess up the poor people who cannot afford to give their child a foreign education. If a poor person’s child gets good grades but cant make the cut, why not give those parents the choice to decide? They may be able to take a loan for 15 lakhs and get their child to go to a local private institution. Why take that choice away?

    No one has issues of Accountants, Lawyers, Engineers, Pilots and other professionals working in SL with foreign degrees. The Law College in SL will allow a foreign grad to sit for the Bar Exam with the completion of some time/exams/classes that are offered by them. So, why not the Doctors.

    It is all about the money for these doctors of the GMOA. Time to fire the whole bunch.

    I am not a fan of Ranjan Ramanayake, but I wish he didn’t jump the gun and announce he had got a private hospital appointment with Dr. Padeniya. Wish he had waited and gone to the appointment. This way he could have really exposed these low lives.

    • 0

      Quote Rajiv: “The GMOA gripe is not about patient care or patient safety”.

      Is the parliament – anywhere and in particular Lanka – about serving the people?

  • 3

    Mr. Gunadeera: Can you tell me whether this so called “Free Education” in all its aspects and cost elements (books, board & lodging etc) are all FREE. You, yourself will be able to tell us how much it cost you to get into the Civil Service. Perhaps a doctor who supposed to have received “Free Education” can equally tell us how much it cost him/her to become a fully qualified “Doctor” as an end product of that myth of “Free Education”. I earnestly request any of such “Professional” who received “Free Education” to tell us the “Full Cost” incurred in acquiring that education. This is the only way to educate the public and get this “Myth” of “Free Education” out of the misconceptions the people are holding on to and continued to “brainwash” with falsehood.

  • 1

    They simply have a problem with setting priorities.

    That is it. Those students, that just entered tothe SAITM waste their valuable times since they have current no idea what these men would make it with SAITEM. Alone the kind of anxities make them feel hopless. These men could as you say, focus on this and the garbage dump issue already at early stages. Just passing the ball from one to other and leaving it another few months have made the issue a laughing stock by today. This is sadly the nature of srilankens how they march forward. They only have big mouth pieces that they cant control whenver whatever being said and done.

  • 3

    University education is free to every one that why university students behave irresponsibly.
    1. First establish an authority to assess the standards and to issue qualifications for all courses in tertiary education.

    2. Then gazette the essential standards for every tertiary programme.

    3. Then prepare a set of protocols that should be followed by any institute from recruiting to graduation.

    4. Finally allow any one to start private or semi-government (or government) university.

  • 5

    What the writer Somapala Gundeera, a veteran civil Servant has stated is the best way to solve this problem. Australia with a very strong economy allowed Free Education from kindergarten to University level till 1992 and as the Education budget was causing heavy burden on the Tax payer introduced a system with protest from students to charge money from those follow University courses called HECS. Free education for University students should be charge to students as they are learning to be professionals to earn money from what they learn at the University. The HECS system is a government loan from Banks and the student who use HECS must pay back the loan in instalments when they start earning from their respective jobs, but under one condition. The condition is they start paying the HeECS loan only when they get a salary over $ 58,000 only. Till they reach that salary students are not burden with any payments, but the interest will be added to the HECSloan. If some one like to pay HECS in advance they get 25 p.c. Discount and that will reduce the HECS amount considerably. The HECS system was introduced by the then Labour government and as it is a very equitable solution University budgets were never was a problem for the Tax payer. Sri Lanka may be a poor country but user pay system of Education to obtain a University Degree is the best way to improve the University Education from the present level. I hopePresident will take some constructive steps to establish user pay Higher Education system along with scholarship program for those student with financial difficulties.

    • 1

      It is because Education is free that undergrads are wasting time and money on the roads. Ask them to pay and see the difference.

  • 0

    I am sure there is no HOPE programme for education support in Australia. However what the writer is alluding is to the HELP Fees loan system.
    This to occur there should be vacant slots in the Universities or Capacity as they would call, in recognised private or public universities. The universities private or Public must make available a portion of intake to HELP Day scholars. Definitely taking over by the government of the SAITM OR NFTH. So what the trade unions are demanding is not the solution. The TU’s should help build capacity, not change the side of the pillow or the pillow itself.
    Whether private or state is immaterial; they should be recognised and maintain high standards and should be proven to have a very good employment possibility, so these scholars will have the ability to repay the bank loans provided as HELP loan fees upon graduation and all banks to would provide HELP Loan Fees by assessing the needs and acceptability on case by case basis. If these scholars are able to succeed in getting a job at a private institution at higher wages so be it.
    The government doctors are continuing in service because, they get millions of rupees in duty waiver for cars, overseas trips and top public schools for their children’s education which costs the government and the TAX PEYERS – US; Who knows these children may sit for their A/L exam from Weeraketiya, because their parent/s are working in the district hospital close by and become eligible to enter Medical college through the district quota system, which the doctors in the private sector do not enjoy. Their children may have to attend private Fee levying schools and NO strikes/Walk outs allowed. It is a matter of choice in life after all.

  • 0

    The SAITM issue is now before the Supreme Court in an action filed by the Srilanka Medical Council[SLMC] against the order of The Appeal Court.Perhaps,the President is awaiting the decision of the SC so as to tie up the loose ends.
    ……….When private Education is freely available in other sectors like Accountancy,Management and Engineering,why restrict it only in the Medical?………The essayist has posed the Question.
    The GMOA has not descended from another Planet!
    They have no moral right to enjoy special privileges!
    The time has come for the Govt:to tell them where to get off!

  • 0

    Plato is right. President is waiting for Supreme Court verdict. Petition has nothing new except to attack ministers, UGC, and the early floundering history of SAITM just like what NCMC did taking on a ss student. Past had twisted teething problems, trials and errors for novices. SLMC claims without minimum standards, they could not assess SAITM. How on earth did they assess KDU around the same time. Present lies as facts. How did they establish Rajarata and Eastern and the 2 new ones in foundation stage. Judges and public are expected to believe lies. Dr. Neville enjoyed creating wealth, and not proved but expected by SLMC to go into corruption. So they want to close Institute, using the standards issue. GMOA pressure crushes and SLMC conforms.
    In spite of photo of “pirith” together, the terrorist demand of GMOA is nationalization and all the compromise formulae will not work unless of course there is a GR on the scene, as Carlo knows well.

    Unlike VP and Eelam negotiations for 30 years, ruthless GMOA are going to stay as government servants and control monopoly over doctors now. They want control over SAITM whose MBBS needs intern training as per verdict. If any demand for illegal exams. Common MCQ is the answer. All other demands will be UGC illegal in SAITM curriculum and exam.

    Issue of SAITM MBBS and Internship has to be upheld. GMOA controls doctors moves and participation with them has realistic and practical value. Understand GMOA is insanely focused and bound to past killers.

  • 1

    Somapala Gunadheera: “Try again Mr President”

    Try and try and keep on trying till the SAITM medical degrees are recognized!

  • 1

    Talking over and over again with these terrorists is useless. They take this to be a weakness.

  • 0

    Try again Mr. President, as the SAITM MBBS doctors are trapped by SLMC deans deceptive plot accepted by govt. to impose ACT 16/ERPM exam. on them . This exam. is the combined effort of SLMC/GMOA to control entry of foreign medical graduates into local profession by this terrorist mafia with only a 10% pass rate. The rest left high and dry to go abroad and not serve SL. 90% of SAITM MBBS doctors will not receive internship even though in desperation they agree to exam. now. In contrast, the local state students, NCMC, and KDU all enter internship. Govt. policy is now opposed to verdict of ” violation of Medical Ordinance by SLMC” and has no justice to SAITM. It will be forced to close down unless these illegal post MBBS exams are cancelled and training given to students before MBBS.( this too is a plot) Job mafia waiting. Justice is 100% internship.

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