A worthy proposal | Daily News

A worthy proposal

SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne has come out with an idea on how to minimize hardships caused to the ordinary public as a result of ongoing strike action. Addressing a party media briefing, he referred to the suffering undergone by patients turning up at Government hospitals due to the strike staged by Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) doctors. He called for a method similar to that applied to the Police and Armed Services where strikes are strictly taboo.

This is in keeping with the importance attached to the law enforcement agency in maintaining public order particularly with regard to the protection of the people. The Police and Armed services cannot go on strike not only here but elsewhere as well. This is a norm that is strictly being adhered to, even though Police personnel too have their fair share of grievances.

One is at loss to comprehend the scenario if the Police or the Armed services decided to go on strike during the war years. Had this been the case there would not have been a country to call our own today.

MP Wickremaratne wanted a similar undertaking extracted from Government doctors as well given their importance in the protection of citizens’ lives. Like the Police and the Armed Services, doctors too are vital for creating a healthy nation. Shirking in their duties and responsibilities would therefore imperil the country.

Hundreds of patients were seen on Wednesday pouring out their tales of woe to television mics. These were poor folk who cannot afford private medical treatment and were solely dependent on State hospitals to bring them relief. Some patients had travelled long distances spending a large amount of money to attend a ‘clinic’ only to be turned away while others who had to obtain their regular prescriptions had to go empty handed. There is no knowing how many patients had aggravated their conditions by going without medicines and how fatal this may prove to be in the long run.

Hence, doctors are vital for the survival of citizens by ensuring they remain in a healthy state. The duty of a Government is to ensure people’s lives are not endangered for whatever reason. Therefore doctors should be made to give an undertaking that they would not resort to strike action under whatever circumstances when taking the Hippocratic Oath, for the oath to have any meaning.

Certainly MP Wickremaratne’s proposal will be endorsed by all if for no other reason than the education of the doctors was paid for by citizens of this country particularly the poor patients through indirect taxes on basic consumer items.

In fact even the teaching profession should be co-opted in this fashion since teachers are entrusted with the task of guiding the country’s future generation not only in imparting education but also steering their charges on the correct path by moulding character, to be useful and productive citizens. Teachers too therefore fall into the same category as doctors in that they are responsible for the formation of the lives of those coming under their tutelage. Like the doctors, teachers too have failed to give thought to their principal role in society and have plunged head on into strike action to win their demands.

MP Wickremaratne should be commended for speaking out in this fashion and swimming against the tide (though it did not actively participate in the strike, the SJB was nevertheless generally supportive of the strikers). Perhaps as a former banker, the MP must know firsthand what harm a bank strike could do to the economy. State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has put down the loss to the economy due to Wednesday’s general strike at over Rs. 46 billion. Can the economy in its present state afford such a huge loss?

How would our international donors view such a scenario now that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) US$ 2.9 billion bailout package would set the stage for other aid giving countries to come to our rescue.

The GMOA doctors have not always been our favourites and we have oftentimes taken up cudgels against them for inflicting hardship on the patients by downing their scalpels. However, this time around we laud for seeing things in their proper perspective and withdrawing from the trade union action after receiving an assurance from the Presidential Secretariat that some relief would be offered to them over the tax regime issue in good time. In fact, several other striking trade unions too called off their strike at 8 a.m. yesterday following the assurance.

The striking trade unions need to be flexible in their demands particularly in this instance when the stakes are high and what is at issue is the very survival of the country. The doctors being educated professionals certainly have grasped the larger picture. Sadly, not so the university professors who quite uncharacteristically have chosen to stick to their guns and continue with their strike. Hopefully, like the doctors, they would in the end withdraw from their trade union action. They should know that there are no winners or losers in a strike. It is only the country that stands to lose.



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