The Supreme Court has put an end to a three year long wrangling and all controversies over the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) by accepting the plea by one of the students graduated by the institute to be provisionally registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC).
Needless to say it is a judgment not only on the petition filed by Malshani Sooriyaarachchi to be provisionally registered, rather it is a judgment on the standard of the SAITM, which was abolished by the government under pressure by the medical students and the doctors of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA). And also it is a judgment on the acceptability of the private higher education in the country.
It was reported over the weekend that the SLMC in a strange move had decided to inform the student in question to apply for the provisional registration, even after the Supreme Court had ruled that she must be registered accepting her application to the SLMC tendered in 2016. She had met every requirement under the Medical Ordinance to be registered with the SLMC, as indicated by the highest court of the country.
Medical Ordinance cites two prerequisites for the provisional registration of MBBS degree holders as medical practitioners. One is the good character while the other being a degree from an accepted degree awarding institute, here or abroad. And it is the first of the three steps of registration of medical practitioners, with the SLMC.
The ruling by the Supreme Court is a clear indication that the said MBBS graduate of the SAITM has fulfilled both the requirements. Malshani’s character has never been in question and it was the standard of the SAITM that was challenged by the adversaries of the private medical college in Malabe. One cannot doubt whether the Appeal Court which heard the case and gave a ruling in favour of Malshani first and the Supreme Court that upheld the Appeal Court ruling later had looked into the standards and the competence of the SAITM as a degree awarding institute.
But, alas! When the Supreme Court, through its ruling, had given the message to the thousands of aspirant of medical profession who were not selected to the State medical faculties that there is an accepted private medical college in the country, that medical college had been abolished by the law. Some of those aspirants are prepared to go to foreign universities, spending tens of thousands of sky rocketing dollars.
The Supreme Court’s observation on the government decision to award MBBS degree of the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) to the SAITM students is interesting and very important. It says: “These steps were taken by the government and the enactment of aforesaid statute, all occurred, long after the petitioner filed her application in the Court of Appeal and also long after the SLMC filed an application in the court seeking this special leave to appeal from the order of the Court of Appeal”
This observation would help the government which is in a fix now as to how to deal with the issue as the ruling has accepted the SAITM degree while it had made arrangements to award KDU degrees to the SAITM students. And also the observation of the Supreme Court can be deemed as questioning by the court, the propriety of the government decision to transfer the SAITM students to KDU.
Now that the highest court of the country has accepted the standard of the medical college that awarded the MBBS degree to Malshani Sooriyaarachchi, what would be the response of the Higher Education Ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC) if the authorities of the SAITM sought the revival of the institute with the same standards?
The opposition to the SAITM has always been politically motivated. It was evident by the silence by some of the adversaries of the private medical college when the former government assisted it with loans and scholarships. Ridiculously, those leaders of the former government who strengthened the private medical college at Malabe also turned against it when they fell from grace. The student unions that fought against the institute, delaying the degree of a whole batch of medical students had been indoctrinated with Marxism which does not recognize privatization. Ludicrously all these people accepted and recognized those degree holders from the foreign universities. It is time for all to think afresh in the light of the Supreme Court ruling.