Our sister newspaper Sunday Lankadeepa met with the Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Dr. Rajitha Senarathna two days after the government acquired the Malabe Neville Fernando Hospital. At the time Sunday Lankadeepa sat down to interview the minister, there was a protest being staged against SAITM in front of his ministry. Following are excerpts of the interview done with Dr. Senaratne.
- I believe the GMOA is suffering from a headache
- This country is in this state because of low politics
- It’s the union members who destroy their own unions
- It’s not important to me what vociferous people have to say about dengue or the constitution
- The doctors who were in the GMOA those days were leaders
Do you think that the SAITM problem is over?
I can’t say that we have sorted out this problem to the very end.
The problem regarding the Neville Fernando hospital has been sorted out to a large extent. Right now we are working on appointing a board to aid the functions of the hospital. This hospital should start functioning as a government teaching hospital from 1st August. All the necessary arrangements are being made for that. In the mean time a chairperson has to be appointed to the Medical Board. I expect to finalize these matters with SAITM. We hope to fulfill the promises we have made in connection with sorting out the SAITM issue.
What is the reply to the question regarding the standards SAITM has to maintain?
The minimum standard that SAITM must maintain has been sent to the Attorney General’s Department. I will gazette the particulars immediately when they send me back the translation. Once these issues are sorted out SAITM can function as an institute that offers a standardized education. But there is another question connected to the SAITM issue.
What is that?
At present two batches of medical students graduated from SAITM. We are expecting to give them a special training in government hospitals.
Why will they be given a special training?
These two batches didn’t receive enough clinic training due to the lack of sufficient patients. We expect to give them a six month training and subject them to an interview. It’s only then that we will register them in the Medical Council.
People are saying that the Neville Fernando Hospital wasn’t acquired.
Then, What has been acquired?
People say that the Neville Fernando Hospital been leased out for 10 years.
Mad? Where is such a thing stated?
The problem regarding the Neville Fernando hospital has been sorted out to a large extent. Right now we are working on appointing a board to aid the functions of the hospital.
The GMOA says so?
I believe the GMOA is suffering from a headache. We are functioning in the manner of a working government. This institute is not a GMOA. There is a system in which a government works. How can someone talk about a lease when an institute has been taken over by the government? These people can’t make statements the way they want. When the Indo-Lanka peace accord was signed, it was said that people from one province will need visas to enter another province. When a Provincial Council was formed there were views that it would be a separate country. People said things like this. This country is in this state because of low politics. So called intellectuals who promote low quality politics are not viewing things through a professional eye. They are viewing things through the eyes of politics. They engage in baseless talk.
Their main slogan is to nationalize SAITM
Whose is that slogan?
It belongs to the force that’s opposing SAITM
There are two parts to this. There is no need to have discussions with the President, Prime Minister and us if their motive is to nationalize SAITM.
Does that mean that the government has no expectation to nationalize SAITM ?
The answer very clearly is no. Our idea at present is not to privatize anything. The government is sticking to its stance that it won’t bring any private institution under state ownership.
But those who protest against SAITM reverberate that this institute should be privatized. This is their slogan.
That slogan belongs to students. The Peratugami Party and JVPers support these slogans. It is difficult to function a government with these parties. If their slogans are worth anything they should have won. Has the JVP won a seat so far at any election?. Were they able to obtain even a second place?
I believe the GMOA is suffering from a headache. We are functioning in the manner of a working government. This institute is not a GMOA. There is a system in which a government works
JVP won 10 seats by contesting in the election alone. In second election they won 16 seats. That was possible due to the election system introduced by President J.R. Jayewardene. What else can be said about them? The Peratugami Party will face this problem even in the future. There’s no need of a government, if we govern the country considering the wishes of parties which obtains less than 1% or 2% of the votes.
You are trying to conveniently forget the history associated with you where you tried to safeguard a private medical college because you were the leading person behind the struggle to nationalize the Colombo North Medical College.
On that day.... You must study the content in my speeches on that day. Recently they posted my speeches on their web site. One thing that I have stated in these speeches is about the qualifications of the students recruited to this college. The next one is that the degree offered at the Colombo Campus should be offered to students at the Colombo North Medical College. That was the clear standpoint of GMOA and the Government Dentist Association. JVP and the Inter University Students’ Union supported the slogan to nationalize the Colombo North Medical College. I didn’t have a great need even during that period to nationalize institutions.
The GMOA alleges that you are making attempts weaken the GMOA.
The GMOA is already weakened. About a thousand specialist doctors have left the GMOA. A Union of Specialist Medical Officers has been already established. There are other Medical Unions in addition to the GMOA. There is a Medical Officers Union in the JVP too.They also attend meetings. They are working well with them. Then there is another Medical Officer’s Union which bears some other name. They all were there.
But You played a game here.
No. I was invited to attend their meetings. So I used to attend every meeting of the unions. I attended the meeting of the Nursing Union organised by Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera. I also participate in the Nursing Union meeting organised by Saman Rathnapriya. I participate in the meetings of every Labour Union. I participate in all Union Meetings when I am invited. That is the duty of the Minister of Health. I don’t care about factions. They must solve these issues by themselves. They must know how to keep their unions altogether. On that day,they tried to weaken my union. That was the UNP Government. I defeated it. I did it by doing things independently and professionally. I carried on a sole union.That union is still going strong, alone. You should know how to administrate your union properly. No minister can destroy a union. It’s the union members who destroy their own unions.
You as Health Minister have failed to avert the dengue tragedy from turning onto a menace.
Okay, then please tell me the name of a minister who has succeeded in his battle against this dengue menace. Going on these lines, the health Ministers of America, Singapore and Malaysia have also failed in addressing the dengue issue. The position of dengue in these countries is worse than here. Look at countries like Vietnam and Laos. These are nations which administer a communist regime. If so, ministers of these countries must also fail.
Are you saying that your have succeeded?
If the ministers can control dengue, then there is no need to do anything. Then I can control dengue from here and stop all other duties. A person must have some brains to ask this question.
I have referred this question to the Minister of Health in this country.
What is the programme initiated to control dengue? Does that programme come under the Ministry of Health? Every where plans are carried out to clear waste and this is done under a national programme. We don’t have to do all these things. We can control it like in Malaysia. We can control Malaria like that.
Q So doesn’t the Health Ministry have any connection with dengue? Where is larva? Where is bacteria? You promised to bring these.
Everything has already been brought. The relevant minister is coming. He will discuss matters with us. Am I right? We are going to hold discussions with the Australian Minister during the Presidential Election. These programmes can’t be implemented immediately. But we must seek long term solutions to this problem. What are the long term solutions and how can we keep a check on this problem on a day to day basis. Bacteria has offered the only solution. It has been produced in Australia. We must study it. Next we must probe our mosquito. The research done regarding our mosquito is still in the labs. We must present this information processed in our laboratories to the public. These scientists won’t conduct research if we laugh at them.
You are keen on establishing a new constitution, but that same keenness is not shown in the attempts to alleviate dengue.
It’s not important to me what vociferous people have to say about dengue or the constitution. I have been commended for controlling this menace. The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended me that I have done my part properly while serving the Ministry of Health.
What other certificate matters to me? WHO is the only institute through which a Minister of Health can reach the world. Nobody else can do this. There are specialists in every section serving the WHO. These specialists have come here and declared that the minimum dengue death toll is reported here. I can alleviate the mosquito. But I can’t stop the breeding of mosquitoes. I can alleviate the grown mosquito. I can take preventive measures regarding patients. Comparatively to the dengue patients, the death toll is lesser than 3 point. According to WHO this figure indicates that our work is good.
I don’t care about factions. They must solve these issues by themselves. They must know how to keep their unions altogether. On that day,they tried to weaken my union. That was the UNP Government.
The GMOA says that the Ministry of Health has presented false reports, concealing the number of dengue patients and the number of deaths.
We can’t conceal them (Reports). Things will be exposed. Every census is done. That is why the office of WHO is in Colombo. These doctors working in the field of health are still in the primary level. The doctors who were in the GMOA those days were leaders. They had a sound knowledge about these things. Today there are leaders who know little and speak a lot. They don’t know that the WHO has spent millions to establish an office here and are working here. We are making reports by following their system and tallying with their data. That is why the WHO makes available all statistical reports regarding health to the world. Am I right? Why don’t they give permission to publish this in North Korea? That’s because there is no permission to probe what’s published.
Allegations are made against the government that war heroes who did yeoman service to the nation during the war are to be send to prison to satisfy the Tamil Diaspora?
Who are these war heroes?
The nearest example I can give about them is Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayaka of Navy.
In the investigations carried out, it has been proven whether these arrested people are war heroes or murderers. I obtained all the reports from the CID and read them. It will be proved further in the near future.
It’s stated in the month of September, 18-20 ministers will leave the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
I don’t think that such a number will leave the party. We will wait for that time and see what we should do. But the government is running the show. When the murderers and plunderers are punished, then those who quit the government will return.
Is there a plan by the government to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa and also deprive the civic rights of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?
Civic rights will not be deprived by the courts. Punishments are given by the courts. Those punishments will be meted out.