A so-called Commission on ‘The SAITM Crisis, and Deriving Solutions’, is in session these days at the OPA (Organization of Professionals Association) auditorium.
What is this Commission, and how legitimate is it?
Legitimacy is an aspect that would very likely never get into the final Report of the above named Commission, and if it does, would very probably be included in such a document with comments that cannot be challenged, as there are no submissions that can be made after the final report sees the light of day.
- The GMOA is one party to the above mentioned SAITM crisis, and is a highly involved one, with a particularly large stake in the entire issue
- The GMOA has been against privatization of medical education in any form. However, consider that there are several establishments that offer British and other foreign degrees in law, in the country
he above named Commission is not legitimate because it is obvious that one actor behind the entire SAITM issue, the Government Medical Officers Association, or GMOA,was behind the effort at establishing the Commission, and getting its work done.
The fact that the GMOA, having established the Commission, did not divulge its involvement, makes it clear to even the most casual observer of events, that the GMOA’s goal was to make the Commission appear independent, when it was in fact anything but.
Why did the GMOA hide the Commission under a name of an ad hoc and arbitrary unregistered organization by the name of Professionals’ National Front?
This effort to pass the Commission off as an independent entity is deplorable, as the obvious intention is to ensure that the public is hoodwinked into believing that the work of the Commission was indeed independent.
The so-called Commission now in session at the premises of the Organization of Professionals Association, or OPA, is as stated above, without a doubt, one that is conceived and established by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) to derive some sort of partisan advantage in the ultimate resolution of the so-called SAITM issue.
How such an entity became known as a Commission is interesting.
A Commission of Inquiry, according to the Commissions of Inquiry Act, should procure and receive all evidence (written or oral) regarding the matter inquired into, and examine all persons whom the Commission thinks should be procured or examined as witnesses.
The lawyers, engineers and accountants that pass out of such institutions are for all intents and purposes fully fledged members of their professions, who have full recognition
That should give an indication into what aCommission’s duties are, and who appoints a Commission. A Commission is appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. When a private entity which is not even a registered organization, seeks to establish a Commission calling itself a Public Commission, on an important issue such as SAITM, the agenda could clearly be seen as one seeking to mislead the public into thinking that it is a Commission that has been appointed by the State under the Commissions of Inquiry Act.
The above named so called SAITM Commission, is nowhere near a legitimate Commission, appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. It is not just the fact that the so-called Commission has not been appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, but also the aspect that there’s been absolutely no transparency whatsoever in that action, that’s relevant to all interested parties.
There have been no newspaper notices divulging the fact that the GMOA is the prime mover behind this Commission so-called, which makes it suspect to the point of being illegal. Another way of looking at it is that the Commission flouts the Commission of Inquiry Act and attempts to pose off as a legitimate Commission of Inquiry,leaving the general public with the idea that this is some sort of state sanctioned body which it is not.It is on the contrary an ad hoc and arbitrarily appointed body, lacking transparency, that has been appointed by one of the interested stakeholders of the SAITM crisis.
Also, by definition, as seen from above, a Commission brings all stakeholders together and questions all of these actors regarding a given issue, in order that the truth may be ascertained.
A Commission by force of the Act, is required to procure and receive all evidence (written or oral) regarding the matter inquired into, but as stated by Dr. Sarada Kannangara, the Secretary of the Commission, when this writer testified before the Commission, ‘only those who were interested gave evidence before the Commission.’
The GMOA is one party to the above mentioned SAITM crisis, and is a highly involved one, with a particularly large stake in the entire issue.
That such a partisan Organization was able to effectively organize this so called SAITM Commission, and book the hall by making an application, was patently against the OPA’s constitutionally enshrined Code of Ethics, as has been the observation of many persons including myself.
This is especially so because the GMOA has carefully seen to it that its own hand in this matter is not divulged, and that the above named Commission’s sessions are publicly advertised as being organized by the unregistered organization known as the National Professionals Front.
This is a partisan and therefore a highly political move. The individual who signed the form which has to be duly submitted to the OPA to book the auditorium, was to all indications, not truthful in his signed pledge on that application that the OPA auditorium is not being used by the applicant, for a political cause.
The GMOA has by and large been against privatization of medical education in any form. However, consider that there are several establishments that offer British and other foreign degrees in law, in the country, which could lead to successful students sitting for the law final examination offered by the Sri Lanka Law College, and becoming lawyers. It is also a fact that there are degree programmes or equivalents in engineering, such as those offered by private institutions such as the Hardy Institute, which lead to persons obtaining engineering degrees or the equivalent from private institutions.
Also, accountants study accountancy in private institutions in the main, and sit for examinations offered by various Accountancy institutions in foreign countries, and qualify to become accountants.
The lawyers, engineers and accountants that pass out of such institutions are for all intents and purposes fully fledged members of their professions, who have full recognition, but it is absurd to see that in the medical profession, all such privately educated persons are sought to be left out of the profession, or out of recognized professional institutions allied to the profession.
As far as the issue of SAITM goes, the government has already announced the abolition of SAITM officially, and it is therefore submitted that SAITM is now a mere academic concern, by and large, and that the real issue is about the mooted private medical school, which would be run as a new non profit making (not for profit) institution under the direction and supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education, and the UGC.
The new not for profit institution would conform to all standards that are applicable to a medical school, and would be a licensing body for doctors, and it has been vouched for by the government, that such a medical school would at all stages including clinical stages, conform to all acceptable standards. If the Sri Lanka Medical Council would offer the licentiate examination to all students who pass out of the new institution, there would be no ‘standards issue’ that can be raised against any private non profit medical school.
It is therefore completely untruthful to say that there is an onslaught on free education, when medical students who do not go through state run medical schools become doctors.
There is a necessity to educate professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers, outside the confines of the state education system.
This is for the simple reason that the State does not have the necessary budget to educate all of the doctors that the country requires, or all of the engineers or lawyers or any other professionals that the country may require. This is why in the majority of liberal democracies, there are students who become professionals in any of these professions cited above, by enrolling in privately owned institutions.
Some of the world’s best doctors are produced by the Harvard Medical School and the medical schools of Universities such as Johns Hopkins. Medical degree granting institutions in the United States such as these are not funded by the US government. On the contrary,such schools are run as private nonprofit institutions, that are maintained from funds derived from private endowments.
Many arguments against any kind of medical education which is offered under the management of private,or even private non-profit organizations, are based on the fact that such education is not beneficial to the common man. For instance it is said that the common man’s right to free education is being trifled with, with the establishment of private medical schools.The common man or the ordinary people of this country would benefit greatly if medical education was open to those who could obtain medical degree from private institutions,when they have the requisite minimum qualifications to enroll in them.
It would mean that the shortage of doctors would be addressed. According to former Director General of Health Services, Palitha Mahipala, such a shortage exists.
This issue is now increasingly being looked at through political lenses. Even publicly known individuals such as Dr. CarloFonseka said that he and others would bring the government down unless the so called SAITM issue is resolved according to his and his fellow-travelers’ own preferences. Meanwhile, unions have been flexing their muscles, and there is no doubt whatsoever that SAITM has become a political football.Those who began SAITMare nowagainst it,and there is hardly any reason except political expediency.
This issue is now increasingly being looked at through political lenses. Even publicly known individuals such as Dr. Carlo Fonseka said that he and others would bring the government down unless the so called SAITM issue is resolved according to his and his fellow-travelers’ own preferences.
In this climate of blatant politicization, it is very difficult for the truth to prevail. Political point scoring is behind most decisions taken on SAITM, and people hate to be ‘politically incorrect’, because that would place them in a place that is considered beyond the pale.
SATIM should primarily be considered an educational issue, and a matter that concerns the long suffering people of this country, who are the eventual victims in the situation of a shortage of doctors.
As long as organizations such as the GMOA want State qualified doctors to maintain their hold — their collective monopoly — on private practice in particular, they would want to control the supply and demand of doctors. Strikes would paralyze the health sector.
But an issue which is driven entirely by the avaricious instincts of a cabal, should be recognized as such, before any solutions could realistically reached.