|Friday, 19 April 2002|
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The doctors' strike and thuggery
A physical attack carried out recently on a doctor attached to the Colombo National Hospital by a group of unruly persons described as "thugs", has triggered a protest strike by the GMOA and crippled day-to-day activities at the hospital. As should be expected, thousands of patients have been gravely inconvenienced by the doctors' strike while the authorities are reportedly addressing the demands of the GMOA.
While we caution against precipitate, indiscreet action on the part of the GMOA, we also call on the Government and the hospital administration to deal firmly with lawless elements who prevent the doctors from carrying out their duties and behave in a fashion which violates the dignity of the medical profession. From what can be gathered, the doctor at Colombo National Hospital was assaulted over a hospital admission by unruly elements closely associated with unauthorized businesses being conducted in the vicinity of the hospital. Apparently, the offenders have been so bold as to take the law into their own hands, scantly disregarding the doctor's authority.
The authorities have done well so far to order those conducting unauthorized businesses to vacate their locations by May 1st, but swift action needs to be taken to bring the offenders to book. Equally importantly, the conditions that contribute towards the creation of crises of this nature need to be wiped out. One line of inquiry that needs to be pursued and acted on is whether the "unauthorized structures" which have sprung up in the vicinity of the hospital and their inmates, enjoy a degree of political patronage. If so, it is up to the authorities to ensure that such collusion between politicians and these lawless elements ends.
The Government needs to take cognizance of the dangers these informal alliances between politicians and law-breakers could pose for the law-and-order situation. It is usual for these underworld elements to take the upper hand in the public domain when they are assured of political patronage. We needn't reiterate the grave problems which flow from this anomaly of criminal elements taking the law into their own hands.
Meanwhile, the GMOA needs to guard against engaging in any courses of action which would prove damaging to the public interest. We urge the organisation to discuss its problems more closely with the authorities and ensure minimum or no inconvenience to the people.
Much will depend on how effectively the police crackdown on lawlessness. Police effectiveness will be ensured to the degree to which it acts independent of politicians.
We hope, the decision - makers of this country have not forgotten the independent commissions of which less seems to be said now.
Produced by Lake House