The strike weapon
The murder of an
innocent woman doctor in the deep South has shocked the entire
country. It is a crime that seems to have been committed for no
reason at all by a suspect who had been angered by the way the
doctor asked him to follow certain manners and procedures.
We are sure that Police are working earnestly to nab the
culprit, who is said to be in hiding fearing the wrath of the
villagers and the long arm of the law. But is it right for the
Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) to demand that
the suspect be arrested within 48 hours even before the Police
could launch a formal investigation ?
Even if such a demand is justifiable is it morally correct to
call for a strike over the issue within such a short period ?
The GMOA has threatened to call a doctors' strike unless a
suspect responsible for the killing is arrested.
Yesterday doctors and medical officers at the particular
hospital concerned failed to report for duty according to the
media. A countrywide strike is to follow if no arrest is made by
This is not the first time that the GMOA has flexed its
muscles to browbeat the authorities to succumb to its demands,
never mind the lives of the patients.
It is essential that the strike weapon should be used
prudently if it is to have any effect. Here the GMOA is in
effect holding a holding a gun at the head of the Government to
arrest the suspect on pain of strike action while the patients
are being reduced to helpless bystanders.
By what stretch of the imagination could a professional body
such the GMOA draw a co-relation between the arrest of a crime
suspect, however horrendous the crime may be, and patients'
The GMOA has been known for its ultimatums even in the past.
What will be the position if the Government is put in the dock
for every crime and misdemeanour over which it has no control,
in all state institutions ? Does it mean all activity in the
state sector will be crippled by strikes until the issue is
resolved by the State ?
It is obvious to any right thinking person that an islandwide
hospital strike is disproportionate to the issue at hand. True,
members of the GMOA must be justly aggrieved at the callous
murder of one of their fraternity and the Government should do
everything in its power to bring the culprit to book as soon as
It also should take emergency measures to arrest the growing
incidents of crime. But authorities cannot be allowed to be
browbeaten in this fashion even by an elite group of
professionals such as the GMOA.
In no way can one justify the action planed by the GMOA to
resort to the type of action they have threatened - getting
their members to down tools by attaching vicarious liability to
the Government for the crime.
True, the Police may be faulted for not acting on the
complaint made by the doctor against the suspect on a previous
occasion. But this laxity on the part of the police cannot be an
excuse to penalise the innocent patients for no fault of theirs.
Besides it is akin to blackmail and reminiscent of strike
action of private us operators at the drop of a hat. A
prestigious body such as the GMOA should think twice before
plunging into precipitate action of this nature.
The public expects much more from this fraternity who has
taken an oath to protect the sick and the suffering. This should
preceded all parochial considerations. True, the GMOA too has
justifiable grievances and any concession to the doctors would
not be begrudged by members of the public.
But by acting in this manner they risk losing this respect
shown to them by the public. Doctors are an exceptional breed
and ought to conduct themselves as befits an elite profession.
The GMOA has won many of its demands through agitation campaigns
in recent times and there is no reason why the Government would
not meet any justifiable demands of the medical profession.
The GMOA hierarchy it is hoped would reconsider their
decision and conduct itself as a true professional body that
would earn the respect and regard of the public. Making patients
suffer for no fault of theirs is not the ideal way to win such
Their strike call also comes at crucial time when the
Security Forces are poised to capture the LTTE citadel with
intensified battles on the cards. An islandwide strike by
doctors at such a crucial time is not the ideal way to boost the
morale of the troops. By resorting to such tactics the GMOA
could also risk losing its bargaining clout.