Why reopening closed state
hospitals is a must
'Peace alone is not
helping us. The President's programmes are very good. But we
request the President to make sure that the benefits of
development reach grassroots villages like ours.'
These words of a youth in Kayts, currently at the heart of a
heady local government electoral tussle, along with some other
areas of the North, touch on one of the most sensitive issues in
the debate on development. Plainly and succinctly, he has told
us what development, correctly understood, is all about.
Development is really all about roads, bridges, electricity
pylons that light up once desolate homes, clean water, schools
that are fully functional and well staffed hospitals that are
open 24 hours a day and administering purse-easy medicines and
many more public facilities that make the life of the ordinary
people easy to bear. Rather than go along with the popular tide
and mechanically mouth platitudes, our youngster from Kayts made
no bones about the fact that he would not be taken in by
anything that happens around him, unless his life was full of
the very essentials for living. This is development and none
This is food for thought for all those who are feverishly
canvassing votes in the North and outside and for all those who
think they know a thing or two or more about development issues.
For development to be meaningful the most pressing needs of the
ordinary people must be satisfied and it is these ordinary
people, who need to wage a desperate struggle to make ends meet,
who constitute the bulk of this country's population, inasmuch
as they make-up the majority in the rest of the developing
Therefore, the state must aim at delivering to the people not
only conflict-free living but a life which is not devoid of the
essentials for living. Accordingly, those facilities and
amenities that enable the people to fulfill at least a few of
their needs must be kept operational by the state. From this
point of view, the state is doing right by reopening provincial
and other hospitals which were closed at one time on account of
the conflict and other compulsions. Many of these are being
reopened in the North and this would, no doubt, accrue to the
good of the Northern people.
As we have mentioned earlier, Sri Lanka has kept the welfare
system alive even to a degree over the years, and this has
ensured the survival of the ordinary people although life could
not be described as having treated them well at all over the
decades. If not for the welfare system thousands would have
perished in the North as a result of the privations heaped on
them by the LTTE. However, the welfare measures adopted by the
state ensured that the majority of the people in the North-East
survived the most difficult times.
As for the people of the rest of the country, life would have
been near impossible for them too if the state had adopted a
completely hands-off policy in regard to public welfare, after
the onset of the 'market economy' in the mid-seventies. The
'interventionist state' has, however, ensured that the crucial
needs of the people have been always met and we believe that
this legacy of caring for the people would need to be maintained
into the future as well.
Nevertheless, most socially-conscious persons would have
watched with regret the closure of essential institutions, such
as, hospitals and schools, in some parts of this country over
the years. These closures may have been effected for numerous
reasons but the most disheartening inference the observer would
have been compelled to draw was that the sun was truly setting
on the essentially welfare state which is Sri Lanka.
We believe that public welfare, which is an essential aspect
of development, cannot be left at the mercy of market forces.
The state should not only be interventionist to an extent, but
should continue to be committed to the people's welfare if
development in the truest sense is to continue. Essential public
facilities must continue into the future and it is only the
welfare state that could ensure this. In other words, the
welfare state must perpetuate itself.