The Sunday Leader

Political Hand Seen Behind Anti-SAITM Protests

by  Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Protests continued last week against the SAITM private medical campus in Malabe resulting in public property being damaged. A strike by doctors on the SAITM issue led to hundreds of patients being affected.

President Maithripala Sirisena had stated that there is a political hand behind the behaviour of the university students. Meanwhile Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that action will be taken against those responsible for the damage caused to the property of the Health Ministry. He believes that the damage caused could run into millions.

The Convener of the Inter-University Student’s Federation (IUSF) Lahiru Weerasekara  however denies such political motives and stated that the public were behind their struggle. He pointed out that the struggle calling for the closure of SAITM and the sale of free education will be carried out until SAITM is closed down.

Claiming that it was the people’s struggle that was the main force behind the student protests, he said although he engages in politics, this struggle has nothing to do with politics and they are certainly not being driven by some political motive. He said people like Senarath should be put in jail for the harm they are doing to the country. According to him, no matter what threats and dangers they have to face the students will not back down until they win their rights. He further added that there are plenty of issues that need to be discussed with the Health Minister with regard to health and drugs.

Meanwhile, opposition Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa condemned the attack on the students claiming that they were instrumental in the fall of Mahinda Rajapaksa and it was unjust to treat them in this manner.

Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila said instead of attacking the students in this manner the Health authorities could have discussed the issues with the student bodies.

However, Health Minister  Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said, before anything could be discussed the students had acted in an offensive and destructive manner at the Health Ministry gates.

Meanwhile the Ruhuna and Jayawardenapura university students collective pointed out that the damage was not caused by the students but it was the security forces that acted violently causing damage to health ministry property.  However, the students are determined to carry on this struggle until SAITM is closed down.

However, it is a known fact that the Left wing politics plays a great role in the student protests. But,    Weerasekara    denies such political motives vehemently and claims that even though it is the accepted notion, this struggle is purely to safeguard the free education in the country and has nothing to do with politics.

Meanwhile, Hasitha Madushan of the Ruhuna University said free education is the right of every child in the country and the government has a commitment towards it. “We are carrying on this struggle to safeguard the rights of all students. We did not go to the Health Ministry to have a fight with anyone, but all we wanted was to discuss this matter with the Health Minister. Yet under the orders of Minister Sagala Ratnayake, the military barged in and started attacking the students. It was when they were barging in with force that they damaged the Health Ministry property. They attacked the fallen monks and the female students in the most inhumane manner. We then asked these soldiers why they were attacking us.” he said. Hasitha Madushan said the government was hoodwinking the people regarding the taking over of SAITM and the Neville Fernando hospital. He said there should be a proper plan from the government to take over these institutions and safeguard the free education system of this country. He said the Ruhunu University students have been behind this struggle from the start and have shed blood and undergone various threats and assaults by doing so. However, he said they will not back down no matter what they have to face and will continue their struggle till they achieve their goal of abolishing SAITM.

The number of students injured in the clash stands at 89. Among those injured and hospitalised at the National Hospital are five police personnel. Around 50 are receiving residential treatment. The protestors had remained within the Health Ministry premises for around three hours and Minister Sagala Ratnayake had deployed the military personnel including riot police and STF to safeguard the ministry property.  The riot police had fired tear gas and baton assaults to disperse the protestors.

However, the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court had issued an order that the protest could only be held peacefully without inconveniencing the general public.

Another group that joined the protest were the Unemployed Graduates Association. According to its Convenor Tenne Gnanananda Thera, the country will soon face a medical drugs mafia and it is very clear that plans are afoot to privatise the health sector as well. He warned that this government too, through this sort of action is heading towards election defeat at the next election. He said the Unemployed Graduates will participate in any struggle to preserve the country’s free health and education. “It is not as if the country does not have an education and health policy. But what they are trying to do is to privatise education like they did to many state entities. Even other countries that privatised education such as India and Bangladesh are now suffering the consequences. There have been many a protest in foreign countries too against the privatisation of education. We ask the government to either take over SAITM or shut it down. This is a death blow to the free education of this country. If not more of these private substandard institutes will spring up. In India there are 32 such private medical colleges that are blacklisted. One of the heads of these institutions was caught trying to take a bribe and is in prison. This is what will happen if the government does not heed our warning,” he warned.

We also contacted the student unions of the Sri Jayawardenapura University and they are adamant that they will fight to the end until they win their demands. Daya Chaminda Bandara a student leader said, “We are uncertain if we can believe the promises given by the government. Maintaining educational institutes with proper standards is not an issue but these educational institutes should not be maintained with the sole purpose of making money at the cost of proper educational standards,” he pointed out.

Struggles to win the rights of the people have been held many a time and some were won and some were lost. However, there has always been a price to pay in terms of fighting for rights.

3 Comments for “Political Hand Seen Behind Anti-SAITM Protests”

  1. Lima

    SAITM STARTED BY KING ROBBER / MURDERER JARAPAKSA ,WHY THESE RASCALS DID NOT PROTEST IN THIS MANNER AT THAT TIME, IT IS BECAUSE THESE JARAPAKSAS WILL KILL THE WHOLE FAMLY , THAT IS WHY THESE RASCALS AND GMOA DOCTORS DID NOT DO IT , NOW PRES MS AND PM RANIL ARE GENTLEMEN FOR NOT HARMING THE PEOPLE AND KEEPING HIGH ON HUMAN RELATIONS , THESE RASCALS WITH MURDERER JARAPAKSA BACKING TAKING ADVANTAGE. THE GOVT SHOULD KICK THEM OUT AND ATTACK THEM WITH IRON POLES AND BREAK THEM TO SHOW THE WORLD THE DEMOCRACY AS HOW MUCH FREEDOM GIVEN AND NOW THESE ROUDY GUYS ACTING IN THIS MANNER

  2. Lima

    RAJITHA , CANCEL ALL QUALIFICATIONS OF GMOA GUYS WHO TAKE PART IN THE STRIKE , BAN THEM FROM LEAVING THE COUNTRY , CAN THEIR DOCTOR LICENCES , IMPOUND THEIR PASS PORT , SEIZE ALL THEIR PROPERTIES AND ASSETS , LET THEM LIVE IN THE HOUSE THE LIVED BEFORE THEY BECAME DOCTORS. MAKE RADY SOON DOCTORS FROM INDIA , PAKISTAN , BANGLADESH , NEPAL . BRING THEM PLANE LOAD AND MAKE THEM TO TAKE OVER THE JOB . SHOW THESE GMOA CROCODILE A LESSON IN SIMILAR MANNER THAT SINGAPORE PM DID TO THE STRIKING PILOTS. IF YOU DO ONLY ONCE OTHERS WILL FOLLOW

  3. gamarala

    India Medical Council blacklisted private medical colleges.

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/32-medical-colleges-might-be-barred-from-conducting-admissions/story-XZb8EjDV0fRhSa7N2SwRgK.html

    Sri Lanka Medical Council should blacklist SAITM similarly.

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