UNP, SLFP Marriage Will Continue – Rajitha Senaratne

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne says the unity government will renew their agreement and continue as the unity government beyond August. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, the Minister said that the people in the North and East are enjoying real freedom as a result of the unity government. He says the Government has taken steps to address the Human Rights issue and so it will be ready to face the international community in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: The agreement between the two main parties is expected to end shortly and what next?

A: We will extend the agreement and other than that nothing is going to happen.

 

Q: The Government promised to provide solutions to the problems facing the people of the North and East, but why has nothing been done so far?

A: No one can say that there have been no solutions to their issues. The main thing is that they are all living freely now unlike before. This is why there are so many picketing campaigns, protests and various other forms of campaigns. During the Rajapaksa regime no one would have even thought of doing these. We have given back part of the lands but I do admit that the mechanism for releasing lands is rather slow. At the last meeting I had with the President it was discussed to address the issues pertaining to the disappeared and the releasing of political prisoners who do not have charges filed against them. As for those who have charges against them, they should have their cases taken up in court and resolved. We should not look at these political prisoners in the same manner we did in the past. When we read Thamilini’s book she says no Tamil youth took up arms. Had she been killed we would never have had the chance to read that book and understand the mentality and issues of the Tamils.  Hence, these Tamil prisoners should be released. However, it is a little harder to find those reported missing, because even those reported missing in ’78 and ’88 are still missing and cannot be traced. In fact I spoke to some of the family members of the disappeared in the North and they are urging us to find out what happened to their children. However, the President promised to come to the North every month and look into the progress of the investigations with regard to those who were reported missing during the war.

Q: How prepared is the government for the next Geneva conference?

A: They have given us a time period and during that period we will see about it. At the last Geneva session they expressed satisfaction at the progress we have made and that, I think, is very important.

 

Q: With the current trend of student uprisings, there is a fear that like in ’83 the students might take up arms if this is allowed to continue. What is your view?

A: A CID investigation in this regard is underway and we are also planning on bringing in a new Act to deal with those who are trying to create unrest in the country. In fact the punishment for such acts will be not less than 10 years rigorous imprisonment. These measures are being taken to prevent such incidents such as in ’83 ever taking place in this country again.

 

Q: With the SAITM issue and the GMOA clashes, is it true that there could be other medical officers associations sprouting?

A: What we said about SAITM from the start was the government’s stance and there were no personal decisions with regard to SAITM. Although Padeniya goes and makes all these statements about SAITM, they are the ones who got together with Gotabhaya and established SAITM. Now what we are trying to do is figure out what to do with this issue that they created. There were several ministers who told the President not to meet with the GMOA and now they are changing their word. There are enough of doctors who are against the GMOA actions. These groups wanted to oppose the GMOA actions and I am the one who urged them not to break up the GMOA. Otherwise the GMOA would have been split up a long time ago.

 

Q: Whenever there is an issue in the country, usually the government takes a step back, but now we don’t see that happening. Why?

A: How much more can we accede to them. As a government we have done the best we could and given them all the freedom they need. They should not abuse that freedom.

 

Q: With such clashes, don’t you think the reputation of the medical profession is being tarnished?

A: All this is simply because of the petty-minded actions of just a few of them. But many of the unions are with us and they are willing to work with the government for a better future.

Q: What measures has the government taken to address the dengue epidemic in the country?

A: Dengue has been increasing in many parts of the world and the World Health Organisation has said that climate change is the main reason for it. This is not like Malaria. Dengue mosquitoes breed in households and that is why I said it has increased with rapid urbanisation. However, the primary responsibility of the Health Ministry is to take care of the patients that have been infected with the dengue virus. We have taken all measures to deal with this situation and I think we have handled the situation pretty well. Not just the Health ministry and the related organisations, even the Provincial Councils and all Local Bodies have come together to tackle this situation. In Cuba, they tackled the dengue outbreak by flattening houses and taking those who had mosquito breeding places in their homes into custody. However, we cannot resort to such drastic measures as we are a democratic country. However, we can devise a plan to reward those who bring in samples of mosquito larvae, as it was done in some countries.

 

Q: What new measures would be taken to uplift the health sector in the country?

A: We have taken measures to produce around 90% of the total drug requirement locally, construct new hospitals, improve the mobile medical services, and implement more medical higher education facilities etc by the end of 2018. However, although there is much that has to be done, because of these obstructions the whole mechanism is being affected. With regard to many of the illnesses, there are many new treatment methods that can be introduced locally such as personal life medicine. We must keep up with the world’s advancement in medical facilities and treatment. But some people only have these petty ideas in their heads and they are trying to destabilise the progress that we are making. The government is also spending so much on their education and they need to make full use of it.

 

Q: But there are allegations that even the Cancer hospital lacks the much needed PET scanner and in such an instance how can you say all facilities have been provided?

A: We have already installed a PET scanner in Colombo. We only purchase these in the event it is deemed highly essential due to the many side effects that these machines cause. We have been spending unlimited amounts of money for the upliftment of the health sector. Even in the event we run short of funds the moment we notify the Finance Ministry they give us the funds.

 

2 Comments for “UNP, SLFP Marriage Will Continue – Rajitha Senaratne”

  1. Noor Nizam

    Why has the Media sidelined the pioneering parent of a cancer affected patient victim, Dr. Mohamed (father) – President of the Kadijah Foundation who initiated this fund raising campaign is being completely sidelined in all the media releases regarding this wonderful humanitarian project? A press (news) article in the Sunday Newspaper states that Rs. 250 Million Collected, Ten Months Gone Still No PET Scanner by Priyantha Hettige, tells the full story. Dr. Mohamed praised a particular electronic media for the supported extended to make the fund raising a success. There are many “dark areas” of this deal which have been covered up. Muslims do not entertain interest. How much of interest money did the Government (Ministry of Health) gain from this fund? Why did the Minister of Health delay the purchase process so long? The public have a right to know answers to these questions and media should publish them.
    “The Muslim Voice”.

  2. Naga Ramalingam

    This minister who promises to improve health care is the one who went to foreign countries couple of times, just to have a medical check up. The reason alluded for the delay in purchasing a PET scanner as possible adverse effects, is laughable!

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