Sri Lanka: Paradise Or Nut House?

by Gamini Weerakoon

That old advertising jingle of the seventies sung in a hybrid accent: ‘Shree Lanker Paradise’ which occasionally keeps coming back to us raises the question: Where the hell am I? Paradise or some kind of nut-house?

Hospitals, even, private hospitals are chock-a-block. Government hospitals are overflowing and patients are two to a bed and under beds on the floor. The dengue mosquito has floored the nation. Meanwhile our patriotic doctors are worried. Not about the sick and dying but about the quality of education that is supposed to be given to a group of medical students in a private medical college. It’s a matter of life and death for them – not about the sick but whether this private institution should be forced to close down or not.

… our patriotic doctors are worried, not about the sick and dying but about the quality of education that is supposed to be given to a group of medical students in a private medical college

The usually misinformed public expect Sri Lankan doctors – whom they mistakenly believe to have taken the Oath of Hippocrates – would throw aside their white overcoats, ties, etc. summon their medical students to the streets and shrubs and give leadership to the people to begin clearing places where mosquitoes breed. But that does not happen in nutty Lanka. Instead they go periodically on strike with their medical students who are not attending classes – while demanding continuance of Mahapola Scholarship payments – and threatening perpetual strikes unless and until their demands are not acceded to.

 

Fruitier and Nuttier

Meanwhile other anti government pro-Rajapaksa trade unions in sympathy with the medics and making their own demand to save national treasures (Jatika Vastu) are to join hands to paralyse the entire nation. All are under the Rajapaksa flag, with the former ruling family itching to be back in their seats after being thrown out by the people two and a half years ago.

Unfortunately they are not listening to a leading prophet of our times – not  astrological but political – who has a solution for the dengue epidemic that could end all this lunacy. Last week he wrote to an English language newspaper giving the solution: Immediately hold provincial council and local government elections that are long overdue.

It is the responsibility of provincial councils and local government bodies to maintain a healthy environment by clearing swamps, drains and puddles that breed mosquitoes. Now, with elections not being held to these subsidiary government bodies, these basic environmental requirements are not maintained resulting in the countrywide dengue epidemic. Hold elections and get these institutions cracking into the open on anti-dengue campaigns. And Hey Presto! Abracadabra! The War against Aedes aegypti - the dengue spreading mosquito – would be over, this political prophet declared. That was how Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin did it on blood sucking humans - the poor peasants.

Dengue has killed more people of all communities put together than Vellupillai Prabhakaran in his 30 years. But as the saying goes: A prophet is not recognised in his own country. It is unlikely that there will be Kiributh and Kavun street parties and shots of the stuff that cheers behind improvised curtains, after the victory. Unfortunately there will also be no war heroes (Maduru Rana Viru) this time, at least where the Rajapaksa gang is concerned.

But another political pundit opines it will not be winning the War but only a battle against Aedes aegypti.

If the battle against mosquitoes is won, the War against Yahapalanaya will be lost. It will knock the bottom out of the doctors’ strikes and with it cripple the momentum gained to topple the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government.

An epidemiologist too differed from the political prophet’s theory about eradicating dengue. When provincial councils and local government bodies were alive and kicking mosquito spread epidemics such as malaria, and filariasis raged, he contended.

 

Memory loss

The medical profession, when it has time to devote themselves to curing the sick when they are not on strike, should seriously pay attention to the mental state of Sri Lankans, says a retired doctor. Amnesia and Schizophrenia need special attention. He points out that the previous regime was thrown out mainly because of allegations of corruption for about nine long years and the demand for justice to be done. Now all that seems to be forgotten with the raging ‘Bond scam of the Central Bank’ and allegations against a minister. Can nine years of corruption be forgotten over two allegations that are still being investigated?

 

National Treasures

Some Sri Lankans have queer conceptions about highway robbery and ‘national treasures – also called national assets.

Institutions and projects causing billion dollar losses, which have to be paid with taxes imposed on consumers, have been declared ‘national treasures’ and moves to rid these millstones around the necks of the suffering public are considered acts of treason! SriLankan Airlines, and Mihin Lanka, two billion dollar loss making state owned companies that were run on the whims and fancies of one family are some such ‘national treasures’. So is the monumental loss making Hambantota projects. It will be argued that those politicos behind these projects are in the process of being declared national treasures.

The reason for political architects of these billion dollar loss making projects to contend that they are national treasures is obvious. But why are the ‘intelligentsia’ as some doctors and the ‘guardians of the working class’ agreeing with them and are prepared to paralyse the country?

Striking doctors and their new found comrades qualify for the psychiatric couch.

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