May 21

We Sri Lankans complain interminably that everything is going to the dogs. Many even go so far as to say that there is no hope of this country ever returning to the Rule of Law and good governance. CIMOGG does not contribute to this defeatist attitude. Whilst we have, over the past several years, highlighted several of the uncounted shortcomings in our body politic, we have always endeavoured to offer constructive suggestions to overcome them. It is true that most of our ideas have been ignored by both the authorities and the public but the dark clouds which cover Sri Lanka, nevertheless, have their silver linings.

Recent reports highlighted the cruel manner in which a patient in a hospital in Panadura was unceremoniously dumped on the pavement outside. Subsequently, we learnt of the death of six patients at the Ratnapura Hospital following a strike occasioned by the trivial isue of the transfer of an attendant who had assaulted a doctor. These are just two of the many publicised acts of heartlessness that occur from time to time in our health sector. Lamentably, whilst these bad examples get a lot of media exposure, the good work done by this sector has rarely been found to be newsworthy. There is little recognition for the hundreds of thousands of hours of qualified medical attention which are given to the majority of our poorer citizens who are unable to afford the cost of private medical care. For example, not many weeks ago, an old retainer of one of our members suffered a stroke and was taken to the Kalubowila Hospital. As the case was rather complex, he was transferred to Ward 64 of the National Hospital. Here it was found that he needed intensive medical care and was, therefore, transferred to Ward 44. Our member, who was able to visit the patient shortly after the move to this ward, saw the number of medical personnel attending on the patient grow from one doctor and one nurse initially to three doctors, four nurses and four technicians over a period of one hour. This large team tried everything in the book and spared no equipment or drugs in trying to save this 84-year old mans life. It was learnt later that these lifesaving efforts had continued for eight hours until there was no fight left in the patient. We doubt that there are many countries in the world where a poor man in such a hopeless situation would have received such intensive care, at no cost to him or his family. Cases of this type – and there must be hundreds every year throughout the country – do not make it to the media. The commitment of the vast majority of conscientious doctors, nurses and other staff are taken for granted and we forget to be thankful for our Health Service, which every government has responsibly supported within the narrow limits of our national income.

An altogether different type of silver lining was the recent initiative taken by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to reduce noise pollution from loudspeakers. Here, a bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice took strong measures to have the existing provisions of the law followed. On the whole, there has been a significant improvement of the environment in this respect, for which we are most grateful. We look forward to further initiatives by the Ministry to minimise the assault to which our ears continue to be subjected by various other sources.

The superb decision given by the Supreme Court to get rid of time-wasting and ineffective road barriers would have already saved this country billions of rupees by minimising wear and tear of vehicle mechanisms, fuel consumption, loss of productive work time, blood pressure build-up, atmospheric pollution, and the suffering of young children and the desperately ill who would otherwise have been stuck for hours in the resulting traffic jams. There is no doubt that the random checking that is being done now is superior in all respects to the earlier method.

The construction of the Fernadopulle Flyover exemplifies how big projects can be completed within specified time schedules, if there is the requisite will on the part of the Ministry concerned. The secret of success here was the evolution of a suitable design and the selection of a competent contractor. The price may have been high but, if the work had not been completed so quickly, the collateral losses would have been larger than the hypothetical cost savings that would have effected by choosing a poorer design and a less skilled contractor.

For more than thirty years, the efforts of those engineers who tried to get coal-powered electricity for Sri Lanka were frustrated by political cowardice, opportunism and corruption. Crises situations were encouraged so that the most expensive option of going for quickly-implementable gas and diesel based power sources became unavoidable. In the light of this background, the decisions taken by President Rajapakse and the Cabinet over the past two and a half years to get on with several long-delayed coal and hydro power projects – Norochcholai, Upper Kotmale and Trincomalee – should be highly commended.

Whilst what is wrong in the country continues to exceed greatly what is right, there is no doubt that some good things do happen. These deserve approbation by the public so that the government will be encouraged, in the public interest, to take more and more rational economic, social and political decisions than in the past.

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