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The strike launched by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) on Friday (7) against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) came under severe criticism where academics said that the action was against the fundamentals of the people.

Academics strongly criticized the move of the GMOA and student unions who had left the patients stranded.

“The doctors are taking the patients to ransom,” Senior Counsel Udaya Rohan De Silva pointed out.

He emphasized that students who had passed exams at the SAITM were waiting to become  doctors, adding that therefore the main issue was whether they were suitable to become doctors or not.

The GMOA said that the degrees awarded by SAITM could not be accepted as the institute was not equipped with the necessary standards required to award medical qualifications.

“The GMOA has railed against the lack of minimum entry qualifications of certain students and graduates of SAITM, yet they have not produced names,” he elaborated, adding also that the SAITM authorities had denied the said allegation.

However, de Silva said that since the SAITM had been commenced, the stakeholders should look at filling the loopholes instead of shutting down the institute.

“It must also be noted that not all the students at SAITM are medical students studying to become doctors,” De Silva further pointed out.

He noted that there was no way one could know for certain, the quality of the education provided overseas, adding that Sri Lankan parents paid large sums of money abroad for their children’s education which resulted in the outflow of monies.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in January ruled that the degree awarded by SAITM was lawful and ordered the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) to register the graduates in accordance with the Medical Ordinance.

However, the GMOA has been critical of the Court of Appeal ruling. “If one is not satisfied with the Court of Appeal ruling, if one is a law-abiding citizen one will go to the Supreme Court instead of organizing strikes and asking a lot of others to join,” he said, adding that most who join had no clue as to what was taking place.

The GMOA previously stated that they had been denied an opportunity to be allowed to go before the Court of Appeal. De Silva in turn added that this was then a matter which should have been raised before the trial or if it pertains to a point of law before the Supreme Court. De Silva further added that protesting undergraduates had not read the Court of Appeal decision.
He noted that if the Supreme Court is of the view that the Court of Appeal judgment was correctly analyzed and given, then there was nothing anyone could do.

“They must discuss and come to a final solution. There must be a middle path. The President gave a chance to discuss. They went for the discussions and gave proposals. Yet, the President hasn’t taken a decision yet. They want the SAITM closed. This is totally not correct,” he said.

The Government will give a solution. For this, there must be negotiations and they must come to a settlement. This is not what they want. They should organize discussions with the relevant authorities by bringing them to one platform instead of having discussions with trade unions. They should have a dialogue instead of shouting. They must discuss with material. What is happening however constitutes violations of most rights,” he reiterated.

De Silva is also the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. However, the views expressed here are not the official views of the private and unofficial bar.