Health Ministers calls for cancellation of nominations for proposed SLMC election

Saying moves underway to regulate transparent election procedure

by Suresh Perera

In an unprecedented development, the process now underway to elect a member to fill an existing vacancy in the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) has hit rough weather with Health Minister, Maithripala Sirisena calling for the cancellation of nominations saying "moves are afoot to regulate a transparent election procedure".

The Minister has officially intimated to Prof. Carlo Fonseka, the president of this apex body of medical professionals, that the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has lodged an appeal and made representations to stop the notice of nomination and device a transparent election procedure.

The GMOA, the biggest trade union representing 17,000 government doctors island-wide, has sought the adoption of a "transparent election procedure" under the Medical Ordinance by way of a regulation under section 19 (a) of the Act.

However, the SLMC boss has appealed to Minister Sirisena to allow the scheduled election to go ahead with an assurance that "all elections held thereafter will be conducted under new regulations formulated by the Minister of Health in consultation with the SLMC".

"The Council unanimously and respectfully requests you to permit the SLMC to complete the election process already initiated for the election of one member by the end of May under the guidelines of Annexure 01", Fonseka noted in his letter to the Minister.

The Health Minister has sought the cancellation of the SLMC’s notice of nomination by virtue of powers vested in him under Section 18 of the Medical Ordinance.

The SLMC is a statutory body established for the purpose of protecting health care seekers by ensuring the maintenance of academic and professional standards, discipline and ethical practice by health professionals registered with it. As presently constituted, the Council has representation from medical faculties of the state universities as well as from professionals in the state and private sector.

"We fully endorse your decisions that regulations should be formulated to ensure transparency. As regards the forthcoming poll, seven nominations have already been received, scrutinized, duly accepted and acceptance notified to applicants", the SLMC chief says.

The SLMC president will act as the returning officer for the proposed election in terms of a decision endorsed by the Council at the 538th meeting in February 2014. According to the media notification, nominations closed at 12 noon on March 21, 2014.

The GMOA has written to the Minister that Drs. W. I. N. Wijesooriya, C. S. Dharmaratne, H. M. Nalinda Priyan Herath, J. A. Y. R. Perera and A. M. N. Ariyaratne, who are contesting for the post of council member in the SLMC have made representations to it that the existing election procedure is not transparent and the forthcoming election will not be free and fair.

The letter signed by GMOA Secretary, Dr. Saman Abeywardana has asked the Minister to take necessary steps to regularize the election procedure to ensure a free and fair poll.

The move to cancel the election has come under flak by some doctors who asserted that it was the first time in SLMC’s history that "political interference was being sought to cancel an election to an independent body".

As the proposed SLMC poll is scheduled for June 2014, the GMOA wants it cancelled to throw its weight behind this key trade union’s own general election also scheduled for the same month, they claimed. "They are trying to avoid a battle on two fronts".

The situation has become more complex after GMOA parent body’s critical setback at the NHSL (National Hospital of Sri Lanka) branch union election, where a group of dissidents romped home with a comfortable win, they pointed out.

GMOA spokesman, Dr. Navin de Soysa said that he has nothing to say and The Sunday Island can write whatever it wants.

Asked why he had suddenly changed his attitude, he retorted that the news story on the GMOA parent body losing the recent NHSL branch union election was "completely wrong".

Queried why the GMOA didn’t contradict the report, which was balanced with a comment from De Soysa himself, he shot back "We know about you. We will send a detailed reply at the correct time. We have nothing to do with you. Write whatever you want".

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