MOHs threaten strike in Nuwara Eliya District

Thonda accuses Kotagala MOH of being more interested in private practice

By Gamini Bandara Illangatillake

All Medical Officers of Health (MOHs) serving in the Nuwara Eliya District have decided to launch a strike if Minister of Livestock and Rural Community Development Arumugam Thondaman does not apologise to the MOH of Kotagala for threatening him in public on Saturday, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

The incident is alleged to have taken place during a special meeting at the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) Headquarters at Kotagala to discuss the disaster situation in the district due to inclement weather. It was chaired by Mr. Thondaman and District Secretary D. P. Kumarasiri with all top government officers, including Kotagala MOH, Dr Jagath Abeygunawardena participating.

Dr. Abeygunawardena has complained that during the meeting Minister Thondaman accused him of not meeting the health needs of estate workers coming under the Kotagala MOH area and asked him to find another place to go on transfer. The Minister is also said to have directed the Provincial Director of Health Services to transfer Dr. Abeygunawardena immediately. If he was not removed immediately, the General Secretary of the CWC had said all state workers of Kotagala would go on strike.

On Saturday from 9.00 am to 11.00 am several thousand estate workers in Kotagala staged a protest opposite the MOH demanding his removal. It resulted in vehicular traffic along the Hatton-Nuwara Eliya Road coming to a standstill. The protesters also set fire to an effigy of the MOH before dispersing.

Other doctors who attended the meeting tried to settle the dispute and asked the Minister that the MOH be given a chance to amend any shortcoming, but Minister Thondaman rejected all such overtures and scolded them as well.

The minister allegedly accused Dr. Abeygunawardena of being more interested in attending to his private practice than to his official duty, a charge the MOH rejected.


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