Proposed ‘Engineering Council Bill’ inimical to profession - FSP

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) yesterday alleged that the enactment of the proposed Engineering Council Bill would be severely inimical to the profession and therefore the ruling coalition and other political parties and groups in parliament should review the Bill.

Top FSP spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda urged professionals to take up the issue with the political parties represented in Parliament.

Addressing the media at MDDR hall Rajagiriya, Jagoda said that the Engineering Council Bill should be examined against a simmering dispute between the yahapalana government and the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) over the issuance of medical degrees by the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) etc.

The government gazetted the Engineering Council Bill on Aug.1, 2016 consequent to the cabinet approval on July 5, 2016.

Jagoda alleged that the Bill was contrary to the purported objectives of regulating the

Profession of Engineering in Sri Lanka by registering engineering practitioners. The Bill would cause rapid deterioration of professional standards, the spokesman asserted.

Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka have proposed the controversial Bill on behalf of the government.

The spokesperson for the breakaway JVP faction asserted that the proposed Engineering Council should be established on the lines of the SLMC. Praising the British for setting up the SLMC in accordance with legislation passed way back in 1927, Jagoda said that successive governments hadn’t been able to influence the body. Although, the JRJ government introduced Medical (Amendment) Act (No. 30 of 1987)-Section II in the wake of dispute over North Colombo Medical College (NCMC), the first privately-funded such project in Sri Lanka, the SLMC had retained substantial powers to resist subsequent administrations, the FSP spokesperson said.

The government hadn’t been able to accord full recognition to the SAITM due to the tough stand taken by the SLMC in respect of acceptance of medical degrees offered by the private institute.

Referring to a recent statement attributed to Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister S.B. Dissanayake that Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne should exercise his powers to assist SAITM, Jagoda said that the government realized that it lacked the required authority due to powers and privileges enjoyed by the SLMC. Having taken the composition of the 25-member SLMC into consideration, the government had sought to dominate the Engineering Council to ensure that the body wouldn’t in any way interfere with its political objectives.

The FSPer said that the SLMC had been constituted in such a way, the government couldn’t influence the body. Explaining the composition of the SLMC, Jagoda said that even the politician holding the health portfolio lacked the power to remove the head of the SLMC. Otherwise, Professor Carlo Fonseka would have been dismissed by now over SAITM dispute, he said.

According to Jagoda, the 25-member SLMC consisted of eight persons representing eight medical fa culties in the country, one representing dentists, eight elected by doctors, one nominated by Professions Supplementary to Medicine, one elected by dentists, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) and four nominated by the health minister. The composition of the SLMC had effectively prevented the health minister from manipulating the body, Jagoda said.

Jagoda alleged that the proposed Engineering Council comprised 17 persons, of which 13 would be nominated by the Prime Minister. Alleging that the previous government had prepared the required draft, Jagoda claimed that the incumbent government had entrusted the Prime Minister with the task of managing the proposed Engineering Council whereas the previous administration have vested that power in the President. Jagoda explained the Prime Minister’s authority over the proposed Engineering Council and how he/she could manipulate it.

The FSP accused the government of speeding up the privatization process of the higher education sector.

Jagoda alleged that there was an ongoing dispute between the President and the Prime Minister with both parties trying to consolidate power.

Asked by The Island whether the FSP would move the Supreme Court against the proposed Engineering Council Bill, the FSP spokesperson asserted that the judiciary wouldn’t intervene in this matter. Jagoda asserted that the Bill though inimical to the engineering profession wouldn’t be inconsistent with the Constitution. However, the FSP would discuss the matter with its lawyers, Jagoda said, alleging that Parliament was being used as a tool to bring in legislation inimical to the national interest.

Jagoda said that contrary to much publicized claims about the 19 Amendment to the Constitution it had failed to restore good governance.

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