Tuesday, March 1, 2016


With apologies to London Weekend Television
From The Island - By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

One of the most popular series on Rupavahini, when it started broadcasting in 1982, was ‘Mind your language’, a British Comedy from the stables of, now defunct, London Weekend Television; broadcast in UK from 1977, till it fell victim to ‘political correctness’ in 1981, the stereotyping of foreigners being considered offensive. Though it was axed in UK, in spite of huge audiences exceeding 18 million, the programme was available for purchase by foreign broadcasters. It is a hilarious depiction of the plight of an Oxford graduate, Mr Jeremy Brown, who is hired by an adult education school in London to teach English to foreign students. It was co-produced by Sri Lankan born Albert Moses, who also acted as Ranjeet Singh, a Sikh, whose catch-phrase was ‘a thousand apologies’. Every episode made us laugh till tears came to our eyes and we loved it so much we bought a DVD set which we still play. However, of late we haven’t had to do so, as politicians are providing us with enough entertainment by their words and actions. Some may get angry with the antics of politicians but I do not, because, since I started meditation nearly two years ago, I laugh on occasions I would normally have got angry in the past.

One who needs to mind his language most seems to be the Prime Minister and the humorous but thought provoking Editorial "Baby ETCA with Raja Yoga" (The Island, Thursday 25th) also highlights this fact. It may be desperation or may be frustration that the Prime Minister seems ready to brand any organization or anyone that disagrees with him a traitor. One of his ministers from Uva has gone further and referred to the GMOA as a group of villains! What is the villainous act they committed? Criticizing the ECTA! One wonders whether this is the freedom of speech of the ‘Yahapalanaya’ Government.

I have been critical of the GMOA in the past, especially about their strikes, but in this instance the GMOA deserves congratulations for the manner in which they protested; rather than strike they had a peaceful protest outside Badulla Hospital during the lunch hour. Again, the supporters of the politician had tried to disrupt this legal protest. Freedom of expression or dissent in any form, no longer seem possible in the ‘Yahapalanaya’ Sri Lanka!

I laughed aloud when I read the following news-item in ‘The Island’ of Friday 19th:

"Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday warned the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and a section of the media, which he alleged was trying to sabotage the government’s development programmes aimed at creating jobs and increasing people’s income."

I am sure many who watched the Prime Minister’s response to the criticism of Kishani Jayasinghe’s soprano rendition of ‘Danno Budunge’ would have said, as I did, ‘Mind your language Prime Minister’. He was worse than the critic. On top of the veiled threat of censorship and withdrawal of the broadcasting licence, it was shocking when he said "Ballonta balu-weda karanna denne nehe", referring to the broadcasters as dogs. Is this the language expected of a Prime Minister; for that matter, any cultured person?

The Minister of Health, who was a trade-unionist himself before taking to politics, too accused the GMOA but was soon in medical trouble. He was faced with a difficult situation and decided to rush to Singapore for treatment. Even if he distrusted his Sri Lankan colleagues, which he should not have as he is well aware that professionalism supersedes any political differences, he could have got himself treated by the many trusting Indian doctors, who work in Private hospital on his authority, not that of the Sri Lanka Medical Council.

Dr Bhagya Kodituwakku (The Island, Tuesday 23rd) raises very interesting issues about the Health Minister’s decision to go to Singapore for treatment and while agreeing on many points raised I disagree on the comment regarding the GMOA. I applaud the GMOA for not commenting on this issue as it is a private matter and the Minister is entitled to privacy as much as any other person, provided he is paying for treatment from his own income. If the government or the President's Fund is paying then it is a different ball game all together. It is reported that President Sirisena and Minister Fonseka have flown to Singapore to see the Minister and do hope they are not utilizing public funds.At the time of independence, 68 years ago, we were well ahead of all our neighbours, so much so that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to make Singapore a Ceylon. May those doctors of Singapore restore the good health of our Health Minister is my fervent wish.

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad needed By-pass surgery after a heart attack in 1989, when he was Prime Minister, insisted on getting it done in Malaysia and refused to go abroad for treatment stating that, if he did so, citizens of Malaysia would not have confidence in their health care system. I remember this well because, shortly before this, Mr R Premadasa, when he was Prime Minister, went to the US to get his gall bladder removed. I also remember a conversation I had with President Jayewardene about this. When I met the President for something else, he seemed pensive and when I asked why he said:

"Upul, I am worried about the Prime Minister, hope his cancer is treatable"

"What cancer sir, he has gall stones" was my unguarded reply.

"But he got jaundice and he told me that it is likely to be cancer. That is why he wanted to go to USA for surgery" said J R.

"Well sir, jaundice can be caused by a gall stone blocking the ductand he will be cured once the gall bladder is removed" I told him and that is exactly what happened.

On his return after surgery, when questions were raised, Mr Premadasa’s explanation was that he did so because a doctor friend of his paid his travel and bills for surgery in USA. It was later revealed that the large retinue he took with him were all at government expense!

Politicians, they never change!!

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