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Why oppose a private medical institution?

Commencing primarily with the Socio-political changes of 1956 a strong lobby has evolved against the setting up of private educational institutions.

It was free-education that had provided the momentum for this historic change; and it was free-education, and the Central Schools that were blossoming as centres of learning that provided the backbone of the ruling class and the bureaucracy in the post 1956 era.
Resentment towards the English speaking products of the public schools that had taken root under colonialism was a natural outcome.

English was the weapon of the elite. To further neutralise the ‘kaduwa’ private schools were taken over. The University of Ceylon modelled on Oxford and Cambridge by Robert Marrs and Ivor Jennings was not to remain exclusive. Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pirivenas were given university status. Education from primary school to university graduation became a state monopoly; and Sinhala the language of the state.

The ‘babes’ of this Cultural Revolution reveled in this change. But in less than three decades the country began to face new challenges. The collapse of communism, globalisation and the dramatic emergence of technology, particularly Information Technology began to convince all and sundry that no state could survive in isolation. A revival for the desire to learn English surfaced in a big way.

The demand for education began to rapidly outgrow the available facilities. Places in universities and even at the primary level in schools were limited. Private sector support became the only alternative

A large number of institutions cropped up providing educational opportunities abroad. International schools started providing even primary level education. English became the medium of instruction in these institutions. Even diehard chauvinists, non-English speaking politicians as well as the new rich began to send their children to these institutions. Access to foreign degrees became easier, not to mention even bottom level foreign employment.

It is evident from the article in the Sunday Times March 29 by Isuru Kaviratne entitled ‘Private Campus, ‘unfit’ to produce Doctors’, that there still exists a lobby, albeit small and politically motivated against private educational institutions. Reading this article, particularly the headline, one gets the impression that this institution, South Asian Institute of Technology and Management (SAITM) which is affiliated to one of Russia’s leading higher education institutions in Medicine has been mischievously downgraded to discourage prospective applicants.

When thousands of the country’s sick struggle to get accommodation in the islands well equipped, well managed private hospitals to say that only state hospitals can provide proper clinical training is puerile and unconvincing.

Weerakkody, President of the Colombo Medical Faculty students Union has stated that anyone with Rs. 5.5 M could enter this institute. Does this mean that anyone with money could get a medical degree from the Nizhny Novgorod State Academy of Medicine in Russia. A rather thoughtless sentiment.

Weerakkody also says that facilities at several medical faculties of state universities have to be expanded and developed. This is the crux of the problem. The state has no resources to improve the medical faculties. Staffing and equipping have fallen back. What is the use of clinical training without a grasp of the course work?

It is little wonder that medical graduates from some of these universities do not wish to mention the university with their MBBS qualification. Doctors as well as medical students need to ask themselves the question, why is it that there are so many roadside signs reading - MBBS (Sri Lanka) and not the university?

Is there also the possibility that an MBBS from a foreign university will lead to a status problem?

A major concern though not openly voiced arises out of the necessity for students to know a recognised foreign language to obtain a degree from a Russian, Japanese, American or UK university. English, for example gives access to some of the best internet libraries in medical studies enabling students to achieve high standards and professional recognition.

This possibility that SAITM offers is perceived as a real threat to the majority of our students, who enter universities having been compelled by circumstances not to look beyond Sinhala or Tamil. And it is this fear that some narrow minded politicians are exploiting and mislead students.

This is a serious sociological problem that should be of concern to our education planners. Urban youths who have had exposure to the English language race ahead of the others in professional disciplines. It is these youths that are preferred by the private sector; and in medicine particularly, it is they who readily qualify for higher degrees and scholarships. The woeful shortage of specialists/consultants is a natural consequence.
Good private medical colleges will certainly help in eliminating this deficiency.
The charging of high fees and the profit motive has also been put forward as an argument against private institutions. They conveniently ignore the fact that the taxpayer has to bear the high cost of state medical education. Furthermore, the reduction of the outflow of foreign exchange and the possibility of attracting foreign students are other noteworthy advantages.

Many do not appear to know that universities abroad too which are preferred by foreign students also make profit. Apart from funding research and development the high fees that foreign students pay are utilised to subsidise the local students. No entrepreneur will launch on a private educational institute ignoring the profit factor. But we should not grudge our own people making a profit and paying taxes rather than foreign educational institutions making a profit out of the fees of our students.

The questions that need to be addressed are:
01. Can our universities absorb all those who qualify for admission?
02. Can the state provide more universities?
03. Have our universities adequate facilities and resources for research?
04. Are the academic standards of our universities and the quality of their degrees adequately monitored? ‘No’ is the answer to all the above questions. In such a backdrop: a) If a student is qualified for admission, b) If he can find the money c) If it is the wish of the parents to give their child a medical education even in a private institution, opposing the emergence of a private medical institute with acceptable credentials will only deprive a deserving sector of society to its fundamental right to an education of its choice.
The argument that there will be no further job vacancies for doctors after 2010 sounds hilarious. Even if the population of Sri Lanka remains static and decreases, the need for doctors will continue to rise if the country’s medical services are to be maintained at a satisfactory level.

In conclusion it needs to be said that our medical students should not be under the delusion that medical education in our universities is the best.

There are lessons to be learnt from the medical services of countries like Russia, Cuba and the Eastern European states relevant to this country. The inclusion of disciplines like sociology, and history have helped doctors from these universities to understand and empathise better with the people that they serve. Our own doctors who have qualified in Russia, serving in several of our leading hospitals have certainly helped to raise the level of dedication and efficiency in the local medical scene. Students entering SAITM who qualify as doctors may not find employment in Sri Lanka, but they will certainly be marketable even in developed countries.


Hilton Colombo lends support to WWF Earth Hour

Hilton Colombo joined 16 other Hilton Hotels in the Asian region in committing to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Earth Hour initiative this March for the first time.

WWF Earth Hour is a global initiative which hoped to eventually reach out to more than one billion people, asking individuals, businesses and Governments to switch off their lights for just one hour on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 8:30 p.m. This symbolic gesture was designed to highlight the importance of action on climate change.

Andy Ridley, Global Director of Earth Hour for the WWF said, “The business community has an incredible ability and responsibility to engage employees, customers and suppliers to create a sustainable future for our planet, and we therefore welcome the involvement of major international businesses such as Hilton Hotels in Earth Hour.”

Hilton Colombo’s General Manager, Jerome Aivity said, “To support this important initiative, Hilton Colombo developed a series of activities to provide a wonderful opportunity for engagement between guests and hotel staff on March 28 such as: all lights were switched off in all the Food & Beverage outlets and lobby, The laundry machines, boilers, swimming pool pumps, tennis court lights, hotel logo neon light, concessionaire shop lights and pond pumps were switched off too from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the night of “Earth Hour”,” Apart from this one elevator was shut down, back corridor lights were reduced by 50% and all floor corridors kept on an emergency lighting for one hour. However the hotel did not neglect any of their customers as there were candles lit in all Food & Beverage outlets and the lobby area. The highlight of the event was, of course, the “Earth Hour Cake” the team prepared in a shape of a clock.

Speaking about Hilton’s support of Earth Hour, Martin Rinck, President of Hilton Hotels Corporation - Asia Pacific said: “At Hilton we are committed to the heart of the communities in which we operate. Our support of Earth Hour will enable us to illustrate this in a tangible way, while simultaneously improving our environmental practices. Most of all, Earth Hour at Hilton will allow our hotel team members to work together with our guests, to raise awareness that everyone can make a difference.”

Hilton is committed to constantly working to improve its environmental performance and was one of the founding members of the International Tourism Partnership ( This organisation is designed to bring together leaders of some of the largest travel and tourism companies to work through collective, industry-wide action at local, destination and country level to encourage real progress towards a more sustainable hotel, travel and tourism industry.

The support of Earth Hour by Hilton Colombo and other Hilton Hotels in Asia is in addition to support given by the hotel group in Europe and the US.

The gift of new life

An Easter Message from the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

Easter commemorates the overcoming of the forces of death and destruction by God in Jesus. Consequently it is possible for humans to rise to a new life through Christ that surpasses destruction and death, here and now on Earth. This is the Easter message that the Church is called to declare.
The good news of Easter is, therefore, a call to transformation in all our leaders and people. But for this to happen we need to engage in self-scrutiny. As we address and overcome greed and revenge, the quality of life of our nation will be enhanced. We will then be able to eliminate the trends that intimidate, suppress, and dehumanise people and reject all destructive forces that prevent integration and harmony. It is this process of integrity, primarily, that will save us from further social violence and self-destruction; and bring us the renewed political vision, social justice and economic freedom that we so desperately need.

It is then that we will address the plight of Tamil civilians living under severe hardship and constraints in the “no fire” area of the war zone and in IDP camps; as well as those living under social suspicion elsewhere in the country. We will then be free to work for the freedom of movement and right to live anywhere with dignity, of all people.

It is then that the cries of the poor, oppressed in poverty, under-employment, unemployment and in livelihoods threatened with the imminent economic crisis, will be heard. We will then be free to pursue economic justice and decent living standards for all.

It is then that we will value our youth who sacrifice their lives in battle for a cause or for economic reasons. We will then acknowledge their passion, potential and boundless energy and provide them with more creative options for life.
It is then that we will appreciate the freedom of expression and the right to information and democratic dissent. We will then be free to discern attempts to control and intimidate the media and establish good governance and the rule of law.
It is then that our swords will be turned into ploughshares and our guns be converted to tractors. We will then reflect the generosity of God and dare to think of sustainable peace.

May all our people, specially those who long for dignity, freedom and rights; and those who live in fear and want, experience the saving compassion of the Risen Lord.
With peace and blessings to all!

Easter Sunday - The Day of the Resurrection

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia!

Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

Sing, ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!”

This is the first verse of one of the most popular Easter Hymns, written by Charles Wesley, in 1738, that will be sung lustily and with gusto, in almost all Churches throughout the world today (Easter Sunday April 12, 2009).

This Easter Hymn was specially written by Wesley for the first service that was held at the abandoned iron foundry that was converted into the first Wesleyan Chapel in London. Incidentally, Charles Wesley is credited with having written more than 6,500 hymns and is affectionately called the “Bard of Methodism”

Charles riding mostly on horseback with his older evangelist brother John Wesley, covered thousand of miles in Britain, attracting large crowds at the mass outdoor evangelical meetings, and by the singing of his inspiring hymns, as well.

Easter Sunday is the most important event and the chief festival in the Christian calendar because on this day, according to the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity rose from the dead. Therefore, Easter Sunday Commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus.

It is also the most important and joyous festival of the Christian year. Easter is probably derived from the word “Eostra” (A goddess of dawn or spring) according to some biblical scholars whilst others say, it is derived from “Osten” (The East).
In some languages, the Graeco - Latin title taken over from the Hebrew word “Pesach” (The Passover) is retained. For the Jewish Passover, which recalled the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, was, in the eyes of the Christians, a foreshadowing of the redemption by Christ, which is commemorated at Easter. This connection may account for the movable character of the feast.
According to historians, Christianity developed among the first century Jews, out of the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth who lived from about 4 BC to 29 AD, was the long-awaited Hebrew Messiah. The name JESUS is derived from the Greek IESUS, for the Hebrew word for Joshua, a name meaning Salvation.

The essence of traditional Christian theology is that Jesus was the Son of God who came to save the world, was crucified, resurrected and will come again to judge mankind.

In the first few centuries after Christ, the Western churches observed Easter on the first day of the week, while the Eastern churches observed it on the 14th of the month of Nisan, conforming to the Jewish rule. The latter practice gradually disappeared but other problems arose. As Easter was to be celebrated on Sunday, how was that Sunday to be determined? That was the major problem.

The lengthy dispute over the date for the celebration of Easter was settled by the First Council of the Christian Churches held in Nicaea in Asia Minor, in 325 AD. The Council paved the way for a final settlement by ruling that Easter would be observed by all, on the first Sunday following the 14th day of the Paschal Moon, referred to as the Paschal full moon. The Paschal Moon is the first moon whose 14th day comes on or after March 21 of any year.
The Paschal full moon was not necessarily the same as those of the real or astronomical full moon. If the Paschal full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is on the following Sunday.

Because of the differences in the systems of Chronology then followed in various parts of the world, the decree of Nicaea did not immediately remove all difficulties nor win universal acclaim. The Gregorian correction of the calendar in 1582, introduced still further discrepancies. Throughout Western Christendom, the corrected Gregorian calendar is now universally accepted and Easter is solemnised on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Vernal equinox, (the arrival of Spring) with the result that the earliest possible date is March 22, the latest being April 25.

In the Eastern Churches, the calendar has not been brought into accord with the Gregorian reform and the day of Easter seldom coincides with the Western date.

The earliest date on which Easter can fall is March 22 and it fell on that date in 1761 and again in 1818, but it did not do so either in the 20th century or will not do so in this century.

The latest possible date for Easter is April 25. It fell on that date in 1943 and will do so next in 2038.
The Birth of Jesus would have been of no significance if not for HIS CRUCIFIXION and HIS RESURRECTION. The Resurrection of Jesus is the one great foundation stone of Christianity.
Alleluia! He is RISEN indeed.

Warm welcome to Lahore hero

The Colombo Hilton accorded a warm Sri Lankan welcome to the Pakistani hero who saved our cricketers.

Hilton Lobby Manager, Mohammed Farhan together with Mr. and Mrs. Khalil, Khalil’s brother-in-law and team member Jayalath