A cause for concern | Daily News

A cause for concern

That which began as an economic crisis resulting in a steep rise in the Cost of Living and a shortage of essentials, has now dovetailed into a major humanitarian and social crisis threatening to shake the foundations of the Nation with all sectors in a tailspin and public unrest at its peak.

Ominously for the country, there is the very real threat of a major exodus of professionals to foreign climes, no longer able to withstand the hardships they keep enduring in the land of their birth with the woes continuing to aggravate each passing day. Such an exodus this time around is going to be unprecedented and unstoppable. The long lines in front of passport offices may only be the tip of the iceberg.

According to reports, a large number of doctors, engineers and experts in specialized fields are set to leave the country in the coming weeks. This was confirmed by Child Specialist at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH) Dr. Deepal Perera who claimed that many LRH doctors were planning to depart the country. In any event, there is not much the doctors can do here with the acute shortage of drugs and medical equipment in hospitals. The LRH is one of the hospitals worst hit in this respect.

Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva, meanwhile, revealed that there were instances of medical students sitting for their final exam simultaneously taking courses that would open the door for job opportunities in England. A large number of professionals too are preparing to leave the country, according to news reports.

This indeed is reminiscent of the large flight of doctors, engineers and architects from the country in the wake of Black July 1983 and prior to that, due to the language policy. This time, the cause for the exodus is purely economic coupled with the resultant social unrest. No professional worth his or her salt would want to while away their time in fuel queues.

Nor would a professional deign to beg and plead to the authorities for something that he or she should receive as of right, as was seen by doctors staging an agitation in front of a provincial hospital on Monday claiming that they were unable to report for duty as a result of the fuel shortage.

The country could ill-afford a massive brain drain at this stage, where all available resources have to be mustered to pull it out of the present plight. The consequences of the loss of professionals to the country was highlighted by former President Maithriplala Sirisena who during his tenure repeatedly appealed to our doctors, engineers and other experts domiciled abroad to return to their Motherland and provide their services towards the country’s development and progress. There is no information as to what response was received to this plea. But from the look of things the results have been lukewarm.

To begin with, there should be economic and political stability for the professionals to come back. These men and women certainly are not going to abandon their cushy lives abroad and return to a hell. The country certainly is worse than that at present with anarchy reigning on our streets with political demonstrations and student agitations, not to mention mayhem in fuel queues coupled with possible starvation and other privations weighing down the majority of the populace.

Hence, it is going to be only one way traffic with professionals taking wing to safe havens, deciding quite rightly that there is no future in this country for themselves as well as their children. The Government should act fast to stem the tide and retain the professionals who are still left here. Paramount for this to happen is the restoration of economic stability.

In this respect hopes have sprung among most about the outcome of the discussions between the visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. There is also assistance pouring in from India, China, USA, Australia, World Bank and international agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, political stability is also essential if the country is to get back on an even keel.

In this respect, all political parties and other stakeholders should act with maturity given the gravity of the situation. This is no time for finger-pointing and blame games. The Cabinet on Monday unanimously approved the 21st Amendment which bodes well for political stability. This is a gradual process which demands patience from all concerned.

Demands have also been made for an All-Party Government (APG) as a solution to the political crisis - a vocal advocate being former President Sirisena. But will the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) accede to such an arrangement?

From the rhetoric emanating from the Rathu Sahodarayas nothing short of the President’s resignation will suffice. However, there are constitutional constraints preventing the President from leaving office before the end of his term. This is why even the 21st Amendment has skirted this issue. A compromise will have to be made in the best interests of the country by all concerned.

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