Ceylon Today Newspaper – 26-09-2016 - By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

Fifteen years ago, on 11 September 2001, Islamic terrorists bombed and destroyed the well-known Twin Towers, (The
 World Trade Centre) in New York, killing 2,996 and wounding more than 6,000 ordinary people. It later earned the catch phrase 9/11.

On its 15th year commemoration day politicians in the US put aside their electoral differences and assembled together, led by Democratic Party Presidential candidate Chelsey Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump with their entourage in remembrance of the victims who lost their lives in the 2001 tragedy.

 Halfway through the commemoration programme, Hillary Clinton suddenly quivered and became feeble, which compelled her to exit from the memorial on Sunday 11 September 2016. Instantly, it made worldwide news while her political opponents expected to score electoral points until Hillary Clinton's doctors revealed that she had been diagnosed as suffering from pneumonia two days prior to the incident.

The politician's ill health equally managed to lubricate the intrigue gossip machine in political circles by floating rumours to the effect that she was seriously ill, and she suffered a stroke, as such, she was not fit to be the President of United States of America.

 According to American election customs and procedures up to this incident it has not given rise to a new 'slogan battle' of this nature to declare the health conditions of presidential candidates except one's assets. However, according to the new uprising, it appears that voters are more concerned about the politicians' health as they take the responsibility to run the country for several years. In such a backdrop, it would be natural that voters expect their President to be in the pink of health, rather than counting on a candidate's age or the long political experience.

 Quick witted

 Sri Lankans are generally quick witted and a happy-go-lucky lot who are masters of inventing all kinds of gags and anecdotes, at the drop of a hat, just for a laugh. During Chandrika Kumaratunga's Presidency, when she lost an eye due to the LTTE terrorist bomb, her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike, as the Prime Minister, was confined to a wheel chair, while her uncle General Anuruddha Ratwatte was the Minister of Defence.

 When Prince Charles visited Sri Lanka during that period, wild rumours and debauched jokes spread to say that Prince Charles might have been wondering how on earth a country could be governed when the three key people of the country were disabled (Meaning, President with one eye, Prime Minister on a wheel chair and the Minister of Defence limping with the assistance of a walking stick). There were more boorish jests later about the Prime Ministers of the Rajapaksa Government who suffered from ill health. Within such unrefined jovial and deflected gist fabrications, it certainly conveyed a silent message as to what extent the general public thinks about our leaders' health condition.

 Upul Joseph Fernando, in his column in Ceylon Today on 21 September 2016, gives an eye opening account of the health condition of the modern presidents and prime ministers of Sri Lanka. He quotes Dudley Senanayake who 'suffered from a serious abdominal disease in 1953', and how and why he was forced to resign from the post of Prime Minister. In 1999 Chandrika Kumaratunga lost an eye due to an LTTE terrorist bomb. During Mahinda Rajapaksa's presidency his visits were chronicled to a Houston Hospital in America and also to a German hospital for treatment. Similarly it highlighted how, the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena was admitted to the Nawaloka Hospital for medical tests on the day of nominations in 2015, and how Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe visits Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore several times a year for medical examinations.

 Gall bladder operation

 What was missed out in the Serendib Column was the late President R. Premadasa's visit to the USA for treatment, apparently for a gall bladder operation, and the last Prime Minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government who suffered a stroke and still continued to be in office.

 There is nothing wrong or special about a human falling ill and getting medical attention rather than ignoring it completely and end up with an untimely death, but being rulers of a country it makes a little difference and boils down to the fact that when the general public appoints electoral candidates for dependable job(s), it would be with the firm belief that those appointed would be in a better position to serve the country and its people rather than having them to travel abroad for medical treatment and spending time in hospitals at the expense of the tax payer. The cardinal point raised in the article was that the voters have a right to know whether the State leaders are in the pink of health to govern the country, forgetting the fact that Mahinda Rajapaksa is 70, Maithripala Sirisena is 65, while Ranil Wickremasinghe is 67.

Taking a cue from Hillary Clinton's pneumonia attack in the US, it has given rise to a new kind of battle slogan in American politics, for the American people to decide whether medical records, revealing the history of future presidential candidates, should be incorporated into the statute book.

New concept

 Such information will help the Sri Lankan voters too, to deliberate on a new concept to be introduced and...

.... adopted strictly in the future with regard to politicians and Cabinet ministers that they should in the future (whether local government or central government appointments) should produce a concise health report to be handed over along with their nomination papers. This should be similar to what is expected by politicians to declare their assets before they are appointed to any positions.

 Another area that becomes compulsory in line with the proposed Right to Information Law, with amendments gone through the second reading already, would be not to allow any politician to jot down some arbitrary figures as their assets, seal it in an envelope and hand it over to the Speaker in Parliament for safe custody (as per customary), but any citizen of the country should have the right to know to what extent they are rich or poor prior to taking up high posts.

 This will immensely help the judges and decision makers to assess any particular case in taking difficult decisions in a climate of petitions getting piled up at the FCID, as much as to evade and free the victims from any malicious blathers and remanding them for a few days or weeks and bailing out and making them revisit on different counts, which has become a real melodrama at present.

Health records

 Computer records of such information on health records of every politician will aid in cases of prosecution and jail sentences to see whether that a particular individual is really affected by health or finding an escape route to avoid sleeping on a doormat full of bugs in the company of cockroaches and mice; taste jail meals and be bitten by mosquitoes and to especially to seek home luxuries in the Merchant Ward, which makes the jail sentence a mockery.

A jail sentence means a place where one has to pay for one's sins, and also to act as a reminder to the convict not to repeat such evils in the future. Today in Sri Lanka VIPs getting remanded end up in a hospital ward, which is regarded as home away from home. The medical reports filed in advance would be the only proof to identify and isolate a fibber from a real patient when a Parliamentarian is sentenced to jail. After all punishment, if any, should be equal to from beggar to a king.

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Tilak S. Fernando 

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