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Sunday, 12 July 2009





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LTTE propaganda defeated, truth revealed

Doctors Sinnathurai Sivapalan, Veerakathipillay Shanmugarajah, Thurairajah Vartharajah, Thangamurthy Sathiyamoorthy and Kathiravelu Illanchelian Pallavan  at the press briefing.

Defeating the LTTE propaganda that was tarnishing the Sri Lankan Government’s true image was thornier than crushing terrorists militarily. Exaggerated numbers of civilian casualties and deaths multiplied in hundreds, forged reports on artillery attacks by the Sri Lanka Army while they were crawling over dotted mine fields losing their lives and limbs in their missions - different types of formulated stories and tales were not thrown in singles but thumped on us in bundles.

Web casting fabricated video clips, created by their own cadres and spreading them around the world in split seconds as if created by unbiased individuals or crews was believed by most of the world as divine word. Above all greatest attempt was made on misusing the lives of their own people to whom they swore a fantasize Tamil Eelam. Conscripted stories on the unfortunate plight of the innocent Tamil civilians were sold at an accelerated pace across the globe bringing dollars to bloodsucking individuals and mafia groups and especially to the LTTE. The poor conditions people were encountering in their struggle for survival under LTTE’s iron clutches was sent across using and pressurizing the most reliable sources of the area - the senior health officials. We would never know what went through their minds during their long period of service under duress and dictates of the LTTE.


“Yes we regret giving a false impression to the outside world,” answering a question raised by a journalist, doctor Thangamurthy Sathiyamoorthy, the Kilinochchi Regional Director of Health Services said during their first ever interaction with the media last week. They hid the truth obviously for the fear of the gun.

All five doctors, Veerakathipillay Shanmugarajah, Sinnathurai Sivapalan, Thurairajah Vartharajah, Thangamurthy Sathiyamoorthy, Kathiravelu Illanchelian Pallavan met a cross section of the local and international media at the auditorium of the Media Centre for National Security in Colombo. During an elaborate interview with the ‘The Hindu’ editor-in-chief N. Ram, President Mahinda Rajapaksa indicated the Government is likely to give the five Tamil doctors who were working in the uncleared areas till the last hours, a chance to reveal the truth.

Thousands of people reached safe area on May 16. Pic: Thilak Perera

These five doctors, who reached the Government controlled areas at last and were detained by the Security Forces and later handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department for damaging the image of the Government and the Security Forces by giving false statements especially to international media including the BBC.

“The conditions the people had to live were horrible. LTTE wouldn’t let them go to the cleared areas and held them with force in this area where there was no drinking water and proper sanitary facilities,” said Dr. Sinnathurai Sivapalan, the Medical Officer in Charge of the LTTE run Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital that was in Puthukkudiyirippu.

“There was no place to find hygienic drinking water and there were no wells.

They dig a hole in the ground and slowly water sip in to the hole as the ground was in between the two large water bodies - the sea and the lagoon,” Dr. Sivapalan said.

This was extremely muddy water which the people used by filtering using a piece of cloth. “Except for the last week in the No Fire Zone, people tried to boil the water and drink,” he said. “I drank that water and if I continued with it for few more days I would definitely have fallen severely sick,” he added.

Since there have been no proper toilet facilities people have used small kerosene barrels as toilet pits by burring them in the sand with its hole uncovered and a temporary cover. As Dr. Sivapalan said the Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital was built and run by the LTTE and he was part of LTTE medical support team - “I was just a doctor recruited by them. Their Medical wing had trained cadres in carrying out medical procedures as well as in arms,” he added.

Norway visit

The LTTE had been trying to develop this hospital and lots of assistance have been flowing from the Tamil Diaspora in USA and several other European countries. “Medical doctors from USA, UK and several European countries visited our hospital during 2002 - 2005 and volunteered their service from time to time. Transferring technology was a main aim of the visit,” doctor Sivapalan said.

The LTTE had allowed doctors Sivapalan and Kasilingam Sujenthan - the LTTE medical wing leader who was then based in Kilinochchi, for a three months visit to Norway and the scope of the visit was bringing in newest medical knowledge and technology in to their local system. “We visited three Government hospitals in Oslo and a Norwegian doctor working for the Government, assisted us in the entire visit,” Sivapalan added.

Journalists and doctors in a cordial discussion soon after the press briefing.

The visit was organised by Norway based Tamil Diaspora Organization and the two doctors had an extensive observation of the medical technology of the Norwegian Government during their visit from October 2004 till January 2005.

“We were basically focusing on learning latest technologies of endoscopes, echocardiograms and the other factor was technology transfer for the rehabilitation of disabled LTTE cadres,” he explained further.

The Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital had an OPD as well as in ward facilities. “The wards could accommodate 50 patients and every day there were 100 - 200 patients for the OPD. The OPD was run by LTTE Medical wing members,” doctor Sivapalan added. In a very organized manner the hospital was carrying out maternity clinics and other such clinics.Doctor Sivapalan was the only permanent doctor attached to this hospital while an elderly doctor T. Gnanadaran visited and was taking care of the maternity ward. Doctor Weerakathipillai Shanmugarajah was working as a visiting physician.“During the Ceasefire period in 2002 - 2006 we managed to develop the Intensive Care Unit with the assistance from the Tamil Diaspora,” he said.

The lie

“The LTTE had their camps located in a 100 - 200 metres vicinity of the Mullaitivu hospital where I was working. My quarters was damaged and my wife and son received minor injuries due to an artillery shell in 2008. I don’t know from which side it was launched. It is very difficult to guess. Later the ICRC asked the LTTE to move their camps away from the hospital,” doctor Shanmugarajah said.

All five doctors clearly stated in unison to the media crowd cramped in side the auditorium that it was under the pressure of the LTTE we had to give exaggerated numbers of civilian deaths and casualties.

“The LTTE even quoted us in their web sites without our consent or knowledge giving exaggerated figures of civilian deaths and casualties,” doctor Sathiyamoorthy said.

Quoting Doctor Thangamurthy Sathiyamoorthy, the Kilinochchi Regional Director of health services and doctor Thurairajah Varatharajah the Mullaitivu Regional Director of Health Services, reports were published, especially in the international media that several civilians have been killed in the No Fire Zone (NFZ) on the Mullaitivu coast on April 8, 2009 alleging that the deaths have been caused due to shelling by the Sri Lanka Army.

In another statement made by doctor Varatharajah on March 4, 2009 he mentions that he had recorded deaths of 13 people due to starvation and certain media reported quoting doctor Sathiyamoorthy, states that 69 percent of children below the age of five in the NFZ, show signs of malnutrition on March 5 the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition proved it as a false with their data and statistics done on the Internally Displaced People.

Death due to starvation could only be established medically after performing an autopsy on the body of a dead person and in this instance it was conclusively established that doctor Varatharajah had issued this statement without carrying out autopsies on the 13 bodies.

Moreover, according to a report carried by the BBC on April 9, 2009, quoting doctor Varatharajah, 60 civilians are said to have died in the shelling on a health facility in Ambalavanapokkanai area, whereas in a letter dated April 9, 2009 by the same official to the Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry Secretary, he has stated that only 10 civilians had died in the alleged shelling. In the BBC report, doctor Varatharajah has claimed that the shells came from an area dominated by the Security Forces, whereas in the letter to the Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry, he has remained silent about its source. According to a news report published in a Colombo daily on this contradiction stated that when the Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry Secretary contacted doctor Varatharajah and doctor Sathiyamoorthy between 9 and 10 pm on April 9, 2009, who were residing in the same location at Puthumathalan, he was given conflicting figures of the dead and the injured. Doctor Varatharajah had said 50 deaths of civilians had occurred on April 8, 2009 and doctor Sathiyamoorthy had said, when contacted soon afterwards, only 25 deaths were reported in the same incident.

Gun shot injuries of civilians due to LTTE firing while the civilians were trying to escape were never mentioned in these reports.

Notwithstanding this kind of baseless and malicious propaganda, the Healthcare and Nutrition Ministry remained fully committed to continue the provision of medical services and healthcare to the civilian population trapped in the NFZ, amidst numerous logistical difficulties.

“Their strategy was to keep the civilians around them and survive. That was why they came along with the civilians once the safe zones were demarcated for the civilians by the military,” doctor Shanmugarajah said.

“They (LTTE) shouldn’t have brought the war into the ‘No Fire Zone’, doctor Sivapalan added.The doctors were clear in their answers about the total civilian deaths which were around 700 to 800 since January till May 2009. At the press conference doctors dismissed the reports about civilian deaths due to starvation.

“The LTTE grabbed a major part of the food stocks for the use of their cadres which was sent by the Government through the ICRC ship,” doctor Shanmugarajah confirmly said since he perfectly knew the LTTE ‘modus operandi’ with his association with the LTTE over a long period of time.

According to doctor Varatharajah, eight times the Government sent medicines and related supplies after the NFZ was declared and the LTTE grabbed all this from the doctors to treat their injured cadres and forced the doctors to state that there is a shortage on medical supplies.

Did they believe?

“We choose to stay in for the sake of our families and the other civilians,” doctor Shanmugarajah said.

Doctor Sivapalan said, “During the initial stages I believed the LTTE would bring liberation to their brethren. My First appointment was to the Jaffna general hospital and when thousands of people reached the Wanni soon after the ‘Riviresa’ operation of the Army I moved in to Kilinochchi with my family. Later I could not get my transfer arranged to Wanni since I had no easy contacts with the authorities and I took in to private practice. That is how I joined the Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital.”

“Even during the 2002 ceasefire I strongly believed LTTE would be genuine and bring a final solution to the misery of their own people but they broke the promise. Though I wanted to come to the Government controlled areas with my family the suffering people underwent made me stay back,” he added.

“After 2006 LTTE recruited more and more children forcefully in to military activities and at that moment I felt really pathetic. That was not right. I have treated many such young children and their suffering made me stay back,” he said with great regret.

As doctor Sivapalan explained they managed to crossover only after the LTTE structure got collapsed in the last few days. “If I tried to escape before that they would have definitely executed me,” he said. “By the time we (civilians) reached the last LTTE bunker line towards the Mullaitivu causeway was abandoned - the LTTE had already fled from the area on May 16,” the doctor said.

“On May 16 I reached close to this bunker line around ten in the night with my wife, two sons and daughter and there were thousands of people gathered waiting either for their escape or for the Army to come and rescue them. I saw three dead bodies of civilians in the bunker line and the people told me that the LTTE shot them as they tried to escape to the cleared areas,” he added.

Around 2 a.m. next day the crowd have realized the bunker line was empty and after walking nearly one kilometre - carrying the elderly, the wounded and the sick and their meager belongings - these innocent people reached the safety of the security forces.

Saving the family

Doctor Illancheliyan, the youngest of the five doctors, while serving in Gampaha General Hospital got to know that his brother living in Mullaitivu and who was a second year University student in Bio Science was forcefully conscripted by the LTTE.

The brother escaped from the LTTE went in to hiding in the jungle and later the father was arrested. Leaving away his dreams to successfully finish his Postgraduate Degree in Surgery, doctor Illancheliyan leaves to Mullaitivu and after giving himself in to the LTTE promising to support them with his profession he manages to save his dear father and brother.

“The only hope I have is to finish my PG become a surgeon and serve every citizen equally wherever I will be posted,” doctor Illancheliyan said.

“We are meeting our families once a week and we must admit that we are very well taken care of and even for a slightest sickness they would let us get medical treatment. We don’t suffer anymore,” doctors said.

All five doctors, graduated from the University of Jaffna during different years, have served as general practitioners in many Government Hospitals and later posted to higher official levels. After becoming free citizens of the country clearing all the allegations against their names and start serving the country soon, is their only hope.

When inquired from the Ministry of Health and Nutrition care ....

“If these doctors are proven not guilty by the legal authorities they will be posted back in the Government service under the Ministry. They can serve as normal doctors anywhere in the country. Since their posts were basically in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu areas, until these areas are cleared and restored back to normal functioning, they can be posted to suitable positions either in Jaffna or Vavuniya.

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