Plus - Letter to the editor

Are we going to punish 3 doctors who served in war zone?

Media reports indicate that the three medical doctors, who were trapped in the Wanni with Tamil civilians and the LTTE, have been taken into custody for questioning regarding the releasing of allegedly incorrect information. On top of that they seem to have been suspended from service by the Health Ministry. This sounds very much like the proverbial man who fell from the tree only to be gored by a bull. What is our response to these three doctors – Drs V.K. Shanmugarajah, T. Sathyamoorthi and T. Vartharajah?

It may be that the information they released was incorrect or exaggerated, but who can judge what information is correct in a war zone? Also, living under the repressive LTTE, they would not have been able to say anything that organization did not approve of. The Sri Lankan state insists that virtually no civilians were killed during the conflict. Can we believe that? Who knows? It was a war zone.

Anyway, I hold no brief to find fault with the State. The entire country has expressed its gratitude to the President and the State and the armed forces for the cessation of the war. But how about the doctors? Whatever their faults if any, I for one have the greatest of admiration for these three medical professionals who whether by choice or circumstance served the people around them in what must have been the most trying of conditions. It may be that they even cared for the LTTE cadres themselves. Their Hippocratic oath would have constrained them to do so. And in any case the President has said that the LTTE was even fed by the State indirectly – which only goes to increase the stature of the State in our eyes.

Also, at this time of general relief and joy, the victory of the armed forces would be soured if a witch-hunt was to be launched against probably the only three professionals in LTTE controlled territory for a long time. This country’s professionals, myself included, have shown a great reluctance to leave the Western Province, except of course when migrating to Australia or elsewhere! Are we as a society going to punish three of them who served in the most difficult few square kilometres in this land till the end of the war?

By all means, the doctors should give statements and be questioned, but let them be released soon after and reinstated in their jobs. But please God, let them be protected from paramilitary squads after that! If the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) does not give them medals of honour, the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) should.

Professor Priyan Dias, Dehiwala

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