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Tamils ‘now blaming LTTE for destruction’

Former ‘Tiger hospital’ doctor testifies at LLRC hearing

By Arthur Wamanan
The Tamils now hold the LTTE responsible for the destruction caused, as it failed to utilise the opportunities of peace during the ceasefire period, Dr P Sivapalan, who served in the Wanni during the final stages of the war, said.
He made this observation while giving evidence at the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in Colombo.

Dr Sivapalan was among the few doctors who served in the war-torn area till the last moment.
He served in Mathalan till May 17, 2009.
During his submission to the commission, Dr Sivapalan said Tamil people did not consider the war as a terrorist act and added that they considered it as a struggle to win their rights.
“Many who enrolled in the LTTE considered it as a noble act,” he said.
He, however, said the parents of the cadres were now suffering the loss of their children. Now their parents are suffering.

In his submission, Dr Sivappalan also said the Tamil people now rejected the concept of a separate state.
According to him, the concept of a separate state for the Tamils was put forward by the Tamil politicians, who he thought, were not serious about the concept. He said the concept of a separate homeland for Tamils was taken seriously by the youth at that time.

“They (Tamil political leaders) thought that they would be given something reasonable, if they demanded for a separate state,” Dr Sivapalan said. This ended up in a war that lasted for 30 years, he said.
He said the LTTE continued to prolong war despite facing severe setbacks and being cornered.
He told the commission that the LTTE continued conscription irrespective of age.

“Civilians were prevented from moving to safer areas by the LTTE,” he said.
When asked by the commission whether there were instances of LTTE shooting civilians, Dr Sivapalan stated there were very few instances of that nature. He said there were very few deaths due to such incidents.
He said the LTTE prevented the civilians from fleeing by firing towards the security forces.
Dr Sivapalan said the LTTE thought that the military would retaliate and therefore the civilians would not take the risk of being caught in the crossfire while crossing the 300 to 500 metre lagoon, which divided the two sides.
He pointed out that the army did not deliberately shoot at civilians.
He said more than half the people had lost at least one of its family members and many more had been disabled due to the fighting.

Families in gief
He said that they were not in a position to go ahead with their livelihood activities and look after their families.
“Many of the middle-aged heads of families have lost all what they had and are dejected.”
When asked by the commission as to whether he had spoken to any electronic media while serving in the Wanni, he responded that he was not interested in giving interviews to the media, as he thought it would prolong the suffering of the people.

 “I was not compelled to give interviews,” he said.
When asked about the state of the Mullaithivu hospital, Dr Sivapalan said a few shells had fallen on the premises of the hospital, but not on the building.
He said that a few people were injured and that the ICRC too was present at the time of the incident.
The commission then questioned Dr Sivapalan as to who fired the shells towards the direction of the hospital.
Dr Sivapalan said he could not say as to who fired the shells as the fighting was in close proximity to the hospital.
He, however, told commission that the LTTE had positioned their guns about 200 to 300 metres away from the hospital.

In his submissions, Dr Sivapalan also briefed the commission about the situation of the hospitals and the workers in the Wanni during the final stages of the battle.
He said the Health Ministry had provided the hospitals with the medicines to be used for the people who were affected.

He, however, said there were many problems due to the lack of facilities when the hospitals were moved from their original places.
He said government schools were converted to hospitals and added that they faced problems, as these buildings were not equipped to treat the patients.

Medical supplies
He said the Health Ministry continued to send medical supplies through the ICRC ship.
These supplies were sent from February to the first week of May, according to Dr Sivapalan.
Dr Sivapalan in his submissions pointed out that the LTTE had its own medical setup before January 2009.
According to Dr Sivapalan, the LTTE established its own private hospitals, which were run by a group appointed by the organisation.

He said he had worked in these hospitals and was paid for his services.
Further, he said that they had their own medicines in large stocks.
When asked by the commission as to how the LTTE was able to get the medicines, he said that the organisation could have bought them from Colombo during the ceasefire period.
He also pointed out that the LTTE did not provide any financial assistance to the government hospitals functioning in the Wanni.

However, the situation changed after January 2009. Dr Sivapalan said the LTTE doctors and medical staff utilised the government hospital medicines and facilities after the said period.
When questioned by the commission whether the LTTE took any of the supplies sent through ICRC, Dr Sivapalan said there was no need for the LTTE to do it, as both medical teams were working together at that time.

Speaking on the expectations of the Tamil people after the cessation of hostilities, Dr Sivapalan said the people expected a political solution based on something more than the Provincial Council.
He said the Provincial Council system was proposed a long time ago and the people had faced losses during these years.
“The people have suffered a lot. Therefore, they feel that they need something more than the provincial council,” he said.

Patient care
The Vavuniya hospital treated nearly 1,250 war-injured people during the last two weeks of May 2009, Dr Bavani Pasupathiraja, told the LLRC last week.
She was serving in the Vavuniya hospital during the final stages of the humanitarian operations.
She told commission that patients who were brought to Trincomalee and Padaviya were brought to the Vavuniya hospital after being given the initial treatment.
Dr Pasupathiraja, who is now in the Jaffna hospital, said the patients were released to their families or to the welfare centres, if they had no families.

She added none of the patients were held in custody by the army.
She added there were still some patients in the hospital when she left and added that these patients included those who had to be amputated and who had complications.
She pledged her assistance to the commission in finding the details of those whose whereabouts were unknown after being treated at the Vavuniya hospital soon after the war.