Doctors admit to spreading wrong information on civilian casualties to the media at the behest of the Tigers.
Posted on July 8th, 2009

Ranil WIJAYAPALA

Five doctors who were serving in the No Fire Zone during the last few days of the final battle in Mullaivaikkal, yesterday admitted that the figures they were dispatching to certain media about civilian casualties were false and exaggerated, due to pressure exerted by the LTTE and regretted their errors.

 Dr. Sivapalan attached to the Ponnambalam Memorial hospital, Dr. Shanmugaraja, Medical Superintendent, District General Hospital Mullaitivu, Dr. Thurairaja Vartharajah, Regional Director of Health Services, Mullaitivu, Dr. Thangamuttu Satyamoorthy, Acting Medical Sperintendent, General Hospital, Kilinochchi and Dr. Kathirveli Ilancheliyan, Medical Officer of Health Mullaitivu at the press conference. Picture by Rukmal Gamage

 The five doctors crossed into the military controlled areas mingling with the thousands of civilians at the final stage of the battle in Mullaivaikkal in the middle of May and are now under CID custody. They were exposed to the media yesterday for a close interaction to clear their doubts about the statements they were issuing to the media in the last phase of the battle from the No Fire Zone.

These doctors were produced before Colombo Chief Magistrate by the CID.

“It was under the pressure of the LTTE that we were giving these contradictory figures about the civilian casualties. Today we are under the custody of the CID, but they are not an armed group like the LTTE. The Court will give the verdict on us. Therefore we will tell the truth,” the doctors said in unison when the media queried whether they were giving those statements under pressure. The doctors also said that they were forced to stay in the LTTE controlled areas by the LTTE and were not allowed to enter into Government controlled areas. Dr. Illancheliyan one of the doctors said he was detained by the LTTE when he attempted to flee the Tiger controlled areas.

They admitted that there were civilians casualties and deaths in the final stages of the battle. “But not the exaggerated numbers of civilians deaths and casualties we were forced to give under pressure of the LTTE”, Dr.Thurairaja Vartharajah Regional Director of Health Services, Mullaitivu said.

The doctors said that the number of civilians deaths were between 300-350 from January to May this year and the estimated civilian casualties may be around 600 to 650.

Dr. Sivapalan who was attached to the Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital in Puthukudiyiruppu and to the Medical Wing of the LTTE, Dr. Weerakuttipullai Shanmugaraja, Director, General Hospital Mullaitivu, Dr. Thurairaja Vartharaja, Regional Director Health Services, Mullaitvu, Dr. Thangamuttu Sathyamoorthy, Acting Medical Superintendent, General Hospital Kilinochchi and Dr. Kathirvel Ilancheliyan Vallavan, MOH Mullaitivu who are now under CID custody until they are cleared of any wrong doing were present at the Media Centre for National Security, in Colombo. All the doctors have graduated from the Jaffna University, and had served in several Government hospitals and were forced to serve the LTTE.

Except for Dr. Vartharaja who was in need of a surgery for an injury caused to his hand from a sharpnel when he was escaping the LTTE, all the other doctors were in good health as they met the media yesterday.

“Many civilians were killed and wounded as LTTE opened fire at them when they tried to flee from the Tiger grip. And also they were got caught in the crossfire between the LTTE and the Security Forces once the civilians tried to escape from the LTTE during those dark hours”, Dr. Shanmugaraj said.

“Even at the last stages of the battle there were civilian deaths due to the explosion of shell loaded trucks of the LTTE and we saw the dead bodies of the civilians due to these explosions but not due to the shelling of the Security Forces. There was no room for the civilians to escape”, the doctors added.

The five doctors also said that they would have to admit that there is severe shortage of medicine in Government run hospitals as the LTTE wanted the medical supplies the Government was sending for their use. “The Government was sending us medical supplies until May 08, a week before we were able to escape from Mullaivaikkal area”, Dr. Sathyamoorthy said.

Dr. Shanmugaraja and Dr. Thurairaja said there was no shortage of food in the No Fire Zone if not for the LTTE who took charge of the food stocks and released only small quantity for the civilians.”There was not a single death due to starvation there in the No Fire Zone”, Dr. Thurairaja said.

The doctors also denied the LTTE propaganda about destruction caused to Government hospitals due to Security Forces shelling saying it was a stage managed drama by the LTTE. “The hospital may have come under shelling after we vacated it on February 4, but not prior to that”, Dr. Shanmugaraja said. “Our hope is to get our names cleared and to reunite with our families”, the doctors said.

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