Colombo, August 19 (The New Indian Express): The United States has backed out of an undertaking to medically examine former combatants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who had allegedly been injected with a poisonous drug when they were in detention or undergoing rehabilitation in camps run by the Sri Lankan army.
The Chief Minister of the Tamil-majority Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, had told the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) that he had requested the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Atul Keshap, to get the US Air Force medical team camping in Jaffna to examine the suspected cases of poisoning. Upon this, the Ambassador said that the team would look at the cases and decide what to do next.
Following this, about 30 former cadres of the LTTE expressed a desire to be examined by the USAF team. According to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) member, M.K.Sivajilingam, the Chief Minister was to find out how many cases the USAF team would examine. When the US Embassy in Colombo was approached in this regard, it said that the USAF team was not equipped to conduct the required investigations, Sivajilingam told the media.
“So, no ex-combatants were examined,” he said.
And at any rate, Friday was the last day of the USAF medical team’s stay in the Northern Province.
A former combatant had complained to a government commission that he and others from the LTTE were injected with a drug which weakened them considerably. He said that the injections were given in the guise of an inoculation against a communicable disease. Following this allegation, an NPC member from Mullaitivu district, T.Ravikaran, charged that 104 former combatants had died as a result of the injection. He wanted foreign doctors to examine them as Sri Lankan government doctors could be biased.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran then took up the issue and, at the instance of NPC member M.K.Sivajilinagam, got a resolution passed by the NPC expressing concern and seeking remedial action. Even a Central government minister, D.M.Swaminathan, said that the matter was serious and that he had appealed to President Maithipala Sirisena to investigate.
But the Central Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that there is no need to get American doctors to examine the cases as Sri Lankan doctors are equally competent. The Governor of the Northern Province Reginold Cooray stated that he had received no complaint about any ex-combatant falling sick or dying due to an injection administered by the army. Cooray also said that it is not necessary to invite American doctors when there are competent Tamil doctors within the country.