Doctoring the evidence

Colombo's recent detention of and apparently coerced recantation by several Tamil doctors who had reported high civilian casualties is a potent example of the Colombo government's determination to rewrite the final days of the war.

The question of the Sri Lankan government's treatment of the detained ethnic-Tamil doctors, who served in the war zone in the north until almost the very end, has gone far beyond the fact of the doctors themselves, of their individual actions or sympathies. The fact that, while in government custody on 8 July, these men recanted what they had previously told the media while still in the war zone regarding the conditions faced by civilians, and that they went on to make new claims acutely at variance with basic fact, raises some timely questions regarding the recently concluded war.

What are the real casualties that the government is intent on suppressing? One does recognise that getting the people out of the grip of a force totally callous about civilian life was not going to be easy. And the purely military strategy, which did not take adequate account of the interests of the people, was guided by xenophobia and allowed the international community no role in protecting civilians, distorted every issue. Shelling civilians is criminal. But civilians trapped in the war zone later admitted that shelling by the army sometimes helped them – sending the LTTE cadres scurrying into their bunkers, giving civilians an opportunity to escape from them. All the while, though, the cadres' orders were to shoot escapees.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian