To the Editor: The Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians views with great concern the publication of Whitehall’s article “Teaching Tamil Tigers”1 in the Journal.
Whitehall’s article ignores the ground situation and the actual realities in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it represents a biased and misleading point of view. It focuses on creating sympathy for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), without giving any credit whatsoever to the good work done by the Sri Lankan Government in protecting civilians, preserving democracy and maintaining health services and civil administration in the north in the face of enormous obstacles placed by the LTTE, a terrorist organisation.
Whitehall was not registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council during his stay in the country, and thus the alleged “services” he claims to have provided constitute an illegal act under the laws of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. In view of this, his purported honest and sincere intention of being of service as a doctor in the Northern Province is of dubious value.
Another cause for concern is the fact that Whitehall provided training to members of the medical wing of the LTTE. The government provides training to medical students at the University of Jaffna in the Northern Province according to the established norms and procedures for undergraduate medical education, as stipulated by the University Grants Commission and Sri Lanka’s Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. Thus, there was no necessity for Whitehall to teach medicine to LTTE cadres, who would, in any case, be inadequately educated and patently incompetent at performing responsible medical duties. There are fully trained doctors currently serving in the Northern Province, including those from the Sinhalese and Muslim ethnic groups.
The Sri Lankan Government provides free medical services (including all infrastructure facilities, personnel, drugs and vaccines) to all citizens of Sri Lanka, including those in the Northern Province, irrespective of race, caste or religion. Thus, there is no truth in Whitehall’s claim that the government does nothing for the Northern Province. In spite of severe problems, mainly caused by the LTTE, it makes every effort to ensure that essential medical supplies reach the LTTE-controlled northern part of Sri Lanka, which includes the hospitals at Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. The costs of medicines, consumables, meals, capital expenditure, maintenance, and salaries of all hospital staff are borne by the government of Sri Lanka. Free immunisation programs are also provided by the government. All these facts show that the government is genuinely concerned about people in the Northern Province and does its utmost to help them.
It is pertinent to ask whether any country in the enlightened world, including Australia, would allow a foreigner who blatantly abuses the laws of the country to work and teach in that country. Would any civilised country allow people who are not properly registered with the relevant medical council to practise and to teach paediatrics to terrorists in that country? It is also disappointing that a medical journal of a country committed to eradicating terrorism from the world has deemed it fit to publish an article of this nature.
Whitehall admits that he has written the said piece at the behest of the LTTE. This is obviously another publicity stunt by the LTTE to try to rebuild their deteriorating image internationally. In our opinion, by associating with a terrorist organisation that has been banned in many areas of the globe, Whitehall has blatantly violated the hallowed fundamentals of the Hippocratic Oath.
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