Constitution can solve 99% of Tamils’ woes – Expat doctor

Prolonged battle due to West giving hope to LTTE on ceasfire:
TNA’s tug-o-war will not help Tamils:


Dr. Noel Nadesan
Noel Nadesan, a veterinarian who owns a private clinic in Melbourne was closely related to Sri Lanka’s conflict with the ruthless LTTE. As a young graduate in 1985, he set up the Medical Unit for the Service of Tamils (MUST), a charity organisation based in Chennai to help Lankan refugees.

Members and leaders of the LTTE, PLOTE and EROS, used to frequent his place where his wife, a doctor from Peradeniya University attended to refugees in need of medical attention. He says MUST was the predecessor to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation which was snatched away subsequently by the LTTE to further its unholy cause.

Chennai is where he met Prabhakaran, in one of the joint meetings the organisations summoned. Except for PLOTE, all other groups including the LTTE were operating under a single banner and it was mandatory that the health centre got their blessings.

Dr. Nadesan was met by the Sunday Observer last week during one of his frequent visits to Colombo, this time on a very important objective, to inaugurate a fully fledged medical centre built with funds mainly from his family, on the remote and a tiny island of Eluvaithivu, located close to Kytes in the Northern sea.

The health centre built by Dr. Noel Nadesan in Eluvaithivu
It was the place where he was born 56 years ago and spent his entire childhood with his mother. His father – a trained school teacher was often away on duty.

Dr. Nadesan bared his heart out as to why and what inspired him to venture out on a social cause while recounting personal perspectives including the changing role of Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka, political solutions, the UN Expert Panel report and the Tamil diaspora.

He began by reminiscing about his childhood and youth.

“When I was a ten-year-old boy, I used to get sick regularly. My father, a Tamil trained teacher was working in Yatiyanthota in a mixed media school. My mother had to look after me alone most of the time. Every time I got sick, she used to arrange for someone to take me to the Jetty. We had to go to another islet on board a small ferry to find a doctor.

The situation in this tiny islet has not changed over the past half century. I am fifty six now.

When the war was over, in June last year I went to my village and saw that people had just the same limited facilities we used to have when I was small. I inquired of my village people what they expected of me as an expatriate and a person with some influence. I felt obliged to help them.

They said their biggest need was a hospital. I decided to build them a medical centre which was possibility within my reach. A friend of mine negotiated with the Department of Health. The Department agreed to run the place when completed. The land was provided by the local fishermen’s society.

Amazingly, we were able to complete the centre within one year and it is ready to be handed over to the Health Ministry now. An engineer from London, Sooriyasekaram, who is also interested in helping his kith and kin had been on the site almost full time managing the project. The official handing over will take place on Monday (May 30).

Eluvaithivu, is a half an hour boat ride from Kytes, one hour from Nagadeepa. It belongs to a cluster of seven islets positioned between India and Sri Lanka. This cluster comprises one electorate – Kytes.

The centre was estimated to cost Rs. 6.5 million but it ultimately cost Rs. 7.5 million. Ninety five percent of the money was from my family. My wife – Shiamala is a medical doctor, one of the most sought after general practitioners in Melbourne. She too funded this project generously”.

Dr. Nadesan completed his junior secondary and senior studies at Jaffna Hindu College. Up to eighth grade he attended a local school on the islet”. I sat for my Advanced Levels at Hindu College and qualified to enter the Veterinary Science Faculty of Peradeniya University. My wife also completed her basic MBBS degree at Peradeniya”.

Dr. Nadesan and his wife began their relationship when they were 17 years of age and schooling.

“I have two grown up children now. The elder son, 28, is an engineer and the daughter, 26, a lawyer “Basically what we have built is a primary health centre according to Health Department classifications.

There will be one doctor in attendance and staff. Medical cases will be handled by the staff but if a case needs advanced medical care, it will be referred to a hospital on the mainland. This meagre population of 700 will not have to rush to another island in an emergency or for basic treatment. At present, a doctor from the next islet-Analaitivu visits this islet once a week.

The Government has focused on islands with bigger populations. This is where the expatriate service comes in handy – to fill in the gaps. The expatriates do not need to fund the Government but they can help their own people.

Most of the owners of eateries in Colombo are from my area. The reason is that we did not have enough land and water to cultivate so they took to this line of employment”.

Darusman Report
Dr. Nadesan said that in his opinion this was an unnecessary intrusion by the West which undermines the domestic reconciliation and development program.

“The report is counter productive in terms of reconciliation. TNA leader Sampanthan has welcomed the report. I have a question to ask him. Why did he not say anything when the LTTE hurled 300,000 people from Mannar to Puliyankulam and Mullaitivu? He did not make a voice against the LTTE who forced those innocent civilians to suffer. I wrote an open letter to the LTTE. Ananda Sangaree and DBS Jeyaraj also wrote open letters, I remember. Only a few people appealed to the LTTE not to do that. But the TNA kept quiet.

I could mention a couple of important incidents which angered me. The LTTE started the final war. We all know that. When the Government declared the Puthukudirippu Safe Zone in the latter stages, the LTTE first moved their Voice of Tigers radio equipment in bulk containers.

Their former place was bombed so they shifted their equipment to the Safe Zone putting civilian lives in danger. Additional GA Parthipan and the UNHCR head at the time, I remember spoke against it, but the LTTE refused to listen. They moved their artillery points to the Safe Zone and started firing.

I will quote another incident. When former EROS leader Balakumar tried to flee in a boat in Mullaitivu in January 2009, the LTTE, knowing very well who he was, fired at him. He was critically injured and the bullets tore his fore arm. His hand is yet to heal. These are facts.

Both parties have committed crimes, but they belong to the past. The Western governments kept quiet when the LTTE made blatant violations of humanitarian law. They even gave hope to the LTTE that there will be some kind of a ceasefire. That is why the LTTE continued with the war even when they were cornered. But now the West has come forward with a report of war crimes. They have their agenda to undermine Sri Lanka, for different reasons.

The report means further suffering for IDPs. The Government will have their hands full and development activities targeting IDPs could assume a back seat.

Heightens nationalism
Although the report is against the Rajapaksa Government, it will affect the country as a whole. Even Opposition forces may feel the need to defend the Government and it will heighten nationalism.

As a result extreme elements in both communities will get strengthened. This will ensure more votes for the TNA as well as some individuals in the Government.The ordinary people will gain nothing out of this process. That is my argument.It is time the TNA raised its voice for the Tamil people. As a diaspora group, we came to Sri Lanka two years back in April 2009 to speak about the war and Tamil people.

I coordinated this group. We contacted MP Sampanthan to arrange a meeting. We were craving to get a clear picture of the things happening and wanted to meet everyone we felt important in that quest. He simply refused saying that he was flying to India.He did not want to talk to the LTTE or the Government about the plight of the people trapped inside the War Zone.

He keeps shuttling between the Palk Strait dreaming of India as the solution provider. The TNA thinks the 13th Amendment can be strengthened by Indian intervention. I am against that notion. Sri Lanka can be pressurised by India.”

No to more politicians
“My opinion is that the 13th Amendment is an empty law, if the Government is not ready to implement it. We have local government bodies and provincial councils. What is the need to have more political bodies under another Amendment to the Constitution? We don’t need more politicians in this country.

“The TNA may get elected over and over again, but if they do not cooperate with the Government, they will not get enough funding to serve Tamil people. Confrontational politics of the TNA must be done away with.

The TNA completely lost their credibility by going behind the LTTE. They were obviously scared. So they had to bat for the LTTE.

I assume they are the happiest that the LTTE is no more but they do not declare it.

Ultimately this tribunal report is going to delay whatever the programs taking place on the ground. Apparently much has been done in the East by Minister Basil Rajapaksa. It may not continue at the same pace in the North.

During the last two years, the Government could have done more in terms of development. It could have made use of the military to expedite activities. The election in the North was not the most pressing requirement in people’s eyes.

It could have waited.The franchise is a luxury which is not on the priority list of the people affected by the conflict. They need the basics.

If the Government could appoint an interim authority headed by civilians it would have served the purpose of facilitating things between civilians, better than politicians going around with future elections on their mind.

It took me, as a Sri Lankan expatriate, four days to obtain a permit to travel to the North. If a relative passes away we have to languish in Colombo for four days to travel to the North. Issues such as these could be addressed through a civilian authority.

Diaspora in Australia
“The situation in Australia calmed down even before the war finished. A few years back, the Leaders of LTTE fund-raisers were arrested by the police. Since then the LTTE took up a back seat. Most of the pro LTTE Tamils in Europe were engaged in thuggery as opposed to their Australian counterparts. In Europe, the LTTE faction has now split into two. A section is headed by Rudrakumaran whose followers are somewhat decent. The other is the thuggish group of Nediyawan who are backed by Tamilnet. These people have no interest to help Tamils here. They are in the business of making themselves rich.

Most of the pro LTTEers in Australia support Dr. Emmanel’s Global Tamil Forum because they have money”.

Political solution
“The present Constitution can satisfy 99 percent of Tamils’ demands if it is properly implemented. What is the point in having new laws if they are not implemented by the book.

I want to ask the Tamil people to build on what has already been offered. The TNA’s attitude is not going to help the Tamils of this country.

I feel the Tamil language policy needs to be properly implemented. This is still a shortcoming. This was a root cause for Tamils to support the separatist movement.

But on the other hand Tamils do not have cultural or religious aversions from the majority Sinhalese. They are happy and satisfied with the freedom they enjoy in Colombo and elsewhere.

“The TNA and all Tamil politicians must join the Government to serve the people of the North and East.

If they venture on a tug of war that will delay the whole development process. The present Government is a strong one, it’s won the war and subsequent elections with huge mandates.

This is all the more reason for Tamil leaders to deviate from their confrontational attitude, start a genuine dialogue and begin to trust each other.

The present election process – Proportional Representation always leaves room for the minority to bargain. This is what the Muslim community has done.

We must take a cue from them.This Government is not weak nor a string puppet of extremist coalition forces. It is on a strong footing to fulfil the reasonable demands of the Tamils. We must grab the opportunity and start bargaining.”

About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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