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Having a heart for the heartless

July 14, 2006

Even if Prabhakaran were to ask for medical assistance, we believe, he should be brought for treatment. Perhaps, Angoda or Mulleriyawa will be the best place for him.

LTTE spokesman Daya Master was rushed to Colombo on Wednesday, for treatment following a severe cardiac arrest, with the help of the security forces. The government was right in having positively responded to a request from the LTTE to escort him and facilitate his hospitalisation. In a civilised society, the sick must be looked after, irrespective of who or what they are. While seeking the government help to remove its spokesman, the LTTE, true to form, carried on its killing spree. Two policemen were killed in a mine blast in Jaffna.

How can the LTTE, which is not at least capable of looking after a senior cadre with a heart condition claim to run a de facto separate state? In a terrain devoid of basic healthcare facilities, what will be the situation of the ordinary civilians if war breaks out?

The LTTE is said to be ruthless but we consider it more shameless than anything else. Otherwise, how could it ask for an escort within weeks of the assassination of Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga in Colombo and within months of the brutal killing of SSP Charles Wijewardena in Jaffna, let alone other assassinations like that of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and the attempt on the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s life.

What the Sri Lankan governments have been doing is in stark contrast to the way the so-called five star democracies are dealing with their terrorists. When the US invaded Iraq, it unleashed hell on that country; even the chemicals used for water purification were banned and as a result thousands of children have died of dysentery and allied infections. Would Washington have ever allowed an Al Queada leader to be escorted by the US troops for treatment in Iraq or Afghanistan? Would Britain have escorted a terrorist involved in 7/7 attacks to a London hospital for treatment? We pose these questions to those who pontificate to this country on human rights.

India, too, expresses humanitarian concerns whenever clashes erupt here. But how did it treat its terrorist, Veerappan, who was partially blind and seriously ill at the time he was finally trapped? He was done to a cruel death. Given his condition, any decent person would have expected India to rush him to hospital. India, it should be recalled, refused Anton Balasingham passage in 2002, despite his plea that he was seriously ill, as the LTTE had killed former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi. Here, the LTTE has killed an incumbent President (Ranasinghe Premadasa) and almost succeeded in assassinating another President (Chandrika Kumaratunga). But, Sri Lanka helps the LTTE leaders receive treatment in Colombo, which they have bombed many times. Apart from escorts, we have had a Defence Secretary-Austin Fernando is his name-visiting a senior LTTE combatant in a Colombo hospital with a basket of apples!

The survival of the LTTE has been possible due to the humaneness of the much maligned state. It is dependent on the very state it is hell bent on destroying. While living off the food and medical supplies the state sends to the areas under its control, the LTTE has to concentrate only on procuring arms, abducting children, extorting money from the war affected, manufacturing bombs and assassinations. The outfit won’t have a cat in hell’s chance without supplies from the state. Terrorism thrives, as we have pointed out in these columns, in a democracy. It fizzles out when it meets its match in an equally ruthless political regime. The well established Italian Mafia ceased to exist under Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. That’s why sympathizers of terror groups become ardent champions of democracy to prevent states from resorting to ruthless counter terror. Let it be immediately added that we don’t advocate either sanctions or counter terror, lest our comments should be misconstrued.

James P. Grant, the visionary Executive Director of UNICEF, who declared war on ‘global silent emergency’ (read deaths of millions of children from preventable diseases) considered Sri Lanka’s conflict a ‘civilised one’ in that the state feeds the LTTE and wounded LTTE cadres receive treatment in state-run hospitals. The Tigers have been biting the hand that feeds them.

Being humane and democratic is not without problems. But a civilised society has no alternative. The government has come under heavy fire from some quarters for its magnanimous gesture. While the consternation of anti terror activists could be understood, it should be realised that a democratically elected government of a legitimate state cannot act like a terrorist outfit and deny medical or surgical care to the sick. Even if Prabhakaran were to ask for medical assistance, we believe, he should be brought for treatment. Perhaps, Angoda or Mulleriyawa will be the best place for him.

-Island Editorial

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