Let saner counsel prevail | Daily News

Let saner counsel prevail

The Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera, of death fast fame, has refused to accept the CID report that cleared Dr. Shafi Shihabdeen of any wrongdoing in respect of allegations that he conducted illegal sterilizations of Sinhala women. Not only that, the Ven. Thera has also refused to accept the findings on the tests carried out by local doctors to ascertain the veracity of the claims of the women who were allegedly subjected to such illegal sterilization. Instead the Ven. Athureliye wants doctors from the USA or India to conduct these tests, going by what he told the media outside the Kurunegala Magistrate's Court where doctor Shafi's case is being heard.

What does all this imply? Is the Ven. Thera suggesting that the local investigators or our own doctors are not competent in their jobs, or, worse, cannot be trusted? Is this not akin to an endorsement of the Tamil Diaspora demand for foreign judges to preside over in our court houses since our justices are biased or incompetent? Is this also not an indirect acknowledgement that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva got it right when it insisted on foreign judges entering our shores to try our war heroes for alleged human rights violations?

Why then this big hue and cry about the Government entering into agreements with America that is detrimental to the country's sovereignty? Why are the likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila making a big song and dance about the ACSA and SOFA agreements when one of their own sees nothing wrong with American doctors coming to our country to examine Sinhala women after alleged sterilsations committed on them by a Muslim doctor?

By casting aspersions on the CID and calling into question its competence the Ven. Rathana Thera knowingly or unknowingly is bucking the system, not to mention challenging the established structures of governance. It is also tantamount to shaking the very foundation of the law by belittling and devaluing the country's principal law enforcement agency. Herein lies the danger. Coming as it does from a leading member of the Buddhist clergy, the Ven. Thera’s views could also influence public thinking on the same lines leading to disrespect and disdain for the law by the society at large.

It is pertinent here to ask the Ven. Thera as to why he is being selective in casting aspersions on the competence of the CID or calling to question its findings. We did not hear even a whimper of protest from the Ven. Thera on the competence of the Court Martial that sent Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to prison.

Be that as it may, now that the CID had cleared Dr. Shafi of the allegations against him, including accusations of amassing disproportionate assets, he should be released and united with his family. We say this because there were heartrending accounts of the trauma and anguish suffered by his wife and children brought about by the stigma, published in the newspapers. They are being ostracized and forced to live a nomadic life with no one including Muslims willing to provide them with accommodation.

The education of the children had broken down with schools giving them a wide berth. The wife, who also is a medical practitioner at the same hospital as her husband, is looked upon with hostility by colleagues and has asked for a transfer. All this is undergone by the family while Dr. Shafi is being held now for over 90 days without any charges that are acceptable in a court of law.

The CID in its report to the Kurunegala Magistrate's court states that it had recorded statements from hospital staff including 12 doctors. Of them 11 had vouched that they had not seen doctor Shafi causing any damage to the Fallopian tubes of any women while the remaining doctor stated that Dr. Shafi's approach deferred, depending on the ethnicity of the female patients. The original Sinhala newspaper report that caused the whole hullaballoo too is dubious. How it arrived at the exact number of women victims (4,473) even before a single woman came out with the allegation or before any investigation commenced in astounding indeed.

Dr. Shafi, no doubt, is a victim of the fallout of the Easter Sunday bombings where the Muslim community came under close scrutiny and was viewed with suspicion. Had the incidents not taken place it is certain that Dr. Shafi would have continued with his operations with no one the wiser if indeed he committed the offence for which he is being accused.

The Kurunegala Magistrate has called for the appointment of a team of medical professionals to carry out tests against the complainant women, that would include the Director of the Kurunegala Hospital. It is advisable for all concerned to await the results without jumping to premature conclusions influenced by the ethnicity of the doctor concerned. It is time that sanity prevailed on this whole matter without persons with no grasp of medical matters stirring the pot to whip up religious and communal passions.

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