About one hundred Sinhala doctors who have come to Colombo from the Eastern Province fearing threats to their lives are refusing to budge on the question of their security. The Health Ministry is insisting that they return to their hospitals on its terms. With the GMOA taking up cudgels, the dispute is likely to get long-drawn. The absence of so many doctors will adversely impact on healthcare provision in the East, though the government is trying to make do with Tamil and Muslim doctors in that province.
Since doctors fear that they are being deliberately targeted because of their ethnicity following the killing of Dr. Palitha Pathmakumara in cold blood while on duty in Batticaloa, it behoves the Health Ministry to act with restraint without trying to railroad doctors into complying with its order. An attempt by the government to cut the Gordian knot at the expense of doctors` safety will not only be unfair but also counterproductive. No one, a doctor or any other civilian, must be forced to risk his or her life in the name of work.
A prerequisite for finding a lasting solution to this vexed problem is to establish the real motive of Dr. Pathmakumara s killers. Given the various attempts to destabilise the Eastern Province, speculation is rife that there is more to that killing than meets the eye.
If it could be proved beyond doubt that Dr. Pathmakumara`s killing was an isolated incident like the gunning down of a female doctor in Hambantota a few weeks ago, doctors may be asked to resume their work in the East with adequate security. But, if his killing is part of a campaign to destabilise the East, as feared, then doctors won`t be able to return until the situation improves.
Whatever the motive of Dr. Pathmakumara`s killers may have been, those who are all out to unleash anarchy in the East have benefited from that heinous crime. Revival of the East has been the bugbear of the separatist lobby which is working in mysterious ways. There could be seen a high octane performance on the part of the closet separatists who operate under various guises. Their objective is to project the Eastern Province as a failure.
Their fear is that the 13th Amendment may begin to work in a demerged East thus sealing the fate of their Eelam project. A robust eastern democracy will stand in the way of their campaign for Eelam or any power sharing arrangement that goes beyond the so-called Indian Model which functions as a glass ceiling for the separatist lobby in Tamil Nadu.
In Sri Lanka, separatists want that glass ceiling shattered. They are aware that their success hinges on their ability to scuttle the Chandrakanthan-Hisbulla administration in the East by throwing a monkey wrench in the works.
Their battle plan is not difficult to see. The human rights arm of the separatist lobby has been attacking the newly set up Eastern PC since very inception. Voluminous reports have been produced so far on the seamy side of the new administration without a single word of encouragement. They don`t give a damn about the fact that the eastern democracy is recuperating after a major surgery and needs to be drip-fed. It is not yet fit to be put on a massive diet of democracy.
Demilitarisation takes time and hasty action to make the Eastern PC administration perform, so to speak, democratic yoga before it regains its political vitality might cause its paralysis or even untimely demise! It is not that human rights pundits are unaware of the fragile state of the eastern democracy all that they desire is its end so that they could have the world believe that nothing short of Eelam is going to be a solution.
What has been defeated in the East is only the military arm of the Eelam lobby. Its other arms political, human rights and economic remain intact. They are striving to shore up the remnant LTTE elements in the East to subvert democracy. It is not being argued that they want to live under Prabhakaran. That is the last thing they may want to do. Else, they would have been in the Vanni by this time helping him with his losing battle. Instead, they want him to run all the risks, shed all the blood, help them achieve Eelam or at least a stepping stone to it and perish thereafter. They are trying to use him as a military hit man to facilitate the establishment of Eelam. This might explain why Prabhakaran has turned his gun on the wily separatists trying to achieve their goal at his expense. He does not want anyone else to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
The TMVP caught up in a tussle between Karuna and Chandrakanthan, has become the medium for certain external forces to further their interests in the strategically important Eastern Province. Chandrakanthan`s secretary killed in Athurugiriya recently was accused of having RAW links. The TMVP has also been infiltrated by the LTTE.
The government has successfully banished the LTTE from the East and the sparrow units that remain resorting to hit and run tactics will cease to be a threat after a decisive defeat of the LTTE in the North. When the stag dies, it is said, ticks fall.
What is called for urgently is addressing as well as obviating the discontentment of the Eastern Province politicians and people through meaningful devolution of powers. Strengthening the eastern provincial administration shouldn`t and cannot wait until the completion of the development projects that are likely to go on till the cows come home.
A politically strong Eastern Province, besides the elimination of residual terrorism, will make it much easier for the government to rally the easterners against the enemies of democracy so that people doctors included will be able to live without fear of being targeted because of their ethnicity or religion in that part of the country. That, we believe, is attainable properties.