5th Column

Politics a fertile ground for hate speech lies

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My dear Dr. Shafi,

I thought I must write to you when I heard that you had recently recommenced work at the same hospital where you worked before, after you were officially ‘reinstated’ some time ago. I am not sure whether we should say ‘congratulations’ or hang our heads in shame about what happened to you.

Our thoughts go back to the events of four years ago when, shortly after the Easter attacks that year, many events appeared to happen in quick succession. The first of them, of course, was on the Friday after the Easter Sunday attacks, when Gota maama announced that he was ready to run for the top job.

It was almost at the same time that a campaign to vilify your community began. That a handful of suicide bombers from your community were responsible for the Easter attacks didn’t help matters, but it soon turned to be a well-orchestrated effort to polarise our nation on religious and communal lines.

That is when they accused you of carrying out sterilisations on mothers of the majority community without their knowledge or consent during your work as a doctor. This was accompanied by absurd statement that sterilisations were being done through wearing certain garments or eating a ‘koththu’!

A newspaper in the island ran banner headlines accusing you of this heinous crime of trying to eliminate the Sinhala race. Leading the crusade against you was someone who somehow ensures that he is where the action is, ‘Athana methana Rathana’, who was busy organising protests against you.

Joining that bandwagon were the usual suspects, Wimal sahodaraya and Udaya who calls himself ‘pivithuru’ or pure. The former called for a presidential commission to probe your alleged actions and the latter was busy writing letters to medical authorities, urging them to take action against you.

However, what was most disgraceful was not their actions but those of a member of your own medical profession, a professor to boot from a university in the ancient ‘Kings Country’, but also a ‘pohottuwa politician then, accusing you of sterilising Sinhalese women without their knowledge.

It was this chap’s post on social media that ignited racial passions against you and your community. Being a professor in a medical field, he must have known that the acts that you allegedly performed were quite medically impossible, but people tend to believe you when you are Professor of Medicine!

That is how you came to be suspended from work, detained for a long period of time and being branded as the doctor who was on a mission to eliminate the Sinhalese with your ‘sterilisation’ campaign. During this time, your family was ostracised and underwent untold hardship and ridicule.

It must be said that even the rest of the medical community failed you. A panel of experts did conclude that you could not have done what you were alleged to have done, but the doctors never went out of their way to educate the general public and convince them of your innocence.

It took four long years for everyone to realise the truth, investigate you and clear your name, reinstate you, pay you back wages and for you to actually return to work to the same ward of the same hospital to do the same work which we are now told didn’t include sterilising Sinhalese women!

We also learnt that you have donated all the back wages you received amounting to over a couple of million rupees to hospitals to buy medicines which are in short supply. That was a noble gesture from you but I do wonder whether the wounds opened by your persecutors have really healed.

You are free and back at work now but if we look around, what we see today are the same religious tensions being fostered by another group of people. Just as your critics wanted to win elections using you as their scapegoat, it seems as if a similar campaign is underway now using someone else.

What is sadder still is that those who made those ridiculous allegations against you then- the ‘Athana methana Rathana’s, the Wimal sahodarayas and ‘pivithuru’ Udayas as well as the medical professors are still very much around, waiting for their prey so they can comfortably return to Parliament.

While you suffered for four years, enduring the insults that came your way, those who abused you without any reason continue to represent us and are still trying to hoodwink the public with their next set of lies. We, who believed in a ‘King of snakes’ in the Kelani river then, might believe them again!

One would have thought that, after seeing what happened to you and what Paradise went through after that, we had learnt a lesson. Instead, we see new saviours of the ‘ratajaathiya’ emerging, for example from Balangoda, telling us we should be ‘afraid’ because this is a ‘Sinha Buddhist country’!   

Dr. Shafi, you haven’t been able to prevent us from falling victim to the next set of lies that will be put before us. Nevertheless, we are grateful to you not only for having the courage to withstand the hate that came your way but also for being gracious enough not to seek revenge from your detractors.

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS- Isn’t it strange and somewhat ironical that, while you are back in your old job at your old hospital, those who agitated against you from the government benches now sit in the opposition while Gota  maama, who got the top job because of you to some extent, is now out of a job?

 

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