We cannot eradicate terrorism without Indian help: Sri Lanka

Colombo : Wholeheartedly welcoming the Indian medical assistance to the wounded war displaced civilians in the north, Sri Lanka Tuesday underlined the importance of India’s assistance in the fight against terrorism in the island nation.

“Without Indian support, we cannot eradicate terrorism from this country,” Minister for Healthcare and Nutrition Nimal Sripala de Silva told reporters here Tuesday.

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The minister was answering a question with regard to objections raised by some political parties on the presence of the 52-member Indian medical team, which also included members from the Indian Army’s medical unit.

The minister said that all doctors came from India and their qualifications “were screened” and were accepted by the medical council to operate in Sri Lanka.

Earlier in the day, Sri Lanka’s radical Marxist Party raised serious concern in parliament over the presence of the Indian medical unit in the country to treat the wounded war-displaced civilians fleeing the northern war zone.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), known for its anti-Indian stance, said that the arrival of the medical team “was posing a threat to the island’s sovereignty, integrity and national security”.

Making a special statement in the island’s 225-member parliament, the JVP’s parliamentary group leader Anurakumara Dissanayake said that the Indian medical team “was portraying a bad picture internationally that Sri Lanka cannot look after its own people”.

The Indian medical team comprising physicians, surgeons, para-medical staff, technical staff and medical equipment reached Pulmoddai, in the eastern port city Trincomalee, last week. They have started treating the war-affected displaced civilians in the north from this week.

The team led by Vasanthkumar, a doctor, has established an emergency medical unit, including a full-fledged hospital at Pulmoddai. It aims to supplement the existing medical facilities of the Sri Lanka’s health ministry in that area for the internally displaced people.

The JVP parliamentarian also asked the government whether it has granted permission to India to set up a hospital in Pulmoddai, highlighting the fact the Indian medical team included members of the Indian armed forces.

Replying to the queries, Minister for Healthcare and Nutrition Nimal Sripala de Silva told the house that the fears and theories expressed by the JVP were nothing but “the figment of their own imagination”.

Stressing that helping the internally displaced people “is the sole responsibility of the government of Sri Lanka and not anybody else”, the health minister has said India as a friendly neighbour has been “so kind enough to assist” the island nation in the time of need.

He said that the presence of the Indian medical team would not affect the island’s sovereignty by any means, and added that it was very common in any part of the world that the relief assistance team of this nature would comprise some members of the armed forces.

Over 35,000 people from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam-held areas in Mullaitivu district have fled the war-zone and entered the government-held areas since the beginning of 2009. Most of them are being housed at welfare centres and transit camps in the northern Vavuniya town.