By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan, ‘Ceylon Today,’ May 8, 2016
The 30-year war and the gory events of it ended on 18 May 2009 but they are unforgettable and unforgivable. The Tamils who fled the island, the like-minded civil societies and the human rights activists started documenting each event in phases and tabled them at the UNHRC in the last seven years.
Here is a man, an LTTE ‘doctor’ who narrates what he saw during the last few days before the end of the war in Mulliwaikkal and what happened to him after being captured.
The well-built, 29-year-old LTTE ‘doctor’ Navaranjan alias ‘Dr. Uyartchi’ who was in Mulliwaikkal serving at the LTTE hospital ‘Alan’ till the end of the war, tells how he escaped from the ‘clutches of death’ and settled in the United Kingdom in 2012.
He will be testifying on 10 May at the Portcullis House, an office building in Westminster, for Members of Parliament what he knows about the last days of the war.
In a telephone interview with Ceylon Today he said the scars and pains are simply deep-rooted.
He says his narrow escape comes in the form of a Rs 300,000 ‘bribe’ he had paid to a few ‘nice’ officers at the Rehabilitation Camp in 2011 and later fled the country paying Rs 3 million to an ‘agent.’
Dr. Uyartchi, as he was known, hails from the Mullaitivu District and was in the Sea Tiger Leader Col. Soosai’s brigade.
He fled Sri Lanka in 2012 and is one of those people who have given testimony on the last phase of the war across Europe.
He has given interviews to many European television channels and newspapers.
Ceylon Today contacted him through his Facebook account on seeing that he would be speaking to the UK Liberal MPs next week on the last days of the war.
Uyartchi lost his mother in a shell attack in 1996 while he was just eight years old and right then he was determined to join the Tamil Tigers. He joined the medical unit of the LTTE on his 18th birthday.
He says he joined the medical unit to save people as his mother received no proper medication before she died.
His father, Col. Ejitra joined the LTTE and fought till the last days of the war. He apparently swallowed a cyanide capsule when he knew the time had come to surrender to the Army on 17 May 2009.
The death of his father was conveyed to him when Uyarchi was captured at the Alan hospital while treating the wounded.
The LTTE hospital which served the civilians too saw people in big numbers from February 2009 onwards when the security forces were advancing into Mullaitivu.
Scores of wounded people were brought in, he says adding that, as a ‘doctor’ he also used the ambulance to visit the battle field and bring the wounded combatants.
“We had four ambulances and there were ample medicine supplies as the government imposed sanction on us.” However, there were two operation theatres and one x-ray machine at Alan, a makeshift hospital of the LTTE.
“When 100 were wounded only 10 could be attended to. There were cries and howling for days without treatment.”
Human pain was endured throughout amid shooting, airstrikes and missile attacks.
Sea Tiger leader
Uyartchi has treated minor wounds of Sea Tiger Leader Soosai and Colonel Sornam, Special Commander of the LTTE during the last days. I encountered them with minor wounds on their arms. They received treatment and went back to the battle field. Uyartchi says he also met his father who rushed to see him during the height of the war.
“From February thousands of people were fleeing and coming this way. I was very busy with people. Without medication and surgeries many perished in my hands.”
Uyartchi trained himself to be a medical doctor in the LTTE medical unit and served as a ‘doctor’ from 2006 to 2009 after quitting his service at the Swiss Foundation for Demining where he had his technical training on how to treat injuries. He sat for the ‘medical exams’ held by the LTTE after he completed his ‘studies.’ He said several government doctors from various hospitals were engaged in training them and Uyartchi specialized in Intercostal Catheter Insertion (IC Tube).
He worked in several different hospitals before he went to Alan. He says Alan hospital came under attack three times and it was a dilapidated building.
“At the beginning the security forces did not attack hospitals, but they did so in the last few months. They attacked even seeing the Red Cross flag flying over the hospital’s roof.
“The last two days of the war was a picture I cannot forget. Nearly 700 to 800 wounded were rushed to Alan hospital. I did not know whom to attend to. There was no manpower. People with big wounds bled to death. Some 500-odd dead bodies were scattered in the hospital premises and at the same time the security forces were advancing towards the hospital,” Uyarchi said.
The hospital was sprayed with bullets and he also received minor injuries. With him there were nine other ‘doctors’ who took cover and at the same time they ran around fetching people who were injured.
“Many tried to run seeing the troops entering the hospital and I stood there holding my arms up ready to surrender.”
Uyartchi was taken by the troops with many others who they suspected to be LTTErs. There were wounded civilians too with me.”
While parading having his hands tied behind, he met a senior LTTE cadre from the Eastern Province Col. Karikaalan and his wife, a medical doctor. Uyartchi claims that both Karikaalan and his wife’s hands were tied behind them.
Reaching the edge of Mulliwaikkal at a barren paddy land the government troops separated the Karikaalans from the rest.
“They ‘catogorized’ the captured persons and since I treated the wounded, I maintained that I was a government medical practitioner,” Uyratchi said.
When I reached Omanthai, I told them that I was an LTTE doctor and they beat me for lying.
The bus full of people was then taken to Vavuniya. He says while in the bus he heard some whispering that Fr. Francis and a group of LTTE cadres had surrendered with white flags. Uyartchi claimed he did not see any persons with white flags.
He also said he did not hear anything about LTTE Leader Prabhakaran’s death. He did not even know the dates as days passed by when they were housed in Rambakulam Girls’ School in Vavuniya.
From Omanthai around 2,000 persons were housed in the girls’ school, says the LTTE doctor. “There were more civilians in the group than LTTE cadres, but they were all counted as LTTE suspects,” he said.
Spending 15 days at the school from there, about 500 were taken to Poonthottam Maha Vidayalam.
According to him he does not know what happened to the rest.
Joseph detention camp
“From Poonthottam, we were taken to Joseph detention camp which is also in Vavuniya. I was forced to admit that I was an LTTE fighter. I did not give up. I said I was a doctor and never was in the battle field. It was the darkest days of my life at the Joseph camp,” Uyatchi said.
Uyatchi said he wore the LTTE uniform for special occasions not otherwise. I still consider myself part of a team that led the struggle.
“I last wore the LTTE uniform at the final rites for S. P. Tamilchelvam, LTTE Political Wing Leader. I paraded along with his body. I was determined to do that,” Uyarchi said.
Uyartchi’s guess was that at Joseph Camp where he spent about one and a half months and by then the International Red Cross had taken their names down.
Uyartchi said he was in Boossa for three months. There too the ICRC visited him. “We were interrogated all the time but I maintained I was a doctor,” he said.
He noted that there were TID, the NIB and the CID who had their own rooms in the Joseph Camp and they were interrogating separately. “There were girls too in the camp,” he added.
While in Boossa his case was taken up for hearing and the Court ruled that he be sent for rehabilitation for one year.
He says at the rehabilitation camp they were made to listen to Buddhist preaching called Bana. He also learned Sinhala.
“I did not like anything of that nature. Seven months passed and I wanted to leave. I befriended some of the officials. They were kind people. Some of my relatives visited me and I suggested them to get me some money.”
Uyartchi struck a deal to pay Rs 300,000 to get him released soon.
“It worked and I managed to get the cash and after seven months, I came out.”
He was strictly told to flee the country within the next six months, if not they will come after him. “They did so as he did not make it.”
He says he was strictly warned that he should leave the country or they will be back to his village to check on him.
“I came out but there were no documents to take a passport. I gave Rs 3 million to an ‘agent’ to get me out. But it took more than a year.
“Officials came home to check on me, as they warned me before. I had to report to Iyangkulam Camp to show up myself every day. Also, every time they detained a suspect they wanted me to identify him. The interrogation was hard for me. How can I do that?” he asked.
Today Uyartchi is working in the UK. He refused to tell what he is doing. He says the travel ‘agent’ made his passport, air ticket and took him up to the Bandaranaike International Airport. “All arrangements were made neatly and I had no issues and no questioning by the authorities. It was a ‘safe passage’ out.
His flight was to Kenya enroute to the UK.
Uyartchi is still in a daze and traumatized.
“I am ever ready to speak the truth and whoever wanted to know about my life. I will tell the plight of the Tamils. I lost my mother and father. Their souls will not rest till I am at peace,” he said.
Uyarchi wants an answer to the sufferings he and others went through.
Does he like the new Sri Lanka and the new lease of life people in the North and East have now? He said softly, “People are lucky to be born now, but what about the people who lived during those horrible years? Everyone paid a price when they wanted justice and reformation for the Tamils that led to an armed struggle. The saddest part is that it continues. He was referring to the arrest of ex- combatants from the North and East now.
Uyarchi adds that he hears various stories about their arrests. “It is surely not a good sign for Sri Lanka.”