As speaker of the popular talk titled “Future of Tamils: A demographic perspective” I am thankful to Dr.Krishna Kalaichelvan for translating the media report and discussing under the title “Understanding the Demographic Decline of Tamils in Sri Lanka”. I however, wish to clarify the following:
- The media report published in GTN website and other media was prepared by a media personnel who attended my talk in Jaffna University on 26/06/14. That report was however, not comprehensive and in fact left out two other important aspects of my talk affecting the population growth: migration and mortality. Just because I had posted those links in my Facebook does not mean that I had agreed it as a complete report of my presentation. Please note that public officers are generally not allowed to publish media reports under the Sri Lankan Law and I am merely responding here to what was stated by Dr.Kalaichelvan without any political agenda. The main objective of my presentation in Jaffna was to create awareness among Tamils of their declining fertility and discuss ways to recover the population which suffered heavy losses due to war.
- Although part of the Youtube clip Muslim demographics was shown during my presentation neither that part of the clip nor I made any derogatory statements against Islamic brothers. I have in fact appreciated some of their ways and suggested Tamils to follow those during my presentation.
- I do agree that the abovementioned clip released in 2008 made some exaggerations on forecasting though that was due to the inherent weakness of any projection where the assumptions were made that the trends in the past would continue without any change. As reported by Dr.Kalaichelvan with several references the author of that clip had failed to take note of the recent declining fertility trend of Muslims. On the other hand the reports used by Dr.Kalaichelvan also contain errors due to the same inherent weakness and underestimate the growth of Muslim population in several countries. For example the report of the US based PEW Forum forecasted the percentage of Muslims in Sri Lanka as 8.5% and it would not increase between 2010 and 2030, estimated Muslim population in 2010 as 1,725,000 and projected Muslim population in 2030 as 1,876,000 (1). After the 2012 Census in Sri Lanka we now know the figures of the PEW Forum was an underestimate and the Muslim population in Sri Lanka has been expanding in percentage as well as in numbers more than their estimates. The fact that the fertility of Muslims is higher than other races cannot be disputed and consequently the world will be dominated by Muslims in future though the time frame for that change can be disputed.
- I do not agree with Dr.Kalaichelvan’s claim “whether the women from rural Kilinochchi or rural Moneragala or rural Anuradhapura, they are all facing the same predicament of powerlessness: doctors and health service know what is best for them. Whatever the level of coercion applied in Kilinochchi is prevalent in the rural clinics in the Sinhala South as well.” There was not even a single report on coercion in birth control in rural Sinhala areas while the Kilinochchi incident is one of the several incidents reported in Tamil areas (2) where I had visited personally and confirmed. Even Bodu Bala Sena the extreme Sinhala group campaigning to increase the fertility of Sinhala alleged accusations only against two non-governmental organizations and not on the government health service in the South (3), (4). I am also surprised by the tolerance of Dr.Kalaichelvan towards the coercion in contraceptive use by health professionals and lack of privacy to the patient both of which had seriously violated the fundamental principles of medical ethics. Long term implants such as Jadelle that used in Kilinochchi had already raised the concern of the freedom of choice and reported to target certain groups of women and coercive use of it had been already reported even in West (5). Under these circumstances, comment by Dr.Kalaichelvan from UK “this was a case of medical malpractice and not part of an elaborate genocidal scheme operated by the Sri Lankan government to reduce the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, as propagandized by the Tamil nationalists” raises serious suspicions. For reasons best known to him, he chose to overlook the maternal death resulted by inserting implant on a pregnant woman. Pregnancy should be reliably excluded before insertion of Jadelle (6) as it is known to cause complications. In this juncture one need to consider the following facts before arriving at a conclusion: a) Essential medicines including antimalarials were disallowed to citizens living in the areas not controlled by the government during the civil war for several years and there were increased deaths due to malaria at that time (7) b) During 2008 and 2009 It was claimed that only 70,000 people were living in Vanni and provisions were sent only to cover that population. That resulted in severe malnutrition and deaths due to starvation leaving aside the disputed figure of deaths directly due to the last phase of the war. Finally truth came out when more than 285,000 came alive to be held in the forced detention camps for more than a year.
- I do agree with Dr.Kalaichelvan that husband’s consent is needed only for permanent sterilization. But here the women who went to the nutrition clinic wanted to discuss with their husbands to make a decision when they were unexpectedly coerced to take the long term (5 years) contraceptive implants. They were however, compelled to take the implants without providing an opportunity to come back to the clinic after discussion with their husbands. In fact one woman informed us that her husband chased her away from home demanding that she could come home only after removing the implant.
- Historically Tamils had been practicing polygamy especially in post-war periods by marrying war widows and having children. They are unable to do the same now to recover the population lost in war because in 1907 they had agreed to the General Marriage Law instead of resorting to an own marriage law based on their culture like Muslims. It is the bounden duty of Tamil leaders and other human rights activists to find feasible solutions for the large number of war widows and half widows and make them contributing to recover the population loss due to war.