16 May, 2022

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End To Dr Shafi Saga Meaningless; If ‘Business As Usual’ For The Conspirators!  

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

Truth has come, and falsehood has perished. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to perish”- Al Quran 17:81

 It was on May 23rd 2019, Divaina journalist Hemantha Randhunu wrote an unsubstantiated news item with a sensational headline titled, ‘‘4000 Sinhala Buddhist mothers were sterilized by a ‘Thawheed Jamaat Doctor who performed caesarean operations’”. Today, this story stands exposed as fake news and a racist ruse intending to create hatred towards the Muslim community. The allegations levelled against Dr Shafi Shahabdeen implicated in this case has now been proved to be as much of a big lie as they then seemed on first glance. Even belatedly, he has been cleared of all these false charges and was reinstated, while AG recently informed the Court of Appeal that steps are being taken for the payment of arrears of salary and allowances for the period he was on compulsory leave over these false accusations. Another tragicomedy indeed! But the damage was done. Thus, an aspiring career of a young doctor ended so pathetically, being an innocent victim of scheming of political conspirators hell-bent on bringing a devious family dynasty back to power at any cost. He was summarily arrested, put in jail, tarnished his image beyond repair, and his family life will never be the same.

Sri Lanka has had a storied history of these types of witch hunts. The trial by a racist media with political patronage, based on the aforesaid ‘Divaina’ fake news, in the court of public opinion ensued; but its outcome was a fait accompli, creating a lunacy among a greater section of the population to see a terrorist in every Muslim. Citing the purported sterilisations as justification, one of Sri Lanka’s most senior Buddhist figures, Asigiri Chapter Prelate Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero publicly called for the doctor to be stoned. The allegations levelled against the doctor clearly served to further heighten then prevailing tensions. Because of Shafi’s case, several Muslim doctors who worked in densely populated Sinhala areas couldn’t practise and had to shut down. The story was picked up by local television channels and widely shared on social media. These were also then widely shared in India and elsewhere with racist, anti-Muslim overtones.

This major local Sinhala newspaper in publishing this news too claimed that this Muslim surgeon was a member of a terrorist group linked to the Easter attacks. The report also claimed that the secret sterilisations were performed without the knowledge of the women involved by tubal ligation while they were undergoing caesarean section surgeries. A FB Sinhala post by a Buddhist monk Kottawagama Dhammajothi uploaded May 23, 2019, stated: “Realise the danger now? This is Wahabism. He is a worse terrorist than the terrorist who carried out the bombings.” It called for the doctor to be given “punishments meted out during the era of ancient kings” — a reference to torture. An extremist Hindu group post in India asked , ‘How many Hindus are sterilized here?’

It was clear that Shafi accusations were largely “stage-managed” by the Rajapaksa camp to create a fear psychosis building up on the post-Easter heat, ahead of 2019 Presidential election. Although it was medically absurd, Shafi was arrested nonetheless, on a different trumped up charge planned by powers that be, while this allegations were being investigated. Imagine a citizen being brazenly denied the presumption of innocence, until proven guilty, as the country’s Constitution provides! True! this is not how justice should work; this was the opposite of justice. This was persecution. But, then, he happened to be a targeted Muslim doctor living in the Post Easter Sri Lanka, caught up in the greater scheme of things and in a political conspiracy, to ensure the re-election of the Rajapaksas!

Investigations into the sterilization scare at Kurunegala showed the underlying conspiracies even earlier on, with the discovery that medical administrators colluded with law enforcement officials and even the magistrate to fabricate evidence and alter judicial records.The CID reported to court that the director of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital, A.M. S. Weerabandara, was fully aware that the sterilisation allegations against a Muslim doctor were untrue. According to the documents submitted, the CID investigation, led by Inspector Adrian Nishantha Silva, interviewed more than 40 employees at the Kurunegala Teaching hospital, including operating room nurses, OBGYN specialists, resident doctors and hospital attendants, who had worked with Shafi. The CID report said that some of the staffers had assisted Shafi in over 500 C-sections.According to the witness testimonies cited in the CID report, no one witnessed Shafi “using his hands or any surgical equipment to damage the fallopian tubes” of any patient on the surgical table. Prof. Hemantha Senanayake, Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, insisted that the absence of an impartial, speedy and transparent investigation could have a negative impact not only on Sri Lanka’s achievements in maternal care and health but create a situation where people would be afraid to have babies delivered in hospital.

According to reports from all of Sri Lanka law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including police, the State Intelligence Service, and the Terrorist Investigation Division, there were no also credible evidence of Shafi having any links to terrorist activity. The document then listed 13 Sri Lankan law enforcement and intelligence agencies, all of which cleared Shafi of terrorist links — Kurunegala Police, Police Special Task Force, State Intelligence Service, Criminal Archives, Terrorist Investigation Division, Western Intelligence Unit, Police Special Bureau, Dambulla Police Station, National Intelligence Bureau, Intelligence units of the army, navy, Airforce. The doctor was also accused of acquiring large number of assets through illegal means, which charge also fizzled out in the end.

Both the journalist and Divaina editor-in-chief, Anura Solomons, later disowned responsibility for its veracity stating that this story was based on police and hospital sources, whom they said could not identify. This was however not the first time Divaina published this type of fake news. It published another fake news article on July 05, 2017 with headline — “An individual who was ousted from six mosques on 17 occasions during the Ramadan season, has been sentenced to death by Pakistani Courts”. Mawbima also echoed another fake news suggesting that Dr Shafi gave Wattalappan to the Sinhala women which sterilized them.

Apart from media culprits, there were many schemers and propagandists too. Referring to this as a ‘Womb War’ more dangerous than Saharan’s terror war,- rogue monks like Rathana, Gnanasara, politicos like Wimal W and (Prof?) Jayasumana, aided by the medical professionals like Padeniya of the GMOA (who observed professional silence) and the hospital’s director, Dr A.M.S. Weerabandara, who led the craftly designed hate campaign against Shafi and the Muslims, in order to convince a gullible electorate. The political overtones came to light as the newspaper article was amplified on the day it was published when SLPP professional Channa Jayasumana, wrote about the allegations of Buddhist women being sterilized without their knowledge in a Facebook post alongside a picture of Shafi – the first time he was publicly linked to the claim. The post, which was shared more than 1,200 times, had a photo of an article in which Shafi said he had performed some 8,000 caesarean sections in his career. The post also highlighted that he had stood for office for a Muslim party.

This reportage led to the Sinhala media creating a media product of a false narrative involving Shafi. Dr. Weerabandara, a dentist by profession, also objected in court earlier to tests being carried out on women who claimed they had been illegally sterilized by Dr. Shafi while delivering their babies through C-section procedures. Divine Providence has it that all the Humpty Dumpty characters who directed this fake ‘Wandha’ news drama, lie shattered with no one to pick up their pieces. But should not these schemers too be brought to justice, along with the rogue media?

According to these media sources, as many as 1000 complaints were initially received. As per a media study, total of 322 articles and 222 claims on the Dr. Shafi case were reported in the press and on primetime news respectively in the first five weeks after the initial article in Divaina. Multiple local television channels picked up and amplified the Divaina report, particularly by Hiru TV, and Derana notorious for their racist coverage. The production of this false narrative has been examined by Media experts through a framework of four elements: the use of pre-existing anti-Muslim narratives; the use of authoritative sources to lend legitimacy to the claims; the use of emotional language and descriptions to inspire grief, fear and anger; and the prominence given to the narrative. The damage caused by the information disorder fell within two interconnected categories of consequences: the prejudicial and the political. These consequences not only weakened occupational and political positions of individuals but can also harmed the position of the entire Muslim community, as they formed the perceived basis for calling for the removal of persons from various posts due to their religious and ethnic affiliations.

This is not the first time individuals have been raked over the coals and lives and reputations ruined by unethical reporting practices. The digital age has meant information sweeps across the country faster than ever, ruining reputation of persons and transmitting fake news at the blink of an eye. According to Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, former director of Government Information Department, the media must be held accountable for what has happened in the country after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. He said “Although the authorities accused social media of stoking fire of racism, if you study the content, it was the mainstream media that have been stoking the fire from the beginning. Most electronic media as well as leading newspapers were catering to the gallery and to the Sinhala-nationalistic market. There is no point of blaming only the journalists or editors for the irresponsible reporting. There aren’t enough laws and regulations for the media in the country. Laws are available only for the print media, and those are 40 years old. There is no way for readers and viewers in the country to get justice”.

Press Complaints Commission (PCCSL) President Sukumar Rockwood says ‘Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka had a decent code of professional practice for journalists. The trouble is that journalists are not following it properly’. This news can be considered as a one that can lead to increase in social tension and drive wedges between communities in an already segregated society. Therefore, Free Media Movement suggested that the Editors’ Guild initiate an impartial investigation into this issue for the sake of a media tradition with social responsibility”. However , no such inquiries happened. An Independent Regulatory Commission which can play a huge role in creating a responsible, accountable media culture in a society has been suggested. Despite the far-reaching consequences of this case of information disorder, there was no coordinated official government response. The only official response was by the PCCSL. This too did not result in rectifying the damage caused and holding the media to ensure nonrecurrence. The Media activists also called for an independent regulator and proper inquiry by Editors’ Guild into this news story that took Kurunegala and the country by storm

Power through racism has been a clear Rajapakse project, given wings by their loyal media outlets, in collaboration with their political strategists/agents. Shafi’s case aptly shows how both politicians and media using canards and fake stories can play into a real fear of Muslims in the minds of others. Dr. Shafi has been clearly a victim of irresponsible media riding a wave of rampant Islamophobia, egged on by vicious politicians. As the fourth pillar of democracy along with Judiciary, Executive and Legislature, media of today has an all-embracing role to act against injustice, oppression, misdeeds and partiality in our society. It is high time that the media adheres to the above journalistic ethics and impartiality, and does not advocate racism and racial unrest among communities.

There is growing political instrumentalisation and banalisation of racism/ Islamophobia, characterised by the growing influence of racist political platforms of the extreme right in the political programmes of even democratic parties like SLPP; the intellectual legitimisation of racism by intellectuals, scholars and the media; and the increase of violent manifestations of those evils, as witnessed in this Shafi saga. In this context, it is important the public activism play a decisive role to hold the governments and rogue medias to account and also challenge and punish them judicially too. Above all, the State and all its institutions bear a large share in the responsibility to fight racism and intolerance. But the responsibility of the State goes beyond providing a legal basis within which private persons, the media and civil society operate. After all, racism exists in the minds and hearts of people. Change of attitude and social transformation will happen only if they can open their minds and hearts through education and consciousness. A repeat of a Shafi saga should be avoided at all costs!

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    MH,
    “Citing the purported sterilisations as justification, one of Sri Lanka’s most senior Buddhist figures, Asigiri Chapter Prelate Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero publicly called for the doctor to be stoned. The allegations levelled against the doctor clearly served to further heighten then prevailing tensions. Because of Shafi’s case, several Muslim doctors who worked in densely populated Sinhala areas couldn’t practice and had to shut down”
    That is the epitome of 2500+ years of civilisation and culture!
    In my view, pales into insignificance, when you have such misinformed, misjudged declarations emanating from such esteemed and eminent personae, held in high esteem by the Sri Lankan populace at large and the Sinhala Buddhists in particular!!
    Stopped short of lynching!!!
    What do these wise men propose to deal with Robber barons, who had robbed the due sustenance from the Tsunami victims, and the poor down-trodden people of this country, not once but many times, heading the list by an individual also elected as peoples representative to parliament from the Wayamba region.
    The current sufferings being endured by the SL populace could be narrowed down to indiscriminate borrowings from Chinese at commercial interest rates, which SL is unable to pay back!

  • 3
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    (Part II)
    This CRUNCH, resulting in sacrificing legitimate import of essentials in rationing, and in long queues and shortages!!!! Anyone culpable??? You would not find any?? Even 6.9 million have disappeared!
    None, as it seems to be!!! Wonder of the world, in fact and we could stand proud!!!
    None whatsoever, but impelling gullible, inveigled voters to re-elect these ‘Bad Eggs’ in 2019 and 2020 elections in their quest to elect a replica of “Adolf Hitler” to rule this country to serve their selfish purpose??!!!!!
    Why blame the 6.9 million at all?? The flock followed the SHEPHERD!! No fault of those 6.9 M??
    Haven’t they proved to be immature and unsuitable to the high position of a sacrosanct Buddhist religious Peak body?
    In this wonderful isle, none is responsible or held accountable for any and all misadventures! Let alone culpable act of commission or non-commission of due action, from inciting racial and religious disharmony, misinformation regarding pandemic communicability (Burials)!!!!!
    If these are the wisecracks and intelligentsia of the resplendent isle and such surfeit of them, we certainly DO NOT NEED any more imbeciles or idiots slotted in to help and guide Sri Lankans!!!!!!
    Good luck Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans!!!!!!

  • 1
    10

    So 1000+ Sinhala Buddhist mothers’ agonies have gone unheard. Now it’s obvious some donkeys in politics are after Muslim voting bloc. Let him work in Kattankudi.

    • 6
      1

      What utter RUBBISH are you talking Tony!!
      What hope is there for this country when someone like Ranjan is incarcerated for 4 years for expressing an opinion that pretty well everyone must agree on. But you can get away with repeating the same slanderous attack on this unfortunate, helpless member of an ethnic minority.
      And hide behind a short form of a name to reiterate a debunked accusation while Ranjan comes out openly to take responsibility for his accusations.

  • 7
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    And now Peradeniya hospital decided to hold all surgeries except for emergency. Some tourist claimed ” you cannot afford to have a headache in Lanka because there is no medicine.”. I am sure many of those racist conspirators and supporters are either skipping meals or standing in queues. Given the situation soon you may have to follow the same method of sterilization because country cannot afford conventional methods due to scarcity. When a whole country keeps silent and become spectators of staged racist media lynching, you well deserve it. Some of those who falsely accused for few rupees, must be regretting of not getting sterilized so that one mouth less to feed. Pathetic and disgusting.

  • 4
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    These Rajapaksa scoundrels have used religious hatred as a tool, to incite their uneducated and ignorant supporters, and make them believe ridiculous allegations, which are now proved to be totally wrong, and absurd. Have they, or their obedient cronies, apologized for putting the Shafi family through such pain, humiliation, and be the target of hatred? Has the racist Hemantha Randhunu and Divaina, written a retraction and apologized, for starting this witch-hunt, based on anti Muslim conspiracy theories? They have ruined a good man, his reputation, and his family will never recover from the heartache, and financial ruin, caused by their lies and false reporting. They have shown that Divaina is a racist rag that is willing to publish fairy tales, targeting Muslims, by reporting unsubstantiated fake news, all to help the Rajapaksa’s spread their anti Muslim propaganda, and get the Sinhala Buddhists to rally around them, and set them against the Muslims. Was this their idea of investigative reporting? It stinks.
    Today those Sinhala Buddhists who targeted the Muslims, and attacked them, their homes, their businesses, and Mosques, are beginning to realize they have been used as useful tools, as they are being shown just how concerned about them the Rajapaksa’s are, as they stand in long queues, to get gas, petrol, have no electricity, prices of basic needs soaring, and plenty of shortages.

  • 7
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    Many of them are suffering, and struggling, to feed their children.

    This country will NEVER progress or succeed, as long as we have leaders who keep using the race card, dividing the country, setting one against the other, to achieve their own devious agendas.
    It looks like they followed racist Modi’s policies.

  • 2
    5

    4000 Sinhala Buddhist mothers were sterilized.

    It stopped him from practicing during the covid time and made him safe from covid the aim to put him trouble sheltered him safe.

    On what basis the statement was made that lead disturbance and caused misunderstanding ,
    the influence and associated by the political parties what about other issues same kind of targets and did not believe Supervisors or health management daily monitors of doctors roles in today’s health environment.

    • 5
      2

      My god! It’s jumped from 1,000+ to 4,000 in 2 tiny mouthfuls! And even more miraculously, it’s been reinterpreted as a heaven-sent boon to poor Dr Shafi.

      I guess u must be one of the 6.? million, RBH59, who sees a tiger behind every Tamil & a murderer behind every Muslim. Or have I misunderstood yr post?

      It’s so easy to make slanderous accusations & defame people from behind a pseudonym or short form. Why not come out in the open like Ranjan Ramanayake who went to prison for saying something many of us agree with & are appalled by? Put yr money where yr mouth is!

      Your attempt to rekindle the fire against Dr Shafi whose life (as well as his family’s) & reputation have been ruined by this campaign (could catching Covid be worse?), shameful.
      Utterly shameful!

  • 3
    0

    My god! It’s jumped from 1,000+ to 4,000 in 2 tiny mouthfuls! And even more miraculously, it’s been reinterpreted as a heaven-sent boon to poor Dr Shafi.

    I guess u must be one of the 6.? million, RBH59, who sees a tiger behind every Tamil & a murderer behind every Muslim. Or have I misunderstood yr post?

    It’s so easy to make slanderous accusations & defame people from behind a pseudonym or short form. Why not come out in the open like Ranjan Ramanayake who went to prison for saying something many of us agree with & are appalled by? Put yr money where yr mouth is!

    Your attempt to rekindle the fire against Dr Shafi whose life (as well as his family’s) & reputation have been ruined by this campaign (could catching Covid be worse?), shameful.
    Utterly shameful!

  • 0
    3

    Bill Gates was accused of putting sterilization drugs into some of his so called ‘vaccines’ many years ago, which his so called ‘charity’ was giving to the poor in Africa and Asia.
    Bill Gates is a tare and a freemason.
    The Arab rulers are also of the same kind.
    It is likely, that they gave such drugs to muslim agents living in certain other nations (like Sri Lanka), then came around from the other side and exposed them.
    Mark Alan King and his gematria has uncovered these masonic tactics at playing divide and rule with humanity.
    One of the divisions is to get muslims and non-muslims at each others throats.
    The aim is always to hide the nature of the tares and freemasons, so they can continue to rule, while hiding their real identity, and getting the rest of humanity to waste its time and energy focusing on distractions, so they dont unite and destroy the real enemy!

  • 2
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    Naked racism is the only way of survival for sinhala politics. Dr Shaffie was a scape goat. Vimal monkey is famous for such dirty things to prop up racist governments. Now the same joker is after the very monsters whom he licked 24×7. Ganasara and Rathana are well known evils who are a disgrace to buddhism. Dosthra Jayasumane is another class joker and a mad racist but any way he got a post of state minister for his services to Gota through his naked, shameless racism. This bloke is backed by the RARE Admiral and both these jokers said in the UNHR meeting that Tamils were brought into Lanka by Portuguese. The same is the preaching of the other shameless racist moron Blind Eagle alias HLD. Any way we now see how these evil forces brought SL into a starving nation and begging from every country known. The only nation that lives on loans but see the way some beggars lead a cosy life. Karma now has its full bloom and now the same clowns are screaming Gota go home. But going home is not good enough. All the evil doers who were behind these deeds have to pay one day.

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