Dr. Varatharajah Thariajah
== Dr. Varatharajah Bio ==
Dr. Varatharajah Thurairaja is a well-known person among Tamils as a human rights defender. He is a first-hand witness of the events in the “no fire Zone” in Mullivaikkal, Mullaitivu; and has spread the truth to the world about the well planned genocide of Tamils in 2009. The international community would not have known of the events otherwise if he remained quiet about what had happened to Tamils during the last war in Sri Lanka. He took initiative, travelled to many countries, and delivered speeches to bring awareness to the world and at the same time seeking justice. Human rights defender "One of the important human rights defender, the doctor (T.Varatharajah) who was there on the front lines and he put his life on the line not only saving lives during the mass atrocities and genocide was happening but also was inflicted himself and carried on medicine, the tradition of human rights defenders across the world" - Quote from Late Canadian Member of Parliament and Human Rights Watch Paul Dewar in Ottawa 2017 after Dr. Varatharajah delivered his keynote speech.
== 1. Early Childhood and School days: ==
Dr. Varatharajah Thurairajah, also known as Dr. Varathan, was born on March 3rd, 1975. He was born in a small village in Thampalakamam, Trincomalee District in Sri Lanka. He was born with 5 siblings in the family and started his school in that village. His first experience of Tamil genocide was the Black July riots in 1983 when he was 8. When he was 11 year old, the Sri Lankan Army invaded his village of Thampalakamam, and built a camp there in 1986. The army stayed inside the camp except when they come out to fire randomly at the villagers who were outside minding their business. The Army purposely tortured, injured or murdered and sometimes burnt these villagers with tires. Whoever was arrested by army had disappeared, no one ever heard of their returning. The army was targeting between the ages of 15-50 years old of men. The villagers scattered with indescribable fear, picked up whatever they got in their hands, whenever they heard the shooting ran to a hiding place or Kinniya to save their life. The people very often displaced temporarily to Kinniya and return back to the village when the Sri Lankan army departure their village. Because of the military’s atrocity, children’s study disturbed very much. Children could not continue their study in normal routine and lived in fear affected them psychologically. Dr. Varathan and his family decided to stay in Kinniya little while where he continued his education. Due to this, Dr. Varathan. and his family lived in fear and frustration, and decided to move to Mullaitivu for safety reasons soon after from Kinniya.
When they moved to Mullaitivu, his family didn’t have a house to stay and they stayed in an old house. The house in a ruined condition, whenever rain it was leaked. There were no clothes to wear. It was a huge struggle for him to have one or two meals a day. Most of the days, he had only one meal a day. He stopped school completely for about 4 months. He experienced depression by going through a hard time, no hope for a bright future. Even though he was a bright student couldn’t go to school. There is no one to support him to go to school. He experienced child poverty, starving everyday and decided to work in a shop to provide food for his family and himself .When he was working in a store, has to carry weight, moving heavy items placed to place, getting tired and exhausted very often. He was a child labor, suffered economic deprivation, and was exposed to physical and emotional vulnerability.
His school informed his family that he passed scholarship exams and advise him to continue his studies. That news gave him a little hope and decided to continue his grade 6 in Mullaitivu. At that time, the Indian army came to Sri Lanka as a peacekeeping force, and gave the people a new hope. His family felt safe and decided to move from Mullaitivu to Thampalakamam to resettle in 1987.
The people’s dream of peace came to question when a fight started between the Indian Army and LTTE ( Freedom Fighters). Lots of people were killed and many women were raped by Indian army. Young men were arrested and killed. Chaotic started again, people were moving place to place to save their life. People were scared to live in the Northern and Eastern province, started to flee from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu, India by small boats. Many boats were sunk with people and some reached to the other shore. Lieutenant colonel Thileepan decided to start a hunger strike asking for justice from India. Unfortunately, India decided to ignore the protest and let Maaveerar Thileepan to die.
Then Annai Poopathy went on a hunger strike, asking justice to Tamils. Her protest also was ignored, and she died.
During this time, Dr. Varathan. was a leader of the Student Union and led a nonviolent protest against the Indian army, oppressing and killings of civilians. All the students and teachers went hunger strike to show their support to those who died in a hunger strike and asking for justice. Similar protests were organized in many schools all over the North and East Provinces. Early 90, Indian army withdraws to India, and a few months later, a tension created between the Sri Lankan army and LTTE again. The situation went worse again and Sri Lankan army, opened fired on villagers randomly or burn them with tires, raping women, slaughtering villagers and trying to kill youth During that time, He was afraid because he was a school union leader and led the non-violence, peaceful protest asking justice to Tamils, army may target him to kill as well.
In 1990, he was forced to live in the jungle with other men for weeks due to the invasion and massacres by the Sri Lankan Army. There was big struggle to get food or water and most of the days went starving and thirsty. There was fearful animals in the jungle and had to manage with elephant, snakes, scorpions and dangerous insects. They had hide in the jungle in the day time, if they see them when they came out helicopter fired on the villagers. They had to sleep under the trees in the dark whether raining or shining. Finally, LTTE, the freedom fighters came and rescue about thousand men including Dr. Varathan. Eventually, the group of people started to walk towards Mullaitivu through jungles, avoiding main streets for safety reasons. They hide in the trees during the days and walked in the night. They had to remove their slippers to avoid the noises, walked barefoot through the thistles and thorns’. Dr. Varathan was exhausted with hunger and thirst, felt very weak, his feet were swollen, and heart was filled with fear and frustration and no hope. They had to pass through rivers, walking the neck deep of water. It took over 10 days to reach Mullaitivu by foot through jungle. After this difficult journey to Mullaitivu, there is no one to take care of him. Separating family and all the experiences he went through wasn’t easy to digest. Fortunately, he found a job where he used to work when he was 11. He had to work to feed himself, his education stopped again. Few months later, his family members came to Mullaitivu to join him one by one.
He started his education again, since there was no electricity, he studied with the light from a kerosene lamp, but this did not deter him from exceeding expectations in all his education goals. By working around the clock with work and school, he excelled in his examinations and was one of the few people who got accepted to Medical School. As a child, he volunteered to help treat war casualties, which intrinsically motivated him to become a doctor. Because of the family situation, he was travelling to Vavuniya bring goodies to sell to make money.
1995, The Sri Lankan government bombed the Church in Navali. The Navaly Church bombing was the bombing of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Navaly in the Jaffna peninsula by the Sri Lankan Air Force during the Sri Lankan Civil War. It was estimated that at least 125 civilians who had taken refuge from the fighting inside the church, died as a result of this incident. The victims included men, women and children. During that time he continued to help the Jaffna Hospital staff as pre-medical college student, treating casualties of the 1995 Jaffna Church Bombing as a volunteer and donating blood to the people needed.
== 2. Medical college and starting careers ==
On October 31, 1995, there was a mass evacuation of Tamils from Jaffna to Vanni. Following the exodus, many people arrived in Vanni and stayed in several displaced camps with very few facilities. People didn’t have basic supplies and struggled to get food and clothing. Because of the lack of facilities, people suffered with infectious diseases and several health conditions. As a medical student waiting to enter university, Varathan helped the people residing in camps throughout the day and night for several weeks. He provided them with food and clothes collected from several villages in Vanni. He also joined with the mobile medical units to treat the displaced people.
He was selected to attend medical school at the University of Jaffna in 1994. His entrance to the university was delayed due to the war and displacement. He finally started his university medical training in 1997 and graduated in 2004. As a human rights concerned student, he continued to participate in numerous campaigns, raising awareness of mass murders such as the Chemmani massacre.
After he graduated in 2004, he served as a volunteer at Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital in Mullaitivu. Then he got a yearlong training internship at Kurunegala teaching hospital in the Central part of Sri Lanka. He was trained in pediatrics and surgery. He also worked at the Incentive Care Unit for an additional 6 months, treating critically ill patients. This experience later helped him treat patients in the war zone. He was at Mullaitivu during weekend when Mullaitivu was hit hard by December 2004 Tsunami. Medical teams were scrambled to address the mass amount of injuries. He joined the team of medical staff and treated tsunami affected people at the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital. He stayed in Mullaitivu for about two weeks to help; treating tsunami affected people because of a medical staff shortage in LTTE controlled areas. After his training, he was appointed as Medical Officer of Health at Kalmunai in Ampara district in 2006.
Eechilampatru Hospital: After the April 25, 2006 attack on Sri Lanka’s army command-in-chief in Colombo, the Sri Lankan government targeted their attacks on civilians using aerial bombardment on the villages of Mutur and Sampur that were within LTTE control area. The government declared that they targeted LTTE sites only, but in fact several civilians were killed and injured. When the injured civilians were brought to the hospitals in Trincomalee from LTTE control area, they were returned. Government didn’t want to accept civilians as it would reveal the truth of civilian casualties to the outside world. Since injured people couldn’t leave the area, they were brought to Eechilampatru hospital, which was located in LTTE control area. The Eechilampatru hospital didn’t have a permanent building with facilities, or a permanent doctor, and was unequipped to treat the large amounts of injured people.
Eechilampatru is a small village located in North of Vakarai, Trincomalee district at the border of Batticaloa district, serving about 70,000 people from LTTE control area. People were struggling to get medical treatment as there were no permanent doctors in the area. People were not allowed to be transferred to different hospitals because the Army feared that the increasing casualties may cause unwanted international attention. People were going through great hardship to get medical treatment, and were dying without proper treatment. The regional director of health services in Trincomalee was trying to get a doctor to Eechilampatru, but no one was willing to go because it was located in the no man zone between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE. This state of affairs went on for a few days before Dr. Varatharajah heard of the humanitarian and human rights crisis. Dr. Varatharajah volunteered to move to that hospital, even after getting warnings from his family and friends about the dangerous of that area.
Eechilampatru hospital was in a very dilapidated condition when he arrived. The hospital didn’t have any facilities to handle large numbers of patients or emergency units. There was no water or electricity in the hospital. Dr. Varatharajah took several initiatives beyond his normal duties, reaching out to Oxfam, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Sri Lanka to get water supply and was successful. He also set up emergency units, educated the staff on how to manage war casualties, and arrange medical clinics. These additional efforts required him, as the only doctor, to spend over 16 hours a day to operate the hospital 24/7. As the war escalated, while treating patients and performing his normal duties, he took the initiative to report the casualties to local and international media as well as the Red Cross, United Nations, and UNICEF. He reported the humanitarian and human rights crisis to the outside world, risking his life with pressure on him to remain quiet from Sri Lankan government. By informing the United Nations and the outside world, it reduced the amount of shelling from the army. He remained as the only credible reporter of the civilian casualties, reporting the details of injured and displaced to the international community. It also eased the work of UNICEF, Red Cross and Oxfam to estimate and send supplies to the controlled area.
Dr. Varatharajah slept on the floor corridors in the night due to the heavy shelling. There were shells exploding all around the hospital, pregnant women and patients were afraid. He brought the patients to the corridors, making them to sleep there trying to protect them from the shelling. Sometimes he received causalities by ambulance. In order for him to bring them inside the hospital, he had to crawl to and from the ambulance during the shelling. They brought injured people into the corridors area, keeping them on the floor; kneeling down beside them to do the necessary treatments to save their lives. Sometimes, Dr. Varatharajah performed surgical procedures on people while kneeling down beside them during the shelling. It was not an easy process at all.
Organizing and providing service is not easy in during normal times, but in these difficult times, arranging meals for patients, providing necessary care and trying save people’s life were extremely difficult every day.
People don’t want to receive the bodies of their dead relatives for burials. There were no vehicles, and combined with heavy shelling, they were scared to go to the cemetery. Dr. Varatharajah took the dead bodies to the cemetery, dug one large pit and buried all bodies into that pit. Because shells were exploded everywhere there was no time to dig one pit for each person.
Some time later, two ambulances of around 20 Sinhalese and Muslim medical staff and patients who were stranded in LTTE controlled areas arrived at his hospital. At that time, the route to army controlled area through the no man zone was completely blocked. A two day long battle between the army and LTTE raged on and the road was blocked to anyone who was trying to reach army control area. They reached Dr. Varatharajah with terrified that they might be killed by the LTTE and asking him to protect them, saying that the Dr. was their only hope. He explained that the LTTE will not kill them and he is there for them. Only Dr. Varatharajah was able to speak the Sinhala language. He gave them shelter and hope and encourage them that he was initiating the move to bring their family together. They felt better and safe there. Dr. Varatharajah tried to negotiate with Sri Lankan Army, International Committee of the Red Cross and the LTTE to open the road to allow these people to join their families. Unfortunately, the permission was denied. These people stayed in the hospital for four days. Dr. Varatharajah was taking care of them, providing food and necessities while comforting them. The permission was granted after four days, with the condition of the road will open only for one hour. They have to cross within that time. Dr. Varatharajah was a new driver but he took courage to drive one ambulance to carry these individuals. One of the drivers from the hospital drove the second vehicle to carry the rest of the stranded people to the border. The battle between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE was still occurring with shells exploding here and there. Trees were shattered by the explosions; dead bodies were strewn along the road. They all were scared to death. Dr. Varatharajah risked his life to help them by travelling with them through 3 km of no man zone to the army controlled checkpoint. One of relatives of the stranded individual thanked him with tears, risking his life to bring the family together. The ICRC promised Dr. Varatharajah that they will stay at the border until Dr. Varatharajah and the driver reached the hospital.
There was a dead body that was brought to the hospital named Ravi. He was single and worked in a court. His parents were living in Batticaloa. There were great tensions between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE. There was heavy shelling that killed or injured many internally displaced people. The roads were completely closed. There was a ferry service along the Verugal Aru (River), but this is also plagued with heavy shelling. When Dr. Varatharajah contacted ICRC, they regretted that they were unable to provide service crossing the no mans land.
One of the ambulance drivers was severely injured due to the shelling while he was on duty moving injured people to the hospital. The driver was transferred to the Batticaloa hospital for further treatment and died there. The driver informed Ravi’s parents that the death of their son. The father contacted Dr. Varatharajah and begged him to hand over the dead body of his son. Dr. Varatharajah promised the father of deceased that he will try his best. He contacted the Sri Lankan Army and ICRC and requested to open the road but he was denied. The father managed to come to the border, but Army denied opening the road to cross their barrier. Army requested Dr. Varatharajah to bring the dead body to the border. But the ambulance drivers refused to help because the distance of the no man zone between the LTTE and the Army was at least 5 km. It was well known that, at this time, the ambulances were targeted with claymore bombs. Drivers and patients were killed while being transferring for further treatment. Dr.
Varatharajah, with one of the drivers, went to the Verugal Aru ferry service area to talk with the people who provide service. Using their small boat that was meant only for emergencies, they took the corpse to the other side. The dead body was deteriorating and had a pungent smell as it was over 3 days without any embalming. The father of the deceased was so grateful to receive his son’s body that he was in tears, thanking Dr. Varatharajah for risking his life in the rain of shells in performance of his service. Because of his humanitarian act, the family was able to perform the last ritual for their son and are at peace that they have closure after seeing their son’s dead body.
When the war escalated, and Sri Lankan government forces moved close to Eechilampatru, people moved to Vakarai area in Batticaloa district and only a handful of people remained at Eechilampatru hospital for treatment, so Dr. Varatharajah decided to move to Vakarai to help the people with medical supplies.
== 3. Service at Vakarai – until Jan 15, 2007 ==
Vakarai is located about 65 km Northwest of Batticaloa. This is very lovely small town, surrounded with beautiful beaches, lagoon and coconut trees. The lagoon looks like river divided from the Indian Ocean by a sand bank. Only during the December monsoon does water rise enough to cover the sand bank and connect the Ocean to the Lagoon. This is a predominantly Tamil area, and the headquarters of the Koralai Pathu North Division with a population of around 21,000. The residents are predominantly poor fishermen or farmers. Vakarai served as a strategically important city for the communication between the Eastern Province and the Northern Province. Since 1985 it has served as a major battleground with its control often shifting between the Sri Lankan government, the Indian Peace Keeping Forces and the LTTE. The Vakarai hospital, built in 2004, was situated on 25 acres of land and has a two story building with wards complete with all necessary facilities, and includes a luxury morgue. There was an opening ceremony planned in January 2005. This building is surrounded with trees “Azadirachta Indica” commonly known as Neem, is a tree in the mahogany family. This hospital is built in such a beautiful location. A lot of breeze comes from the ocean, and the trees on the land provide a peaceful atmosphere. There was a Hindu temple built on that premises as well. This environment make person feel relaxed and comfortable. It was a really suitable location for a hospital. Unfortunately, the Tsunami hit Batticaloa very hard in December 2004, Vakarai was affected by it. The beautiful brand new hospital which was ready to open in a week was severely damaged. The temple was fully damaged. This hospital and premises was abandoned as no one took initiative to restore it. To better serve the refugees, Dr. Varatharajah decided to move to Vakarai. He had to renovate the abandoned building to function as hospital again. He worked very hard, conducting INGO’s to get help to provide necessary needs. He had to see at least 500 patients every day and he was the only Government doctor in that area. During his service in Vakarai, he contacted the Thileepan Memorial Hospital staff, which was founded by the LTTE to serve civilians in the North and East. With the support of Thileepan Memorial Hospital staff, he set up two clinics to serve refugees. He provided necessary medicine and arranged food for them, and monitored the clinics on a regular basis. By providing medical assistance close to the refugees, the clinic centers eased refugee hardships a lot as there was no need to travel long distances to receive medical assistance. People felt uneasy leaving their kids behind or travelling by themselves due to the shelling, and there were no buses running. They didn’t know what the next minute will bring. The refugees were happy to receive their medical services close by and only critical patients were transferred to Batticaloa via boats. The Sri Lankan Army had starting shelling Vakarai, Batticaloa. People were afraid, and started to gather at the local hospital, hoping to be safe. Dr. Varatharajah was the only government staff member who remained at the hospital. He promised the people that he will not leave them behind
During his time in Vakarai, he treated over 200 out patients per day, and managed an average of 3 deliveries of babies per day. He also took initiatives, using his own money, to get food from the other side of Vakarai to kids who were desperately facing malnutrition.
Dr. Varatharajah took initiatives to bring awareness about communicable diseases and how to prevent infections from them. People were crowed in a small area of land, living in tents as refugees, and had no basic facilities. They were using open areas behind bushes to relieve themselves, which cause infections from communicable diseases. With the help of International Committee of the Red Cross, they were instructed on proper, safe ways to maintain their personal hygiene. He treated the wells with chlorine to provide drinking water. He also comforted them, gave them hope and moral support through that difficult situation. He brought two volley ball sets from Batticaloa via boat and set them up in the refugee camp. He then encouraged the youth and children to play whenever there was no shelling. This activity helped the youth to cope with the situation, reduce their anxiety, and make them feel better. Both Hindus and Christians were refugees. Christians cleaned a church there and conducted services regularly. But Hindus had no temple around there. Devotees, who go to temple on a daily basis, could not conduct their ritual routine. Dr. Varatharajah respected their concerns, clean up the abandoned temple on the hospital premises, and presented it to the devotees. Things started to worsen again. More people were injured or killed due to the increased shelling. People from that area were planning to escape by walking through the jungle during the night for days and days until they reached a place they felt safe. As the journey would be long and arduous, they only took with them what they could carry with them. Unfortunately, they had to leave elders and disabled people behind. Before the people who decided to escape left, they brought their elderly people to the hospital premise and left them there, hoping someone would take care of them. Dr. Varatharajah noticed the abandoned individuals and interviewed them. They explained to him what had happened to them and said the Dr. Varatharajah was their only hope. He understood the situation and he provided the necessary care to them. When he had four of the elderly people, he decided to clean an abandoned building close to the hospital, provided food and necessary care. He visited them every day to make sure they were okay. People were brought to him one by one, ended up with 46 people there when the people went to the Sri Lankan army control area. Dr. Varatharajah asked around and arranged transportation for these individuals to cross the border to be united with their families.
Dr. Varatharajah was working day and night taking cares of refugees in Vakarai. He had to deal with injured people, critical illnesses and communal diseases. One day he ended up with viral fever and was very tired. Outdoor patients came to the hospital and waiting to see the doctor and there were many residents patients as well. Dr. Varatharajah has no choice, had to get up to provide to the people who were waiting. He decided to take some medicine and came to the hospital. While he was looking after the people, he felt very ache in his body, exhausted and felt weary, couldn’t continue his work as his body requesting a good rest. He told the patients that he could not handle and was going have some rest in order to function. He went to his room, trying to sleep. But he felt uneasy to have rest while people were waiting for him. He could hear the people were talking and waiting to the doctor. His heart was melting and has compassion on them. Not even five minutes of rest, he came out and started his duty. He had to take 5 minutes rest between the patients in order to manage his work at least 4/5 days. He chooses to take care of the people sacrificing himself.
When he was in Vakarai, He was announcing the real situation to the INGOs and international communities but the spoke man of Sri Lankan government Mr. kegaliye rampuwela always denying the truth. And criticized Dr. Varatharajah was supporting LTTE and providing no truth statements to the outside of the area. Dr. Varatharajah was receiving threatening phone calls from Karuna groups, EPDP and the Sri Lankan Government. He also warned that he will be killed by shelling. Or will be arrested. Sri Lankan army called and that requesting him to come to the control area, they were willing to open the road or taking him through the boat. His friends called him trying to convince him to leave and he risked his life there. But Dr. Varatharajah refused to leave the people in Vakarai. He continued his humanitarian service under the critical situation and the pressure of the government. UNICEF reported on the 12th of December 2006, that “VAHARAI, Sri Lanka Not far from the shoreline, where rows of tents stretch into the distance, a group of children and women gather round a concrete well to wash clothes and dowse themselves in cooling water – a relief from the fierce heat. These are some of the 45,000 people who fled southward along Sri Lanka’s east coast before gathering here at Vaharai, about 30 miles north of the town of Batticaloa. They left their homes, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, as fighting intensified between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and government forces in early August. This morning, long queues wait outside Vaharai’s district hospital. Among the crowd at the entrance are mothers with babies, men holding registration cards, a young girl with a bandaged hand and a frail, elderly woman who is only able to walk with the help of her daughter. Everyone here has heard that a group of 30 doctors and nurses from the Ministry of Health has been transported in to help for the day. Until now, Dr. T. Varatharajah, who had to flee the shelling himself, has been the only doctor at the hospital. Neatly dressed, he roams among the patients, a stethoscope around his neck, handing out health registration cards and directing patients to the right queue. “When I came here, I heard that seven people had been injured by shells and they were in Vaharai Hospital,” says Dr. Varatharajah. “No other aid organizations were here at the time, so I decided to stay and help treat the people.” The doctor has been seeing more than 100 patients a day and says 40 per cent of them are suffering from diarrhoea or dysentery. He and the hospital staff had to work around the clock for nearly 4 months at this hospital to serve about 20,000 people. The Sri Lankan media suddenly started broadcasted that the Vakarai hospital was run by the LTTE. When Dr. Varatharajah heard this, he knew that the Government planning to shell the hospital. He called the media outlets, local UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international NGO’s, informing them that there were no members of the LTTE in that hospital. Only innocent people gathered as refuges. Even after all that effort, after 6 pm, the Sri Lankan army started shelling Vakarai. People were scared and wanted to leave. Dr. Varatharajah talked to the UN and Red Cross, informing them of the situation. They were told to come to the army area along the seashore with a white flag. There were around 200 vehicles that the people didn’t want to leave behind. Dr. Varatharajah informed the Government Officer and Assistant Government Agent about what happened and arranged food for the people. After this, the people were told to use a side road through the jungle to come to the Government controlled area. Dr. Varatharajah made sure that all the people left the area safe before leaving himself. Dr. Varatharajah was fortunate to leave the area as Karuna group was looking to kill him. In 2007 January, after serving Vakarai, he served in Trincomalee hospital about a month and received lots of threatening calls from government paramilitary. He had two choices before him; go to the North of the country or to a foreign country. So he decided to move to Mullaitivu in February 2007.
== 4. Service at Mullivaikkal, Mullaitivu ==
In 2007, he played multiple roles as a Doctor in Mullaitivu hospital, medical officer of health for Mullaitivu area as well being in charge of the anti-malaria campaign. In December of 2007, he was promoted to regional director of health services for Mullaitivu district. During this tenure, he was able to improve the hospital for any potential disaster management and also improved the relationships with INGOs. When war escalated in 2008 and army advanced into the LTTE controlled areas, people started to move from Manner and Kilinochchi to Mullaitivu to save themselves from the advancing Sri Lankan army, Dr. Varatharajah coordinated medical support for those displaced people beyond his district. In January 2009, the war further escalated and more people were injured every day. INGOs and UN foreign staff were required by the government to leave the area, thus they left and only the local staff stayed. Knowing the situation was getting worse; Dr. Varatharajah travelled to the government controlled area and attended a health director’s meeting in Colombo. While there, he explained the humanitarian crisis to the attendees. When returning by way of Vavuniya, the health director and others advised him not to reenter the war zone fearing that he might die at a young age there. However, Dr. Varatharajah, mentioning that he couldn’t abandon the hospital and the people who need to be treated for war wounds. It took multiple attempts to cross the government controlled Vavuniya into the war zone in Mullaitivu. He refused an offer of a job in Vavuniya and returned to his war zone hospital to help the people. When he returned to Mullaitivu, around 15 Doctors fled the war zone, escaping to the government controlled area as the situation got much worse. In January of 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced that there were only 80,000 people in the LTTE controlled areas of the Northern Province, but in reality, there were over 340,000 people. The government had known there were 340,000 people because they had approved and provided necessary supplies for this many people. This means that the government was planning to kill around 260,000 Tamil people. Dr. Varatharajah was the first to declare that there were over 340,000 people in that area. Dr. Varatharajah told the media and INGO’s that the government was trying to kill the people and lying to cover it up. He provided weekly updates to the government, foreign media and to the INGO’s. Since there were no foreign media located in war zone, Dr. Varatharajah was the only credible report for humanitarian and human rights crisis to outside world. During that time Sri Lankan government independently declared a No Fire Zone in Suthanthirapuram without consulting any medical staff. Dr. Varatharajah’s Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital was not included in the No Fire Zone. People were given notice to go into the “No fire Zone”. People abandoned all their belongings, and picking up their kids and whatever they can grab in a hurry, ran to Suthanthirapuram, the “No fire Zone”. Until then, even though people were displaced very often, they didn’t suffer much for food or water. They had a plan where they could go and get help from people whom they might know. After the announcement of a “No Fire Zone”, all people were forced to go to Suthanthirapuram. They started to struggle for food and water. People were starving and there was not even milk for the children. Because so many people were in such a small village, the people did not have any facilities. They were confused and didn’t even know where the hospital was located to bring the injured people. Vehicles were parked all over the place and with the pedestrians, the traffic was crazy. Walking was easier than driving in that area. People were crowed into a small area. When shell exploded most people killed or injured. The killing rate increased in the no fire zone. The record shows more people were killed in the NO FIRE –ZONE area than other areas. Some NGOs and medical staff also went to the Suthanthirapuram, hoping to save their life. However, within a few days, government army targeted bombs at their declared “No Fire Zone”, killing several people. While Dr. Varatharajah stayed at Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital treating casualties from Suthanthirapuram, he was explaining the situation to ICRC, INGOs and government. He was emphasizing the importance of Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital and asked them to save the hospital. During this Dr. Sathiyamoorthy, regional director of health services from Kilinochchi, and fellow staff moved to Mullaitivu and worked with Dr. Varatharajah in the Mullaitivu. Around 7 government doctors, including Dr. Varatharajah, were the only government doctors, with other medical staff and volunteers serving around 340,000 people in the war zone. Dr. Varatharajah said “all government officials left the area; we were the only ones who performed our duties there. Because of us, supply ships came there. Many times we requested the roads to be opened to transfer people to other hospitals but the government refused. We shared our day to day activities with the international community. If we remained silent, no one would have known what had happened inside. We had separate wards for the pregnant women and pediatrics, provided vaccine and necessary care to the infants in that critical situation. We ran the clinic for pregnant women as well. When the people were displaced there was no clean drinking water, we chlorinated the water to purify it so people can drink from it. We went out to bring injured people to the hospital for further treatment. We emailed daily all the INGOs and media the details. Many people were saved because we were informing the ground situation to the international community. Otherwise government would have killed even more innocent people. Army claimed that all the hospitals were controlled by the LTTE.” Dr. Varatharajah said that he negotiated with and was very strict to the LTTE, they could not bring their vehicle to the hospital for any reason. The LTTE could not enter the hospital in their uniforms. He wanted to make sure the people are safe and not have conflict of interest. After several weeks, Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital was also destroyed by government shelling and bombing, so that Dr. Varatharajah and the other staff moved to Puthumaththalam and Mullivaikkal area and set-up a make shift hospital at a school to treat the patients. He also took the initiative to call the ICRC to transfer critically injured and ill people via boats to a ship in the ocean which then went out of the war zone. This way, around 10,000 injured people were saved while raising the awareness of the humanitarian and human rights crisis to the world. He continued to talk to outside governments and INGOs to get some, very minimal, medical supply and food for the surviving people via the same ship route. Even during the heavy war and treating several injuries of people every day, Dr. Varatharajah took initiative to get the data of children and pregnant women and make sure they had a special focus in getting the necessary treatment. Dr. Varatharajah arranged the salary during the war and made an effort to save the staff documents. He scanned them and saved them on his pen drive and gave the documents to other people. He sent all the staff files to Vavuniya without any damage. It should be noted that He was the only one who protect his department staff documents during the war. Even when the staff moved from place to place, he helped them by using the hospital lorry. No other departments did this service to their staff.
Dr. Varatharajah also, helps foreigners trying to find information about their relatives. He confirmed the loss of their family members.
== 5. Injured, jailed and blackmailed to lie ==
During the last days of the war, he was in the “No-Fire Zone” attending to patients in the Mullivaikkal hospital. The army started shelling the area, so he took refuge in a narrow corridor between two houses. It was non-stop shelling for so long that he became desperately thirsty and hungry. In a pause of shelling, out of desperation, he left the narrow corridor looking for water. A shell landed and exploded next to him, causing a severe injury to his arm. Soon after, the army came and arrested him. Even after being injured, he didn’t receive proper treatment. He was taken to an unknown place and kept there under threats of death. After 9 days of this, he was taken to the fourth floor of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). [This location is well known to locals for the brutal torture tactics on their suspects] He had septic fever, a paralyzed hand and around one liter of blood in his lungs. He required major, lifesaving surgery, but was rather threatened, and postponed his surgery until he agreed to lie to the media. With other 4 doctors he was paraded in front of media forced to deny his reporting from the war zone.
After leaving prison, Dr. Varatharajah contacted UN and other human rights groups explaining what happened to them and the situation forcing them to tell the lie in front of government paraded media conference. He also asked the UN and other human rights groups to record the truth.
He went to work again in Vavuniya, Northern Province after being released from prison and worked as a planning officer. Served? North East Co -ordinater for psychosocial forum????
Unfortunately he had to leave the country because of continuous threats on his and his family’s life. He then contacted USA and ask them to help escape from Sri Lanka due heavy continuous threats. USA helped bringing Dr. Varathan to Kentucky in 2011, November.
After arriving in the USA, Channel 4 in UK interviewed him in December 2011 and aired the truth and a full report. In 2013 December, went to Germany for a human rights meeting and recording his testimony. He continues to tell the truth rather than being silent.
== 6. At UN and Advocacy for human rights and justice ==
In 2011 December, Channel 4 from UK approached Dr. Varathan and obtained a detailed interview about Sri Lanka’s human rights violations and war crimes. Director Callum Maeray took the interview in Newyork.
In 2012 November, USA Ilangai Tamil Sangam invited Varathan to provide a speech at their annual event in New york in front of foreigh dignitaries as well as USA politicians. The primary topic was the human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Several foreign media were present at the event and later they interviewed and reported. This raise awareness for justice for the victims.
In 2013, participated and provided witness to Permanent People’s Tribunal inBremen, Germany where a list of panlism from former UN representatives..
When a special representative spent almost 2 days in Newyork, he provided full details of the collection of evidence he had. It was testimony given by Varathan to the office of Human rights high commissioner. (OCHAR)
In 2014, went to Geneva at UN and provided speech at human rights session and participated at a side event as well. He also participated in human rights session. Channel 4 UK also interviewed again and broadcasted to raise awareness for justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during 2009.
In 2015 May, Dr. Varathan went to London and took part in the 6th anniversary of the 2009 and provided a public speech. Following, met several parliamentarians in London and discussed human rights and crimes against humanity and advocated for justice for the victims in 2009.
In 2015, September and November, in Jogornousberg ( correct spell) arranged by Yusmin Shucku under the topic of political solution for Tamils based on South African experience. He shared the war zone experience and delivered a speech on need a political solution.
When a campaign was launched to get the disappeared Tamils, Varathan provided his support for the campaign.
In 2016, went to South Africa and participate in the conference held and organized by leading human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka. Helped to raise continues awareness and focus on human rights and justice for the victimes of Genocide of Tamils.
In 2017, He continues to visit several Universities such as McGill in Montreal Quebec, Universities in London to provide talks to raise the awareness of human rights. He also continues to meet elected officials such as senators and congressmen in the USA, MPs in the UK, Canada, Germany and the UN.
Currently Varathan is working on getting human rights stories documentation done, helping backhome poor people as well as advocating human rights via several world forums.. He also taking additional steps in getting his own story in a book in novel form “A Note from the No Fire Zone” and also he plays his own role in an upcoming movie the lamp of truth.
Summary of A Note from The No Fire Zone book and The Lamp of Truth movie
A Note from The No Fire Zone (www.nofirezone.info), is a memoir of a medical doctor (Dr. Varatharajah), who worked to alleviate pain and suffering, in the war zone called as killing fields in Sri Lanka. Altruism was inherent. A Note from The No Fire Zone is a vehicle, which transports readers to Sri Lanka, where they would experience the firsthand account of the Tamil genocide. The book evokes all senses by allowing the reader to perpetuate the brutal nature of the genocide. Also, the ethnic cleansing of Tamil civilians was brutal and barbarous. The Tamil genocide was an intentional act to destroy the ethnic Tamil nationals.
Subsequently, the military engaged in political upheavals, which escalated into brutal violence against the Tamils. Dehumanization was a crucial problem, which led to blatant torture and shelling of Tamil civilians. Consequently, under solitary confinement, Tamil civilians were subject to rape, torture, branding, beating, and psychological torment. The protagonist in the novel, Dr. Varatharajah, witnessed the firsthand account of the systematic eradication of Tamils when he treated the wounded. Moreover, A Note from The No Fire Zone appeals to a broad audience, both adults and young adults. The major themes are cultural cleansing and genocide, and some minor themes are loss of innocence, fear, and human rights. The protagonist is a medical doctor with altruistic traits. The antagonists are the military and the government. Besides, the climax is when the military shelled the doctor — the book written by Kass Ghayouri, an international award-winning author.
The Lamp of Truth (www.thelampoftruth.com) movie based on the true story of Doctor (Dr. Varatharajah) who also played a role in the film. The doctor defying all requests by family and friends to leave the war zone struggles to continue working in the war zone. The hospital too becomes target and scores of civilians die, and the doctor narrowly escapes. Despite that, the selfless doctor continues to stay with the people and treat the wounded. They moved to Mullivaikkal. He witnesses an enormous amount of tragedies unfold to people around him. He risks his life, trying to retrieve much-needed medicine from an abandoned hospital. Eventually, he becomes severely wounded and captured by the Sri Lankan forces. Despite his injuries, he was put into various prisons and eventually taken into the 'Fourth-Floor'. He was blackmailed and forced to lie to the public about the casualty figures in the war-zone. The feature film will come to theaters around the world this Fall, and the official trailer will be released in July. A group of Tamil activist joints together to produce this film with research-oriented talented artists. Thanesh Gopal wrote the script and the screenplay for the movie. Teams from White Conch Studios, Ambuli Media, and TransImage jointly work together to deliver this movie. == Professional career Summary: == Driven, skilled, highly motivated, award-winning and Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Medical Professional and Physician with 14 years of combined and progressive experience in all-encompassing areas of hospital operations, medical care, emergency, and disaster response, and patient handling.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE APPOINTMENTS ● June 2014 - Present Cardiac Monitor Technician, Jewish Hospital, Louisville, KY ● Aug 2017 - Aug 2017 Observer, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota ● Aug 2017 - Aug 2017 Observer, Stanford School of Medicine, CA ● Mar 2017 - May 2017 Observer, Medical Group South Oldham, Louisville, KY ● Mar 2016 - June 2016 Observer, Knox County Hospital, Barbourville, KY ● May 2015 - Sep 2015 Observer, Family clinic, Scottsburg, IN ● Feb 2015 - April 2015 Observer, Knox County Hospital, Barbourville, KY ● June 2014 - July 2014 Observer, Northwest Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL ● April 2014 - Aug 2014 Volunteer, Family Community Clinic, Louisville, KY ● Dec 2013 - March 2014 Observer, Torture Recovery Clinic, University of Louisville, KY ● June 2013 - Oct 2013 Observer, Family clinic, Scottsburg, IN ● March 2013 - May 2013 Observer, Well Mind Global LLC, Conneaut Lake, PA ● Jan 2013 - Feb 2013 Observer, Urgent care Clinic, Columbus, OH ● Jan 2012 - June 2012 Observer, Knox County Hospital, Barbourville, KY
WARTIME EMERGENCY AND CRUCIAL DISASTER RELIEF MEDICAL CONTRIBUTIONS
Physician in charge of Divisional Hospital, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka - May 2010 - Aug 2011 Physician in charge, Planning, Northern Province, Sri Lanka - Oct 2009- May 2010 1 ● Devised all-encompassing planning and monitoring initiatives for all hospitals, functioning under the health sector umbrella of the war-torn Northern Province ● Arranged Psychosocial programs and clinics via Psychosocial forum in a timely and proactive fashion, decreasing downtime and attaining desired results ● Responsible for financial allocation, arranging health education and training programs diligently and robustly, utilizing limited resources and means amid the difficult war-ridden circumstances ● Planned and developed annual estimation cost for future years and performing statistical analysis through ample research and evolutionary procedures Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), Mullaitivu District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka - Dec 2007 - May 2009 ● Amid limited and depleting medical resources & tools, facilitated and managed administration, human resources-related tasks, while monitoring hospitals, providing healthcare education and proliferating training & development initiatives. ● Relocated the hospital proactively to the new location to help and assist thousands of displaced civilians ● Rearranged the hospital services to meet the emergency needs of civilian casualties amid the war ● Conducted timely mobile medical and psychiatric clinics, while endearingly coordinating the relief efforts with Government and Non-governmental agencies (UN, ICRC), including arranging transportation for seriously injured victims to help via further treatment ● One of only five medical doctors that voluntarily opted to stay with civilians despite many opportunities offered to leave the war-zone. ● Severely injured in the last phase of the war via a shell blast in the "no-fire zone" of North Sri Lanka and subsequently underwent treatment, May 15, 2009 ● Held as a political prisoner of war (POW), May 2009 till Sep 2009 Acting Regional Physician in charge for Antimalarial Campaign and Physician Officer of Health Mullaitivu district, Sri Lanka - Feb 2007 - May 2009 ● Managed and controlled the spread of Malaria and Dengue fever despite limited workforce, resource, medical supplies, and tools ● Conducted Antenatal clinic and Baby clinic while controlling communicable disease via thorough and timely vaccination and subsequent health education initiatives Physician in Charge Divisional hospital, Eachchilampattu (Vaharai), Sri Lanka - Jun 2006– Feb 2007 ● Administered responsibilities including timely patient care, emergency management, vaccination, health education, and war-zone related disaster management 2 ● He was the only physician to have served more than 70, 000 people in the entire Sri Lankan Civil War's history. Worked 16 hours a day and performed on-call duties seven days a week, whenever required. ● Effectively managed causalities, pediatrics, general medicine as well as deliveries in a robust, empathetic, and professional manner. Physician in charge of Health, Irakkamam, Sri Lanka -Apr 2006 - Jun 2006 ● Diligently conducted Antenatal and Postnatal clinic, baby clinics, and vaccinations, while controlling communicable diseases and facilitating relevant health education. Residency in Teaching Hospital, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka - Aug 2004 - Apr 2006
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS ● Highly developed and proven creative, operational, and results-driven abilities in professional medicine, healthcare, patient care, emergency, and life-saving capacities as a medical doctor. ● Refined leadership and senior management skills empowered through years of experience in the professional medicinal, operative, consultancy, mentorship and training related designations ● Diligent and professionally cemented attention to detail in building client relationship skills, intricate ability to think outside the box ● Strong eye for identifying problems, resolving them with viable solutions, while inspiring leadership and building trust amongst fellow team members and employees ● General Physician in charge, Divisional Hospital, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, 2010-2011 ● Senior Physician in charge, Planning, Northern Province, Sri Lanka 2009-2010 ● Fluent in English, Sinhalese, and Tamil
EDUCATION, TRAINING, AND CERTIFICATIONS
SRI LANKAN MEDICAL COUNCIL, SRI LANKA Fully Registered Medical Officer The University OF Jaffna, Faculty Of Medicine, Jaffna, Sri Lanka MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery - Eqv to MD) Jan 1997 - Apr 2004 ● ECFMG Certified ● ACLS Certified - 09/08/2019 ● BLS Certified - 09/08/2019 ● USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step CS attained ● Nutrition in Emergencies - Basic Training, UNESCO, Colombo, Sri Lanka - Jun 2010 3 ● 10th South East Asia Regional Scientific Conference of the International EpidemiologicalAssociation, Colombo, Sri Lanka - May 2010 ● Financial and Health Sector Educational Training Program, Philippines - 2008 ● Epidemiology training program- Anti malarial campaign -Anuaradhapuram- Sri Lanka 2008 ● Nutritional Training Program, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, UNICEF - Apr 2007 ● Orientation program in the Health sector and financial management at NIHS-Sri Lanka 2007 ● Food and Drug control program, Ministry of health- Colombo-Sri Lanka 2007 ● Training program for preventive health- Ampara-Sri Lanka 2006
VOLUNTEERING AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
UNITED KUVIYAM FOUNDATION, TORONTO, ON Board of Directors Jan 2018 - Present FAMILY COMMUNITY CLINIC, LOUISVILLE, KY, USA Volunteer. Free Healthcare Administrator (Pharmacy, Lab and Of ice) Apr 2014 - Aug 2014 WELL MIND GLOBAL HEALTH SVC LLC, MEADVILLE, PA, USA Clinical Observer - Dr. Gerard R. Francis Mar 2013 - May 2013 GOVERNOR'S FINANCIAL AID PROGRAM, SRI LANKA Presiding Board Member Jan 2009 - Dec 2010 MULLAITIVU HOSPITAL - DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE, SRI LANKA Chief Advisor Jan 2007 - Dec 2008
HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS AND MILESTONES
● Currently writing a two-part book on war-related experiences as a "war-zone" medical doctor during the Sri Lankan Civil War ● Conducted fundraising programs in Canada and Europe to help war-affected students and disabled people in Sri Lanka, 2014-2016 ● Spoke before the UN General Assembly at UN HQ in New York, while meeting for the Geneva Human Rights Meeting, sponsored by Human Rights Watchers, Mar 2014 ● Rallied fundraising initiatives for war-affected student and poverty-stricken individuals who severely suffered during the Sri Lankan Civil War, Kalvin Connection, Toronto, Canada, Feb 2014 ● Attended a Human Rights Tribunal in Germany to present pieces of evidence for the critically acclaimed UK`s Channel 4 documentaries entitled `No Fire Zone` and `Killing Field,` Dec 2013 ● Attended Human Rights Meeting and Conference in South Africa for Political Solution to Sri Lanka, Sep 2015 and again in Nov 2015 AWARDS AND INTERNATIONAL ACCOLADES ● Actively participated in multiple international conferences in the United States 2011, 2014, London-2015, Geneva-2014, Germany-2013, Canada-2016 and South Africa-2015 regarding Human Rights violations in the Sri Lankan Civil War ● Participated in fundraising programs to help poverty-stricken students and disabled people in war-affected areas per the Sri Lankan Civil War ● Gave keynote speech at the Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day in London -2015, Canada-2016, USA- 2017 ● Gave several media interviews, most notably for UK`s Channel -4, IBC London, Lankasri, Canada Radio, Ananthavikatan -India, BBC-London, and SKY news on the plight of the refugees and affected people of Sri Lanka amid the Sri Lankan Civil War - 2017 ● Lifetime Service Achievement Award- Ilankai Tamil Sangam, USA - 2017 ● Recognition for the excellent Humanitarian Service by Montreal Tamil Sangam-Canada, 2017 ● Heroic Exemplar Award by National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), Canada - 2017 ● Best Humanitarian Award, TGTE, USA - 2016 ● Best Humanitarian Award, Puthukkudiyiruppu Central College, UK - 2015 ● Recognition for excellent Humanitarian Service, EROS, Vavuniya, Sri Lanka - 2010 ● Posthumously nominated for the globally renowned and prestigious Nobel Peace Prize by Tamils for Obama, USA and Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize (UNESCO) by UN, for having worked in tough war-torn conditions in Sri Lanka during the final and bloodiest phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War - 2009 ● Awarded Mahapola Scholarship for obtaining high scores on medical college entrance exams - 1996
PROFESSIONAL AND HONORARY MEMBERSHIPS
● American Medical Association ● Sri Lanka (SL) Medical Council ● Sri Lanka Medical Association ● Head, Tender Board of the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) office 5 ● Head, Welfare Society of RDHS office ● Member, Governor Fund/North SL MAJOR PUBLICATIONS ● Peer-Reviewed Indrakrishnan I and Varatharajah T. Journal of Gastroenterology, Liver and Pancreatic Disease. Management of Endoscopy Patient's Hydration Status during National Shortage of Intravenous Fluids. 2016, Sep; 1(1-2016): 10. Pub Status: Published. ● Varatharajah.T. (2002, October 10). Dangerous feature and control of Partheenium poisonous plant at Sri Lanka. Ut hayan- Local newspaper, Pub Status: Published.
KEY PERSONAL STRENGTHS
● Highly developed and strong interpersonal skills, effective individualistic communication and coordination abilities within a dynamic and fast-paced team environment
● Proven abilities in building and maintaining relationships with people in a proactive manner
● Successfully able to record, remember, and verbally communicate detailed information ● Robust and highly efficient problem solving, analytical and troubleshooting skills ● Meticulously organized and detail-oriented, able to produce quality work under high pressure and time-sensitive sales and results mandated scenarios ● Able to meet deadlines consistently through a proven track record of superb time management skills in demanding medical assistance, general physician and natural disaster management related capacities ● Exemplary core strengths in Solutions Driven Medical Operations, Organizational and Patient Relations, Team Building, Conflict and Emergency Resolution, Medical Research, and Healthcare
● Genuine love, passion, and care for humanism, philanthropy, community development, and world peace
Dr. Varatharajah Thariajah
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