Dr. Shafie: Victim of professional jealousy and racism of medical profession

Dr. Shafie Shihabdeen who was taken into custody during the tense period that followed the Easter Sunday massacres and was detained for 47 days for questioning, says “he was a victim of professional jealousy and shameful racism among medical professionals.”

Latheef Farook

Speaking to me about his sufferings, Dr. Shafie, who was the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital’s Senior House Officer at the time of his questionable arrest, says: “The first five days in the custody were extremely difficult. I was confused and did not know what was going on, but later the situation began to improve as the CID started to realise the charges against me were false and there was no evidence against me.

“This is a conspiracy. The main purpose of this conspiracy is to destroy me and demonise my community. Part of this well-planned conspiracy were sections of the media.”

Dr. Shafie insists that the country should know the truth and the true face of the evil forces destroying communal harmony for personal benefits. Therefore, he says he plans to hold a media conference shortly to expose all those involved and the damage caused to him, his family and the Muslim community.

Born into a middle-class family which firmly believes in education and service to the people, Dr. Shafie passed out as a doctor from the Sri Jayewardenepura University in 2003 and joined the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital in 2004. In keeping with his family and religious values, he chose medicine with the intention of serving the people. His elder sister and brother-in-law are doctors. His brother is a management accountant. He married Dr. Imara Nazeer, his junior, who also worked in the same hospital.

While working as a doctor, Dr. Shafie was involved in social service to help the education of poor students in and around Kurunegala. One of his social service projects is the Rs 100,000 scholarship. Those who benefited most were the relatives of the hospital workers. Most of them were Sinhalese.

He was closely associated with the Athugalpura Science Development Academy project and produced more than 30 medical students every year. As patron of many social service organisations, he used to help them a great deal. He says he did all this social work with his income. He says loves his profession and considers it as a noble task. In his work at the gynecological and obstetrics unit, he often helped poor patients.

As a result, he won the hearts and minds of the people, especially the Sinhala residents who held him at high esteem, for he helped all alike without racial, religious or any other prejudice.

Dr. Shafie says his popularity led to jealousy among some of his colleagues in the medical profession. This was the reason why some doctors conspired against him, he says.

He accuses the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA)’s Kurunegala branch, which he described as a racist mafia, of spearheading the campaign against him.He says the GMOA is reported to have spent as much as Rs 750,000 to cover up and protect a non-Muslim doctor when a child he was treating died. “But, when I was in trouble the GMOA did not come forward to help me. Is this because I am a Muslim?”

He says the GMOA branch, instead, openly played a prominent role in the campaign to destroy his image by resorting to lies and deception. “They even held a media conference and asked people to complain against me.”

He accuses the GMOA of even pressuring some doctors not to extend any support to him. One lady doctor was to speak in support of him, but she was almost threatened by the GMOA, he says.

Dr. Shafie says some opposition politicians were also behind the false allegations against him. As part of this conspiracy even before he was arrested, the plotters started spreading the rumour that he was about to be arrested. As expected, two policemen came and took Dr. Shafie for questioning though no one had made a complaint against him.

He was kept under police custody and was to be transferred to the Kegalle prison. When he asked why, he was told that he was under detention order for three months. However, there was no specific allegation. They told him not to ask any question and also did not allow anyone to visit him. On May 25, he was brought to the CID fourth floor Gang Robbery Branch in Colombo, where he was subjected to intense grilling.

“It was very tough at the beginning and the CID wanted me to tell them the truth. They assured me that they would protect me if someone tried to create a problem. All the allegations against me were later proved wrong,” he says.

The doctor said CID officers were good and once they began to realise that the allegations against him were false they were lenient. He spent 47 days in custody and slept on a rubber mat without a pillow. He could not sleep without a pillow. So he used a bottle of water as his pillow. He says he found the situation extremely hard, besides the mental torture. The situation was unbearable and he could not believe that he was passing through this ordeal for no fault of him. He says he later learned that several hospital nurses were very angry and upset about what was being done to him. Some seventy nurses gave statements to the CID in support of him.

He says the allegations, including the allegation he had amassed wealth, were baseless and proved to be false. He said he was confident that truth will triumph. While he was in custody, his wife went through the worst period in her life as she could not even go out and buy food. Everyone looked at her with suspicion.

Meanwhile, he paid tribute to Senior DIG Director Shani Abeyratne and ASP Tissera for being impartial and doing an excellent job.

He concluded by saying there is future for this country as the average Sinhalese wanted to live in peace with other communities. It was only a few racists who are dividing communities to the detriment of all and destroying the country. They are the cause of all the unrest in the country. While accusing the GMOA of being totally corrupt, he says it was time that steps were taken to restore the dignity of the noble medical profession.

Courtesy: Sunday Times

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