Dr. Shafi recounts ordeal and emphasises need for unity and compassion in Sri Lanka

Friday, 31 May 2024 00:00 –      – 15

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  • Expresses dismay at Padeniya’s silence during his forced sterilisation ordeal 
  • Says some mothers from Kurunegala, continue to trust and seek his services for deliveries while even apologising for complaining against him
  • Reiterates commitment to providing care to mothers, emphasising that he never harboured any intentions to harm them
  • Reflects on his detention alongside Makandure Madhush, who he said had no more humanity than those in Parliament today 

Dr. Shafi Shihabdeen


Kurunegala Teaching Hospital Senior House Officer in the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Unit Dr. Shafi Shihabdeen last week recounted his ordeal and emphasised the need for unity and compassion in Sri Lanka.

He voiced his disappointment with former President of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Anuruddha Padeniya, for remaining silent during Shihabdeen’s wrongful accusation of conducting forced sterilisations on women.

Addressing an event organised by the Journalists for Rights Organisation, Shihabdeen expressed his dismay at Padeniya’s inaction, particularly given Shihabdeen’s role in delivering Padeniya’s second child.

“The common man regards doctors as akin to Gods. However, Padeniya misused this esteemed profession to deliver us to malevolent forces. We do not need a generation of such persons or the unpleasant memories they create,” Shihabdeen remarked.

“I harbour no hatred towards those who have harmed me. I have forgotten all,” Shihabdeen affirmed. “Even when I was taken away in handcuffs, knowing I had committed no wrong, I remained confident that no harm would befall me,” he added.

Dr. Shihabdeen was serving as a Gynaecologist at the hospital when he was falsely accused and arrested for carrying out forced sterilisations on women on 24 May 2019. He was later exonerated and acquitted of all charges.

Delivering a heartfelt speech Dr. Shihabdeen shared his profound love for the country and his vision for a brighter future for the next generation.

“We all love this country and we all envision creating a better country for our next generation,” Dr. Shihabdeen began, setting the tone for his impassioned narrative.

Recalling his upbringing in Kalawewa, Vijithapura, Dr. Shihabdeen reminisced about his family’s deep-rooted ties with the Sinhalese community. “My grandfather taught Pali to the young Samaneras at the Vijithapura Raja Maha Vihara. We are still respected at the Vihara for that,” he shared.

Expressing his concerns for the youth of the country, Dr. Shihabdeen lamented the sight of young people lining up in the early hours to obtain passports, driven by a desire to leave the country due to dire economic conditions. “They are sleeping on the streets with no food or other facilities,” he observed.

Reflecting on the accusations levelled against him, Dr. Shihabdeen humbly expressed his resolve to stay in Sri Lanka and face the challenges head-on. “For the crime I faced, if anyone is leaving the country, I should be the first to leave. But I will never do that,” he affirmed,

Amidst his struggles, Dr. Shihabdeen said he found solace in unexpected moments of inspiration. “When I was in despair, I believe I got a message from God,” he revealed. “In a food parcel provided by a policeman, an article by Prof. Hemantha Senanayake appeared in the paper wrapped around the parcel. It had my story in it. It gave me strength to see it,” he recounted.

Dr. Shihabdeen urged unity and compassion in the face of adversity. “We must all come together and teach the next generation that until the end of this world, there is one group that fights for what is right while there is another group who commits wrongs for their benefit,” he proclaimed, calling for collective action to uphold moral values.

Dr. Shihabdeen expressed confidence that the truth would ultimately prevail, leaving a lasting legacy of resilience and compassion for future generations to emulate. “We do not need the UK or Japan. Let us create a better country for the future generation where people of all walks of life can have a meal together,” he said.

“I was detained alongside Makandure Madhush in the same cell at the CID. In that experience, I found a humanity that seems lacking among certain individuals in Parliament today,” he recounted. He noted that he and Madhush shared meals together during their incarceration.

He went on to acknowledge the few who apologised on behalf of the entire Sinhalese community for the injustices he faced. Dr. Shihabdeen recounted an incident where the Head of Surgery at the Colombo Medical Faculty extended such an apology. However, he insisted that not all members of the Sinhalese community were responsible for his ordeal.

Recalling his career beginnings in Kurunegala, Dr. Shihabdeen likened the hospital to his home despite occasional conflicts. He emphasised the importance of unity and perseverance, stating, “Leaving home is not the solution. He suggested everyone must come together and teach the next generation the difference between those who fight for what is right and those who commit wrongs for personal gain.

Expressing his views on religion and humanity, Dr. Shihabdeen stressed the need for genuine compassion and respect for others. “If a religion preaches destruction instead of compassion, it is not worthy of being followed,” he asserted.

Throughout his career, Dr. Shihabdeen said he never identified himself solely as a Muslim doctor, emphasising his commitment to serving all patients regardless of ethnicity or religion. “Trust was never damaged between staff and patients,” he affirmed, underscoring his dedication to his profession and the community.

“I served over 1,000 mothers during my time as a medical professional. Never once did I entertain the thought of causing harm to any of them,” Dr. Shafi Shihabdeen affirmed. Despite the challenges he faced, he continued to provide compassionate care to countless mothers, earning the gratitude of many. “Even today, some mothers from Kurunegala choose to come to me for their deliveries,” he added. “In a testament to the inherent goodness of our people, some have even apologised to me for any harm caused by their previous complaints. It is a reflection of the kindness and integrity that exists within our country. We must strive to bring out the best in everyone,” Dr. Shihabdeen said.