Dr Shafi case: CID reveals Hospital Director falsified complaints | Sunday Observer

Dr Shafi case: CID reveals Hospital Director falsified complaints

The Kurunegala forcible sterilization scandal now debunked by extensive police investigations took a new twist last week, when Kurunegala Magistrate Sampath Hewawasam placed Dr Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi in remand custody, even though the detention order against him had been lifted, and the Attorney General did not object to bail being granted.

Additional Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige informed court that the AG would not be objecting to bail for Dr Shafi since the CID had not found any evidence to warrant the medical officer remaining in custody.

However the Magistrate decided to hold Dr Shafi in police custody (on the charge of suspicious accumulation of assets) until July 25.

The situation in the town central to the controversy now ongoing for over a month, was tense when Dr Shafi’s case came up for hearing last Thursday, July 11. The high stakes case fuelled by the media had drawn Buddhist monks and other interested parties to the court premises. UNF Parliamentarian Athuraliye Rathana led a group of mothers in a demonstration towards the court house that day.

When the case came up previously, on July 1, the CID told the Magistrate that they had applied to have the detention order against Dr Shafi revoked since there was no evidence to warrant the medical officer being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID’s B report to court last Thursday (11) provides stunning details about how the Director of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital Dr A.M.S. Weerabandara categorized several complaints lodged by women from the area as illegal LRTs in an attempt mislead court and the investigators. In one such case, the B report provides details about a patient who underwent a third caesarian and an LRT was performed by Dr Shafi with consent from the patient and her husband. She claims she suffered from complications following the procedure. However the Director of the hospital in his report has categorized this complaint as an Illegal LRT. In another case, in which Dr Shafi had performed a C-section, and asked a patient if she needed a LRT procedure, the patient had refused and there was no note in her diagnosis card about the procedure being performed. However, the Director of the Hospital had listed this complaint too as an illegal LRT. There was no evidence in either of these cases, or several others which the CID has found to be incorrectly categorized to indicate that LRTs had been performed.

The B report makes note of the confusing manner in which the Director of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital had issued the relevant patient information to the CID. Investigators had to request information to clarify the complaints several times, the B report stated.

But the problems surrounding the Hospital Director do not end there.

The CID told the Magistrate last week that Dr Weerabandara, whose specialty is dentistry, had obstructed the Police officers from carrying out their duty as per court orders. “The court had allowed for Doctors and Nurses of the hospital to provide statements to the investigators voluntarily. Accordingly the CID had wished to obtain statements from three specialist doctors for their investigations. However one doctor, Dr. Priyanthi Ratnayake had inquired if the CID can visit the Hospital to obtain the statement as the date given was a clinic day. When the IP Ilangasinghe of the CID had visited the hospital on July 3 with a copy of a letter sent by the CID to the Director on July 2 requesting the statement to be recorded, the Director had refused to allow the Doctors to provide statements. He had taken offence to part of the letter presented by the CID officer,” the B report stated.

Addressing the Magistrate last Thursday, the CID has requested the courts to grant another order directing Dr Weerabandara to allow the CID to obtain statements from the doctors.

Interestingly, Dr Weerabandara also prevented a six member committee appointed by the Ministry of Health from visiting the Kurunegala Hospital to conduct an investigation into the allegations only days after the so-called sterilisation scandal erupted.

In a bizarre twist, the CID B report also reveals that the official court record from June 27 does not include a statement made by the Kurunegala Hospital Director, Dr Weerabandara. Despite objections raised by the CID and Dr Shafi’s counsel that the Director had no standing in the case, he was permitted to make submissions in the Magistrate’s Court. The CID B report noted that statements made on June 27 by Dr Weerabandara claiming that the medical test women making allegations against Dr Shafi could lead to cancer or death, were false based on expert opinion the department’s investigators had gathered.

However, the CID B report said that when they went looking for the official record of Weerabandara’s statements, the Court Registrar had said she had made inquiries from the Court stenographer who claimed the statements by Dr Weerabandara had not been included in the record on the instructions of Magistrate Hewamanna.

The CID has put in a request for a certified copy of the full court transcript from June 27.

The CID has also requested the Magistrate to order the Hiru TV network to provide unedited footage and a statement regarding comments made by Rathana Thero in front of the Kurunegala Magistrate’s Court on June 27, 2019. During his speech, the prominent Buddhist monk made remarks about the ongoing case and about CID ASP Tissera, the request made in the July 1 B Report submitted to court noted. The department would seek the opinion of the Attorney General about initiating investigations into the statements made by the prominent monk, CID told court.

On May 25, Dr. Seigu Shihabdeen Mohamed Shafi, Senior House Officer at the KTH was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on charges of amassing large quantities of undeclared assets. While he was arrested on this charge, the police requested women who had complaints that Dr Shafi had performed illegal sterilizations on them to come forward. The entire scandal was based on a front page lead in a Sinhalese daily, which has since been widely disproven as fake news.

In fact that the CID investigation found that police officials led by DIG Jayalath had fabricated evidence to frame the Muslim doctor.

For nearly two months, staff at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital remain deeply divided on scandal. Dr Shafi’s consultant Dr Upul Dissanayake provided an affidavit to the Supreme Court in a fundamental rights petition filed by the medical officer, with a glowing character certificate and expert opinion to disprove the allegations.

But not everyone is on Dr Shafi’s side in the small town still ablaze with accusations against and speculation about the Muslim doctor and his family.

DIG Jayalath’s wife serves as a doctor at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital. Dr Hiroshinie Jayasinghe Hewamana is also attached to the Hospital as an anaesthetist. Dr Jayasinghe Hewamana is the wife of the Kurunegala Magistrate. Deputy Director of the Hospital Dr Chandana Kendangamuwa and his wife who also works at the hospital, are both ardent allies of Director Weerabandara.

Last Thursday marked the first time since his arrest that Dr Shafi was produced in court.

Of the 615 police complaints recorded against Dr Shafi, only 11 warranted further investigation, the CID said. 

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