Canadian Doctors of Tamil descent express alarm over hospitalization of hunger strikers - call for immediate intervention by the Canadian Government.

    TORONTO, April 17 /CNW/ - The Canadian Medical Dental Development
Association and the Medical Institute for Tamils (CMDDA/MIFT) call for
immediate intervention by the Canadian Government to meet with the individuals
who have undertaken hunger strikes in Ottawa and to effectively intervene in
the crisis in Sri Lanka.
    Since the beginning of the hunger strike, CMDDA/MIFT has provided
volunteer medical professionals to constantly monitor the hunger strikers in
Ottawa who are putting their lives at risk to raise awareness to the worsening
humanitarian tragedy in the North of Sri Lanka.
    Dr. V. Santhakumar, President of the CMDDA/MIFT stated "As of today,
three of the hunger strikers have been hospitalized with worsening medical
condition and the remaining three hunger strikers condition is rapidly
deteriorating. In our professional opinion, all of the hunger strikers are in
imminent threat for permanent organ damage or death."
    CMDDA/MIFT is also closely monitoring the evolving humanitarian tragedy
taking place in the Northeast of Sri Lanka through frequent updates from
medical officials from this zone. Over 100,000 innocent civilians, including
women and children are trapped in a small strip of the beach approximately  
10 sq km in the so-called safe zone with hundreds being killed on a daily
basis. Additionally, hundreds of civilians are dying due to lack of
medications, medical supplies, food and drinking water. Infectious diseases
are on the rise due to poor sanitary living conditions.
    CMDDA/MIFT strongly condemns all military actions targeting hospitals,
medical workers transporting the sick and infirm, and innocent civilians in
this war. We urge the Canadian government to effectively utilize its influence
through international mechanisms such as the United Nations and the
Commonwealth to intervene in the Sri Lankan conflict and implement immediate
    Canadian doctors of Tamil descent have seen large increases in medical
and psychological issues in the population of Canadians of Tamil descent
directly related to this ongoing catastrophe.
    "At least 75% of victims in Sri Lanka have siblings or direct relatives
in Canada," said Dr. Santhakumar. "The escalating violence in Sri Lanka
imperils the lives of relatives of Canadians. We fear a death by any of the
hunger strikers may trigger other Canadian Tamils to take up the charge and
follow the same path of self harm."
    The Ontario government has expressed their concern for the mental health
of the local Tamil community affected. At a recent meeting hosted by Tamil
medical groups including CMDDA, the Deputy Premier and the former Health
Minister George Smitherman personally pledged to facilitate mental health
counseling for Canadians of Tamil descent through the Ontario Government.

    Immediate intervention

    The CMDDA/MIFT urgently requests the government of Canada to:

    1)  Meet with the hunger strikers in Ottawa and commit to take a leading
        role internationally to end the conflict in Sri Lanka as it is
        impacting on the life of Canadian citizens;

    2)  Ensure the Government of Sri Lanka immediately implements a permanent
        ceasefire, allows the United Nations and Non Governmental
        Organizations, such as Medecin Sans Frontiers, unfettered access to
        the affected zone, and ensures the immediate delivery of food and
        medical supplies to affected areas;

    3)  Ensure the Government of Sri Lanka immediately stop all military
        engagements that imperil hospitals and innocent civilians; including
        immediate cessation of cluster bombing, chemical bombing and using
        multibarrel artilleries that are endangering the civilian
        populations; and

    4)  Utilize Canada's influence through international mechanisms such as
        the United Nations and the Commonwealth to intervene in the
        Sri Lankan conflict and implement immediate solutions as human
        genocide is not acceptable and a Peaceful solution must be achieved.
        Canada's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka must be temporarily recalled
        to advise on a process to reevaluate Canada's foreign policy
        vis-à-vis Sri Lanka that it meets Canada's commitment to democracy
        and consistency with Canada's Charter.

    MIFT is a non-profit organization formed in 1998 by physicians and
dentists and other allied professionals of Sri Lankan descent. CMDDA is a
charitable organization that provides humanitarian and medical aid. In the
past, MIFT has been involved in providing humanitarian and medical assistance
to the troubled North and East in Sri Lanka. The organization was one of the
first medical groups directly involved in post-Tsunami rehabilitation in Sri
Lanka. More details can be found at

For further information:

For further information: Dr. V. Santhakumar, President CMDDA/MIFT, (416)
230-0424; Dr. J Rajendra, Past President, (416) 627-9633; Todd Ross,
Coordinator (416) 505-4740

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