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A Strange Disease Spreads from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka 

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2002 (ID.2002-06-02)

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TAMIL TRIBUNE reported a strange disease in Tamil Nadu in its September 1997 issue [Reference 1]. There were a few more attacks of that strange disease in the capital city Chennai after the publication of that article but then it disappeared without a trace. 

A news item on February 20, 2002 in a Sri Lankan publication startled this writer because a very similar disease was reported in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. Did the disease pass though the narrow Palk Straits between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka and then travel south to Colombo, or did it spread via a Chennai-Colombo flight?

According to reports, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, the former Deputy Defense Minister and uncle to President Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause hurt to members of rival political party and aiding and abetting army personnel identified as having massacred ten Muslim youths. The judge remanded him and ordered that he be held in Welikada prison in Colombo until March 4, 2002. But General Anuruddha Ratwatte pleaded ill and booked himself into a Colombo hospital for high blood pressure.

General Anuruddha Ratwatte was not the only one to catch this strange disease in Sri Lanka. His two sons (President Chandrika Kumaratunge's cousins) Lohan Ratwatte and Chanuka Ratwatte were also struck by this disease. These two were also facing similar criminal charges like their father. Police could not locate them for a while. Finally they were arrested after six weeks. Soon they felt sick with chest pain. So instead of sending them to a prison cell, they were admitted to the prison hospital. 

Ajantha Zoysa, a member of parliament and a family friend of President Chandrika Kumaratunge, arrested in connection with a plot against a minister from another political party, also fell ill and admitted to hospital. He complained that he was suffering chest pain.

Nihal Karunaratne, Director of Presidential Security Division (President Chandrika Kumaratunga's bodyguards), was also hospitalized just before he was arrested in connection with a plot to kill a President's political opponent.

There were a few more cases of this disease soon after their arrest. One commonality between these cases I know of is that they are all connected to President Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge in one way or other. Read Reference 1 and see for yourself the similarities between the disease that felled powerful Tamil Nadu politicians and their friends/relatives in the 1990s and the cases in Sri Lanka. There most of those who fell victim to a similar disease were connected to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalithaa Jeyaram.

This seems to be the same disease that "terrified" some of the high and mighty in Tamil Nadu capital Chennai. The epidemiological pattern as to whom this disease strikes and some of the "symptoms" and "cures" are all very similar. 

Like in Tamil Nadu, this illness has struck only the rich and the politically powerful. Thank heavens that poor people did not catch this dreaded disease because it requires not only long hospital stays but also extra-luxury conditions in the hospital. Something only the very rich or politically connected could get. 

Like in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan politicians, family and associates were struck by this mystery disease only when they were arrested or were about to be arrested. I suppose something about police officers slapping the handcuffs or the thought of it triggers the disease. 

The treatment given in Sri Lanka also seems very similar to that given in Tamil Nadu. Long hospital stays under luxury conditions. The former Deputy Defense Minister and his two sons did have luxurious hospital accommodations. A foreign newspaper's headline read, "Ratwatte's detained sons lead life of luxury in hospital". 

Given the strikingly similar nature of the disease in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, we may venture some guess as to when they would recover from this disease. In Tamil Nadu the patients recovered:

1) When they got bail or when there was no longer a need to spend time in a prison cell, or

2) When the court ordered an independent panel of doctors to examine the patient and report the findings to the court. As we discussed in Reference 1, the independent panel of doctors was unable to find anything physically wrong with that patient in Tamil Nadu.

In spite of the seeming seriousness of the illness warranting long hospital stays, it is never fatal nor does it have any long-term effects. As far as we know, the politicians and their friends who fell ill in Tamil Nadu are now as healthy as a horse. So, our prognosis is that President's uncle, her two cousins, her chief bodyguard and the other the politicians are in no danger.

Postscript

This writer is a Tamil from Tamil Nadu, and is happy to see that some Sinhala politicians of Sri Lanka seem to be learning from Tamil Nadu politicians. But I hope that they would learn the best from Tamil Nadu, not the worst!

REFERENCE

1. A Strange Disease In Tamil Nadu (by Inia Pandian), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 1997 (12 KB)

FI020529    2002-a1d

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