Sri Lanka war-zone doctor stands for parliament

April 6, 2010 (AFP) – A doctor who drew world attention to civilian deaths during the Sri Lankan army’s defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels last year is to contest polls this week for a party that backs the man behind the offensive. Veerakathipillai Shanmugarajah, 40, was detained following the army’s final victory over the Tigers and accused, with four other medics, of falsely spreading rebel propaganda to international aid agencies and journalists.

Now he’s running for parliament in Thursday’s election for a Tamil party that has thrown its support behind President Mahinda Rajapakse, who ordered the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“I believe President Rajapakse is ideally suited to lead and rebuild our country after the war. I will work to support him,” Shanmugarajah said ahead of the vote, which is expected to consolidate the president’s hold on power.

The United Nations says that at least 7,000 civilians perished in the final four months of the army’s assault on the northern jungle area holding the remnants of the LTTE’s fighting force.

That assessment was partly based on the information provided by the handful of doctors who remained inside the war zone right up until th