Dr Susiri Weerasekera: A Sturdy Servant of Humankind

Michael Roberts

In dealing today with the outrageous prejudices displayed by the American political analyst Robert Kaplan in mid-2009, I realised that I should reaffirm the essays devoted to the services to mankind provided by a doctor indomitable and discerning.[1] That medico was Dr. Susiri Weerasekera, who, alas, had deteriorated to a state non compos mentis when I made inquiries at his home in Nugegoda a few years back.

Susiri [with tie] is standing on the extreme left from the viewer’s eyes — this Pix being the Board of Management of the Friend-in-Need Society

Susiri Weerasekera was a person you would want to have alongside you in adversity: a person pragmatic, observant, down-to-earth and relatively unprejudiced. I got to know him when I dropped in on the Friend-in-Need Society in Colombo in 2010 to look into their work in support of the disabled and their speciality in assisting personnel who had lost a limb to obtain and then utilize a prosthetic leg.[2] When I embarked on journeys to the northern reaches Susiri provided me with names and introductions to key personnel in Vavuniya and Jaffna as well as an introduction to Dr Hemantha Herath who was in charge of medical relief for the IDP camps. These recommendations were invaluable.

Susiri, moreover, was heavily involved in the Friend-in-Need Society’s work in treating personnel in the IDP camps who had lost a limb. He provided me with detailed and valuable data on this front …. a goldmine in my view.[3] What is particularly striking in these accounts is his attention to detail and his thoroughness in presentation. In fact, other chance remarks made it clear to me that he was an outstanding ethnographer – someone who could grace anthropological inquiry with gems of observation.[4]

For this reason, my Appreciative Vale for Dr Susiri Weerasekera will refer readers to some of the articles where his observations are already on record and supplement that work with other memoranda he has served up in correspondence with me.

So — three cheers for SUSIRI WEERASEKERA, a servant of mankind, a devotee of truth and a Sri Lankan patriot.

ONE: Fitting Artificial Limbs for the IDPs and ex-Tigers, July 2009 to March 2010 — FINS at the frontline,” 23 September 2012 ………………………….. visit https://thuppahis.com/2012/09/23/7108/

TWO: Circular Memoranda sent by Susiri to Friends re His Relief Work Experiences ‘on the road, ’ 17 November 2012 ………………. On Sat, Nov 17, 2012 at 10:59 PM, J. K. S. Weerasekera <susweera@sltnet.lk> wrote:

This is the photo of a tent within the Chettikulam IDP  camps, taken on 21stbFeb 2010 as we passed it. We were fitting artificial limbs over a 7 month
period. These were not paid jobs as for many NGOs. We spent our own money gladly.

In fact, in fitting 554 limbs over a 7 month-period the Colombo Friend In Need Society officials like me claimed a total of Rs.24,000/ only and that
was for a couple of trips fuel costs!

You be the judge of why we did that, as many others did for even a longer period. Compare that to some NGO work expenses.

Interestingly, you can easily see the thin barbed wire fences loosely constructed, easily breached, as indeed it was by inmates of adjoining camps, since the number of shops within were few. Please enlarge [THE PHOTO  …. missing]. This is the time that the famous international media were shouting out ‘razor edged’ barricades! This is why I went livid at those falsehoods. Falsehoods among many.

****  ****

On Sat, Nov 17, 2012 at 10:59 PM, J. K. S. Weerasekera <susweera@sltnet.lk> wrote:

Sending this to many of you. Attached you will see photos of two LTTE doctors with us. This photo was taken at 2.40pm on 30th November 2009 at the Pompamadu camp for female LTTE detainees. Photo by Mr Karunasena, workshop manager. About 6 months after the hostilities ended.

It is time to highlight the vast multiplicity of 2009 efforts on behalf of the IDPs in the Chettikulam camp. Limb fitting was just a fraction of that whole. The Colombo Friend-In-Need Society was requested by both the Ministry of Health and the Army to help the amputees there.

There were 1300 inmates lolling around within these large University premises.

Our technicians were busy in the open area beating out Jaipur Limbs.

Though all the females were walking about freely within, we were discouraged from taking photos. The photo is within the building with just one guard at
the entrance to the hall. He peeped in soon after we snapped, the photo but I guess he decided to ignore everything. At this the two girls were worried
for our sake, but I assured them that we were quite in control. This gave them confidence in us.

As a doctor I was requested to examine non amputee patients too.

Susiri [in white] and Karunasena with former LTTE medical aides

This  shows two of us with two former female LTTE doctors who gladly helped me examine about 30 patients with wounds and fractures which had all been treated but needed review. The selection of these patients was by the two ‘LTTE doctors’.

The captain at camp was a pretty young Sinhalese female who seemed much liked by the girls within. Most were youngish.

Knowing English, they [the Tiger medical aides] translated and also showed a good grasp of surgery. They said they had done tens of amputations by themselves and their competence gave credence to the claim. They had been at it for over a decade. I did not probe too much or record too much. We were so busy.

Within a few hours we were at ease chatting to each other. As for their future I said that as they were in their thirties they could try to be qualified pharmacists in the future. This seemed to please them much, possibly as they may have been very anxious about what would happen to them in their then uncertain future.

A few months later we received cards saying ‘Thank you, you gave us hope’. And so it was, all of them being sent home in a few months more. That thank
you card is enough reward for us.

I will trace them to visit their home in Jaffna one day.



Susiri’s Report on the Artificial Limbs Service for IDPS provided by FINS from 8 July 2009 to March 2009 …..  dated  21st August 2011  … which is asegment within this Thuppahi Item = https://thuppahis.com/2019/10/04/dr-susiri-weerasekera-a-man-for-all-seasons/

Limbs supplied 556.   



Michael Roberts 2010  “Feet across the Land, One and All: The Vitality of the Colombo Friend-in-Need Society,” http://thuppahis.com/2010/05/27/%E2%80%9Cfeet-across-the-land-one-and-all%E2%80%9D-the-vitality-of-the-colombo-friend-in-need-society/

Michael Roberts 2010 “The Jaipur Foot in Sri Lanka: renewable Energy, Little People, Many Miracles,”  http://thuppahis.com/2010/06/29/the-jaipur-foot-in-lanka-renewable-energy-little-people-many-miracles/

Michael Roberts 2016 “David Miliband’s Imperious Intervention in Lanka left in Tatters,” 5 July 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/05/david-milibands-imperious-intervention-in-lanka-left-in-tatters/

Michael Roberts 2018 “How Mahinda Rajapaksa rebuffed David Miliband,” https://thuppahis.com/2018/07/02/how-mahinda-rajapaksa-rebuffed-david-miliband/

Michael Roberts 2019 “Dr Susiri Weerasekera.: A Man for All Seasons,” 4 October 2019, thuppahis.com/2019/10/04/dr-susiri-weerasekera-a-man-for-all-seasons/

Susiri Weerasekera 2012“Fitting Artificial Limbs for the IDPs and ex-Tigers, July 2009 to March 2010 — FINS at the frontline,” 23 September 2012, https://thuppahis.com/2012/09/23/7108/


[1] See these previous items: (A) https://thuppahis.com/2014/01/08/dedicated-medical-work-amidst-the-heat-of-war-death-and-propaganda-in-the-vanni-pocket-2009/ …. AND …

[2] My memory is defective. I cannot recall how and why I visited that site near the Gangarama in Colpetty.

[3] See the items in the “References” listed in this Thuppahi article.

[4] One ethnographic gem provides proof of the intelligent readings of faces from a distance by a Sinhalese headman who observed the initial meeting between David Miliband and President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Chandrikawewa Resthouse in late April 2009. This headman had conveyed his reading to Susiri – who remembered this item of information and conveyed it to me. Unlike both of them, I became privy to this FACT because (a) Palitha Kohona had accompanied the European duo in a helicopter to that site and he relayed the gist of that meeting to me during an interview I conducted at Battaramulla at my nephew’s house; and (b) Dr GL Pieris provided his account of the encounter when I met him later in Thimbirigasyaya. See Roberts 2018 — https://thuppahis.com/2018/07/02/how-mahinda-rajapaksa-rebuffed-david-miliband/.

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