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Book review by News Weekly : War and Medicine

June 6, 2009

WAR AND MEDICINE
by Thuyavan with John Whitehall

(Danville, California: Dr T. Sanmuganathan)
Hardback: 196 pages
RRP: AUD$24.95 (incl. postage)

Available from:
The Australian Medical Aid Foundation,
33 LLandillo Ave,
Strathfield NSW 2135.

War and Medicine tells the tragic story of the medical personnel who participated in the Sri Lankan civil war between the Tamil minority and their Sinhalese oppressors.

The book’s Australian co-author, Dr John Whitehall, visited Sri Lanka in 2004 and 2005 and, while there, first met the Tamils who are engaged in an apparently hopeless struggle for survival against the more numerous Sinhalese.

History

A brief outline of the history of the Tamils in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is necessary to understand the current struggle.

The people of Sri Lanka are thought to be descended from settlers who originated in northern India in the 6th century BC. Their religion was Buddhism. At some time in the 14th century AD, a Tamil kingdom was established in northern Sri Lanka, which was predominantly Hindu. The Tamils were ethnically different from the Sinhalese, and had a different language and culture, but constitute a significant minority (19 per cent) of the population.

The Tamils themselves are divided into two groups: Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, who were brought in to work in Sri Lanka’s famous tea plantations.

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