18 October, 2017

A Visit To Kunakunthammah Francis In Puthukudiyiruppu As The UNHRC Considers Sri Lanka

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

My visit to Puthukudiyiruppu today (11 March 2017) as the UNHRC debates Sri Lanka was coincidental. The Election Commission had received from Australia packages of books, pencils, pens and miscellaneous items for indigent refugee children and I took a boxful to the survivors at Puthukudiyiruppu. Through Rev. Fr. Joseph H. Jeyaceelan of the Jaffna diocese I identified Kunakunthammah, meaning the Virtuous Mother, that is the Virgin Mary. Her son-in-law John Bosco and daughter Dijana were running The John Education Center where about 250 children come after school for coaching in cadjanned classrooms. A good 30 of them were orphans with about 20 on scholarships and the remaining supported by their friends and relations.

What I found was a pious, apolitical family that has suffered immensely and yet remains cheerful, and grateful to God that they survived. The simple homely meal they served us was so tasty that I cannot forget it ever.

That they were apolitical is seen in Kunakunthammah Francis’ birth certificate name – Kunawardene, a name given to her by her father after his friend Kunawardene despite that being a male Sinhalese name. As trouble brewed, saying she needed a Tamil Catholic name, her name was changed to Kunakunthammah after Mary the Mother of Jesus.

It was a time when the army was raining shells on civilians and the desperate LTTE was keeping Tamils as hostages and forcing them to carry arms or serve in labor gangs. John Bosco therefore hid in the CARE office where he worked without going out for almost two years. The Tigers intensified their forced recruitment and press-ganging in Dec. 2007. However on 9 Nov. 2008 as he recalls, the government asked all INGOs to leave and he lost his hiding place. As he tried to move across to the government side, he was press-ganged by the Tigers for their labour force. His mother Ritammah got a nervous breakdown over being unable to get John back and then a heart attack and passed away. While cycling back, an army shell blew out John’s entrails on 27.03.2009. He had the presence of mind to push them back in and tie them in with a sarong. Bicycling away he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he was in a pile of bodies with three on top of him, given up for dead. From there he saw a girl who studied with him and called out to her before fainting again. He was found when he moved, rescued and now survives after four surgeries.

During the army’s wild and arbitrary shelling a shell fell on the shelter they had dug and six people died at once together on 09.02.2009 – John’s father Mathias Alles who had had a heart attack after hearing that john’s body had been taken away for disposal and died without knowing John was alive, John’s brother’s father-in-law Victor Gnanapragasam, and four other relations.

Kunakunthammah’s daughter Dimala was taken by the LTTE in 2008 while studying for the AL exams. She was aged 22. She was allowed to visit home for her father Mathias Alles’ funeral. The family found she had been tortured and mentally disturbed. At the time they were in Matalan waiting to cross to the government side but the Tigers caught her and took her away but brought her back three days later saying she had pneumonia. On the way to the ship carrying refugees she died. She was buried by the family at the beach without the required Christian funeral rites.

There had been only seven priests serving the large Roman Catholic population. Father Michael Joseph Francis, former Rector of St. Patrick’s College whom I knew, had led a band of sixty regional LTTE commanders to surrender during the last days. The army had asked him to help write down all the ir names for the army. At the end, he too was asked to join the 60 in a bus in which they were taken. He was never heard of again, nor the 60 who surrendered. Father Sarath Jheevan was badly malnourished after pastoring his flock in the Vanni where according to Red Cross workers the government deliberately starved the population. When he surrendered he was punched in the chest by a soldier. He walked a few paces and fell dead according to Fr. Jayaceelan. The remaining five survive.

John, his wife and child were given passage out on an ICRC ship and sent to Vavuniya because of his injuries. Kunakunthammah without papers was moving from camp to camp. The others were locked up for a year by the government behind barbed wire fences and then released. They returned to find their houses fully flattened by bombs.

After seeing this experience, Kunakunthammah Francis lost her faith in God. She kept away from Church. Then Father Jeyaceelan discovered her at the Chettikulam Ramanathan Camp and brought her back to God. Now she says nothing can keep her away from God and His Church.

If the President is truly ignorant of what our army did to Tamils, he merely needs to ask the SSO (I believe for Social Service Officer) under each Divisional Secretary. They know all the sordid details.

What happened is a crime against humanity. Kunakunthammah and family were noncombatant civilians. They were Sri Lankans to whom was owed the protection of the state. Instead, our government murdered them all.

Our government cosponsored a resolution at the UNHRC in 2015 promising war crime tribunals that stressed the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators.

After doing nothing for two years, the government is now cosponsoring a new resolution calling for an extension of two years to “fully implement” measures that are “outstanding” from the 2015 UN resolution. However, locally the President and PM have promised that foreign judges will never be allowed and the President has boasted that he has the backbone to reject hybrid courts to try war crimes.

Clearly, the government’s intentions lack bona fides. The President is prevaricating locally and abroad in committing to fully implement outstanding measures which include war crimes tribunals; while at the same time making the statement that that “military commanders who led the successful campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 should not be humiliated by bringing them to court” (EconomyNext,17.10.2016). The government’s promises at UNHRC cannot be trusted.

No extension should be given by the UNHRC without concrete measures to force the government to honour its promises. It is time to refer our government to the International Criminal Court if it fails to give justice to the hundreds of Tamils like Kunakunthammah Francis who have suffered much.

Kunakunthammah confessed privately to my wife that she is scared of another war, and her only prayer is that her remaining child, a son, and two grandchildren should not see the carnage she has seen and not suffer the loss of dear ones as she has. The government owes it to her and many other mothers like her whom I saw protesting at the Killinichchi junction on my way back, to prosecute all soldiers who engaged in war crimes to the full extent of the law and mete out the punishments prescribed in law.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    2

    forget the ignorence of the president, if the president believes all this bull $hit, he should be fired by a non confience motion.

    • 1
      0

      Why are the stupid Sinhala politicians not bringing a non confidence motion then ? How stupid can they be ?

  • 4
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    The details are sordid and I take it as credible. Taking the big picture and what war can do, I would concentrate on the vital, namely, “Kunakunthammah confessed privately to my wife that she is scared of another war, and her only prayer is that her remaining child, a son, and two grandchildren should not see the carnage she has seen and not suffer the loss of dear ones as she has.”. This is why every one must put his or her best effort for ethnic and religious amity.

    • 0
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      “This is why every one must put his or her best effort for ethnic and religious amity.” Common Sense.

      Thanks so much for pointing it out calmly like a good monk. We all seem to miss the point.

      “Blessed are the peace keepers. They are the children of God”.

  • 0
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    Who rescued John? ARMY? or LTTE? I am referring to the person who had his entails coming out.

    • 2
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      The ICRC rescued John. The ICRC had room on their ship only for the wounded. So John’s wounds were his passport to safety and earned him and his wife and child a place on the ship with very limited space.

      The LTTE was shooting civilians who crossed the lagoon. The army was busy shooting anyone they suspected of being LTTE and locking up the rest behind barbed wire.

  • 2
    5

    Hoole,

    It was Tamil Tigers who started ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese and the war. Successive governments made several attempts to come to a settlement but you know very well the response of that megalomaniac. So there was no choice other than to crush the Tamil Tiger Terrorists militarily. If Tamil people suffered as a result of that action, blame your LTTE leader. In your article you mention some of the crimes committed by LTTE. They killed civilians indiscriminately by blowing bombs; used suicide bombers; bombed sacred places for Buddhists like Temple of Tooth, Sri Maha Bodhi; wiped out Sinhala villages killing men, women and children in brutal way using machetes, killed Buddhist monks; killed Muslim worshipers; raped Sinhala women; recruited child soldiers, used civilians as human shields; assassinated politicians. You are putting all those crimes under the carpet and go on blaming the armed forces. Tamils, instead of asking for justice, should be immensely grateful to President Rajapakse and Sri Lankan armed forces for liberating them from that present day Hitler. If it is not for their sacrifices, probably you could be under six feet under. Although you are a Professor, you idiot do not know that no one can take a Sri Lankan to ICC.[Edited out]

    • 3
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      Rana Wiruvek,
      Please go through the list of killings – massacres – of civilians, below, by state actors in Sri Lanka, ON RECORD.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=Sri+Lanka+massacres&name=Search&searchToken=9kwbj2ujovn020zbgb6imngjs

      Please do not go on hearsay and/or propaganda.

    • 0
      1

      Reply

      Although you are a Professor, you idiot do not know that no one can take a Sri Lankan to ICC

      Jaffna hd a habit of invigilatos helping A/L students weriting the exam. University Tamil professors also helped their srtudents.

      I don’t know how this guy became intelligent.

      Looks insanely racist and partial.

    • 1
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      Ranawiruwa,
      You say: “They killed civilians indiscriminately by blowing bombs”
      “bombed sacred places” ” raped women” “ethnic cleansing”

      Did not the government do all of the above? Is it only when the raped women are Sinhalese and the sacred places are Buddhist that you get angry? Why not put the shoe on the other foot and see what it feels like? Be human. Show some empathy, if you know what that means.

  • 2
    2

    Ptof. Hoole says

    “It was a time when the army was raining shells on civilians and the desperate LTTE was keeping Tamils as hostages and forcing them to carry arms or serve in labor gangs……………..”

    Should it not be the other way around “It was a time when the desperate LTTE was keeping Tamils as hostages and forcing them to carry arms or serve in labor gangs and the army was raining shells on civilians ……………..”

    • 1
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      B.S.Perera,

      The Air Force boasted of 5,000 bombing missions in the last stages of the war, including on the so-called No Fire Zones.
      Bombs do not distinguish between the Army and Militants.
      Shelling by the Army and Navy were similar.

      Sri Lanka may be the only country which bombed its own citizens.

  • 2
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    What S.J.Emmanuel, his predecessors & successors inculcated regarding the person of Jesus made other heresies on the same subject seem like babbling of infants.
    What Emmanuel & his ilk did was to subvert the Catholic faith & totally empty it of its dogmatic contents. Just like the suicide killers they indoctrinated to carryout the annihilation of their own selves & those of others, Emmanuel & his network of pseudo- theologians has already executed judgement against their own persons& the persons of believers who came under their domain. What they stand accused of is the suicide of their own Catholic personalities & those of others who believed in them.
    Emmanuel, it will be remembered boasted of having trained Hundreds of Young Priests of the Church, both Tamils & Sinhalese. What a depraved heretic could do to such young minds unimaginable……….
    When Emmanuel was the head of the Theologian dept of the Ampitiya seminary, at the time this major & only Catholic seminary for formation of Catholic Priest both Sinhala & tamil was divided on racial lines & subsequently became the rector of the St. Xavier’s Seminary, Jaffna.

    It was not only Emmanuel, the O.M.I sect too created a provincialate in Jaffna. An independent self sufficient headquarters for Tamil Priests.

    It is curious, their House in Mannar decllared opened by Rayappu Joseph bears on its address plate “ILLAM”.
    Another novelty was establishment of an Arcbishopric for the Jaffna diocese which meant Jaffna Clergy was Independent of the establishment in Colombo.

    DID NOT THESE APPOINTMENTS & ESTABLISHMENT COME DIRECTLY FROM ROME?? otherwise how could have these sprung up???/
    Not only that, such appointees received favours from ROME. International trips, International appointment. One such post is that of Assistant Superior general with a seat in ROME

    THE HARM THESE CATHOLIC PRIESTS HAVE DONE TO THE COUNTRY WORLWIDE UNDER COVER OF RELIGIOUS MISSION IS UNFATHOMABLE.

    SO, ROME, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH & CATHOLIC PRIESTS & EMMANUEL HAVE BEEN BEHIND LTTE
    AND CONTINUE TO DO SO.

    May God’s hand reach out to the unjust Catholic Clergy here in Sri Lanka and those in ROME and people like Usha & the catholic vellalas and people like hoole who blow hot & cold with the same breath.

    Enough is enough……….. Please keep yours hands off the Youth & children of the North.

  • 4
    1

    The lack of maturity of many of the respondents is seen in the fact that where crimes have been committed and lives have been lost, we are spending too much effort classifying the victims and perpetrators as Tamil or Sinhalese as a guide to our reactions.

    There is a political aspect where we must question our leaders and their complicity in crimes. But the most important aspect in which the International Community seeks to be involved is in investigations and judicial prosecutions.

    If this exercise is to be useful, we should keep ethnicity out of it and co-operate wholeheartedly with it to bring out the truth.

    • 1
      3

      Humanity

      You look like a Christian saint.

      where were you when tamils were blowing up every where and when they took civilian hostages as their defence line.

      • 0
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        Jimbo,
        Where were you when the Army was NOT putting grenades into Krishanthi Kumarasamy’s private parts and the Air Force was NOT bombing an orphanage?
        Stupid Jimbo.

        • 0
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          Yusuf since when do people in an orphanage wear military boots?

          • 0
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            Taraki,
            Who told you about the boots? The same people who did Lasantha Wickramatunga?
            You should know better than to believe your own propaganda.

            • 0
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              Yusuf, you are not a Muslim, but a Tamil faggot hiding behind a Muslim name and degrading muslim race,and trying to drive to wedge between communities. shame on you,scum.
              come out of your closet,

              • 0
                0

                Faizal,
                Read the following exchange with Jim Softy: All Muslims don’t need to think in the same way.

                Yusuf:

                What rights? The right to send your daughter to some Muslim country, get drunk and rape the other one?

                One Sri lankan girl was beheaded by your barberic religion and she was Muslim, Remember ?
                jim softy
                March 14, 2017 at 9:46 am
                Reply

                IIdiot Jimbo’
                Remember this?
                “Seya Sadewmi (16 September 2010 – 12 September 2015), was a four-year-old Sri Lankan child who was abducted, raped and murdered. … Four arrests were made by the Kotadeniyawa police, and two of them were later exonerated””
                This was done by a Sinhala Buddhist. By your idiotic logic, is Buddhism a barbaric religion?

                yusuf
                March 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm

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