25 May, 2022


Among Christians

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Southern Perceptions Mid – 1983 – Part II

It is also instructive to look at how the general drift in communal relations was affect- ing perceptions among the Christian leadership and the larger Christian community. This was a small minority of about 8% of the populace, who were torn between universal ideals (i.e. “In Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew…”) and the strong pressure to prove their nationalist credentials in their respective ethnic camp.

Unlike in this age of ‘politically correct’ statements, back in 1983 people could be brutally frank. A short time before the violence, a writer and journalist with worldwide experience was invited to give a series of talks to Anglican clergy of a rural deanery in Colombo. In his first talk he posed questions about the security forces using inhuman third degree methods in the North. One clergyman responded, “What else could you expect the Government to do?” This appeared to be a widely held position among the audience. Taken aback, the speaker cancelled further talks.

Such sentiments among Christian clergy were then reflected in contributions to the Press. The Sun of 13th July carried a letter by Rev. Fr. D. T. Wickremasinghe OSB attacking Amnesty International over its recent report that was critical of human rights violations in the North by the security forces. He said that the AI report was not to be taken seriously since Marxists had taken positions of responsibility in it by their notorious game of infiltration. There were also several commendable contributions of quality by members of the Sinhalese Christian clergy. A frequent contributor calling for moderation, understanding and dialogue on the ethnic question was the late Rev. Celestine Fernando.

Fr. George B. Perera in a contribution titled ‘In Search of Peace’ in the Sun of 20th June 1983 stated: “If one were to learn any lesson from the past, one cannot be complacent about the current situation of unrest, lawlessness, tension and terrorism in our land. The enforcement of law and order, the employment of the armed forces and police with more authority are only means to meet an emergency situation. The very presence of the armed forces in the North seems to be one of the reasons for the retaliatory type of violence…” He concluded by calling for dialogue.

An appeal for an end to violence by the Rt. Rev. Swithin Fernando, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, appeared in the Daily News of 29th June. He said that Tamil citizens had taken to violence with a view to gaining redress for what they ‘believe to be injustices’ to which they are subject. We should remind ourselves constantly, he said, that no person should be subject to torture, and that such practices would be a blot on our nation. The mark of a civil society, he re- minded us, was to be on guard at all times. He called for restraint by the armed forces and made a plea that young men should not be named terrorists and isolated.

These were healthy sentiments expressed with much caution about a month before the violence, before President Jayewardene set the line with his much-publicised interview. After that it became very difficult to say even this much for many years.

The ideological grip, which was then much in evidence in the air this nation breathed, was so strong that it was very hard for a Sinhalese to go further than broad generalities, even to touch lightly what the average Tamil experienced. Even the Saturday Review from Jaffna, which communicated that to concerned Sinhalese, had been sealed on 2nd July. However a remarkably frank expression of Tamil perceptions by Vinoth Ramachandra appeared in the Island of 12th July.

If your readers visit Jaffna and talk with any sample of the populace, they would soon discover that the primary cause of terror lies in the presence of undisciplined security forces sup- ported by repressive legislation. The arbitrary detention of young males, the intimidation of innocent passersby on trivial grounds and the general vindictive spirit of a trigger happy military are quickly driving the public into sympathy for the Tigers.

“Another contributory factor to the sad state of communal relations is the lack of an independent media. While attacks on the armed forces and politicians killed in the North are given ample coverage in the Sinhalese and English press and radio, all incidents of anti-Tamil violence are either ignored altogether or severely distorted. For example in recent weeks the Tamil students at the University of Peradeniya have been living in a state of fear and uncertainty owing to vicious attacks on them by fellow Sinhalese students. In one incident a student barely escaped death when a petrol bomb exploded in his room while he was asleep.

This situation has been completely ignored by the media which seem to feel that the chant- ing of slogans outside residences of supreme court judges is somehow more criminal than the attempted murder of innocent students. Whether the silence of the media regarding Peradeniya campus Tamil students has been due to a cover up engineered by the university authorities or simply due to journalistic woeful- ness, I cannot say. But I do know that official apathy and biased reporting are rapidly contributing to growing alienation between the two communities.

Ramachandra was a physicist who had given himself over to full-time work for the Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS). Being a Tamil and a regular visitor to all university campuses in the country, he was able to see and feel what was developing. He was also well known and respected in Church circles with many young Sinhalese associated in his work. Yet times were such that his voice was an iso- lated one.

As for the Sinhalese clergy who had an enlightened position on the ethnic issue, they were rendered lost and helpless by the violence of July 1983. About the last time the Rev. Celestine Fernando had any hope was when the President about mid-July announced an All-Party-Conference. His response in the article ‘The Bells of Peace’ appeared in the Daily News (19.07.83) and at least one other daily. It stated: “All those who love Lanka and her people will be grateful to the President for his call for an all-party-conference to settle what has become the most crucial problem of our nation.

This response also points to the general weak- ness of fair-minded Sinhalese from the upper segment of society. This country did not go through an independence struggle, and it was not part of their ethos to confront the State and those in power. To them the rulers were taken for granted as fairly decent and amenable. It was hard for them to grasp the level of depravity to which the State sank in July 1983. They knew many of the leading persons in politics, the ad- ministration and the security services as friends from leading schools in Colombo, the University of Ceylon or Oxbridge. Confronting them meant facing problems they were not prepared for. Celestine Fernando continued to agonise about the state of the country. In October 1984 the LTTE conducted its first massacre of Sinhalese settled by the armed forces in Kent and Dollar farms in what came to be known as WeliOya. These hapless convicts had taken the place of Tamils who were driven away by third degree methods. Rev. Celestine admitted privately that, as a Sinhalese, he could not condemn the massacre. That shows the extent to which such persons were made helpless by events. Of course, for the Tamils the massacre raised some pressing questions.

*To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder” published in Jan. 2001. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Why there is nothing about christian involvement in LTTE activities ?

    Only Catholic priests involved in establishing eezham and transporting suicide belts ?

    If you can ask those students sho set up this “so-called” petrol bomb, they would laught at it as it would have been a practical joke to scare this tamil.

    You have included similar statements in the previous articles and say a lot about your book.

    • 13

      the tigers should have blown your racist ass up too.

      • 6

        SinhalaPropaganda, when I opened this article I was sure that Jim Shitty will be the first one to have commented. Oh yes, I was right. He is a racist piece of shi$. A vile bastard who carries a Christian name and against Christianity. I wish not only his racist arse but KA Sumanaya, Eusense, Max, Soma, Ramona therese Fernando, Fathima fukushima and many other racist arses should have been blown up by the LTTE. Too bad these scum are still alive. Jim Shitty must have worked as a servant boy for a Tamil, that’s why he is so pissed off as the Tamil man’s wife probably slapped him everyday for being so stupid.

        • 0

          Tamil from the north

          “Jim Shitty must have worked as a servant boy for a Tamil, that’s why he is so pissed off as the Tamil man’s wife probably slapped him everyday for being so stupid.”

          Do Tamil men’s wives always slap stupid servants? Is that part of the Para-Culture from Baharat, the Paras brought to the Land of Native Veddah Aethho?

          Just Curious.

          • 1

            Hey Amarasiri, I have no interest in Veddahs. I agree we both took your land at different times or at the same time. All I want is for the people of Ceylon to live peacefully, since they are all there for thousands of years. Racism is for scum of this earth and it will be dealt with nastiness. There will be no love shown to racist pigs such as Jim Shitty. I am not going to waste my time on Veddahs such as you because I have no issues with you or your people. But racists from both sides need to be shut down with immense thrashing of whatever comes in my mind. Neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils are parayas, but the racists from both sides are parayas. They are vile and hateful. They need to be wiped out from this earth. Jim Shitty is a racist bastard. He may have had a bad experience with a Tamil where the Tamil put his sorry arse in its place. This is why this mongrel is spewing out dirt. So don’t start with me as I am not angry with you or your people. They have done no harm to anyone, but racists have. Look around you what goes on there, they have destroyed this beautiful nation of beautiful people. 32 years of civil war, what did that bring to this nation? NOTHING except absolute bloodshed and carnage!!!

            Enough is enough, no more war and no more separate state nonsense!!!!

    • 4

      When the Tamil students were shot by the Police in the north, you justified it by saying this kind of shooting is normal in the west.

      suicide bombings happens in NYC, London, Paris etc. its also common in the west. so why are you bitching about it?

    • 1

      It is not funny to have a Molotov cocktail tossed into your room.
      Anyone calling it a practical joke should have his head examined by a competent psychiatrist.
      Petrol bombs are, however, not explosives but incendiary devices.

  • 8

    Sinhala Lanka is a nation of sexual predators and psychopathic serial killers walking free. The Sinhalese are incapable of running a civilised society. The British should have never left.

    • 1

      Look who is talking about racism!

      • 7

        what’s racist about stating facts, idiot?
        Are you blind to the culture of impunity shown to rioters, looters, kidnappers, torturers, rapists, war criminals and saffron-clad child abusers? How many of these depraved psychopaths have been brought to justice in the last 60 years? Actually why should the government take any action against them when the government itself is made of such criminals?
        In this supposed land of Buddha, there’s no Dhamma, only mass graves.

        When Sinhala barbarians were rioting in 1915 the British authorities declared martial law and either put those animals down or put them in cages where they belonged. When the power was transferred to the Sinhalese, their barbarism became the rule of law.

  • 6


    “Look who is talking about racism!”

    Look who is questioning?

  • 0

    UNP Ranil W…. is Christen Democracies by born he has blood stream of that connection with Chtisternity from Father’s side. His political ideology to cover-up that UNP real face and colour of Right-wing political operation by its ‘governances’ of Anti- Buddhist acts since last 23 months.

    By line with UNP higher rank of anti- Majority Sinhalese and anti- Buddhist the set of policies are base on that USA and UK back politics of Bible of New Testament.

    Needless to say of Anglo-Saxon hegemony of Neo-con Liberalism is current guidance of that politics of Governances by ruling of UNP by Ranil w…! That is Regain Sri Lankan of that new politics of “Good Governances” & “Rule of Law ‘ by Neo- coloinilaztion of that leads to privatization of all national wealth. This move demand and seek change of New Venture Constitution of current Republic of
    Sri lanka.

    The common complain against UNP of politics leadership is that they have a single uniform model of neo-coloinilaztion of selling National Wealth to Foreign power, those who control of Global Capital.

    Politically and economically which that UNP set of policies relies on narrow and unrealistic power assumptions are fully diverted from masses of people of all Sri Lankans .

    This misses the true sources of the problems of nation.
    The true motto of the politics is tell us that UNP assumptions then we tell you how is that developing market work?
    By and large UNP model of development of useless when they applied judiciously and in the current relevant contest.

    While UNP leadership in practicing this craft that politics have frequently gone wrong under by Ranil w.. guidance.!!!!!

    The so-called “Rainbow revolution” of 2105 January 9th change of regime hedgehogs among them have fallen into the trap of USA UK and Indian of that putting to much emphasis on Neo-colonial single model at expense of the rest of path and model of Economic development of Sustsnibility.

    By UNP displaying excessive confidence Neo-con policies and downplaying national economic sovereignty and its model is that risks of by misdiagnosis stability country after end of 30 war against Tamil LTTE-Terrorism and Separatism of Tamil speaking which that encourage locally TNA by and large promoted by USA and UK.

    Indeed such UNP policies led themselves and policy makers into astray. The UNP leadership has lost rational expectations of new revolution which took as foreign premise that monopolies companies of USA, UK and Indian do not make systematic prediction errors about our nation political and economic course of shaping development economic outcomes.

    At the best we have to learn how to handle the complexities of political-Economic and ongoing world Order changes a bit better with each of new wave of by our own think-tank.

    UNP leadership is far from that, even Ranil w and their gang of UNP’s are living on that day to day of their power balances.

  • 2

    Christians in SL doesn’t support any kind of terrorism in the country and they have opposed the separatists and even died in the war to liberate the country. Of cause there were misguided Christian clergy and you get them in every religion. You have seen the utterly mad Buddhist monk and that doesn’t mean that all the monks are like them. As we say here one has to accept the rough with the smooth and that’s life.

  • 0

    I think Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra is an Atomic Engineer, from Imperial College, London (part Physicist thereby of course).

    Like Rajan Hoole he won the Miller Memorial Prize at S. Thomas” College, Mt. Lavinia (The School by the sea, as if! As if the only school in SL by the sea!).

    Sad, JR sang in the Anglican St. Michael’s Church, Polwatte (in Col. 3) but would not heed his childhood priests. When folks fall from the Church, it a great fall thereof .

    • 0

      I think that the Nuclear Energy (not the exact name?) section was in the Mech Eng building of IC, London, and the laboratories outside London in the 1970’s and a little after.
      I have heard of him and about his move ‘from physics to metaphysics’ from an SL colleague at Mech Eng during a visit in 1981 but never met him.

  • 0


    If there is one prize at S.T.C.Mt.Lavinia,that is real,in the sense that the person who receives it shows his analytical skills throughout his life span,it is the Miller Mathematical Memorial Prize. I used to very often wonder whether Warden Miller himself had a fancy for Mathematics!

  • 0

    Yes, “The Miller Mathematical Memorial Prize” was also won by Rajan’s cousin, Dr Devanesan Nesiah. But this guy, Rajan, has not one bit of vanity about genealogies; his mathematics has led him away from technology, and towards the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Karl Popper.

    You should not confuse this hermit-like vegan with his more robust and out-spoken brothers, who, incidentally completed their education at St. John’s, Jaffna.

    Rajan has progressed beyond “Born-again Christianity” and I think that readers ought to note that in his historical analysis is sociological, rather than sectarian.

  • 0

    I agree that media contributed to ethnic mistrust. The same incident will be reported differently in media depending on the language medium. Unfortunately this still exists.

    But it was distasteful how the author belittled the victims of Dollar farm and Kent massacres.
    Imagine if media reported like this, “Sinhala mobs attacked the Indians who were settled by the British by dislocating the Sinhala settlers”. That would be condemned right?

    • 1

      Dear “sach”,

      You may have a point there, but when the author says “hapless convicts” doesn’t it evoke pity even for them? Those who were to blame were the unscrupulous politicians who coldbloodedly settled the convicts there.

      If the author becomes so circumlocutory that this account gets twice as long as it now is, nobody is going to read it.

      When the British brought Indian Tamil labour in to the hills, they weren’t planning mischief; they were only looking to the selfish profit that they could reap.

      Take that sentence: I have refused to condone what the British did by using the one word, “selfish”.

      Sach, don’t you remember how we exchanged views on the subject of engineered settlement, six weeks ago, before the video of that “mad-dog monk of Batticaloa” who threatened the Muslim Grama Sevaka went viral:


      You may, with justification, argue that my description of the monk is prejudiced and provocative. It may be that I should have given his name, but I decided that I couldn’t waste another five minutes looking for it. I would have done so, had I had an iota of respect for the man, whom I consider an insult to the very concept of the Sangha. Please note that the reservations Piyaratne and I had about the historicity of the hair relic story and the 4,000 acre grant was BEFORE I saw Hoole’s historical account, and that the two prophetic COMMENTS I made preceded the running amuck of the two monks (the other being Gnanasara). And I have acknowledged the essential goodness of even the muddle-headed pilgrims.

      Don’t you think that in the case of those two monks, for me to have handled references to them with kid gloves on would have been a disservice to our memory of Gauthama Buddha himself?

      Will you have the courage to play this video out loud to your children?


      The “monk” actually uses the archetypal Sinhala obscenity, “Hutxxge putha” there.

      Dear Sach, I know you are a decent soul who would yourself have been left blushing by this guy’s performance. We ought, at the least, to get the guy disrobed.

    • 2

      These were not ordinary Sinhala civilians but CONVICTS, unwanted criminal element from the Sinhala society, who the government was using as pawns to colonise Tamil lands by evicting the Tamils already living there through coercion and to serve as a buffer against LTTE. The government deliberately settled them in contested war zone for their military strategy and put their lives in danger despite Tamil politicians and later militant groups complaining against state sponsored colonisation for decades. These convicts and prison guards would kidnap Tamil girls there and gang rape. This is why LTTE attacked them.

      “Jessi Nona, Hemasiri Fernando and others also spoke of harassment of Tamils living in surrounding villages by soldiers, prison guards and some convicts. Those from the settlement stole poultry, cattle and agricultural produce. They assaulted Tamil youths.
      The UTHR (J) report quotes a Sinhala activist from a leftwing political group who went to Dollar and Kent Farms for humanitarian work following the LTTE attack thus:
      The survivors had told them that the settlement of the prisoners was being used to further harass Tamils into leaving the area. They were told that young Tamil women were abducted, brought there and gang-raped, first by the forces, next by the prison guards and finally by the prisoners.
      Winner of the Young Journalist Award for 2002, Amantha Perera of the Sunday Leader, in his On the Spot Report published in his paper of 19 May 2002, says:
      The convicts, in fact, had been used to stealing from Tamil villages from the area and incidents of rape too had been attributed to the convicts.”

      Settling lowly unwanted element from the Sinhala society into Tamil areas to dilute the demography has been the agenda of Sinhala nationalist politicians even prior to independence:
      T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka writes in his book, “War Or Peace in Sri Lanka”, p.13:
      “In 1938, D.S. Senanayake did not offer land to the landless peasants in the Tamil speaking District of Trincomalee. Instead he brought in more Sinhalese roughnecks from Mirigama and Kegalle, also Balapitiya and Waskaduwa, where the Sinhalese are rather aggressive by nature. Thus the demographic pattern began to change in those districts as reflected in the statistics given overleaf
      District of Vavuniya
      1931: Sinhalese 8.1%, Tamils 82.7%, Muslims 9.2%
      1946: Sinhalese 16.1%, Tamils 75.3%, Muslims 8.6%

      District of Trincomalee
      1931: Sinhalese 10.1%, Tamils 50.2%, Muslims 34.9%
      1946: Sinhalese 20.7%, Tamils 44.4%, Muslims 30.0%”

      This has been one of the major grievances expressed by Tamils and despite promises by Sinhala politicians to cease state sponsored colonialism they continued to betray the Tamils time after time and after decades of failed parliamentary democratic discourse Tamils were forced to seek a different method.

  • 0

    Sinhala man.

    I presume you were only at Gurutalawa and not at Mt.lavinia..
    This Memorial prize was won by several Hindus as well,over a long period of time.
    You would do well by not introducing the Christian aspect of excellence.!

    • 0

      Dear Plato,

      I did spend two rather aimless years at Mt Lavinia, supposedly studying Mathematics myself. I had been shaken by my father’s death while I was still at Gurutalawa; until that calamity I was not too bad at the subject.

      I entered the University fifteen years later than Rajan, and read English. My subsidiary was Philosophy, which had been a real interest from adolescence on. I’m not sold on Christianity! Nor on S. Thomas’, although I’ve done what I could for the school.

      I’m afraid that I haven’t been able to find a list of the Miller Mathematics Prize on the Internet. The last thing that I’d want to introduce is a religious element in to Mathematics.

      However, you are right about my having been much more involved in the two Uva S. Thomas’ schools; but my teaching has been mostly in State schools, and with each passing day I have begun to realise that it is the work done in whatever school that is important. Grateful though I am to the three schools that I studied in, I don’t set too much store with this alma mater business.

  • 0

    While the community role of the religious establishment varies from religion to religion, no religion has risen above parochial considerations dictated by the dominant section of the religious community. What has mainly guided conduct is class interest.
    I will add that whatever differences one may notice between the Catholic Church and the various Protestant Churches represent aspects of class and class interest.
    It is true that the Catholic population was severely polarized between the extremes of nationalism. But I have seen far worse parochial attitudes among well educated Protest Christians, matching some of the worst Sinhala Buddhist and narrow Tamil nationalist attitudes, sections of Tamil nationalists now displaying an assertive ‘Hindu’ dimension.

    However, the individual examples given in this text are rather selective and cannot represent the general attitude of members of different denominations.

    I think that the following portion of essay “Church and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka” by Dr Silan Kadirgamar (http://silankadirgamar.blogspot.com/2010/10/church-and-ethnic-conflict-in-sri-lanka.html) sums up the dilemma of the Church in general:
    “Christians both here and abroad are conspicuous for their utterances and statements on socio-political and economic issues. Hence expectations are high. The high-flown statements and declarations by the church are not matched by actions. The institutional church has demonstrated that by its very structure and membership it does not and apparently cannot intervene in the pressing problems facing society. On the ethnic conflict it is unable to take a specific stand apart from simplistic peace and reconciliation statements, since its membership is divided on political lines. There are prominent lay members of the church, who act as professional advisers to church administrations having held high office in the church, but have taken hard line positions acting as mentors to the most divisive forces in this country.”

    BTW: I think that you will excuse me to go back a little in history.
    A few days ago, I read a recent article by Balasooriyan on his experiences during the evening of 11th May in Peradeniya. He has only said that I accompanied him and that I told him that the VC would hand him over to the police. (He probably misunderstood me in his state of anxiety.)
    Interestingly the frills in the narrative “Bala’s Ordeal” in https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/university-of-peradeniya-may-1983-when-majesty-stoops-to-folly/ are absent.
    We were told by the authors that Balasooriyan was their source after a painful exchange of views, and now I am a little puzzled.

  • 0

    Dear Sinhala man.

    I regret the comment I made in response to yours.Your subsequent comment has made me feel rather small!

  • 1

    Oh, Plato,

    You are a dear, dear guy! I’ve always found you comments so just and fair.

    It’s just that we don’t know at all who you are! Prof. Thiru Kandiah gave me a Sinhalese name for you, then has said in a recent sms (he was in Sri Lanka in October): “a brilliant and sensitive soul, with a profound knowledge of Sinhala classical music who did Western Classics shortly after my time.”

    Rajan Hoole thought you quite different, and neither thought that you were “a Thomian”. I have been buffeted so much by life, that all that I was doing in making that comment was giving you the factual position.

    I thought you would have cottoned on to the three articles I wrote on the Old Schools; this was the middle one:


    Right now, I’m off to the Cathedral premises on Buller’s Road for a Gurutalawa EXCO meeting. It used to be a really good boarding school, but now, unfortunately, it’s snobbery and prestige that matter, not that such things can be claimed any more by these schools. How does one teach that “elitism” is excusable only if there is “noblesse oblige” going with it. I feel that many of these concepts are dated now.

    We’re in such a mess that we must start really BELIEVING one of the latest government slogans, “the best school is the closest school”, and preferably a village school with fewer than a five hundred students, the way it was in all three Branch Schools in my time. Mt Lavinia had oly about 1,500 students in it then. Actually, I think that Marc B. is running it quite well now.

    And I have two grand-daughters now (I have no sons, but my elder daughter schooled at Guru for her first five years), and the elder had a school assigned to her at age three years – and it is NOT a village school.

    But my advocacy of village schools is now ALL humbug! I’m sure you appreciate that life is more complex than that!

    Having said all that, I might as well show you a photograph of my baptism:


    I put it there because there actually were the “affluent Old Boy” types who thought that I was fit only for “a village school” – and that despite my getting the “Leigh Smith Prize for English” at Peradeniya Uni. Also, in the history of the Bandarawela school only two students have ever dared to offer English at A. Levels. They both passed, taught by me before I entered the Uni – and the guy who got a B was taught for free.

    It’s all come out in a rush – and it may be that I, too, will regret having put ALL that down!

  • 0

    Dear Sinhala Man.

    From your writings,I notice that you are a sensitive soul.Both Dr.Thiru and Rajan are quite wrong in the identification of Plato.
    Harrow and Eaton still maintain values; There are positive features of Elitism!
    My thoughts still go back to the Chapel,Quadrangle,Miller -Chapman and Abey who rang the college Bell.
    See you sometime,the Leigh-Smith prize-winner.

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