Bishop Shantha Francis
Anglican Bishop of Kurunagala
Bishops House, Kandy Rd
17 May 2012
Your Press Conference in March 2012
I am outraged at the Press Conference you held at the end of March 2012 at Christ Church, Kandy, reported in The Church of England Newspaper, and broadcast by the Sri Lankan broadcasting corporation. The fact that you have not refuted this means that the Report is correct.
I have had difficulty in deciding whether you really believe the nonsense that you have said, or whether it is entirely an exercise in accumulating ‘credit points’ from the ruling junta, President Mahinda Rajapaksa in particular. It might be better described this collecting ‘frequent flyer points’ by travelling in the Rajapaksa band-wagon.
This is, of course, widespread, with some even changing their names to “Rajapaksa” because it is the only way to get anything done, and even to survive in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, as it likes to call itself. What has now become a ‘survival tactic’ in a Totalitarian State under a Fascist Dictator who has absolute power is understandable, but unacceptable especially from a person in your position – a Bishop of a well-known and much-respected Anglican Cathedral in the Sinhalese South that has had a succession of outstanding Bishops.
I have had the same difficulty with your politicians which I set out in my recent publication expressing concern about the safety of the outspoken Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, the Most Rev Rayappu Joseph. Since you are unlikely to read this, or even be interested in doing so, let me re-state what I wrote.
“There are many things about politicians, especially in Sri Lanka, which I do not understand. I wonder how conscious they are of the errors in reasoning they regularly loft in our direction, such as what is going on in the Tamil areas. Here is a question, “If what the Sri Lankan Government has done to the Tamils is so fantastic, why exclude Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group from visiting the area to see these ‘wonders’?” Given that so many politicians appear to have no qualms about throwing outright lies at us, I believe they do know that they are lying.”
So also with you. It is possible, if not probable, that you did know that some, if not most, of what you said at that press conference was not only nonsense but dangerous nonsense, and you did it deliberately to score some ‘credit points’ from Rajapaksa and his cronies.
I am a Sinhalese from the majority community who has, for more than six decades (1948 to be specific), supported the struggle of the Tamil people for equality, and justice, and their right to have their basic human rights protected. That I am a Sinhalese is irrelevant since this is not a Tamil issue or a Sinhalese issue but a humanitarian issue that should be of concern to all human beings irrespective of race, ethnicity or religion.
I gather that you are a Tamil who ‘prefers to be identified’ as a Sinhalese. That is your choice – you can opt to be identified as anything you want – it is irrelevant. You do not really need ‘to be’ a Sinhalese or ‘prefer to be one’, since there are an increasing number of Tamils who have retained their Tamil identity who are in bed with President Rajapaksa reaping the massive benefits that are associated with it. You do not get extra credit-points for being a Sinhalese. Indeed you might get more as a Tamil because Rajapaksa is crucially short of Tamil support.
I am, like you, a Christian, but not one who stands close to the blood-soaked Sri Lankan flag, or a flag-flyer for the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his regime, by far the most brutal and murderous regime to ever govern Sri Lanka. One of my close relatives, a Christian (who even had a pew in our family Church in Veyangoda ‘reserved’ for him), not only ‘preferred’ to be a Buddhist, but actually became one – a ‘political Buddhist’ – so that he could get the votes of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority (65-70% of the country), to be elected Prime Minister, a strategy that worked. That is political opportunism – being even prepared to sacrifice your religion for political gain.
Believe me, Bishop, it is not worth it. You sacrifice your integrity and, in the case of the gentleman just referred to, even life since he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk (who was tried, convicted, and hanged). Just for your interest, he sought Christian baptism just before he was hanged, and was baptised. So he died a Christian, not that it mattered.
Defending Sri Lanka’s human rights record, you said in the press conference in Kandy that,
“Sri Lanka did not need the advice of overseas Tamils or supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers in protecting human rights”
Your comments clearly referred to the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (February 27- March 23, 2012) in Geneva where a Resolution was passed by 24 countries, with 15 against, and 8 abstentions, directing the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to report back to the Council in a year (March 2013) as to whether the Sri Lankan Government had implemented the Report of the so-called, ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC), set up by your President.
Bishop Francis, you seem to be confused. Sri Lanka does not need the advice of overseas Tamils or supporters of the Tamil Tigers in protecting human rights, but it does need to heed the ‘advice’ of 24 countries that adopted the mildest possible Resolution put up by the USA. The ‘advice’ comes from the UN Human Rights Council, not from the overseas Tamils or supporters of the Tamil Tigers.
Are you seriously suggesting that 24 countries, among them India, USA, Australia, Italy, Norway, Belgium and Switzerland, supported the Resolution based on ‘advice’ from the overseas Tamils or supporters of the Tamil Tigers? If you do, you are insulting these countries – which you have no right to do.
The fact that the USA was going to submit a Resolution at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council was no secret. In February 2012, the US sent two Ambassadors from the State Department, Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State and Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State, to Colombo. You had every opportunity to meet them, or to send a letter to tell them that what the US was about to do was, to use your own words (see below), “foreign interference in Sri Lanka”. Did you do that? If you did, when and where? None of us are aware that you did anything. You have missed an opportunity of getting a staggering number of ‘credit points’. You certainly missed the bus, but, shed no tears; there will be many opportunities in the future. Eternal vigilance is what is needed in this game.
With Rajapaksa’s Government in panic-mode, with Ministers and others being sent to countries big and small to garner support for Sri Lanka to block the Resolution, and then a jumbo delegation of 71 to Geneva, why did you not join those globe-trotters and asked to be in the jumbo delegation to glorious Geneva, where, among other things, there is lot of sight-seeing and shopping to do? I am quite sure that standing as close to the President as you seem to be, he would not have had the slightest hesitation in sending anywhere you wanted to go, and in making 71 into 72 to go to Geneva. Did you ask him? If you did, what was the answer? A refusal? That is replacing incredibility with absurdity.
What you said at the press conference is a downright insult to the UN Human Rights Council. Holding the position you do, as a Bishop, I challenge your right to do so, even to get ‘credit points’. Whether you stand close to President Rajapaksa and wave a banner for him is not my business, but it is my business when a Bishop of my Church, the Anglican Church, steps outside the Church and insults a major Human Rights organisation. If you want to do so, you should quit your position as the Bishop of Kurunagala and do so as a layman. You certainly cannot do so from the position you hold and if you do, protest I must, and will.
To add insult to injury, you choose to do so in, of all places, Christ Church, Kandy. I have been a communicant member of that Church (1968-1976) when I was a Senior Lecturer in Medicine in the University and a Physician in the Kandy Hospital. I have even had the privilege of being invited to deliver a sermon by the then Vicar, the upstanding Rev Sydney Knight.
I addressed the congregation on the humanitarian tragedy of the Plantation Tamils of Indian origin who were being tossed out of their miserable ‘coolie lines’ by Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike’s goons. These persecuted people were dying in the streets of Kandy. I told the congregation that any parrot could be taught the Lord’s Prayer, but more than that was expected from Christians. They had a duty to protest at the inhumanity and injustice that was being done, and to challenge what the Sri Lankan Government was doing to the most impoverished people in Sri Lanka, who by their sweat, toil and slave labour under sub-human conditions on the tea estates, had put Sri Lanka on the map, and continue to do so.
If you do not know what I am talking about, when you next go to Kandy, why do you not go up that mountain, Hantana, right opposite where you spoke. You do not need to walk up the mountain as the ‘coolies’ do; you can drive up in your air-conditioned car. Just stop the car when you see a ‘white line’. Those are the 15 ft square boxes, one ‘box’ attached to the other in a line (hence the descriptive word “lines”), in which the ‘coolies’ live – entire families and extended families, all in this ‘box’. There is obviously no room for all of them in the ‘box’, so the children are in the ‘box’ and the adults are outside.
To see all this, you must now get out of the car and walk along the narrow path that leads to the ‘lines’. Be sure you wear a long cassock since there are snakes, some of them lethal. There are, of course, leaches that will suck your blood but it is only a tiny amount, nothing compared to the ‘blood-suckers’ in the Rajapaksa regime that suck the blood from the poor people – Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Unlike the real leaches, the latter do not drop off when they are full.
Now go into one of the ‘line rooms’ and see how they live. You can then see real human rights violations about which you waxed eloquent at the press conference.
On the way back, drop in at the Kandy Hospital and go to any medical ward. You will see far more patients than there are beds. They are sitting on benches in the verandah. What do they do at night? They crawl under beds (‘floor-patients’ as they are called). The more enthusiastic get into an already occupied bed, and the creative ones put two beds together and sleep across, so that four can then fit in. One has typhoid, the other has tuberculosis, the other has neither but is likely to get one of these serious diseases from his/her neighbour in the bed. They could all be assaulted by the fourth patient who is completely psychotic. These are violations of basic human rights. I have seen it all because I was the Physician in one of those wards. I have been there, and know what I am talking about.
Once you have done all these things, then you can talk about human rights. The experience might change your views but you will not gain ‘credit points’, indeed you might lose them.
With this lengthy but essential diversion into human rights (because it was you, not I who mentioned ‘human rights’), let me return to your press conference.
Flying the Rajapaksa flag furiously
Here you go, full steam ahead, scoring ‘credit points’ in bucket-loads:
“At a time like this, what we expect from the international community is only a positive approach. On behalf of our country and our mission I condemn the action of Ban Ki-Moon. We commit all our undivided support to our President.”
“Hear! Hear! Well said!” (The cheering was mine).
Bishop Francis, in Australia there are what I call ‘nodders’. When a politician speaks, especially on television, there are behind or beside him/her people who nod. The more the nonsense, the more they nod. That is when I turn off the television and go for a walk to get the blood pressure to settle. If I am in Church, and it is the Sermon that is raising my blood pressure, I pull out my iPad and start playing games.
I do not know what you do in Sri Lanka; I think you cheer. The bigger the nonsense, the louder the applause. I think it will be in the next Amendment to the Constitution that not to do so is treason.
Just to put a lighter touch to this article, permit me to tell you about the US. At election time a senate candidate went to a Reservation to get support from Native Americans (who have their own lingo). As the candidate worked up to his finale, the crowd was getting increasingly excited. “I promise better education for Native Americans”. The crowd went wild shouting “Hoya! Hoya! Encouraged by their enthusiasm, he shouted “I will put a casino on the Reservation”. The wildly excided crowd shouted, “Hoya! Hoya!, stomping their feet. “More job opportunities for Native Americans.” The frenzied crowd, “Hoya! Hoya! Hoya!
After the speech the politician saw a herd of cattle. Feigning interest he asked the Chief if he could have a closer look at the herd. “Sure” said the Chief, “but be careful not to step in the Hoya”.
There might well have been some cheering when you flew the flag for Rajapaksa at that press conference, but do not read too much into it. It might be Hoya! (or the Sinhalese equivalent).
I am surprised that you were not appointed to the Rajapaksa Cabinet straightaway. Perhaps with a few more point-scoring episodes, you might be. However jumbo-size his Cabinet, the largest in the world, there is always room for more – Minister of ‘Flag-Flying’ or whatever. There are no limits to ingenuity, or obstacles like the cost to the tax-payer, already groaning under a crippling escalation of the cost of essential food items, and the need to bribe anybody and everybody to get anything done.
This ever-increasing bunch of Rajapaksa Ministers is rather like the economy (Rajapaksa is, among other things, the Minister of Finance). “If there is no money, turn on the printing presses”. If there are no flag-flyers, create them and reward them: “Join the Cabinet, all are welcome, the more the merrier”. The struggling Sri Lankan tax payers will patriotically pay for it all with money they do not have – for which the answer is to turn on the printing presses.
Let me get back to what you said, “On behalf of our country and our mission”. The ‘country’ I can understand, but ‘the mission’? What? I thought the ‘mission’ of a Christian priest was to preach the Word of God – not to fly a flag for the President. This is, of course, assuming that you are not confusing God with the local ‘God’ – Mahinda Rajapaksa. Perhaps you are confused (again).
More, much more, to come
Carried away by your own nonsense, you sailed on with enthusiasm:
“President Rajapaksa’s government had taken very positive steps to reconcile and rebuild Sri Lanka, It is a time all our people joined hand in hand and it is the first time in our country that such a thing has ever happened.”
Come off it, Bishop Francis, you know that you are talking arrant nonsense. You do not seriously expect to be believed, even in Sri Lanka, much less outside. If Rajapaksa’s government has taken such positive steps to reconcile and rebuild Sri Lanka, why is the Government so coy about allowing Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Crisis Group (ICG), and independent observers, to have unrestricted access to this area and check it out? You know you are talking nonsense and only collecting ‘credit points’. You must think we are fools. Some of us are, but not all of us.
Bishop Francis, I am not a Church-going Christian any more for reasons I do not need to go into here, although I might allude to it briefly later. However, I communicate with my God almost daily, mainly to ask for guidance, not favours. This changed last night (4 am) when I read what I have just quoted from your press conference. I was on my knees asking the God that I, and hopefully you, believe in, to ask Him for the first time in the 80 years that I have been a Christian, a favour – to forgive you – “Father forgive him, for he knows not what he is doing”. That was not entirely true because I knew full well that you knew perfectly well what you were doing. This is somewhat different to Jesus Christ who uttered these famous words (slightly modified) to those who were crucifying Him.
Just tell me Bishop Francis, with hand on your heart, do you really believe what you said? The Tamils, the Tamil Tigers not withstanding, are some of the mildest and finest people on earth – especially those in the North and East – whom I know so well. Had they not been as mild as they are, they would have lynched you for this.
I am not sure that even God can help you – you will have to be “born again”. If you are, and you have an option, please do not be born as a Sinhalese. I have not even heard a member of the Rajapaksa junta or their rabid supporters, most, if not all of them Sinhalese, who claim what you have. I am rarely lost for words, but right now I am. How can you do this to these people who are suffering untold misery at the hands of the brutal Sinhalese military and Sinhalese goons, racists and rapists and the scum of the earth, who now run the North and the East?
When you said, “It is a time all our people joined hand in hand and it is the first time in our country that such a thing has ever happened”, you were talking arrant nonsense. You have not been on this planet for as long as I have, but I can remember a time when the Tamil people in the North and East did join hands with those of us (Sinhalese) who cared to go there. I have been there many times.
I clearly remember one incident in 1952 when as a Zoology student, I went with some of my colleagues to the North to collect some specimens. It was during the North-East monsoon. Storm clouds suddenly gathered and it was about to come down in buckets. We had nothing but a rain-coat. Some fishermen (Tamils) came and told us that we could not possibly remain outside, besides that there were snakes, and the occasional elephant. Would we like to come into their hut?
We did, and stayed with them nearly four days. They did more than hold our hands. They even went fishing and caught fish for our meals. They accepted not a cent, saying that we were their guests and it was a pleasure to have us (we were all Sinhalese).
So when you say that “it is the first time …such a thing has happened”, you are not only talking nonsense, but insulting some very fine people – the Tamil and Muslim civilians in the North and East who have always been a very hospitable lot. Shame on you Bishop. You are just a disgrace, and what you say is utterly contemptible. I am struggling for words to express what I feel.
Is it your ignorance. or is it the “God is my co-pilot” position?
I considered the possibility that you said what you did because of ignorance. It is Latin words that convey the full impact of the words I am about to use, but since no one (except lawyers) uses this language today, I will put it in English with a foot note with the Latin word, before this ancient language is completely lost. It is “Ignorance of the issue” and “Arguments (statements) from Ignorance”?. Not so, Bishop Francis, I do not think you are ‘Ignoratio’.
I am also seriously concerned with this “God is my co-pilot” position. Politicians and others down the ages (Attilla the Hun or Vlad the Impaler, and their ilk, had their own variations.)
Let me quote Genghis Khan (1162-1227) which applies to you and the Tamil people:
“I am the Flail of God. If you (the Tamil people) had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you”.
Khan was addressing the age-old theological conundrum of how a good and just God could possibly allow so much dreadfulness to happen to His great creation – Earth. G.Khan’s answer expanded is:
“God knows if you’ve been bad or good, If you have not been good, He (and I) are simply going to make you pay for it, big-time. This is the way the Lord keeps ‘Good’ in the driver’s seat. It works for Him, and for me, the Flail of God”.
Implicit in Genghis Khan’s thinking is that he has the inside track to God’s thinking and motives, and that he is God’s personal henchman – in short, Deus est auriga meus (“God is my charioteer”). Needless to say, Mr Khan was, and is, not alone in this belief that God speaks directly to world figures, including your President, often advising them to commit murder in His name.
This is exactly the same as in Buddhism. Lord Buddha on his death bed summoned Sakra, the King of Gods, and told him to protect Vijeya, the ‘founder’ of the Sinhalese, and to make Lanka the custodian of his teaching – the ‘Mahavamsa mind-set’. Not a word of this is true. It was written by a Buddhist monk who thought he had the inside track to Lord Buddha’s thinking. As a half-Buddhist myself (genetically), I know it is nonsense – racist chauvinism by those who have perfected it to a fine art.
A few years ago a Sinhalese Buddhist soldier worried about the killing Tamils asked a Buddhist monk whether it was alright for a Buddhist to kill – i.e. was it not a violation of Buddhism. He was told that it is alright to kill, as long as it was a Tamil. No, Bishop Francis, Buddha said nothing of the sort.
This dehumanisation of the Tamils has gone on for decades. I have a photograph of a Buddhist monk closely inspecting an AK 47 machine gun to find out exactly how it unleashed its lethal contents.
I am convinced that it is not ignorance of the situation that is the problem with you. What is needed is “An Appeal to authority” which is put far better in Latin . The ‘Authority’ is President Mahinda Rajapaksa – the ‘God’ of Sri Lanka – and his brother, Gotabaya, the de facto President of Sri Lanka and the most feared man in Sri Lanka’s 2,500 years of recorded history. That you have not done, far from it.
“Hand in hand”
I don’t know about your claim that people are joining ‘hand in hand’ now. I do know that there is an epidemic of rape of Tamil women and girls by the Sinhalese Armed Forces and Sinhalese workers sent to the Tamil areas. So they are doing a lot more than “joining hand in hand”. You will read all about this shortly in an extensive paper I am just finishing on ‘An Epidemic of Rape of Tamil Women and Girls by the Sinhalese Armed Forces in Sri Lanka’, although the Brussels-based International Crisis Group has already published an extensive expressing similar concerns about this. No, Bishop Francis, the ICG is not a bunch of Tamil Tigers, nor are AI and HRW. Nor is it an ‘international plot’ against Sri Lanka. Your Government has been down all these roads and ended up in disaster after disaster, with more to come.
Tell me, Bishop Francis, have you actually gone to the North and East and spoken to these people – no, accompanied by a soldier with a gun and a note book – but spoken privately. You might be ‘nominal Tamil’ who ‘prefers to be a Sinhalese’, but I know very well that you are fluent in all three languages having being schooled in Polgahawela. You can put this to practical use by speaking with the Tamils in their language, and with the Sinhalese Armed Forces, the Sinhalese ‘settlers’, and ‘relocated Sinhalese’ in the North and East, in their language, and find out what exactly they are doing. It is your duty to do this, rather than come out with bare-faced lies.
The damage done
Do you appreciate the damage you have done, and continue to do? You are allowing members of the ruling junta to claim that what all of us are liars because “even a Bishop confirms our claim that the Tamils in the North and East are a happy smiling people – now ‘joining hand in hand’ with each other and the Sinhalese rapists and thugs, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, who are running the area”?
What you have done is far greater damage than that convicted criminal, a Tamil, now Minister Karuna in Rajapaksa’s government, (Amnesty International issued a devastating comment at the appointment of Karuna, calling it a “Travesty of Justice”. It was he who was in charge of the East when some 600 Sinhalese policemen who surrendered to him were executed, which is why AI made the comment it did.
There is another thug against whom, I gather, there is a Court case in a European Court, who is also a Tamil and a Cabinet Minister(!) in the Rajapaksa government – Minister Douglas Devananda.
The former has been given a fiefdom in the East, and the latter, a fiefdom in the North. They are doing enough damage in the North and East to the pitiable Tamil civilians in these areas. You do not need to add to this damage.
May God forgive you for this. What you have done, Bishop Francis, is not only a crime but a sin, hence the need for forgiveness. I wish your former Bishop, Lakshman Wickremasinghe, was alive. He would have put it much better than I can. If the 1983 Tamil massacre in Colombo had not killed him (with a heart attack), what you said in Kandy would certainly have done so.
To get back to your, ‘the first time in our country such a thing has happened’ – it will also be the last time since President Rajapaksa’s genuine intention, whatever the rhetoric, is to wipe out the Tamils – Genocide – as defined in the UN Genocide Convention. The Sinhalese who will be left in the area can then ‘hold hands’ as they plunder and rape – not Tamil women and girls since they will no longer be there – but rape the Tamil lands. I ask again, how could you do this as a human being, far less as a Bishop?
It certainly is the first time in 2,500 years of recorded history that a massacre of Tamil civilians on this scale has occurred and the first time the Tamils in this area have suffered so much.
Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, your illustrious predecessor, in a tribute his predecessor Bishop Andrew Kumarage, said,
“I do not think that he ever knew to tell a lie, even though telling lies has become almost a way of life for many leaders today.”
When a Rajapaksa and his junta open their mouth, it is almost always a lie that comes out. Worryingly, this is now spreading like the plague. It is a serious problem of credibility – not only of the Rajapaksa junta and its hangers-on, but the likes of yourself – flag-wavers for the President.
Bishop Francis, when you lie, or as epistemologists might delicately put it, “The statements made do not correspond to the facts”, you simply cannot deviate so far from the truth as you and your President have. The lie must be even remotely believable, which yours is not.
I cannot remember much Sinhalese, but a few words have stuck. There are some excellent words for lies. There is ‘boru ’(the common or garden lies). At a much higher level are pul boru (‘pul’ as in ‘hull’ – meaning (I think) rotten) – i.e. rotten lies; it might be pol boru (pol – coconut), a lie as big as a coconut, and ‘kana palena boru (literally, lies that split the ear (medically the ear-drum). English is unable to match these words. I guess ‘whopper’ is a possibility, but does not have quite the same flavour. May be ‘a rocking whopper” or, getting into mathematics, “a whopper raised to the power of ten”.
Splitting the ear-drum by a lie is anatomically impossible. However to be driven mad or to have one’s blood pressure raised, are possible. Listening to these blatant lies at meetings or on the radio, or seeing these pathological liars on television, might make one shout “Liar! Liar!” as the egregious political whoppers are emitted. However, there are anatomical limitations – how many times could you shout “Liar! Liar!” without becoming hoarse?
The lies of the Rajapaksa regime, (and alas in your lies, Bishop Francis), are in this ‘mega – lie’ category.
Some of these are cited in the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts Report. “The Government (of Sri Lanka) says it pursued a “humanitarian rescue operation” with a policy “of zero civilian casualties.”
President Rajapaksa, at a ‘celebration’ in Colombo to mark the first anniversary of the massacre, repeated this. Getting into absurdity he claimed, “Our soldiers are the most disciplined in the world. They went to war with a gun in one hand and the Human Rights Declaration in the other”. This, mind you, to a huge gathering in Colombo, which included foreign diplomats and VIPs.
His predecessor, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, when questioned about the widespread rape of Tamil women and girls in the Tamil areas by the Armed Forces, said, ”Only one Tamil girl has been raped” during her 12 year rule as President. I wrote her a letter asking for the name of this Tamil girl so that I can assure the mothers of the thousands of Tamil girls who have been raped by the Armed Forces that it was a ‘pretence rape’ and if they got pregnant, it was, what we in medicine, call a ‘pseudo-pregnancy’, and if an child was born, it was a phantom.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the USA, Jaliya Wickremasuriya, one of President Rajapaksa’s many relatives in responsible positions, when challenged with evidence of hundreds of cases of rape in the Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, simply said that there were no rape cases in Sri Lanka, claiming that Sri Lankans were disciplined as part of their culture. Realising the absurdity of what he had stated, he acknowledged that there might be a “couple of cases”, adding that this was the case in every country.
The person who repeatedly lofts these lies (boru) is a “Boru-karaya”– an inveterate liar, a dissembler, a purveyor of disinformation, a fibber. Bishop Francis, take care – you are rising up to this super-category when, for example, you say that, “President Rajapaksa’s government had taken very positive steps to reconcile and rebuild Sri Lanka, It is a time all our people joined hand in hand and it is the first time in our country that such a thing has ever happened.”
This ‘mega-lying’ is what your Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe was doing in Geneva when he wildly flung them in every direction at the UNHRC meeting. Very few believed him which is why the US-Memorandum was carried despite the (massive) effort of the GoSL to block it, in many countries, over many months.
That is why it was so easy for Bishop Rayappu Joseph, his fellow priests and (Tamil) ‘Civil Society’ to take Samarasinghe apart when they responded to his downright lies.
Read the “Response by Civil Society”, 29th February 2012. They decimated Samarasinghe’s lies, dealing with lie after lie in a table. The left column were the lies, the right were the facts.
Read the “LLRC Submission by the Catholic Diocese of Mannar, by Rt Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph, Rev.Fr. Victor Sosai. And Fr Xavier Croos.
These three people on the ground have set out, in detail, the humanitarian problems in the Tamil areas and have made constructive suggestions.
You do not even need to go chasing these on the net; they are reproduced in full as Appendix 2 and Appendix 1 in my booklet, “Life of a Sri Lankan Tamil Bishop Most Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph and others in danger” 6 April 2012. I have sent a copy to the Pope, the Cardinals in the Vatican, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others hoping that their protests to your President will save the lives of these very brave people.
I am particularly concerned because the Senior Superintendent of Mannar Police had met the Bishop in person, informing him of the decision from his superiors in Colombo to send two Police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Colombo to ‘see’ Bishop Joseph regarding his Submission to the UNHRC.
On 8 May 2012, two CID officers arrived from Colombo to ‘interview’ Bishop Rayappu Joseph in Mannar. I gather they were both Muslims, not that it mattered. They addressed him in Tamil and produced identity cards when requested to do so. They questioned him on his Submission to the LLRC regarding the ‘disappearance’ of 146,679 people during the last stages of the war in the period 2008-2009. Bishop Joseph told the police officers that he had submitted to the LLRC whatever documents he had in his possession. Incredibly, the police officers said that they had no access to the LLRC documents!
They asked the Bishop if he personally knew any of the missing persons. The Bishop said that a Priest was among the missing, but that his concern was for all those who were missing. I gather that the Bishop rightly wondered why the Police had to question him when the information they sought from him was available with the Government Agents, Divisional Secretaries and the ‘Grama Niladaris’ (local government village community leaders), in the Tamil provinces, as they would have the population figures for the area (Vanni) before and after the war.
Several Catholic priests were with the Bishop during the questioning. The Police officers who questioned the Bishop, got his signature and stamp. They also took the names and addresses of all those of all those present, and left.
This is clearly intimidation. It is despite the direction of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, stating very clearly on 23 March 2012, at the close of the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, that there must be no reprisals against Sri Lanka’s human rights defenders after the adoption of the Resolution.
The Asian Human Rights Commission- AHRC has just issued a Statement for immediate release.
“SRI LANKA: Concern over the safety of the Bishop of Mannar, Rev Joseph Rayappu.”
AHRC describes Bishop Joseph as someone “who has a long-standing record of being a spokesperson on the democratic rights of the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka. As a pastor of his people and a conscientious religious leader he has consistently expressed his concerns about the problems that affect the Tamil people”.
AHRC goes on to set out the legal dimension of Rajapaksa’s decision to send the Police to ‘see’ Bishop Joseph and what he is doing to citizens of his country. It is based on Sri Lanka’s own laws – not a ‘western import’.
“Under the criminal law of Sri Lanka the power of investigations is based on a suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense. However, it has now become a common practice to question individuals without having any such criminal suspicion against them. Such questioning without revealing the nature of the inquiry violates the basic rights of citizens and creates a climate of fear and distrust”.
No, Bishop Francis, AHRC is not a group of expatriate Tamils or sympathises of the Tamil Tigers to use your words). It is a major Hong Kong-based Human Rights group founded 25 years ago. It is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. Tell this to your President whom you ‘urge’ people to ‘rally round’.
Just for the record, you might not know that this tyrant was, in fact, a human rights defender some years ago (when I met him, in, of all places, the Human Rights Council (Committee as it then was) meeting in Geneva.) Barack Obama put this very well in his now famous ‘Cairo speech’:
“…there are some who advocate democracy only when they are out of power: once in power they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others”.
Obama was referring to the likes of President Rajapaksa and other tyrants. On a completely different subject, Bishop Francis, did you know that Pol Pot was a former Buddhist monk?
The Catholic Bishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, another flag-flyer for Rajapaksa, has called for people to forget what has happened (crimes against humanity, if not attempted genocide of the Tamils), and support President Rajapaksa.
Do you want me to send you a copy of my booklet on Bishop Rayappu Joseph? It will cost you nothing but I need your assurance that you will read it.
Bishop Francis, does any of this worry you? Or are you part of this ever-increasing opportunistic bunch of flag-flyers for President Rajapaksa?
Incidentally, Bishop Francis, do you know anything about the LLRC, the supposed “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee” set up by your President whom you are urging people to “rally round” give “undivided support”? Do you know what internationally credible human rights groups, among them a Nobel Prize winner, think of this Commission? Perhaps you do not want to know. Well, let me tell you anyway.
In a desperate effort to get some credibility for this bogus Commission, your President invited internationally credible human rights groups “to visit” the Commission. The response was a shocker. The Nobel Prize Winner, Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Crisis Group (ICG), refused to do so. Kenneth Ross, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Commission:
“There is little point in appearing before a fundamentally flawed commission. The Commission is nothing more than a cynical attempt by Sri Lanka to avoid serious inquiry that would bring genuine accountability”.
Brace yourself for the next.
AI, in a scathing 60 page detailed analysis, “When will they get Justice? Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’, decimated the Commission, stating that it was “fundamentally flawed”.
Yes, Bishop Francis, it was “fundamentally flawed” and worse – “a cynical attempt to avoid a serious inquiry”. Scathing, would you not say? Or is this an ‘international plot’?
One way or the other, your President got a belting, and you are urging people to “rally round’ him. He sure will need some rallying round, with more bashings to come.
No, Bishop, they are not Tamil Tigers or, as you glibly put it at that press conference, “overseas Tamils or supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers.”
Previous President was as bad. She was, in fact, – to use those wonderful Latin words – Ignoratio Elenchi. Yes, just ignorant. When interviewed in a major international TV program, I think it was the BBC ‘Hard Talk’ (where the interviewers are seasoned people), she was challenged with reports of Human Rights violations from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Mercifully, she had heard of the former, but alas! not the latter. I hung my head in shame when she said, “Human Rights what? I only know Amnesty International. But what is this Human Rights Watch?”.
Fortunately, your present President has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (collected from struggling Sri Lankan taxpayers) to pay very expensive propaganda firms to tell him whom to interview and whom to avoid. I gather that they even write out his speeches. I’d rather this than face the embarrassment of the President of Sri Lanka making an ass of himself. Addressing his adoring fans in Hambantota and Beliattha is one thing, facing international media is a different ball game. However, nothing can stop this “King of All”, as he sees himself.
The ‘Big Lie’
To get back to lying, perhaps you and your Government are trying to take the ‘Big Lie’ of Adolf Hitler, perfected by Joseph Goebbels (the Nazi Minister of Propaganda) to a higher level. I refer to Hitler’s belief that if a lie is audacious enough and repeated enough times, it will be believed by the masses (and by you and I).
I assure you that it will not be, since if it was, Sri Lanka would not have been tossed out of the UN Human Rights Council a couple of years ago on its human rights record, nor would the Memorandum at the 19th UNHRC Sessions been passed. Can you see that simple point that the time for lying is over because of modern technology, such as that which contributed so much to the (UK) Channel 4 video, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields? We have all sorts of ways of finding out, which is how I compiled my dvds in such horrendous detail.
The Lying machine in Sri Lanka
As Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, the Emeritus Bishop of Kurunagala, rightly said,
“ telling lies has become almost a way of life for many leaders today.”
The (196 page) Report of the (UN) Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka (31 March 2011) stated:
“The Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveal a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government says it pursued a “humanitarian rescue operation” with a policy of “zero civilian casualties.” In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed……..some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity both during war and peace,”
The ‘lying machine’ of a succession of Sri Lankan governments is like a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks in whoever it can, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. The mind (mind-set) goes in first, the body (active participation) follows. Bishop Francis, you are in real danger of being sucked into this giant vacuum cleaner. Once you are sucked in the chance of being sucked out is almost zero. It might already be too late for you.
The advantage of being sucked in is that there are heaps of rewards, the downside is a loss of integrity, decency and, of course, credibility. Do you think it is worth it? Think carefully, because you are going down a one-way street: you cannot do a U-turn and go back. Once you go down this road, that is it.
An “Appeal to All religious and Ethnic backgrounds”, “Rally round President”,
You went on to “urge” your countrymen, “of all religions and ethnic backgrounds to rally round President Rajapaksa and to repudiate foreign interference in Sri Lanka”.
By “foreign interference” you clearly refer to the increasing demand for an international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the closing stages of the war. The need for this has been stressed not only by us, whom you and your God-like President and his ‘cheer crowd’ claim are supporters of the Tamil Tigers. They include UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts into Accountability in Sri Lanka.
Is it your claim that all of us (and even the UN) are, as you put it, “supporters of the defeated Tamil Tiger?” You will find that hard to sell, even in your cassock and mitre.
The claim of the Rajapaksa junta, supported by you, is that your Government can investigate this outrage. Well, you have now had three years to do so. What exactly has your Government done? Who has been held responsible – or is it your position (and of, course of your President), that it was all done by the Tamil Tigers, including the bombing of ‘no fire zones and hospitals by KFir jets? The Tamil Tigers did not have KFir jets or multibarrell rocket launchers. Does that ‘explanation’ bother you? Clearly not.
Since you are unlikely to answer this, I will do so. In fact I will show you the evidence. Your government is destroying the ‘evidence’, the bodies of thousands of murdered civilians, men, women and children. My dvd, Sri Lanka: Genocide, crimes against humanity, Violation of International Law, will actually show you what is going on. Is this why AI, HRW and ICG are still not allowed access to this area, because the ‘job’ of reducing dead bodies to ash is not yet over?
You go on to talk of “all religions”. I have some questions for you.
Do “áll religions” include the Hindu shrines (kovils)? Are you aware that hundreds of these magnificent structures have been demolished by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces under the Commander-in–Chief and Minister of Defence (and Executive President with sweeping powers), Mahinda Rajapaksa, who you are urging people to ‘rally round’?
Where were you when that magnificent Hindu kovil in Colombo, just opened after the installation of some beautiful statues of Hindu Gods, was attacked by three Buddhist monks who climbed down from the ceiling and demolished the statues? How do I know this? Well I have got documented evidence in my dvd and know that the three vandals were arrested. Bishop, can you find out for me (and for your ‘further education’) what happened to these criminals? Hold on to your seat, Bishop, I gather that they were released – as they always are.
Do “all religions” include Christian Churches? You must surely be aware that scores of Churches in the Tamil North and East have been bombed and shelled with terrified refugees inside them. My dvds will show you this atrocity, indeed atrocities, in all its gory details. Did you protest, Bishop Francis? If you did, may I know where you lodged the protest?
Where were you on the 28th November 1999, when the Madhu Church was bombed. The Church was extensively damaged, some 40 civilians killed and another 60 injured. Jesus Christ lost an arm (I mean the statue), as I have documented in one of the dozen dvds I have recorded. Bishop Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, raised a voice of protest at this outrage. What did you do? Or was it alright because those slaughtered in this outrage were Tamils a.k.a terrorists?
Fortunately, the Tamil ‘terrorists’, some of whom were Christians, ran away with the priceless statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of Madhu”, risking their lives to do so. They returned the statue to the Church when this outrage was over. Had it not been for them, this holy of holies would have been pulverised. What did you do about all this, Bishop Francis? Did you protest to the President when a Church of Jesus Christ whom both you and I worship, was shelled by the Armed Forces under President Rajapaksa’s command?
Where were you when the Sri Lankan Navy under your President tossed hand grenades into the Pesalai Catholic Church, one of the largest churches in Sri Lanka, in Mannar Island, having asked the civilians to take shelter in ‘places of worship’ – which I hope a Church is. Bishop Rayappu Joseph in a letter to the Vatican stated that the Church “has been desecrated by innocent blood being shed (in it) by unjust aggressors, the Sri Lankan Navy”. What did you do? Or is it not important because those who were murdered were Tamils, and probably ‘terrorists’, including the very young ones – “terrorists in the making”?
Where were you on the 6th July 2008, when the Calvary Church in Thalahena , north east of Colombo, was attacked by five Buddhist monks and their thugs? The Church was completely destroyed. They then beat the Pastor and worshipers. My dvd shows the damage done. The pastor was a Sinhalese, probably a Sinhala-skinned Tamil Tiger (which I have been called many times by some ‘patriotic’ Sinhalese, the last time just a month ago in a Church in Australia where I was speaking).
Where were you on the 5th November 2009, when a large number of Buddhist monks and thugs attacked the “Jesus Never Fails Good News Centre” in Battaramulla near Colombo? The monks can be seen literally pulling down the sign board of the Centre and stomping on it, while the Police looked on. Three days later, Ven Athureliye Rathana Thero MP, leader of the Buddhist Monk’s party, the JHU, in Parliament demanded that the “Anti-Conversion Bill” be made law. Did you take this up with the man whom you are ‘urging’ people to ‘rally round’? Leaving aside the fancy dress you wear, you are a Christian, are you not?
If you do not know what I am talking about (you should – as a Christian Bishop), in November 2008, an anti-conversion law titled, “Prevention of Forcible Conversion” was being considered. I found it interesting that in a country which is 70% Buddhist, Christianity is such a threat that it has to be outlawed. Bishop Francis, can you let me know whether this Bill was passed?
This is not of theoretical importance. It has practical consequences. For example, the Jaffna girls orphanage run by “Heaven’s Family” a group of nuns, might contravene this Law and the nuns could get locked up. Yes Bishop, some of them could well be Hindus, but as the Bible says, they are all God’s children, are they not? Let me give you the address of the Heaven’s Family as a footnote so that you can offer them help – but you will lose ‘credit points’.
In September 2011, your Minister of Social Services was drafting a Law, “Law against Irreligious Persons” who victimise women. Bishop, how do you define an “irreligious person” legally, I mean? After all, your President has a law degree of sorts, has he not? What about ‘religious persons’ who victimise women and children? I think your country is getting crazier and crazier.
Do “all religions” include the Muslims? If so, where were you in September 2011, when more than 100 Buddhist monks demolished a Muslim mosque in Anuradhapura claiming that the mosque was on land ‘given’ to the Sinhala-Buddhists more than 2,000 years ago by Buddha? Incidentally, he did no such thing except in the mind of the author of the Mahavamsa, who wrote it “for the serene joy of the pious”.
Where were you, just recently, when the same bunch of hoodlums, led by thugs in yellow robes, surrounded the mosque in Dambulla and demanded that it be moved or demolished, for the same reason? Did you know that 48 hours later the Prime Minister of your country ordered that the mosque be removed? Did you know that the monks said that if the Government had not done it, they would have demolished the mosque themselves?
Do “all religions” include Buddhist temples of the Mahayana Sect? If they are, where were you in September 2011 when over 100 Buddhist monks and supporters attacked a Japanese Buddhist Temple in Colpetty (Kollupitiya if you prefer to call it) in the heart of Colombo? The Sinhalese monks, followers of the Theravada Sect of Buddhism, launched the attack ‘to protect Sri Lanka’ from the Mahayana Sect of Buddhism practised in Japan. The monks said, “We should only have Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, not Mahayana”. Did you protest to the gentleman you are urging people to rally round – who is a Buddhist?
If you know nothing of all these atrocities, can I send you a dozen dvds in which I have documented all this in painful detail. If this is too much for you, just watch the last one, Sri Lanka: Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law. I’ll be glad to send this (indeed all the dvds) free of charge as long as it helps to get you out of the religious and moral abyss into which you have fallen?
Politically-active Buddhist monks
My religious beliefs and background are not important but if you must know, my mother was a devout Buddhist. For a decade, I went to Church with my parents on Sundays, and to the Buddhist Temple with my mother on full-moon days. So, I am very familiar with the Buddhist stanzas. For good measure, I went to the major Hindu shrine in Kataragama with my mother once a year, and to the wonderful Hindu temples in Jaffna when I went up there.
When you next visit Kandy, instead of another press conference, can you slip round to the Temple of the Tooth, just round the corner to where you gave that press conference, and ask the Chief Priest which Buddhist stanza permits the politically-active Buddhist monks to do the things they have done, and continue to do with renewed vigour? Are they rewriting the Buddhist doctrine?
It is these religious bigots who have blocked every attempt by a succession of Sri Lankan governments since 1956 from sharing any power, however minimal, with the Tamils.
Politically-active Buddhist monks are bad enough. The last thing that Sri Lanka needs are politically-active Christian clergy and these seem to be growing like a cancer, destroying Sri Lanka. If the time is overdue for a revival of Buddhism, one of the great religions in the world, it is now time for a revival of another great religion, Christianity.
On with your press conference
You went in to take a swipe at the British for supporting the UNHRC Resolution:
“… it was presumptuous for Britain to lecture Ceylon in Human Rights as the Western imperialists had repeatedly violated the rights of the country’s people during the colonial era”.
Yes, Bishop Francis, the colonial British did terrible damage to Ceylon by unifying what was divided by implementing the Colebrooke-Cameron ‘Reforms’ of 1833. I refer to the amalgamation of the Jaffna Kingdom, the Kandyan Kingdom and the Kotte Kingdom into ‘one country’ for colonial administrative ease. That is why it is so important to reverse these colonial administrative structures and let the Tamils (and indeed, the Kandyans, if they so desire to) run their own area. Why do you not put this to the gentleman whom you want people to ‘rally round’? The downside will be that you will lose ‘credit points’ which you have painstakingly accumulated.
However irresponsible the British were (especially the handling of the Plantation Tamils they imported as slaves from the colonial recruiting grounds – South India), at least they did not bomb the citizens of the country. Had they done so, there would have been an international outrage and even international intervention, probably from India.
Perhaps the British should be invited back to undo the damage they have done, but then the ‘Mahavamsa mind-set’ will have to change. I refer to the ‘Text Book of Sinhala Chauvinism’ that claims that Buddha ‘gave’ Lanka to the Sinhalese. This is now being taken to its extreme by your President, yes the man you want people to ‘rally round’. Whatever the rhetoric, the reality is that Rajapaksa is determined to make multiethnic, multireligious, multilingual, multicultural Sri Lanka into a Sinhala- Buddhist nation, at whatever cost to the Tamils, the non-Buddhists, and most importantly, to democracy.
This is now far too advanced to be reversed. So neither the British nor the United Nations will be able to stop the descent into Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-religious extremism and barbarism. That is why the outlook for your country is so poor.
Waving the banner for the murderous leader of your country, and his even more murderous brother, is irresponsible and destructive. That is not ethnic tolerance; it is political opportunism at which your politicians have developed to perfection. Nor is it what a Christian Bishop should be doing.
Not the first time
Bishop Francis, you have been down this road of flag-flying for the Rajapaksa regime before this recent press conference, have you not? I know of at least one instance but there may well be many more that I have neither time nor the energy to look for. There may be many more ‘credit point scoring’ exercises that you have done. It is rather like ‘frequent flyer points’ – the more you fly with a particular airline, the more points you accumulate. Like with the airlines, if you do not fly for some time, you lose the frequent-flyer points. Hence the ‘need’ to fly, in this case, wave the flag for the President frequently – or the ‘credit points’ might be lost.
I will deal with just one case of flag-flying which I have on record. On 27 April 2011, you told a press conference that the (UN) Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka (31 March 2011) was “flawed” and would “only serve to destabilise the country’s attempts at reconciliation and rebuilding”.
May I remind you that this was a carefully researched and complied 196 page Report put together despite every possible obstruction by your President and his Government? That it was as comprehensive and accurate as it was, is a tribute to the dedication and determination of those who wrote it to get to the truth. As you well know, international and even national observers and humanitarian workers were excluded from the area by the GoSL so that a crime against humanity could be committed without witnesses. Why did you not raise this ‘human rights’ business then? Was this not a gross violation of human rights of people who had a right to be where they were – their homes in the Tamil North and East?
This ground-breaking Report was put together by internationally credible lawyers, Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia). Steven Ratner (USA) and Yasmin Sooka ( South Africa). Darusman (Chairman) is a distinguished Indonesian lawyer and one of the county’s first members of the National Commission on Human Rights. Ratner is a Professor of Law, University of Michigan, USA, and an acknowledged expert in human rights. Sooka is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and the Commissioner in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is an internationally recognised expert on transnational justice.
What qualifications and expertise do you have to claim that the Report of these internationally credible lawyers is “flawed”? What evidence do you have to say that what is in this Report “would only serve to destabilise the country’s attempt at reconciliation and rebuilding”. Or are you simply mouthing what the Rajapaksa regime says?
If it is ‘flawed” why have you not submitted a dissenting Report?
Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had more than small role to play in your appointment as Bishop of Kurunagala, and who oversees your Diocese in Kurunagala, does not agree with you. On 12 May 2011, he met the Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Minister, Neomal Perera and the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, P.M. Amza in Lambeth Palace, London. He spoke of the “profound and urgent need for an equitable, inclusive and sustainable political settlement” and “stressed the importance of avoiding any culture of impunity to human rights violations and to transparency” in the reconstruction and reconciliation program for the devastated region. This is very different to what you said in Kandy at that press conference. He said nothing about the need to “rally round the President”, as you said in Kandy, or that it will destabilise Sri Lanka’s attempt at reconciliation and rebuilding.
You said that “Sri Lanka did not need to heed the advise of overseas Tamils and supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers in protecting human rights”. Archbishop Rowan Williams is clearly not an “overseas Tamil”. Is it your position that he is a “supporter of the defeated Tamil Tigers” – since these were the only groups you mentioned that were concerned with protecting human rights in Sri Lanka. If this is your position, then you are stretching incredibility to absurdity.
Support the Rajapaksa regime or perish
George Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” is applied absolutely in Rajapaksa’s autocratic rule which you support with undisguised enthusiasm. Looking at it from a logical point of view, Bush’s statement commits the fallacy of ‘a false dilemma’. Being with us, or being with the terrorists, are not the only options. Another possibility is being with neither. What Bush really meant was, “Either you are with us, or we – the USA – will treat you as if you chose to be with the terrorists”. This fallacy of a ‘false dilemma’ is repeated over and over again by President Rajapaksa and his cronies – and God forbid, a Christian Bishop waves a flag for him urging people to ‘rally round’ him.
Already 10 Christian priests, mainly Roman Catholics, have been murdered, abducted or have simply gone missing – ‘disappeared’.
In the Sinhalese South, the dreaded ‘white van’ with no number plates arrives, the victim is bundled in, and that is that.
In the Tamil North and East, these niceties are not considered necessary. Just a straightforward abduction by ‘unknown men’ (read ‘President Rajapaksa’s gang of thugs, some in army or police uniform, others in civilian clothes). They arrive, the victim goes with them (there being no option), and that is the last that is seen of him/her. A cassock is no protection.
It is brazen – plain simple murder, done with the assurance that the Government, the overwhelmingly Sinhalese (99%) ‘Sri Lankan’ Armed Forces (now running the North and East), the Police (95% Sinhalese), and the crumbling legal system under the heel of the Executive President with sweeping powers, will do nothing to bring the perpetrators to book. Many of these crimes are, in fact, directed by members of the ruling junta.
There is no investigation, not even the pretence of one. The Government of Sri Lanka does not think it is called for. If there are calls, those who do so are ‘enemies of Sri Lanka’, ‘traitors’, ‘terrorists’ or even ‘Tamil Tiger Terrorists’. In Sri Lanka, any Tamil is a ‘terrorist’ unless he stands close to the blood-soaked Sri Lankan flag. So are others (like the writer of this publication, who is a Sinhalese). Ethnicity no longer matters. To be critical of, or even to question, what the ruling junta is doing, is, by definition, ‘terrorism’ or treason, and has to be dealt with as such.
In such a scenario, however important it is to collect ‘credit points’ by flying the flag for the President, you cannot do so wearing a cassock with a large Cross hanging round your neck. It damages the religion to which you and I belong.
Thousands of people whom that talent-depleted country can ill afford to lose, have left the country, leaving the Rajapaksa cronies and ‘yes-men’ to run the country. A cousin of mine who was one of your Presidents wrote me a letter that the greatest problem she had as Head of State, was that she could not find someone ‘to do a job properly’. (I have the letter. Shall I send you a copy?). I did not reply but I should have replied that it was largely because of her parents and herself – all of whom were Heads of State – that this ‘difficulty’ had arisen.
With corruption at all levels (including the very top) at unprecedented levels, nepotism more than ever before, a crippling debt burden, massive military spending that has nearly doubled since the end of the war, maladministration, violence, the breakdown of law and order with hoodlums and crooks running the country, the long-term prospects for your country are not exactly rosy, are they? Your flag-waving is compounding the problem. It is worrying, to say the least.
Arundhati Roy, the Booker-prize winning Indian author, said in her book The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, that “Flags were bits of coloured cloths that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead”.
I hope that this does not become true of the bits of coloured cloths that the Clergy of all religions wear. It is certainly true of the politically-active Buddhist clergy who wear bits of yellow cloth to wrap their murderous bodies and minds. I hope that the Cassock that the Christian priests wear do not turn out to be bits of coloured cloth worn by people to hide their political interiors.
It is a worry when Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Colombo says (6 March, 2012), that “an international investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, is not the stance of the Catholic community”. The coloured cloth he wears is nothing but … well, a coloured cloth.
The same applies to you, given your undisguised attempt to fly the flag for President Rajapaksa in that disgraceful press conference you gave in Kandy.
I will briefly refer to the threats to that outstanding and exceptionally brave Roman Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, his Catholic clergy, and (Tamil) civil society who made a Submission to the 19th Session of the UNHRC setting out the humanitarian problems facing the people in the Tamil North and East. A maniac in President Rajapaksa’s government, a Minister, has threatened to “break the bones” of those who supported the Memorandum on Sri Lanka.
Your outstanding predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Rt Rev Kumara Illangasinghe, 25 priests, 7 nuns and 31 civilians from the Sinhalese South wrote a letter in support of Bishop Rayappu Joseph and others (including Sinhalese political activists of international repute and journalists) under threat. I did not see your name on this list. Would it be wrong to assume that the threats against Bishop Joseph and others by hooligans and thugs are acceptable to you? Bishop Francis, you leave no room for any other explanation. I do realise that had you signed it, you would have lost a lot of ‘credit points’ you have stacked up. There would have been a Tsunami of credit point loss. The other side of the coin is that by not signing it you have made the cassock you wear into just a bit of coloured cloth.
Do you care to find out what ‘hanging offence’ Bishop Rayappu Joseph has done to deserve a ‘breaking of bones’, prosecution (as some patriotic Sinhalese have demanded, and even execution as a rabid Minister in your Government has demanded? ? Or are you not interested? Even if you are not, I will still tell you since it is important for you to know where some very fine people stand. It might set a standard for you to follow, although I am not holding my breath waiting for this to happen.
The ‘hanging offences’ that Bishop Rayappu Joseph has done is that he has looked after his flock – not just Catholic Christians, but Christians of all denominations, non-Christians, and others. The Bible says that they are all God’s children – which Bishop Joseph has applied absolutely. He is not only the leader of the Catholic Church in Mannar, but a humanitarian, which is why his ‘elimination’ will affect us all – with the exception of President Rajapaksa and his flag-wavers.
Have you gone to Mannar to visit Bishop Rayappu Joseph, as your illustrious predecessor Rt Rev Kumara Illangasinghe has just done? Or are you afraid that you will lose too many ‘credit points’? If you can forget about these ‘credit points’ for a moment and visit Bishop Joseph, and hold the hand of this outstanding defender of human rights of the Tamil people in the North and East, your comments on human rights will be a fraction more credible. You can see massive violations of human rights of the civilian Tamil and Muslim population– and see them first hand. But you really do not want to see this, do you?
Perhaps, like the President whose flag you shamelessly wave, you almost certainly think that Bishop Rayappu Joseph is a “supporter of the defeated Tamil Tigers” whom you refer to in the opening minutes of your disgraceful press conference.
The Kurunagala Church and Diocese
Bishop Francis, I want you to realise that you are the Bishop of the Kurunagala Diocese that has produced some of the finest Bishops in the history of Sri Lanka.
There is your immediate predecessor Rt Rev Bishop Emeritus Kumara Illangasinghe, an outstanding Bishop, probably the finest in the Sinhalese area today.
There was the fine Bishop, Andrew Kumarage, who recently died. He was a fine man, worthy of the cassock he wore.
Towering above every one else, in more ways than one, was another former Bishop of Kurunagala, Rt Rev Lakshman Wickremasinghe (Bishop Lak to many). I knew him well. I consider him to be one of the greatest bishops in any country anywhere in the world. His name is synonymous with integrity, decency and humanity. He was the only one I know of, who has publicly apologised to the Tamils (after the 1983 massacre of Tamils in Colombo), for what had been done to them. His third (and final) Pastoral Letter is well worth reading. I will walk you through some of what he wrote. He is what all clergy should aspire to be. I know exactly where he would have stood in the current dreadful situation facing the Tamils in the North and East.
For these outstanding and exceptional people to be followed by someone who has said what you have at the Press conference, is, to put it mildly, surprising. It certainly diminishes the prestigious Office you hold. This might not bother you, just as international criticism of the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record does not bother your President. However, it does bother us, especially those of us who have a great deal of love and respect for the Kurunagala Diocese.
One problem I am grappling with is how on earth you got to where you have. Is this my business? Yes it is. As an Anglican Christian and a great lover of the Kurunagala Diocese, it is very much my business. End of story.
Since I have not been able to visit your dangerously unpredictable country and get out alive, I have not been to Sri Lanka since I published my book on Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka in the wake of the 1983 massacre of Tamils. As such, and the fact that I have no one to ask, I contacted the Anglican Church in London who put me on to the Church of England Newspaper which had all the details (and more) of your appointment.
I noted that the Diocesan Electoral Commission was “unable to decide on the right name by the necessary majority”, and that the matter was referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury who proceeded to appoint you. So you are there courtesy of Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is of interest in view of what you said at the press conference in Kandy on the need “to repudiate foreign interference in Sri Lanka”. Was this not “foreign interference”?
I have no doubt that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not simply pick your name out of the air and appoint you, but did so after consulting the Anglican clergy, almost certainly the then Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rev Duleep de Chickera and even the Government. They may have, perhaps under pressure, made a wrong choice for fear or favour of the ruling junta. That is no excuse. Someone in Sri Lanka has to take a stand against what is clearly wrong. The Church, as the moral custodians, have a particular responsibility to take a moral stance and not drag the country and the Church into the moral gutter. It has to challenge what is going on, not to fly the flag for this dreadful, barbaric and immoral regime that is guilty of the most serious violations of human rights. ALL have to share the responsibility for this clearly unacceptable appointment.
Archbishop Williams might well have consulted even the Rajapaksa government as to whether the person he was about to appoint was ‘acceptable’. He has been down this road before (which I have dealt with earlier, but I will not go into this here). Be that as it may, the buck stops with him, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As such, I thought it worth checking on what the Archbishop of Canterbury thought about the UN Secretary General’s Expert Committee Report which you, on 27 April 2011 told a press conference, was “flawed” and “would only serve to destabilise the country’s attempt at reconciliation and rebuilding”.
As I have already mentioned, what the Archbishop said on 12 May 2011 is very different from what you said.
Bishop Francis, there are some serious and worrying problems with what you say, which presumably is what you believe.
The Great Past
Bishop Francis, let me take you to a place, time and circumstance that you may not be familiar with. You may not even wish to go there, but you should.
Time: 23 July 1983. Place: Colombo. Circumstance: President J.R.Jayawardene, his murderous Minister of Industries, Cyril Matthew, a Buddhist monk whose name I struggle to forget (he is still around), and their thugs and hoodlums have started killing innocent Tamil men, women and children and destroying everything owned by Tamils in Colombo, and later in other towns in the South. Their ‘crime’ was that they were Tamils.
Rt Rev Lakshman Wickremasinghe, a diabetic, was recovering from a heart attack in London. He called me in Australia and said that he was returning to Sri Lanka immediately. I told him that medically I did not think he was fit to travel. “I am going, my people (he was referring to the Tamils) need me. I must be with them”. Just to clarify Bishop Lakshman’s ethnicity and family, he was a Sinhalese, a kinsman of President Jayawardene.
He arrived in Colombo and, I gather, headed straight for the refugee camps. When he heard that many had been shipped off to Jaffna, he went to Jaffna, one of the few Sinhalese leaders to do so. Jaffna had thrown its doors open to take the tsunami of refugees.
Bishop Lakshman, ill or well, fit or unfit, visited as many refugees as he could. He simply held out his hand to touch them in solidarity and sympathy. There was no big drama. None of this showing his bare chest with Hindu markings (as Rajapaksa did for the photographers recently). Bishop Lakshman was a different breed. Just a gentle touch to express solidarity and sympathy, and a little tear.
Several hours later the Bishop was ‘missing’ – no, the white vans of the present era had not yet arrived. He was later ‘found’, I think in a small room in the school he was visiting. He was crying. When someone asked him why he was crying he said “Not only for the dreadful thing that has happened but the fact that it was members of my family who were responsible”. He did not fly a flag urging the people ‘to rally round the President”.
That, Bishop Francis, is the hall-mark of a great man. Whether he wore a cassock or not is unimportant. That, among a myriad of other things he did for many years, including Chairing the Civil Rights Movement to protest at President Jayawardene’s authoritarianism, is why his name is synonymous with integrity, decency, and humanity.
The stress of seeing his life-endeavour collapse in the July ’83 holocaust, resulted in another heart attack and he died on 23 October 1983. He left behind an extraordinary article, his last Pastoral letter. Let me reproduce some of it here because it is such an outstanding article. You can stop reading if it becomes all too much for you or if you think you will lose ‘credit points’ even if you are found reading it. You will certainly not get ‘credit points’ – not from President Rajapaksa – for reading it, but it might change you (I hope).
Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe’s last Pastoral letter
“There are theories, there are facts. Theories vary…The facts cannot be denied. Thousands of Tamils, old and young, and even little children, were assaulted, robbed, killed, bereaved and made refugees. They saw their homes, possessions, vehicles, shops and factories, burnt or destroyed. These people were humiliated, and made to live in fear and rendered helpless…
Bishop Lakshman then goes on to describe what happened in July 1983. This was followed by:
“Shame and Apology
What has been said so far, points to one basic moral fact. It is that the massive retaliation mainly by Sinhalese against defenceless Tamils in July 1983, cannot be justified on moral grounds. We must admit this and acknowledge our shame….We must be ashamed because what took place was a moral crime. We are ashamed as Sinhalese for the moral crime other Sinhalese committed.
We must not only acknowledge our shame; we must also make our apology to those Tamils who were unjustified victims of this massive retaliation for three reasons. First, as Sinhalese we share all that is good and great in our Sinhala heritage. These good and great aspects were not due to the lives and achievements of only a section of the Sinhala people. As members of the whole group, we claim what one section did as belonging to us all. We share in the joy and responsibility of their lives and labours…
In the same way, when a section of the Sinhalese does what is morally wrong or bad, we share in it. As members of the whole group we share the evil they have done. Secondly, it is a mark of moral maturity to acknowledge a moral crime on behalf of those closely knit to us, who do not realise what they have done. And an apology is made on their behalf….Thirdly, there is the example of Jesus Christ in the midst of brutality and suffering. He shared in the guilt of all those who were involved in the moral crime of bringing about His unjust death; because He shared in our humanity, He apologised for all those who did not know the moral crime they were doing. His compassion acknowledged both shame and guilt. He apologised so that He might begin in a process of setting right what was wrong in a broken relationship…
It is only by an apology of this kind that we shall also recover our proper moral and religious values. Then, we can begin the process of setting right what went wrong in our relationship with the Tamils. A section of the Sinhalese must acknowledge the wrong done to the Tamils who were innocent victims…The tragedy is that it is becoming harder in 1983 for Sinhalese Christians to acknowledge that what has been done is a moral crime, than it was in 1958. Our moral sense concerning this matter is becoming dull.
There is a lot more in this Pastoral Letter which I will leave you to find – some ‘home work for you. I will be surprised if your Cathedral in Kurunagala does not have a full copy of this extraordinary letter written by one of the finest sons of Sri Lanka.
Well, Bishop Francis, that was someone whose shoes you are trying to fill and are failing, ‘big time’ to use the modern jargon. If the ‘moral sense’ of the Sinhalese has become dull in 1983, it has virtually disappeared today despite the slaughter of 20 times as many Tamils as were slaughtered in 1983.
Does that concern you, Bishop Francis? Perhaps not, but it concerns many of us.
Where you stand
As I have said in numerous addresses all over the world, the bottom line is where you stand and why. I have stated categorically where I stand (and have stood since I was a 16 year old schoolboy in 1948 and protested at the disenfranchisement and decitizenisation of the Plantation Tamils – a million of them, one seventh of the population of Sri Lanka at that time). I protested because what was done was wrong.
Have you got that, Bishop Francis? I protested, not because I was a Tamil Tiger (who were not even born at that time) but because it was wrong. Yes, wrong.
I continued my protests after 1956 when the Sinhalese politicians went down the path of political opportunism and discriminated against the Sri Lankan (Indigenous) Tamils, because it was wrong – not because I was a Tamil Tiger who were not born even at that time.
I protested when President Rajapaksa and his murderous politico-military junta unleashed a program of massive slaughter of men, women and children, under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’, because it was wrong.
If all this makes me a Sinhalese traitor or a ‘Tamil Tiger terrorist’ or in your words, a ‘supporter of the defeated Tamil Tigers, so be it.
This is what almost every article of the dozens I have written, the scores of addresses I have given all round the world in the past four decades and the dozen dvds I have recorded on the struggle of the Tamil people is all about. I left the country in 1976 and who runs that country is of no concern to me as long as it is run without murder, blood-shed, ‘disappearances’, and the gross violations of basic human rights. If these are violated, protest I must and will.
My heart goes out to the people in the Diocese of Kurunagala especially after the irresponsible interview you gave in Kandy. How will they cope given that they are used to having some outstanding Bishops – Lakdasa de Mel, Lakshman Wickremasinghe, Andrew Kumarage, and last but by no means the least, Kumara Illangasinghe. I do not know what they will do. Had I been in their shoes I would have registered my protest with my feet and moved from the Cathedral of Christ the King, to another Church. That will free you up to do whatever flag-flying you want without upsetting true Christians.
Sri Lanka, once the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, has become the Killing Fields of Asia. (by the way have you seen the UK Channel 4 video (and now videos) or shall I send them to you?) You will, of course lose a huge number of credit points and even your job, if you are caught watching these. Whatever your President claims, these are genuine and have been checked by international experts who have confirmed that they are not fakes. Are you shocked or do you patriotically maintain that they are fakes?
A multiethnic, multilingual, multireligous, multicultural country has been replaced by a thoroughly chauvinistic intolerant Sinhala-Buddhist country.
A democracy (weak though it was) has been replaced by a Presidential Dictatorship, which slid into a politico-fascist State, and now to a Totalitarian State under one family, the Rajapaksas whom you urge people to “rally round”.
A great religion Buddhism has been vandalised by a bunch of murderous thugs in yellow-robes, the politically-active Buddhist monks.
Another great religion, Christianity, is in the process of being politicised by the likes of you, among others.
The long-term outlook or even the short-term outlook does not appear to be good. These are not opinions to be debated but facts to be faced and addressed before it is too late. Time is running out – indeed might well have run out and the possibility of reversing a very dangerous situation may have gone, and with it, the future of Sri Lanka.
These are not the concerns of what you glibly call “overseas Tamils and supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers”, but of an increasing number of people both in and outside Sri Lanka who are neither.
The world has to pick up the pieces of this mess by way of the increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers who are fleeing one of the most brutal and repressive regimes, and its Armed Forces, anywhere in the civilized world (or for that matter, in the less civilized world – where at least international human rights monitors and humanitarian organisations can get in). Not so in President Rajapaksa’s Totalitarian State where the mass murder of Tamils was conducted without witnesses and where the slow death of the Tamils in the North and East is proceeding without witnesses. The likes of you are becoming part of the problem instead of part of the solution. It is irresponsible, tragic and very worrying.
I am writing this as an “Open Letter” because I will put it on the net asking everyone, be they Christians or non-Christians to lodge a protest with you, and more importantly, Most Rev Rowan Williams, the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prelate of your Diocese, and was directly responsible for your appointment.
I am urging the international community to lodge a protest with the Archbishop of Canterbury, with you, and also to inform the clergy and others across the world. Whether they will do this or not is not my concern. I have done what I can. To protest to President Rajapaksa is not worth the effort. Nor is it worth protesting to the Church authorities in Sri Lanka. The Church hierarchy in the Sinhalese South is more Sinhalese than Christian. Let us just leave it at the Archbishop of Canterbury:
They will have to do this soon because Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the one who appointed you, will be stepping down at the end this year to take up a position in my old University, Cambridge, as Master of Magadaline College. If they delay and they protest to the new Archbishop, whoever that may be, he might well say that he was not responsible for your appointment, Rev Rowan Williams was. The latter might say, “I am now in Cambridge. The papers are in Lambeth Palace. I do not have the details.” Politicians and bureaucrats have not taken out a patent on buck-passing.
Someone from London asked me whether you were likely to read this letter. Frankly I could not care less. What is important is that the rest of the world read it and see what is going on in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, as it is inappropriately called – since it is neither ‘Democratic, or ‘Socialist’ but a Totalitarian State under a ruthless regime – the regime for which you, Bishop Francis, and others, are flag-flyers. They should also know what is going on, not only in Sri Lanka, but in the Christian Church which in the Sinhalese South, is more Sinhalese than Christian. Whether they, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, will protest or even register their concerns’ is up to them. My business is to draw their attention to all this.
As a Christian who no longer goes to Church because of the hypocrisy of the likes of you, I still hang on to my faith, albeit with my finger nails. I believe in God, but not the God you have created for your own political needs, who permits his disciples to say the things that you have said in Kandy.
It is a most un-Christ Christian who disregards the “When I was homeless you took me in” provision, when the people in need of a home are Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Yes, Bishop Francis, the vast majority of Tamils there are in need of a home, although you may not know this because you do not care, nor have you been concerned enough, even to visit this area and speak to the people who are suffering indescribable trauma, both physical and mental.
There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion:
That we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
This truth transcends nations and people – a belief that is not new, that is not black or white or brown, that is not Tamil or Sinhalese, that is not Christian, or Buddhist or Muslim. It is a belief that has pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and still beats in the hearts of billions in this world.
It is a simple truth that has motivated and driven me all these years, since 1948 when I was just 16 years old, and decided to get involved in all this because what has been done to the Tamils, and even the impoverished Sinhalese and others, is simply wrong.
This is what it means to be a human being, and share the world with other human beings. If this simple concept is grasped and the sentiment expressed implemented, the world we share for a brief moment in time, will be a better place for all to live in.
Edmund Bourke, the Irish politician and philosopher, said so many years ago,
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.”
This especially applies to good men in robes, be they white, red, yellow or any other colour. What must be prevented in Sri Lanka, which was once my home and where my parents are buried, is to allow the triumph of the Axis of Evil in Sri Lanka – the Rajapaksa junta, the hooligans such as Rajapaksa’s Minister of Public affairs, Mervyn Silva, and the thugs in yellow robes, the politically-active violent Buddhist monks who are dragging one of the great religions in the world, Buddhism, into the moral gutter.
Bishop Francis, it is time you listened to the voice of God and do what He said, and not merely wear some robe with or without a cross round your neck – a meaningless symbol. It defames another great religion – Christianity.
The religious situation in Sri Lanka
For the sake of those who read this ‘Open Letter’ and do not know the Sri Lankan situation, let me summarise the religious situation in Sri Lanka – not the theory, but in reality.
- Buddhism, despite claims to the contrary, and even the Constitution of the country, is the State religion. 70% of the population (including my mother) are Buddhists.
The Buddhist clergy (monks), some 20,000 of them, are in two groups, split down the middle. Half, may be less, are real Buddhist monks, as Lord Buddha directed. The other half are just thugs and hooligans in yellow robes. They are politicians wearing a robe. They do not even shave their heads, They even have a political party and some are in parliament (which is not where Buddha asked them to be). They are the curse of Sri Lanka.
Five years ago, in an interview with the Washington Post I was asked, In the unlikely event of you being made the President of Sri Lanka, what would you do?. With no hesitation I said, “I will order all Buddhist monks to return to their temples. They can come out at noon with a begging bowl to beg for food, as Buddha taught. Any Buddhist monk found outside the temple at any other time, and certainly if found dabbling in politics or stirring trouble, will be locked up for life. That, in itself will enable Peace with Justice to occur”
- The Hindus (15%) simply want to exist (as Hindus). This they are not being allowed to do by the Rajapaksa regime that wants to make Sri Lanka into a Sinhala-Buddhist country.
- The Christians (7%) are in two groups, the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans. There are smaller groups, Methodists, Baptists, Evangelists etc.
The Roman Catholics are split. The Catholics in the Sinhalese South are more Sinhalese than Christian. They could not give a damn about the (Tamil) Catholics in the North. Msgr Norbert Andrade, Bishop in Anuradhapura, and the incomparable Bishop Rayappu Joseph, Mannar, the only Catholic Bishop in the Tamil North and East who actually practice Christianity, are those who deserve respect. The rest are either silent or in bed with the Sri Lankan government.
The Anglicans are also in two groups. Those in the Tamil North are quiet, too afraid to speak. Those in the Sinhalese South are in bed with the Government. Bishop Emeritus Kumara Illangasinghe is the only exception where Bishops in the South are concerned. The rest, such as you, are not worth a mention.
The ‘smaller’ Churches are doing a fantastic job, doing as Christ said and did. They are being persecuted by the Government and the thugs in yellow robes.
I must mention some outstanding Christian priests (who are
not Bishops), the likes of Fr. Terence Fernando, who are doing
a great job in a very dangerous situation. They truly are
Christians. There may be others I do not know about, silent
witnesses who quietly do what they can, without applause or
recognition, to address the tragedy in Sri Lanka.
- The Muslims (7%) who only want to go to their mosques. They have been largely spared, but are now being targeted by the hoodlums in yellow robes. Their outlook is unpredictable.
If all these religious groups came together, which is what religious tolerance is all about, and opposed Sinhala-Buddhist ethnoreligious chauvinism and politicians who use this to get into and remain in power, Sri Lanka might get somewhere. This is unlikely to happen, hence the poor outlook for the country as a whole and the Tamils, in particular. It was my mother, a devout Buddhist, who showed me, a Christian, what religious tolerance was all about.
Sri Lanka has, and has had, some outstanding Christian Bishops to whom I have dedicated this booklet. There is the immortal Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, one of your predecessors in Kurunagala, killed by the stress of the 1983 massacre of Tamils in Colombo, and the living treasures, Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, and Bishop Emeritus Kumara Illangasinghe, your immediate predecessor. These are true followers of Christ, not politicians in robes.
As for me, I hang on to my faith with my finger-tips, despite the best efforts of people like you to let my fingers slip and sink into the abyss of uncertainty.
Here is the contact of the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Most Rev Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
I have to end this letter somehow. It will be sheer hypocrisy for me to end it with “Yours in Christ”. Bishop Francis, think of a more suitable ending yourself, since I cannot think of one.
MA (Cantab), MBBChir (Cantab), MBBS Hons (Lond)
MD (Lond), FRCP(Lond), FRACP
292 Pine Mt Rd
Tel +61 7 33496118
Mob + 61 419335334
17 May 2012
MA(Cantab), MBBChir(Cantab), MBBS (Hons) (Lond),
MD (Lond), FRCP(Lond), FRACP
Brian Senewiratne (80) is a Sinhalese from Sri Lanka’s majority community. He is one of the very few Sinhalese to campaign for the right of the Tamil people to live without their basic human rights being violated.
He is a doctor of Medicine, trained in Cambridge and London, who voluntarily returned to Sri Lanka as a don in the University in Kandy in 1968. When he was told that the country did not need a ‘troublemaker’, he left to take up a position in Brisbane, Australia, as Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Queensland, and a Senior Specialist Physician in Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane.
His work in human rights goes back to 1948 (age 16), when he organised a protest in a Christian mission school in Colombo where he was a student. That was when a million Plantation Tamils of Indian origin, brought by the British in the mid 1850s to work on the tea plantations, were disenfranchised and decitizenised by the newly independent Ceylon (as it then was). A week later, he addressed a public meeting of some 2,000 people in a suburb of Colombo, to protest at this outrageous act.
Since 1956, when the ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils were discriminated against by the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan, government, he took up the cause of this ethnic group to live with equality, dignity and without discrimination.
Over the past six decades, he has been highly critical of a succession of Sri Lankan governments irrespective of their political ideology. His criticism of the previous President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, his cousin, has been severe, and of her successor, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, even more severe.
After arrival in Australia (1976) he has continued with dogged determination and resolve, to address the escalating violation of human rights in Sri Lanka.
He is a Christian whose mother was a devout Buddhist. He has vehemently criticised the politically active Buddhist monks, who see Sri Lanka as a Sinhalese-Buddhist country.
He has addressed scores of meetings across the world on the plight of the Tamils. He has met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and has addressed meetings in the British House of Commons, the European Parliament, Canadian Parliament and the Indian Parliamentary complex..
In addition to writing scores of articles, he has made a unique contribution by recording nearly a dozen dvds on the violation of human rights in Sri Lanka and the plight of the Tamil people. His last dvd, Sri Lanka: Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law, has been circulated across the world. To obtain a copy of these (10 in total), send your postal address to him by email firstname.lastname@example.org or letter, POBox 5006, Mt Gravatt East, Australia 4122. There will be no charge. Since he works without secretarial help, there may be a slight delay in getting them.
His writings are in tamilcanadian.com, sangam.org and similar web sites. Some of his addresses are on ‘youtube’, as are some of his dvds.
He was the winner of the 2008 award by Canadians for Genocide Education “In recognition of his dedication to inclusivity and equity in genocide education.” His acceptance speech was on “Peace with Justice in Sri Lanka. Genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils, its Causes and Solution”.
 The difference in the spelling is not an error. The place is spelt ‘Kurunegala’ but the ‘See’ is ‘Kurunagala’- so spelt, a decision made by the first Bishop of that Diocese, Bishop Lakadasa de Mel, known for his exactness, and who no one was game to oppose! I knew him well.
 Ignoratio Elenchi,
 Argumentum ad Ignorantiam
 The ‘Great Chronicle’ written by a Buddhist monk in the 6th century AD of what he thought occurred in the 5th century BC. It glorifies the Sinhalese as protectors of Buddhism and saviours of the nation, and the Tamils as invaders, vandals, marauders and heathens.
 Argumentum ad Verecundiam
 Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which Amnesty Internationa, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group
May 16, 2012
 Executive Summary page ii
 Heaven’s Family, P.O.Box 12854. Pittsburgh, PA 15241, or P.O. Box 7402, Bournemouth, BH 110EJ, UK
 President George W. Bush, in a televised address to a joint session of Congress, 20th September 2001.
 1729-1796, an Anglo-Irish statesman, author, politician and philosopher, and a member of the British parliament for many years.